You'd think the picture in my head that I'd take away from all of this would be one of the classics: Baby swadled and lying sweetly (and may I just say I'm now a bit weirded out by pictures of live babies with their eyes closed. They look dead. And this has nothing to do squeamishness over looking at deceased children -- I just now assume any baby with closed eyes is dead. I recently looked at a bunch of Bella's infant photos and got a little unsettled); baby being placed on my stomach after delivery; mom holding baby in delivery room while midwife looks on proudly.
Instead the image that resonates in my head is passing through the hospital's revolving door into a bright, warm day with a baby in my arms. I didn't leave anyone behind. This time, we escaped.
Early Monday morning, on the way to the hospital in a torrential thundershower, I told Mr. ABF I was glad I was in labor and wouldn't be induced. Turns out I had been a bit nervous about birth -- not the actual activity thereof, but the deja vu element. The whole waking up and calling the hospital early to check the induction schedule, saying goodbye to Bella, the anticipation of the first contractions, the probable wait through stages where my anxiety about the outcome could only increase. Instead, here I was timing contractions that had only just dropped from 20 to 15 minutes about two hours after a small leak of water.
Except they weren't. Turns out they were four to five minutes apart, but my body -- so used to giving birth by now -- wasn't even registering the tremors between the earthquakes. Until I got there, and perhaps psychosomatically after being told, they began to ramp up in speed, quantity, and intensity.
And suddenly . . . well, suddenly. It was as if a bizarre dream I had lingered over for nine months quickly morphed into a nightmare complete with dark skies and buckets from the heavens. Everything went so fast, there was nothing left but panic and sheer terror -- and honestly, for a number of moments, enough to distract me from what lay ahead. There was enough fear in the present tense to keep me well occupied from anxiety over the near future.
And maybe that's a good thing, that his entrance was so rushed, that nine months of anticipation boiled down to a horrific space of what turned out to be less than an hour. Suddenly, the nightmare stopped and the silence was punctuated by a baby's cry.
He was immediately plopped on my chest and under the small weight I did not feel love, or joy. I did not cry. I did however let go the mightiest exhale of unadulterated relief, for present and future and all the spaces in between.
I've been having a tough go of getting the concept of time back under my feet this week. He was born 37w6d, a week and a day in advance of his planned induction, and two weeks ahead of his due date. I thought this week would be spent throwing things into the garden, making one last grocery run, and doing one last load of laundry.
I've been living a fair amount on Maddy time. Even right after delivery, there came a point when Mr. ABF and I looked at each other, looked at the clock, and said, by this point they knew something was wrong, that she would not be rooming with me. And here he was, still in our arms breathing room air, not yet taken away for his obligatory testing. It wasn't until Monday night when I decided to turn on "24" to keep me awake and occupied for half and hour until I knew someone was coming to run a few more tests that it hit me -- Maddy was also born on a Monday, and that Monday night I also turned on "24" in my hospital room for a distraction. We've done a walk through the week: Wednesday, the morning of Maddy's heart failure, I was this time instead discharged into a beautiful spring day. Today, I ambled around the yard with the baby in my arms, inspecting the iris that bloomed this week and contemplating how it was today, Friday, that Maddy was bundled up into her tin-foil microwave and transfered to Children's. Undoubtedly my checks on his breathing and temperature will only increase as we approach Sunday.
The senior pediatrician came to give him one last check early Wednesday morning as she does with all the babies, and after reviewing his file asked about Maddy -- specifically, she used the term "etiology." I launched into the clinical story, stripped of emotion and full of medical terminology, for what seemed the thousandth time in just the hospital stay alone (nothing like a dead baby in your records to launch the "10 signs of depression" checklist discussion) and suddenly, in the middle of the spiel, grew weary.
I was finished with this. Not with Maddy mind you, but with this part of her. The medical is really her identity and though I'm happy to discuss it, I feel as though I've done nothing but for nine-plus months. And right now, what I want is to simply think of her as my daughter. I want to revel in her beauty, her strength, her promise. I wanted in that moment, talking with that doctor, to simply go home and study her pictures to see if her brother had her nose. If their hair was the same color. If what I remembered about their chins was indeed the same.
I want right now to bathe in all that is lovely and ugly, joyful and sorrowful, of being a mother to three.
We do have a name for the little guy and I'm trying to decide if I want to nickname him obviously or not so very on the blog. We are home, he is under my roof and this morning after eyeballing Bella as she left for school, we went to inspect Maddy's lilac -- which needs deadheaded this week.