It all started with the Apgar scores

I wasn’t always a Panda Mom.

Anyone who knew me before I became a mom would definitely have predicted that I would one day be your quintessential Tiger Mom.  Most of my school-era friends would attest to the fact that I was driven.  I was a perfectionist.  I got good grades and ran for student government.  I then went off to college and worked hard for my degree.  Then I worked hard in my career, plotting towards my goals.  I wore panty hose and dry clean-only clothes.  I actually began and completed many tasks.  In fact, I followed my to-do list which I made in the morning, and I crossed everything off by night time.   I demanded a lot of myself, and I suppose I demanded a lot from others as well.

My husband is also accomplished in his career and has worked hard most of his life to achieve his goals.   He was a valedictorian at his high school.  In college, he was so single-minded in his academics that his dorm mates called him a “study animal.”  He is as much of a perfectionist as I am, perhaps even more so.

This is why we would have expected our firstborn to receive perfect 10s on his Apgar scores, both at 1 minute and 5 minutes.  After all, David and I both scored high in most standardized tests, so why not our baby?  I pictured nurses and doctors all holding up signs with a big “10″ written on them and rejoicing with us as I effortlessly popped this baby out.  I fully planned to mention his high Apgar scores on his college applications alongside his SAT and GPA; I was sure that there was some sort of a correlation between your Apgars and your credit scores.

I had a very smooth pregnancy and was healthy and glowing for 9 months.  There was no reason to think that this newborn would be anything but…perfect.

But then it happened.  He came out all blue!  Deduct one point.  The staff whisked away my just-delivered bundle and began working on him.  I heard the doctor slapping him around and saying, “Come on, come on, breathe!”   Deduct one point.  A few seconds later, I heard the sweet sound of this baby’s very first cry, but it took a few seconds too long.  Deduct another point.  The judges took away yet another point on some technicality, and the final score at the first minute was only a six.

Of course at that point, I did not care one iota about the darn Apgar score; I just wanted this kid to get some oxygen in his brain so that he could someday learn to walk, talk, and eventually live a normal and productive life here on earth.  At the moment, I could care less what college he went to or that he ever became the student body president.  All I cared was that this poor little thing would simply be…normal.

(This was the first sign that maybe, just maybe, I was letting go of some ridiculous standards I had set for my offspring.)

A few minutes later, the doctor determined that his Apgar scores had gone up to an eight.  Eight?  Well, that’s a very respectable and solid B!  As he handed us this sweet little bundle, he said, “We were worried there for the first couple of minutes, but I think he’s going to be just fine.  He’s beautiful.”

The doctor was right — he was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and I was completely overwhelmed by love for this child.  It was immediate, and I knew it was permanent.  Nothing was going to change that — no, not even low Apgar scores, SATs, nor credit scores.

The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love…”  Since becoming a parent, I have gotten a much clearer picture of what that means.  It also opened my eyes to the fact that I did a whole lot of striving in my life in an effort to please God, when in fact He was already completely pleased with me, with or without my accomplishments.  I was similarly head over heels in love with this little baby who simply existed, accomplishing nothing (except a whole lot of pee and poop).  Could it be true that God actually loves me this much, too?  Maybe more?  Yup.

On that day, this mother who once resembled a tiger slowly began the slow process of morphing into a panda.

And it all began with the Apgar scores…