Maddy's birth could not have been more uneventful. Compared to her sister, who was a 24 hr. saga -- involving a harried trip to the hospital interrupted by a family of geese crossing the street, my water breaking without my knowledge, and ending with a torn rectal muscle as they suctioned her out while trying to avoid a c-section -- this was nary a blip on the radar. Went in for an induction, water broken at 1 p.m., Maddy born at 4:45 p.m. after 20 minutes of pushing. It was also uneventful emotionally; were Maddy to have lived I would not be prancing around bragging about "shooting out" my second child (it was birth, after all, and rather uncomfortable). After years of infertility, a miscarriage, and a live daughter, the actual labor and delivery for me is simply a means to an end. I am not one to wax philosophical about the transformative female power of labor, or any womanly catharsis that takes place as a child exits the body -- I just wanted it, all of it, over. I wanted the stressful pregnancy over, the surprise as to whether she was male or female over, the 5+ year struggle to have a family, over. I believe my "birth plan" as it was for both daughters read: "Please, kindly, deliver child alive by any method necessary (oh, and if I could make it through alive? That would be nice too)."
Right when she was born, there was the sound of a gasp, and then the NICU team (assembled for safety's sake as she was a week overdue) rushed her over to a table and began clearing her lungs, everyone assuming she simply gulped a mouthful of meconium upon entry into the world. Her APGARs, given what unfolded, were startlingly good -- 7/8 if I remember correctly. There was no crying. Well, except mine. I was so relieved. And happy. I think I secretly had wanted a girl, never fully admitting that to anyone least of all myself. And here I was, finally, at the end of a journey and an extraordinarily long pregnancy: a beautiful family of four, with two girls.
This twenty minutes, the last twenty minutes of my old life, were sheer bliss. I thought of it all, pondered the infinite possibilities, and held my beautiful, quiet daughter, whose eyes were closed (but no one seemed to find that at all troubling), and held her hands and feet, and traced the shape of her nose (mine), and marveled in her.
And then they took her away, for observation, just to be safe.
Given what I now know of so many of your experiences, of deliveries of babies already dead (and may I just say those that have done this? You deserve a national holiday, a postage stamp, and some money bearing your image. I am in awe of your courage), silent delivery rooms, the joy already evaporated from the moment, I should be grateful. I should be thankful that my last few moments were happy, were perfect, were nirvana.
And yet, it simply makes me all the more angry. I feel as though someone opened the door, showed me utopia, with its lush green meadows and blue skies and singing birds, then laughed cruelly while slamming the door in my face, leaving me flailing in darkness, and then pushed me down fifty flights of stairs. This moment haunts me. How could I have not known? How could I have been so remarkably naive? I feel like a chump on the world's biggest stage, buying into the miracle that wasn't.
I want today, to honor Maddy's birth. To get her flowers, and light a candle at 4:45. I also wanted, somehow, to let the universe know how wildly incredibly angry I am at it. I'm not an eye-for-an-eye kind of person, and yet I wish I knew a way to hurt back. Spray aerosol in my front yard? Not recycle for a day? Cut down a tree? I would love to walk out of a church, and have the doors slam shut behind me, but seeing as I never walked into one in the first place, the drama would probably be lost. I suppose I could burn an image of the double helix in effigy. I have, somewhere, pictures of me and Maddy in the delivery room, during these twenty minutes of bliss. I haven't looked at them to date, nor can I. They are a lie. They simply mock me. Torture me. They represent to me all that is cruel and horrible in the universe, everything unsaid, everything unspeakable. That I could be smiling and she could be devoid of wires and beautiful and breathing is pure fabrication.
So today, I'll just remember it all, the beauty, the relief, the untruths, and the hurtful push down the stairs that followed. I now know that whatever Maddy and her body could possibly have felt or sensed, that these moments, for her, these moments were cruel too. They were a struggle, an unpleasant surprise, a fight to the death. Her body was now devoid of that which kept it alive, and it was falling down the stairs right next to me. I'm so sorry Maddy, for not knowing, for making you fight, in order that I might believe just a few more minutes. You were stunningly beautiful, and I miss you so, so much.