Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:27 AM
In going over my 'Next Generation' posts, I realized that James hasn't yet been featured in a starring role. It's been a momentous week for our second son, so there's no better time for me to rhapsodize about him than now.

When Christian was our only child, Patrick and I had difficulty imagining that we could ever cherish anyone else as much as we did him. But it's a miracle how a parent's love expands to include each person that comes into the family. When James was born, I thought my heart would break, it was so full.

I went into labor with James on a tempestuous night in October. I had trained to be eligible for the Birthing Center at our hospital--a cozy, private place with Jacuzzi tubs, soft lighting, and minimal intervention. I was looking forward to laboring in that hot tub, I can tell you.

So imagine my dismay when we arrived at St. Luke's-Roosevelt after an agonizingly bumpy taxicab ride and were told that the Birthing Center was full, and that I'd have to deliver in the regular obstetrics ward. Apparently the precipitous drop in atmospheric pressure when the storm moved in had caused every slightly ripe woman in Manhattan to start contractions. The hospital staff was overwhelmed and harried; there were gowned women in wheelchairs lining the halls, panting and moaning with their partners beside them, waiting to give birth.

I was shown into a draped-off area of an exam room; a resident came in a few minutes later to check to see how far along I was. I told him I was moving pretty quickly and that I was really hurting. He replied, "You're only at four centimeters; you're not in that much pain."

Not in that much pain.

I barely restrained myself from kicking him in the teeth (he was in the perfect position to receive such a blow). Patrick and I were moved into a private labor-delivery-recovery room and told that my doctor was on her way.

I knew this labor was going fast; I also knew that, since I couldn't be in a hot tub, I wanted medication pretty darn quick. I was afraid that if I didn't get on the anaesthesiologist's radar soon, the pain-free window would close. Patrick, the best advocate in the world, went out to the hall and barked for help. I begged the responding nurse to have me checked again; the arrogant resident who had admitted me returned to my bedside.

"Mrs. Perkins, I just checked you 20 minutes ago. You can see that we're very busy here tonight. You can't have made that much progress." My lawyer then used his best powers of persuasion to convince him otherwise.

Yeah. I'd progressed to nine centimeters: five centimeters in 20 minutes. The look of shock on the resident's face was almost enough validation for me--but more on that later.

The anaesthesiologist rushed in, gave me a 'walking epidural'; for those of you who choose medication for labor, I highly recommend this route. Blessed, blessed relief. (In some other post, I'll explain why I opted for this again with Hope, but forewent meds entirely with Tess and Daniel.)

Patrick put the Fauré Requiem CD on; I realize that a requiem doesn't sound like the most auspicious music to have playing while a baby is being born, but this is one of the most soothing and uplifting pieces of music in the world. My doctor arrived, and James appeared not long afterwards.

We later spoke to my OB about the resident; she was incensed and told me at my six-week check-up that he had been banned from the OB/GYN rotation due to his insensitivity. "He should have known better," she told me. "We teach them always to respect what new mothers are going through, and that women know better than anyone what they are experiencing."

The next day, I watched the Braves spank the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series from my hospital bed, nursing James all the while. Was that when James's love affair with baseball began? I think it's likely.

Christian adjusted to big brotherhood beautifully. When Patrick gave James his baby's blessing at church, he blessed James that he and Christian would always be best friends; this has been the happy case for the past 10 years. Christian hosted an eighth-grade graduation party for his close friends the other night; James was a welcome guest and fit right in, despite the fact that everyone else was three years older.

After the colicky series of squalls that was Christian's first year, I was braced for a second serving of the same. But James's babyhood was like gliding on a sea of glass. Beanie Babies were popular at the time; James was such a contented and snuggly little sack of stuffing that I dubbed him my Bean Bag Boy, 'Beanie' for short. He still does not chafe under that nickname; I'll probably still be calling him that when he's sixty.

He turned into a lively toddler, though, needing two trips to the emergency room before he was even out of diapers--once for jumping off the radiator (pretending to be Superman) and breaking his arm, and once (on New Year's Day) for cutting his eyebrow open on the pedal of Christian's Santa-delivered bicycle.

James has many gifts, mimicry and a vivid imagination being the most entertaining. I love to watch him play in the yard from one of our windows. He'll do both play-by-play and color commentary for his own pitching and batting sessions. He'll grab a couple of bamboo poles and imitate the moves he's seen in House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Or he'll use his bat as an air guitar, performing as George Harrison or Jimmy Page before an audience of thousands. He's way better than TV.

James is a clutch player. Several times during the Little League season, he kept his head and made key plays--either in the field or at the plate--that won the game for his team. I love that his athletic skills are developing, but I love even more that he can keep his wits about him under pressure. James's team took first place in the Minor division this year partly due to his efforts. He picked up his trophy at the Little League picnic yesterday; it has pride of place on the mantel at the moment.

He's also a great student. He reads far above grade level, probably because he's always wanted to be able to discuss what Christian is reading, who is himself an advanced reader. He also has an intuitive grasp of mathematical concepts. James was one of a few kids awarded the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence at fifth-grade graduation earlier this week, meaning that his GPA was 92 or higher for the year. Keep it up, Bean!

For a while, I would find intriguing opening paragraphs of James's original stories around the house; either he's keeping better track of his creative work, or he's left off writing for the moment. I hope the former is true, because he has great ideas and can get his readers absorbed in his plots quickly.

James is a deep thinker and has strong faith. He asks excellent theological questions; I hope he always will. I prefer questions to answers; we know so little as mortals that we are in danger of having our minds closed to further light and knowledge when we assume we know all the answers. Questions keep us humble and open, always actively searching for more; James is a great example of that.

He is compassionate and full of affection. He never leaves the house or goes up to bed without giving Patrick and me hearty hugs. He gives terrific shoulder rubs spontaneously. There's more I could tell you, but I'm afraid you'd start thinking that he's too good to be true. I'll just end by saying that James, like Mary Poppins, is "practically perfect in every way," and I couldn't do without him.
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On 24/6/07 , Annette Lyon said...

What a sweet tribute to your little guy! This should definitely be tucked tightly into a scrapbook somewhere and preserved.

(And for the sake of more things being freakishily similar between us: w/ my last baby I went from 5 to 10 cm in about 30 minutes flat and freaked out the doctor. ("No wonder you're in so much pain . . ." Glad you figured that out. So will ya get me some drugs and catch the baby?!)

On 25/6/07 , Jenna said...

I love James! What an angelic face! I just got back online after several days and have loved reading through your most recent posts. I could read you all day!

On 25/6/07 , rjlight said...

so sweet! I would have slapped that resident--what an idiot. You reminded me a bit about my experience with #2 -- I too did the 5 centimeters in 15 minutes --only my midwife didn't bother to check this fact...long story...

By the way, I wondered how you were feeling this weekend when my Giants um well, looked very good...FINALLY! You realize A-rod might be coming over here?

On 25/6/07 , Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, RJ, we're Mets fans. I LOVE seeing the Yankees get spanked! A-Rod's fantastic though; good luck!

On 25/6/07 , Brillig said...

Oh, Luisa. He sounds amazing! Watch out world, here he comes! This is an absolutely beautiful tribute.

As for the "not that much pain" I would have turned stark-raving lunatic on the intern. Oh. My. Gosh. Kid must have had a death wish. You just don't talk to laboring women like that! hahaha.

And, totally off-topic, I see that you have Nibley in your sidebar. To you read a lot of the FARMS stuff?

On 25/6/07 , bubandpie said...

I had an evil resident too. While we were waiting for the O.B. to arrive to perform either a forceps delivery or a C-section (I opted for the former), I asked if I could have my legs taken out of the stirrups. "The doctor will be here soon," the resident snapped, not moving from her seated position by the door. The nurse just ignored her and immediately took my legs out and started massaging them.

On 25/6/07 , Luisa Perkins said...

Good grief; I had no idea there were so many evil residents in the world. It must be the sleep deprivation that renders them less than human.

Brill, I read all the Nibley I can get my hands on; I browse the FARMS website and pick up other stuff as it intrigues me. I have one big ol' volume on The Allegory of the Olive Tree that I love....Why do you ask?

On 26/6/07 , NH Knitting Mama said...

Another beautiful post. I just love reading your blog... I feel like I am right there in the story with you.

I'm on a slow 56K connection at our rental house, so I can't comment on each individual post tonight... just wanted to stop in and say hello!

On 27/6/07 , rjlight said...

Well of course you are -- I knew that and I realize now as I re-read this post that you were happy the yankees were losing...sorry, brain lapse...
I understand it's like the joy I get when the Dodgers lose...

On 10/11/08 , Mili said...

Well said.