Friday, September 16, 2011

Becoming a Mother (Part II)



My husband pulled the car over so that I could throw-up along side the road.

"Why in the world did you stop the car in front of someones driveway?"  I demanded to know though I was in no shape to really be preoccupied with such a question.

"I don't know" he replied, realizing there was no right answer to my question.

I closed the door to the car and we continued on the path to his mother's house to drop our son off for the night.  I was sick, I was nauseous: I was in labor.

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After the birth of my first child I accepted the possibility that I might not ever be pregnant again due to fertility troubles.  16 months later, another pregnancy test came back positive; a pregnancy that I lost shortly after completing my seventh week.

I accepted this loss, but my adoptive mother was very upset. She told me that I would be sad each year on my would-have-been due date.  I never knew that she had been sad each year on her would-have-been due date for the pregnancy that she lost. I had always thought that adoption fixes that; that it was my job to take that pain away. I hadn't. That's not fair or realistic--for anyone.

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Two months later, I became pregnant again with my second son.  People say that no two pregnancies are alike and it couldn't have been more true for me.

We made it to his mother's house before I got sick again. I considered blaming my symptoms on my husband's cooking. But no, I was in labor and I knew it. We made it to the hospital, but not without pulling over two more times along the road.

"Hear the froggies chirping?  They're hoping you feel better!" my husband said as I hurled my guts out over a bridge into a creek. I glared at him as he continued eating his bagel and drinking coffee. Paramedics have strong stomachs. 
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We arrived at the hospital and I was taken to the triage room on the maternity floor.

"Are you sure you are in labor?" the nurse wanted to know.

I tried very hard not to be sarcastic. I promise.

Nonetheless, the nurse decided I had a stomach flu. She wanted to send me home. I protested; I refused to leave. As consolation, she strapped itchy monitors across my belly and gazed, utterly unimpressed, at the monitor.

They placated me and let me stay there but would not admit me to the hospital. Silly pregnant woman who thinks she's in labor.

I fell asleep.
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I woke up as pain rippled through my body.  A few minutes later, I felt a gush of liquid.  I called the nurse; my water had broken.


"Are you sure?" she said as she walked in.

"I feel as though I am being slowly crushed by an iceberg," I replied.

Still, she tested me with her strip of paper before she announced "OK, you're in labor then" and slowly reached for a glove.  After a second of prodding, she retracted her hand with an alarmed expression.

"You're eight centimeters!" 
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The moment the staff realized that my son was about to be born was the moment they realized they had put me off for too long. They were not prepared for this birth. I was not admitted to the hospital. I had not had my antibiotics indicated to be needed by prior testing. They had not asked me about my birth plan or preferences. They had told me that there was no need to have my doula or my mothers called.

I was rushed to a delivery room as the staff scrambled to admit me. A box of gloves fell to the ground, littering white, latex-free figures all over the gray surface. "I see a head of hair!" someone announced.

I looked at my husband, he looked back at me. "It's too late," I said. "I am going to do this myself." 

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The staff argued. Was it too late to call the anesthesiologist for an epidural? I didn't want one anyway. No one knew that. Where was the doctor? No one had warned her a birth was impending.

 I took deep breaths.

With every breath I told myself you can do thisYou can do thisYou deserve a wonderful laborYou deserve a wonderful laborYou can do thisYou have the confidence to do this.  I looked over at the nurse next to me, who still did not have any gloves on.

"He is coming out."

The staff shouted at me not to push. They told me I needed to wait for the doctor.

"She knows what she's doing" said the doctor who had graced the doorway. "She's the only one who knows when she needs to push."

I focused on my hot pink socks. I sat up. I bore down. I swore I could have stopped time itself if I had deemed it so.

I was in charge.

 ------

They placed him on my chest as those wondrous cries left his lips.  He was a wonderment with deep blue eyes, a head full of chestnut brown hair, and a kissable button nose.  His little forehead was warm against my lips as I gave him a welcome-to-the-world kiss.  The same tears came to my eyes and a familiar lump formed in my throat; the indescribable mother-child bond. 

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So many thought processes flew through my mind while in the hospital. Too many to explain at once. I thought about how much more my voice should have been considered in my birth process. I thought about the privileges I have and how women without those privileges might not be heard at all. The thought terrified me, for them.

White privilege, Christian privilege, straight privilege, cis privilege, class privilege, coupled/married privilege--my privileges in that hospital were endless. I could pay for my care; received unquestioned support during my hospital stay; and no one questioned my right or my husband's right to take our child home. But what if?

What if I were younger? A person of color? What if I wasn't a Christian and no spiritual support was available? What if I did not have a partner or the privilege of being able to be married and have someone to look out for me during a time when I felt vulnerable? What if I did not have the privilege and opportunity to obtain an education and manage a household with someone else who also had the same privilege, to pay for insurance and our needs? What if I were alone? What if I did not have the means to inform myself about pregnancy and birth and needed to rely more on what I was being told by others? What if there was a huge hospital bill waiting at home for me?

What if I were on the other side of privilege; surrendering my son.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Becoming a Mom (Part I)



I watched my husband transform our home office from a fire engine red, selected by the previous owner, to a soft yellow.  I thought a mellow color would provide a peaceful environment for my crafts and other projects. I hate painting; he doesn't even ask me to do it anymore because I make a mess and complain the whole time. At this point, he was bored.

"Let's go get wings and drinks," he suggested.

"Ok," I said, as I slid down from my perch on our over sized desk where I was dutifully overseeing the painting.  Gotta go be responsible first.  Due to my PCOS, we had been trying to conceive for 18 months with no luck.  I would take a pregnancy test before going out for sips of my favorite wine, just in case.  Each negative test was a reminder, no biological relatives for you--not ancestors, not descendants. Imagine my shock then when;

Positive.

I checked the pictures on the box three times to make sure I read correctly.  I used a second test.

Positive.

I re-entered the office, arm outstretched holding the test as if it would bite me. My husband was halfway through making a long yellow stoke on the wall with his brush when his eyes met the little plastic stick in my hand.

"Yellow is a good baby color," I said.

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As my belly grew, so did the amount of unsolicited pregnancy and child-rearing advice I received. My pregnancy would no doubt be similar to my own mother's pregnancy with me.

"How big were you when you were born?"

"Was your mother late with you?"

"Were you cesarean or vaginal?"

People were kind, but perplexed with my pre-reunion replies of "I don't know."  Good grief, how could you not know if your own mother carried high or low, had trouble in labor, or how much you weighed at birth?  Who doesn't know something like that?

I read every book I could get my hands on, attended birthing and parenting classes, and made frequent use of the nurse line at my doctor's office.  I overwhelmed myself with information and worry, all-the-while rendering myself to the role of "clueless pregnant woman."

------

It was Thanksgiving day and four days past my due date.  I claimed the couch and announced that anyone who wanted to eat better find something to cook; "and if you want to do something for me, make sure there is chocolate or cheese involved!" My growing belly did nothing to diminish my sense of humor.

My water broke and I was in labor throughout Thanksgiving dinner that evening. At the conclusion of the meal, I shocked everyone when I calmly rose from my seat and announced I would be driving to the hospital to have a baby now.

"Aren't people supposed to scream, cry, run around and fling clothing into an overnight bag when a baby comes?" my mom asked, noting aloud she had never had a baby.

An hour later, I was admitted to the delivery unit and projected to have my son by the following morning. My mind protested, You can't be a mother. This can't be real.

Labor progressed slowly, and my thoughts questioning whether or not I could successfully mother a child did nothing to help the process. I nearly fainted during the epidural. The epidural did nothing but make my legs numb. I covered my face with my hands and I cried.

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At 9AM the following morning, the doctor declared that it was time to push. Flanked by his side was a nurse--a stunning vision of Jennifer Love Hewitt in scrubs. I felt every bead of sweat and every clump of my tangled hair, my body barely covered in a paper-thin gown, as the Hollywood pair in front of me coached me to push.

After two hours of pushing, of covering my face and sobbing, panicking, hyperventilating, my son emerged from my body. They placed him on my chest, his face inches from mine. A loud, beautiful blast of first cries left his lips.  He was a wonderment with deep blue eyes, wild chocolate brown hair, and a kissable button nose.  I stared at this precious, tiny boy....the first biological relative I had ever known.

The sleeping baby in my own soul awakened. Tears streamed down my face as I held my son.  There was an immediate bond I cannot describe, but the thought of it brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.  I realized that I had this experience with someone else as a baby and I wondered if she had the same tears in her eyes and lump in her throat, the same indescribable feeling of connection, to me.

I cried for her, I cried for both of my mothers, and I cried for myself.