All these months of planning and preparation, of waiting and praying, of watching him grow inside me, and he is finally here. And it’s better than I ever could’ve imagined, sweeter than I ever could’ve dreamt, more beautiful than I could’ve ever thought: here is Leo Emerson.
Shortly into dating Cody, we talked about kids, family, and our individual hopes for the future. We both desired greatly to become parents, and we quickly knew we wanted to do so together. However, I didn’t know if it was possible for me. The surgeries, the absence of periods…I was told for years that it would likely be difficult to get pregnant, and if I did, I would likely struggle to be able to carry a pregnancy to term. I still remember sharing this with Cody, and the comforting words and promise he had for me. He was the first person to ever make me smile and laugh about it, as he said with certainty that no matter what, we’d have a lot of fun trying. We talked about adoption as a possibility, something we both desire, and for the first time, that afternoon at Rose’s overlooking the lake, I felt at peace with my body, whatever was meant to be.
I was running on the treadmill the week before we left for Europe. I had just returned from a business trip in Florida and needed to unpack and repack the same suitcase. I was breathlessly dictating a to do list into my phone while in motion, when the tenderness and pain hit me. I felt my chest bleeding. I ran into the bathroom to check, but there was nothing. Leaving the gym, I went home, took a pregnancy test, and continued to pack. I nearly forgot about it until I returned to the bathroom to pack toiletries. There, in the daylight, unmistakably, two pink lines. I was 5 weeks pregnant. An answered prayer, albeit sooner than we would’ve planned, an answered prayer.
My pregnancy wasn’t the easiest, from extreme morning sickness through the first 23 weeks with multiple trips to the fertility center for IV’s, to the third trimester’s weeks of passing out in public and in my car, to the people that were once close to us but have not come around to the fact that we have started our family before we have the piece of paper declaring us a family through marriage. Despite the hardships, our baby grew and flourished in the womb. I loved feeling him kick and hearing him hiccup.
We learned he was a boy, we celebrated together, we were showered by my family and all our friends, we painted and decorated and built the nursery, and we prayed for the life this little boy would have. That he would know love and be love, that he would grow strong and courageous, and that he would live a life of adventure and purpose.
We looked at his November 25th due date as a finish line, and as the days led up, then passed, I grew anxious to hold him. Each day beyond the due date feels like an interminable groundhog’s day, repeating the same mundane tasks, not venturing too far from home, and trying the same tricks to ease into labor: lots of sex, walking, bouncing on the exercise ball, spicy food, pineapple, red raspberry leaf tea, massages, baths, chiropractor adjustments, membrane strippings. It is true what they say: they will come when they are ready.
Leo Emerson ‘s Birth Story:
The morning of the 29th, I went for a 4 mile walk around the same lake where we discussed kids and our hopes for a family together. That night, at 12:20 am, without any contractions beforehand, my water broke, and I was instantly in labor. The contractions came immediately, no more than two minutes apart. Our plan was to labor at home as long as possible, before arriving at the hospital with our doula. It was clear, however, that we needed to go to the hospital immediately. When we arrived at 1:20 am, we met our doula, Megan, in triage at 4 cm and 100%. I felt nauseous so Megan grabbed some peppermint oil to put on a towel near me. Labor moved quickly and intensely, and by the time we moved to our birthing room 40 minutes later, I was 8cm. Cody drew a bath, our plan from the beginning, but I could only stand to be in it for one contraction before starting to push. The next hour is a blur, and I am so thankful for the amazing team and support that was around me: Cody, my love and life, who gave me water, encouraging words, and hands to grasp. Megan, for her encouraging words and support, while rotating between pressing a heating pad into my lower back, and applying a warm compress and stretching my perineal so I did not rip. The on call doctor and rockstar nurse, who did not let me die despite my request. And again to Cody, for advocating for our wish for a natural birth, and telling the doctor absolutely not to the epidural I requested just minutes before our son was born at 3:56 am.
8lb 5 oz
I knew nothing could’ve prepared me for the instant love I would have for this precious baby. But more than that, nothing could’ve prepared me for how much deeper in love I fell with Cody. I didn’t think it possible to love him more than I already do, but the moment I saw him become a dad, and hold our son, is indescribable.
Short and sweet, strong and steady.
Latin for lion, the name of great popes, soccer players, writers, actors and activists.
There have been many great Leo’s in this world, but never yet this Leo, our Leo. The name is also shared with my late great grandfather. As my grandmother held Leo for the first time this past weekend, at 4 days old, she told me of her father Leo’s wish that she would name her firstborn, my dad, Leo. When he learned she was pregnant, he wrote her a card, the envelope addressed to Leo VanTongeren. My grandmother chose the name Thomas instead, and even after all these years, she still wished that she would’ve used Leo for one of her children to honor him. She looked at me, smiled, and said that surely he was smiling down at us. He finally got his Leo.
All these months of planning and preparation, of waiting and praying, of watching him grow inside me, and he is finally here. And it’s better than I ever could’ve imagined, sweeter than I ever could’ve dreamt, more beautiful than I could’ve ever thought.
Of all the things my hands have held,
Of all the things my eyes have seen,
The best by far is you.