Three years ago Monday, I woke up feeling great. The best I’d felt in . . . almost nine months.
At nearly 38 weeks pregnant, I didn’t take feeling well for granted. I’d already far surpassed my goal of keeping my daughter in for longer than I could my son, and I was thrilled to be approaching the “safe zone” for delivery. The trauma of Oliver’s prematurity and my own illness was definitely in the back of my mind, but I was breathing easier by the day.
Metaphorically speaking, anyway. I could hardly breathe at all, what with the baby kicking and my own lungs working extra hard to power us along. I was a sight to see. Just before that Christmas, with three whole months to go, a man in an elevator had startled at the sight of me. “Any day now?” he’d asked cheerfully.
But the day before Miss Hadley was born, I remember pausing as I slipped on a necklace. A strange pressure was building. I’d never gone into labor on my own before. The lack of preparation — of planning, of knowing — worried me, but I’d downloaded an app on my phone to help track contractions. If it came to that, anyway.
I got dressed up for work, even applying some makeup. I was perky enough to throw dinner in the slow cooker. I kissed my husband goodbye. I don’t remember taking Oliver to daycare that morning, but I was becoming increasingly aware that my time with just our firstborn — still such a baby himself — was quickly ending. I’m sure I hugged him tight.
By lunchtime, I’d stepped out of work to see my doctor for a weekly check-in; my blood pressure was slightly elevated. We weren’t taking any chances. The first time I’d ever been sent to the hospital for fetal monitoring in 2015, I’d sobbed the whole drive in. This time I called Spencer, stopped for a drink and calmly waddled over.
I was not expecting to have a baby, like, right then. But as soon as I was hooked up and being monitored in Labor & Delivery, my seasoned nurse took one glance at the print-outs and said, “Well, your blood pressure is up. Because you’re in labor.”
Do not pass go. Call the husband for the hospital bag.
While my family coordinated caring for Oliver and huddled to eat my slow-cooker soup, we were getting ready to welcome Hadley into the world. She was born early the next morning, after one long, deliriously joyful night.
I will never forget the moment I held my daughter. She came into the world screeching and hasn’t stopped since. When she’s excited, Hadley lets out a high-pitched squeal that could set all the neighborhood dogs barking. As a baby, we thought it was her “attention” sound; now we know it’s reserved for when she’s truly happy.
Hadley is assertive and funny and often pretty stern. Her emotions are like summer storms: thunderous bursts quickly followed by sunny skies. Her dad often calls her “Little Anger” — such strong feelings in a tiny body. But I love the fight in her. She knows what she wants, and is learning to tack a “please” on the end to appease us.
With an older brother who gives her a run for her money, Hadley is definitely used to running with the big boys. We know her cries well, easily distinguishing between “I bumped my elbow” and “Ollie stole my race car.” Her anguished battle cry — “Oliver William!” — is a familiar one around the Johnson home.
I’m biased, but she is a little love. Even during her sassiest moments, we just adore being with her. Her language seemed to arrive all at once last September, when she began delivering monologues and hasn’t stopped since. Her observations are a source of endless entertainment.
At three, Hadley loves “Peppa Pig,” carrots and “mac-ah-cheese.” She is not a cuddler, but will glue herself to me when she wants to annoy her brother (who still plunks in my lap like a Bernese mountain dog). While honing her customer service skills, Hadley is always playing food truck and demanding, “What do you want?” Of all things, she really hates feathers.
We need lots of coffee to keep up with her, but I love seeing her personality burst through like sunbeams. May you always be so strong, fierce and bold, big girl.
Happy birthday, Hadley — oh, we love you so!