39 weeks pregnant. It was a Wednesday evening and the weight of a ten pound baby had dropped. I was in to visit my doctor, the last visit before the scheduled c-section the following morning. She put me on all of the monitors, and as I was getting ready to leave, she came back in.
Something didn’t look right. This was my baby that I was told was not a viable pregnancy. Then they found a tear in the uterine lining that at my age, 36 at the time, was a large concern. The tear was substantial enough that the doctor recommended I not tell anyone of the pregnancy. The tear was a concern until 6 months.
The doctor had already shook my hand, said she’d see me tomorrow and left the room. She came back. She wanted to run another test.
They hooked me up to the monitor, her face scrunched up, brows knit. She saw me watching and smiled.
“We’re going to have a baby tonight.” She smiled at me. She must have forgotten I had seen the other look.
“The baby’s heartbeat is not what we’d like, and I think it’s under stress. Have you noticed any fluid leakage?”
“No. I mean, not that I noticed.”
“It’s possible you’re losing water. It’s not important. What did you have for lunch?”
“Salad. Oh, and cheese popcorn. Much cheese popcorn.”
“How much salad? What was in the salad?”
“Okay, you’re going to head over to the hospital. We’re going to keep you on the monitor and try to hold out on delivering.”
“Why?” I switched from scared to her peer. This baby was coming out tonight. Now was better than later. Let’s get down to it. I had already had one c-section and the thought of another one…I shut down and went into business mode. It’s my defense. I must have appeared calm and collected as she now elaborated more than she should have. I’m very convincing in that mode.
“You have eaten the worst possible thing as far as digestion goes. It takes the longest to digest, and when we’re dealing with anesthesia…if you throw up, you could inadvertently choke and we don’t want you inhaling broccoli. That would be very, very bad.”
She was out the door and I was off to the waiting room where my husband sat smiling at me.
“How’d it go?”
“How’d you like to meet our baby tonight?” His nothing-rocks-my-world demeanor was in fact rocked. I filled him in. He was giddy and nervous. He covered the nervousness quickly. Our son was at the sitter’s. My parents had come in the day before to help my husband with our son. We have no one here to help, not the type of help that a new baby, a toddler and a small girl traveling between two houses requires. I put past experiences behind me, and thought yes, they would help. This is what parents do.
I called them on my mother’s cell phone as we parked and were walking from the parking lot into the hospital. I was excited to say we were having the baby tonight. I hated the planned out part about a c-section. Actually, I hated everything about a c-section. But my doctors were very convincing about the high risk associated with large babies and things going wrong, things that can never be fixed. So, it tickled me that this baby was calling the shots. Tonight it was.
“Mom? We’re having the baby tonight! I need you and Daddy to pick up J. at the sitter’s.” I was out of breath as we walked. Oh, did I mention that I was in labor but didn’t know it. That was the other part the doctor had mentioned. I didn’t know that lower pressure that started low and ran along the top curve of my bump was a contraction until she told me. Having never gone into labor, I just thought it was the muscles stretching with the weight of a large baby.
“Oh my goodness! Lyra let me call you back. We’re getting pulled over by the police.” I could hear her nerves. Her southern accent was thick when she was stressed. I also knew a key thing about my mother. She hadn’t heard me. This may sound bizarre, but I’m not exaggerating for a story. She. Had. Not. Heard. Me.
“Mom. Listen. I have to go into the hospital. We are 45 minutes away, and I cannot get J. You need to write down the directions.”
“I can’t right now. Can I call you back?” In the background I hear my dad muttering, her voice getting short with me as it does when my demands are too great.
“You aren’t hearing me.” I had to stop walking, we were now in the hospital. Normally I would shut down at this point but I had to get her to understand me. My lifelong quest. It wasn’t about me, it was about a three year old who was at the sitter’s and would be terrified to not have either of his parents. My stomach squeezed, my heart raced. Lyra do not go into labor, I repeated over and over again to myself. “Okay. Put Daddy on the phone.”
“Lyra! The policeman is walking up to the car. I just can’t deal with this right now! Can’t someone else do it?” Then to my father, “Why did you make that U-turn?? You saw the sign!”
“No! No one else can do it. I need you to do this! Put the cop on the phone. Right now. There is not a cop in the world who would give you a ticket. Let me talk to him.”
To my father, “She wants to talk to the policeman. Yes, I told her that.” Then to me, “Look, we can’t right now.”
My husband is motioning to me. I am bent at the waist leaning against a railing. My breath is labored. He says, “Hang up. It’s you and me. We’ll do this.”
“Forget it.” I say and hang up on her. I am sobbing, holding my belly.
My husband’s cell phone rings five minutes later. He’s trying not to be angry for me. “No, I’m just going to run back and get him. No big deal…uh huh…yes, of course, it’s a better idea.” He hangs up.
They check us in and get me hooked up. The doctor had called ahead, and the lack of waiting said all I needed to know. The baby was still under stress. The heart rate was too low.
My husband smiled at me, and said, “Okay. Now that you’re settled. I’m going to run home real quick, pick up J., drop him off with your parents at our house, and I’ll be right back.”
“You can’t leave me. It’ll take 45 minutes each way. What if you aren’t here when they cut me open. I can’t do this by myself.” I was having a panic attack.
“It won’t take me that long. You are going to call one of your friends, calm down, and I’ll be back before you’re off the phone. You will not have this baby without me. I know you.”
I called one of my best friends who was out to dinner with her parents. She put me on speaker and put the phone in the middle of the table. They had me pretend that I was out to dinner with them. I told them all what happened after years of hiding the shame of not having an average parental situation. No one judged. They told me what a wonderful husband I had, what a wonderful family I was creating, and to remember that I get to decide what kind of mother I would be. It would be about my kids, always about my kids.
They stayed on the phone until my husband got back, an hour and a half. He told me my son was fine that I wasn’t there. I told him he was lying, that my son had panicked, and had freaked out when he left too. He said nothing but looked at me. A mother knows.
A few hours later, I went into surgery and within a half an hour later, my second son was born. They injected my IV with a heavy-duty painkiller right after they held the baby up for me to see. A warm happy filled me, even as I stared in amazement at this little boy, a boy!, who looked exactly like his big brother. Their resemblance freaked me out, not to mention that I didn’t know until that moment that I thought he was a she.
When they brought the baby back after the tests, I started to shake violently. I couldn’t hold any part of my body still. My skin and scalp began itching like nothing I had ever felt. I was having a reaction to the painkiller. I couldn’t hold the baby, because I was afraid I would drop him. My husband sat next to me holding that baby for the three hours it took for the medicine to wear off. He held his cheek up to mine as my head shook up and down, a junky coming off of a bad trip.
I didn’t hear from my mother until they showed up late the next day. She never apologized, as she didn’t think they were wrong. We never discussed it, as we never discussed anything that happened. She did mention to my husband, “I was trying to talk to her, but you know how Lyra gets. She just wants to hear what she wants to hear.” He walked away and I applaud him for not fighting my battle. As a kid she would do this with my friends. The ones who are still my friends walked away as well. There is something about family that no matter how I may feel, I don’t want anyone to knock them down and put me in a position to defend them. That only makes it worse. The good ones know this, and know how to support me without knocking down people who I love, but I just don’t like very much of the time. They know enough to say “that isn’t normal” and “it isn’t your fault”.
I got the husband, and the third baby, the one that they kept counting against. I have a family that I try every day to do it differently without knowing how. I try and fail. I try again. I say “I’m sorry” a lot. As my husband says, “We do the best we can with what we have.” Yes. We do.