Judah is already four months old! I can’t believe how incredibly fast the time has gone. Our house is full of smiles and coos and the occasional rolling over from tummy to back. We can add rice cereal to that list of achievements too; at his four month checkup yesterday, his pediatrician recommended adding rice cereal once or twice a day, just to get him some more calories.
Judah is doing well, just a bit smaller than his peers, preemie or otherwise. It’s not that his 0 percentile for weight and length concerns our pediatrician (“I see plenty of kids in the 0 percentile and they’re fine”); it’s that Judah’s curve over time is slowing down much faster than it should be. Sadly, breast milk alone just isn’t enough. So? Rice cereal it is. It’s not ideal and I’m not thrilled at the idea of introducing solids this early, but if he’s running small even for a preemie, then we need to bulk him up.
Otherwise, things are pretty groovy at Team Zoll’s house.
With the autumn equinox this weekend, I realized just how much time has flown by. Judah was born at the peak of spring; now, as the cool air has moved in, as the tree leaves begin their crisped rattle until their silence in winter, I realized that I wanted to write down Judah’s birth story in much fuller detail than I have previously. I don’t want there to be such a buffer of time between the moment of his birth and my memories of it.
For the next few blog posts, I’ll be telling the story of Judah’s birth. I don’t know how many yet; in truth, I don’t even know how long this post is- I’m writing it in my Notes app on my phone while he nurses. I also plan to write these as a series of letters, because I feel like this story, in all its detail, is easier to tell if I’m telling it to someone… And what better someone than my son?
So here now is Judah’s birth story.
You are 18 weeks and 6 days old. 18 weeks and 6 days ago, you came into our lives like a whirlwind: a long-awaited and hard-won whirlwind at that. I want to tell you the story of when you were born. But that story doesn’t start the moment my water broke on Mother’s Day. It starts much earlier than that, and I want to give you some context about the confluence of events that led up to the incredible day of your arrival, starting at around March of this year.
Your Daddy, Larry, works for a company who works with a manufacturer in China. It is much more economical for his company to go to the factory in China to make sure that the products work then to have them manufactured in China and ship them here only to be shipped back in the event something doesn’t work. These trips happen about once a year and in March, Larry learned he’d be going to China the first week of May. At the time, we realized I’d be 34 weeks pregnant but still too early to go in. After all, you weren’t due until June 20, so we weren’t too worried.
Still, Larry was going to be gone for a week. We briefly talked about making a backup plan in the event I went into labor early, but never actually made that plan. “We don’t really have anything to worry about,” we thought. “It’s too early, I’ll be fine…”
Larry had to make a last-minute trip to London and Vienna in mid-April. His international visit lasted only that of a long weekend: gone Friday morning and back Tuesday evening. That Monday, April 15, the unthinkable happened. Larry watched the news unfold on airport TV screens as he traveled from Vienna to Slovakia as I frantically messaged and texted friends I knew who would be along the race route. When he got home, things would only escalate, as the hunt for the Boston bombing terrorists put a city on lockdown, leaving us glued to our TV for almost 16 straight hours. In between watching the news and listening to a live feed of police chatter online, I remember thinking at the time, “What kind of world will Judah be born into?”
On the heels of such a devastating, emotional tragedy that struck entirely too close to home, I was nervous about all of Larry’s global travel but he assured me that once he got back from China, he’d only have to do some minimal travel along the Eastern seaboard until you got here. I was extremely busy as the time, too. I was in the final push for a fundraiser in downtown Boston, one that I was co-chairing for New Leaders Council. With the bombing, we now added a second funding cause to our event at the last minute, sending me into organizing overdrive, between motivating my Fellows to round up more donors and ticket buyers for our event and getting approval from NLC National about raising additional funds for the Boston OneFund. Our fundraiser was scheduled for May 8th, right in the middle of Larry’s trip to China. It would turn out to be a huge success.
The week after the bombing, my Mom called me with some bad news: my Obachan (my father’s mother; my only living grandparent and your great-grandmother) had had a stroke. She was a few weeks shy of her 97th birthday.
My Obachan is so special to us. Your Daddy and I went to see her in Japan a few years ago; it was a trip that had a deep impact on both of us. We still talk about it to this day; even now, your Daddy’s ringtone on my phone is the Osaka Loop Line train melody played on the station platform in Nara, one we heard every morning when we left Obachan’s house to head off on another day’s adventure to explore the country.
My mom (your Obachan) told me that it had been a few days since the stroke; it happened sometime over the weekend but she had waited to tell my Uncle Yusan. She had trouble knitting with one of her hands. My Obachan, you should know Judah, is an amazing knitter and crocheter; also, a badass. Between sailing up and down the Amazon River to being a professional croquet umpire for many years, to the fact that she had her appendix removed without anesthetic – by a friend, no less (he was a surgeon) – in post-war Japan… she’s a pretty amazing woman. Even at 97, she still rides her bike 2 miles to play croquet with her “younger” friends (all in their 70s and 80s).
Because she had waited so long to go to the doctor, it was hard to discern just how bad her stroke was and anticipating complications was even more difficult. Not knowing if this stroke would send her into a downward spiral, my Dad (your Ojichan) decided to go to Japan for a week or so to be with his family, just in case. The timing was such that, after much discussion for several days, we made the decision that Larry would go to China, then to Japan briefly to see Obachan and then come home. As much as I wanted to go, I wasn’t able to fly because of how far along I was. Daddy, then, went for both of us.
The timing seemed as though it would work out well: Larry would leave for China on May 4th (May the Fourth be with you!) and head to Japan from Shanghai on May 10th, meeting my Dad and Uncle Yusan in Osaka while I would travel to New Jersey that same day. My second baby shower (the first one was a complete surprise) would be the next day, May 11th. I had planned to take the train down from Boston to Philadelphia on Friday, have my shower on Saturday, spend Sunday/Mother’s Day with my Mom and Lynn (your Nana) and then Daddy would fly into Philadelphia on Monday. We’d rent a van and drive all the baby shower gifts back up to Boston first-thing Tuesday.
It was a flawless plan; in fact, your father and I were quite pleased with ourselves and our logistical arrangement skills.
But as we soon learned, nothing really ever goes according to plan.
I think I’ll pause here. I’m sure this post is pretty long now, so I’ll pick up soon with more of the story.