Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Babies Come From (Let Betty Break It Down):

I've just come home from the hospital. Surprised? I wasn't. I think I burned out that particular emotion in the past 9 months--used up my portion for a while as it were.

Because nothing in my life these past 9 months has been testbook anything...except perhaps a giant life lesson in how little I control in the universe (including myself sometimes).

So when the contractions started wracking my body at midnight this Saturday into Sunday, a little voice in the back of my head kind of chuckled (I'm actually one of those weird people who laughs more when in pain-the harder I'm hurting the harder I'm laughing; it's sick, I know....but kind of funny).

Sometime after New Years, I found out that I was pregnant. I was not thrilled. In fact, after taking multiple tests, I was actually sobbing on my bathroom floor, door locked to keep everyone away from me and my panic/fear/sheer unluckiness.  Do I hate babies or something? No, I am madly in love with my girls; I'd adopt babies from China in a heartbeat if we had the money.     IF  we had the money. We don't.  And we didn't have the money (or insurance or space or .......omg anything but love....for another child). Anything but love.

And that's really all I had to grasp onto for a few months as I wrestled with the fact that my body was once again housing a little person that would need me and resources that I didn't know if we could find. Twelve years of birth control and being very planned and very responsible and now this? I was, honestly-I was embarrassed and angry and terrified. 

The Dev's, by the way, never once showed an ounce of that to me. His reactions from moment one (and by "moment one" I mean me screaming out of a bathroom at 7 am with rising panic, waving a pregnancy test) were nothing but compassionate and loving and never accusatory. I've heard of men who freak out and run away at the thought of (another) baby. Not my husband. Instead, he just held me while I sobbed on the floor....and then got the girls down to the breakfast table for the morning routine while I tried to pull myself together. 

And then came the morning sickness. I have never experienced morning sickness before this baby really. I thought I felt pretty yucky for a couple of weeks with Thing 2. Yeah, that was nothing compared to this  pregnancy. The sheer inability to function when people need you sucks. Again with the resentment that I was pregnant against my will. Trapped. 

And then we went away on vacation with my in-laws when I was 15 weeks....the panic I felt upon finding out about this pregnancy was absolutely nothing to the gut-wrenching vomitous feeling at looking down and realizing I was gushing blood in some random restaurant in a city far from home. It was as if this little person had heard my thoughts and said "Fine, you don't want me-I'll go." NO NO NONONNONONOOONO..... I lost count how many times that night I beg God and this little person to not leave me, to stay, that I was so sorry, that of course I love him. 

Threatened miscarriage. Wait 3 days and see what happens. Flying home the next day with two kids, feeling every twinge and discomfort anxiously, sure each was the end of this pregnancy, the end of this heartbeat. 

It wasn't. The bleeding continued but so did the baby's heartbeat. For weeks. Along with the foreign concept of bed rest. Asking for help = I'd rather gnaw my arms off. I have discovered the flavor of my pride, having had to swallow so much of it already at this could things get worse? 

But they did. And soon I was calling a good friend asking him to recommend a decent lawyer to help me file for divorce. I can't and won't go farther into the matter more than to just say that my world was a devastated wasteland at this point. My belly seemed a metaphor of my soul, swelling with grief and the unknown. I could only hold myself in and rock. 

20 weeks is the half-way point of a pregnancy. A turning point. The Cape of Good Hope in a way. An ultrasound revealed that my bleeding stemmed from a subchorionic hematoma. A blood clot between the membranes of my uterus. The specialist later explained that while it was no where near my placenta and therefore not likely to cause an abruption, it was the largest one he had ever seen in special practice--the size of a lemon at that point--and could trigger pre-term labor and needed constant monitoring. 

Which gave us plenty of time to see that this child that I was carrying was really my son. Our son. 

Despite not wanting to continue our marriage further on a personal level, every moment I watched my children share with their father led me to believe that I should at least attempt to seek counsel--if for no other reason than the belief that they would tell me if I was crazy or not to continue to seek divorce. My list of requirements for staying was fairly long and specific. 

Never scoff at the prayers of your mother. 

Weeks past. People came forward to offer free babysitting so we could attend counseling sessions. The bleeding stopped. The clot began to diminish. Our son thrived. I began to feel hope and joy again. And began to fear that same hope and joy with the terror that someone or something would rip it away from me, like tearing off new skin from a burn. I met the day with a brave face and a trembling heart, like the balance I was attempting between staying busy and really truly taking care of my body to protect my unborn child. 

Boxes of clothing and gift cards started to appear in the mail. The girls got to spend a week with their grandparents, leaving me with a full week of nothing but time to prepare for baby and spend time with Mr. Devlin. There has been car trouble and unpaid bills and worries about two kids in diapers but each fear has been met with some kind of specific blessing, some new encouragement that we are being provided for as long as we do what is right and good. 

And then I hit 35 weeks and the doctors and nurses that I was seeing collectively drew a sigh of relief and told me I could as well. Baby would be fine if he came now and I should relax and enjoy these last few weeks of pregnancy. And I felt I actually could. 

I no longer felt the sting of careless comments from strangers about my appearance or the fact that we were having another child. I felt unbridled anticipation as I held other's newborns or looked at the pictures posted on facebook of my friends and family's latest additions. I felt ready.

Week 36. I felt funny. Off. Uncomfortable. I spent the morning at the OB's but didn't bother to have an internal. The next day at the specialist, the technician told me the clot we tracked all this time was no bigger than 4 cm and my son was probably over 6 1/2 pounds. She thought I would go soon. So did I as I had already lost my plug the night before (a new experience for me and an utterly disgusting one at that--pregnancy is NOT delicate). And I could feel my ribs again so I knew he had dropped. It was also our 11th anniversary. A day 5 months before I never would have thought we would celebrate. We had a dinner date planned.

That afternoon, while taking a nap, I rolled over and thought for sure that my water had broke. I called the Dev's and my mom and frantically stuffed a few more things into my hospital bag and crossed my fingers. Friends came to take care of the girls and we rushed to the ER, laughing that of course he would come the one night we had plans. We tracked the random shuffle of songs on the playlist and noted that-just as on our wedding day--there was a car on fire, tying up traffic. Burning cars are romantic to us. I actually get a little sappy every time I see one. 

I could feel the contractions steadily now as we waited in the ER for my OB. And then, just like that, they stopped. I had been 1cm at the beginning and had gone to 2-3 in that hour but then....nothing.  So we walked....and walked....for an hour-which seems much longer when you are anticipating the unseen magic your pregnant body works. The sky was clouding over in Nashville as they admitted me; I was 3-4 cm with spasmodic but undeniable contractions. We called everyone. I had never been in a hospital for more than 4 hours without delivery so surely this was our night.

I can control nothing beyond my reactions. Not even what my body decides.

I spent the night pacing the floor, answering the same questions over and over and realizing that just as our anniversary had past, so had the window of having our son that day.  It simply wasn't going to happen.  I don't know why I thought I should take that personally but I did. Again, I felt embarrassed and apologetic. My OB told me he'd see me soon--if not that night than at our next appointment--go home, take a bath, stay busy. We went out for a huge breakfast and I soaked in the tub while Mr. D picked up Thing 2 from the babysitters. I followed the dr's advice like it was the prescription to birth.

Nothing happened. By 8 that night, with the girls in their beds, confused but glad I was home, we crashed. I think Mr. Devlin and I were actually in the middle of a conversation. We both basically died. The adrenaline was gone along with any hope that today was the day we would meet our little traveler. He even seemed a bit sluggish.

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. I had resolve as I mentally planned my day over fresh coffee. Saturday is my day to clean the house--a regiment started early in my life growing up in my mother's home and something I do consistently: the house must be cleaned  before anything else. And so it was--in less than an hour actually. So I started the laundry. And baked. And put dinner up in the crockpot. And took the girls to the store with me for odds and ends. And got groceries. And put the crib together in spite of the ready to use bassinet. And made lunch. And scrubbed random spots of the floor. And set out Sunday clothes. And took the girls to the pool. And made dinner. It was a fabulous day but a day with out many contractions. By 10 that night, watching a movie with my man and enjoying a massage at his hands seemed the perfect way to end the day. It was great and I can honestly say, I didn't feel a moment of regret that I still wasn't in active labor. I would be 37 weeks on Tuesday and that would be better for the baby anyways. I closed my eyes, thinking that if the damned dog doesn't stop following me around, I'm going to go insane.

I laid down at midnight, hoping for another night of solid sleep before we headed off to Mass in the morning. An unexpected contraction rolled over my body, forcing me up and into a chair. Hey, I can totally sleep upright-no worries...

....But I can't sleep through contractions that are coming 15 minutes apart. After an hour of this, I suggested that we might need to go to the hospital after all. This is when things get sketchy.....

Having spent basically 24 hours without food during our previous stay, Big D decided he better eat a sandwich before putting on clothes or calling a baby sitter or any of the things I thought would be rational next moves. I will swear to a jury it took him 15 minutes to eat that damned sandwich while he smacked his lips and discussed how delectable it was. Contractions are now 8 minutes apart and I have been in the bathroom twice for each one of them.

I spot blood.

A dear friend who was incidently supposed to be out celebrating her birthday can come watch the girls and house for us if we pick her up. I skitter around the house while this happens, writing a note for Thing 1 so she isn't confused when she wakes. Pulling the blankets back over her and Thing 2, I kiss them goodbye/see you later.

Contractions are now 4 minutes apart and I start to feel panicked. The tire is unmistakably flat on the cruiser and we should take the dog out for a pee----REALLY??????? NO, please please please let's go-this is really happening now.

We are finally on the road. It's 2:30 am in Nashville on a Saturday/Sunday. Vandy students are hugging telephone poles and flagging taxis. I see lightning in the distance and the air is electric.  I can't stop one contraction from rolling into another. Despite the pain, I feel oddly alive and outside of my self.

The Dev's signals and weaves between taxis. Blue lights flash and the cop car waves us over. I am moaning in pain. We aren't criminals but I will be if this cop gives me trouble. I suddenly fear the Dev's will make a rookie mistake and try getting out of the car, only to be shot by a startled cop. Of course, this doesn't happen and the moment the officer gets to the window and hears the explanation, he waves us to go go go. We are laughing now at our sitcom moment. Life takes a moment to taste like apple pie and pop culture.  I laugh and feel my water break.

The nurse in the ER at 2:45 is crusty and jaded. She asks redundant questions as I undress for a gown and I explain we were just in two days ago and why. She treats me like I'm spoiled for indulging in my pain with moaning. More questions. They make me walk up to the next floor. I'm 6 cm and ready for the show. This is not a drill.

In the elevator it feels that everything in my body could drop out on to the floor. I say so. I am met with more experienced humorlessness--this simply isn't possible, you know. A woman's body doesn't change that fast. I mention this is my 3rd child. She shrugs.

The staff of nurses go from stagnate to flurried as they fall into position. I see lightning through the window. It is closer and brighter than before. I can no longer sign forms and give verbal consent for the rest of my information. I remind them that I was just in and it's ok-I'm ok. I'm fully dialated. It's go time.

A man I've never met before is now my doctor. There is no pride or shame in a delivery room. My father could be there and I wouldn't care what part of me is exposed. I feel intense pressure and feel like I could float away if Mr. Devlin lets go of my hand. He grounds me. I'm still with this. I feel empowered by him, by the fact that he is still with me, that this is our child and our marriage and our story. There's no need to push long.  Our tiny son is only 6 pounds 6 ounces but I am sure that is mostly lungs. His startled discomfort is the most amazing sound.

He's here. He's finally here. No more fear.....for now.  I feel like his is our little messenger from God--not just a gift, but a gift with a card attached.   Sit down and shut up and know that I'm your God.

Outside, the sky rips open and unleashes a storm. The morning is scrubbed clean and I hold my son outside of my self for the first time. I am alone in my body for the first time in 9 months and I don't recognize myself.


Cara Hinojosa said...

What an amazing and beautiful story. Congratulations on your new little one.

Ness said...

That took me by surprise. I am crying.

My friend Candice quotes someone...can't remember who...who wrote, that when a baby is born, so is a mother.

You've been reborn as the mother of a little boy. Your life will never be the same.

What a sweet, fresh start.

Jonathan, Lyndsy and Heath Manz said...

Thanks for sharing your journey! I had goosebumps and tears all together.

Anonymous said...

This is the most beautiful and entertaining piece that I have read in months. ahhhh....xoxo