Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five Days in July

I am horribly behind in telling Roo's story. I'm not going to get all caught up today, but I thought I'd at least get a bit more of it written down. Maybe it'll be easier to write than I think it will.

My due date had passed. It sneaked up on me, really. It seemed like I ought to still have three weeks left. I felt horribly unprepared. Some days it was all I could do to take care of myself. The thought of caring for a tiny, helpless newborn was overwhelming. I secretly feared I wouldn't be able to do it. And what if I was a horrible mother?

To make matters worse, I began having nightmares about my baby being injured - being dropped, or falling, and they terrified me more than anything in the world ever had before. I didn't want my little girl to ever hurt. Ever. I wanted her to be happy and safe and secure, and I wanted her to have everything in the entire world. I didn't ever want her to feel scared or confused or worried or sad. I recognized that I had very little control over quite a bit of that, and I hated it. I already loved my baby girl so very much. I felt that she deserved better than me but I was too selfish to let her go. I just couldn't do it.

The day after my due date, I had a visitor - a woman named Cindy from my mother's ward. I was acquainted with her, and I knew she knew I was pregnant, but she had her own struggles and I couldn't imagine why she would have taken the time to come visit me.

Cindy brought me fresh-baked bread. She teared up when I answered the door. She said that she was very proud of me, and that she loved me. She said she admired my strength. Her kindness was overwhelming. I wrote in my journal that night, "Kindness is a funny thing that way. Sometimes it's more overwhelming, more of an emotional blow than cruelty or apathy." I cried for twenty minutes after Cindy left, completely undone by a simple act of kindness.

I had a doctor's appointment on July 2nd, a Thursday. I spent 20 minutes hooked up to a couple of monitors - one for the baby's heart rate, and another for my contractions. I read a months-old issue of People magazine while the monitors beeped and clicked. When the technician returned and checked the results, she said I'd been having a few small contractions, and had I felt them? I hadn't, but I was excited at the prospect. The technician checked the other monitor. She also performed a brief ultrasound, checking fluid levels and fetal movement.

"You've got a happy baby," she told me.

My doctor felt that I should be induced. "Well, what about Friday?" she asked.

"Tomorrow?" I asked. "Friday is tomorrow."

She made a face. I think the weekend had caught her unawares. She instead scheduled me for Sunday the 5th at 7pm. I don't know what it says about my maturity that my first thought was, Sunday at 7? I'll miss "The Simpsons."

My contractions grew stronger as the day passed. I could feel them now. My mother refused to let me drive anywhere alone, afraid that my labor would progress suddenly and she'd have to come rescue me anyway. She didn't make me feel particularly calm about being induced. She was induced with her first baby, my brother. That was nearly thirty-four years ago, and she still winces and clutches her stomach at the mere mention of the word "induce." It made me nervous. It was amazing how quickly I went from not wanting to be pregnant anymore to not wanting to not be pregnant quite so soon.

I knew that my relationship with my mother was going to change when the baby was born. My mom had taken good care of me throughout my pregnancy. In a funny way, it was like I was her little girl again. I knew that my own maternity would change that. It made me sad. I didn't feel ready. It was stupid, because I was 25 years old, but I still felt like a little kid in so many ways.

I tried to take my mind off things by narrowing down my list of baby names. I got down to three or four that I loved but I couldn't commit to one yet. I wondered if that meant something. Adoption was still on the back of my mind. I thought, maybe I can't choose a name because I'm not supposed to be the one who names her.

Sunday the fifth arrived. I was depressed. I knew that I was supposed to be excited, but all I wanted to do was cry. I was terrified that I was going to be a bad mother, that I would grow to resent my baby for the way she changed my life. I worried that I wouldn't bond with her, that I wouldn't be patient enough, that I would always love her a little less than I should because of who her father was (I don't, for the record).

I thought more about adoption during the first week of July than I had ever before. The prospect of someone else raising this baby used to frighten and depress me. But the thought suddenly didn't feel as awful as it had before. I wasn't sure what to make of that. I hoped it was nerves.

I loved my baby girl so much it hurt. I only wanted what was best for her. But what if that wasn't me? What if I wasn't meant to have her? Would I know somehow? I hoped so. And I hoped that I was meant to have her, because I didn't think I could handle one more devastating loss in my life.

I hated that this was my line of thinking a few hours before I was scheduled to be induced. It seemed like I should be thinking something else, anything else. I should have been doing something other than thinking myself sick.

Suddenly, it was half past six, and I realized I wasn't quite ready to go. I rushed around (as well as I could with an overdue baby in my belly), putting a few last-minute things in my bag and double-checking what I'd packed already for myself and the baby.

My mother put my suitcase in her car while I hefted myself in. I was tired and nervous and overwhelmed. My throat fizzed with unshed tears. We were running late; I could cry later. I knew that my tardiness wasn't criminal - it's not like they could start the induction without me. But I've always hated being late. I urged my mother to drive faster.

She found a parking space and we headed into the labor and delivery triage area. It was 7:20. I gave the receptionist my name and she disappeared to get my paperwork. There were five pages, and my name was on the top of each one. No, wait. My name was at the top of four of them. Someone else's name was on the top of the fourth page.

"Oh, sorry about that," the receptionist said, shuffling a few papers at the desk and finding the page that was mine. But the misplaced paper got me thinking. It hadn't occurred to me before then that I wasn't the only woman having a baby that night. That probably sounds terribly self-centered of me, but it's true just the same. I wondered about this other woman - Teresa - who was also filling out the stack of having-a-baby paperwork. I wondered if she was married, if she had any other children, if she was nervous. I wondered who was going to be in the delivery room with her. I wondered if people were excited for her. I hoped so.

My paperwork was processed and my mother and I were shown to my room. There was a hospital gown folded up on the bed and the nurse told me to put it on. My mother settled our belongings while I went into the bathroom and changed. I closed the door behind me, and I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror over the sink. I realized then that this was the last moment I was going to be wearing these maternity jeans as a pregnant woman. When next I put them on, I would be a mother. I stood there for a few minutes, memorizing the feel of wearing clothes and not being hooked up to monitors so I'd have something to cling to during my stay. Slowly, I donned my hospital gown. The motion had an air of finality about it.

For some reason, I thought of the movie "Men in Black," where Will Smith's character is told that the suit he's given is "the last suit you'll ever wear." It sounds stupid, but I had that kind of feeling just then. Like this was the last hospital gown I'd ever wear. I knew that once I opened the bathroom door, I was no longer myself, Jill, a pregnant woman, a person. Once I opened the door, I would become a patient. Things would happen, and be done, and it was slightly terrifying. I hate being a patient. I hate disappearing into a chart. I knew that once I was out there, there would be monitors and tests and an induction and eventually and IV, and I would simply be a room number to the doctors and nurses.

I stood there in my hospital gown. The air felt different already. The gown had changed me. Wheels were in motion.

I opened the door.


Mary said...

Hi--Still reading, and loving your blog. I tagged you in the Versatile Blogger Award. Head on over to my blog to check it out, and as always, best wishes to you.

Swinging On Small Hinges said...

You are an amazing should write a book. Your experiences help so many. :)