Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Boy Who Lived

I remember this viscerally, with all of my being. I am lying in a hospital bed, perfectly cranked to just the right angle of comfort. The dim lights are on, the warmed blanket draped over my legs. The velcro, elasticized straps are tight around my round belly, and I can hear the heartbeat as it ticks, beep, beep, beep. There has been no sweeter sound to my ears in months.

Am I having a baby in this memory?

No, I am not. I am lying in the bed, watching Air Force One, the movie that happens to be on the television. Earlier that day, they had attempted to induce me, but after 5 hours of pitocin and no progress, we decided to call off the effort for the day. The midwives had been lovely.

Don't worry, they said, you can sleep here, on the monitor. You don't have to go home until this baby is born.

I sighed with delight, imagining that I could live there indefinitely on the monitor, listening to its quiet beeping, and knowing with great certainty that my Sweet Pea was alive.

The essence of the memory is the disbelief, the complete unawareness that I was, actually, going to deliver a baby in the near future. This feeling was different from when I had been pregnant with Charlotte, when that disbelief was the simple product of the fact that I could not envision pushing a baby from my body and having it be real. This was more of a suspended reality, a willingness to close off and disbelieve. An avoidance of what might happen, lest it might not. I was not thinking about the fact that I might be having a baby, because I couldn't imagine what that would be like. At that point, 100% of all my births had ended in death.

So I lay there, holding Greg's hand, hearing the monitor quietly beep, watching Harrison Ford as president and wondering in the deepest recesses of my subconscious what tomorrow would hold. I only hoped it would be good.

Sleep came, later on, with sadness. It had been eleven months since I had fallen asleep with a living Charlotte, eleven months to the day. Tomorrow was her "birthday". The day to dread. Fear rose, and I tried to shove it away.


There was no need for pitocin the next day. When the day nurse checked on me at half past seven, I had been laboring quietly in my bed for over an hour. I had been able to feel the contractions quickening as the dawn had pinked up the sky, and I could see on the chart that they were getting stronger and stronger (love that monitor). The nurse, our dear Trudy, who had held our hands and our hearts and our daughter eleven months earlier, reviewed the printout and smiled at me. I was surely in labor.

But what did this mean to me, then? In labor for what? I don't think I knew, really. I was trying to undo something, I was trying to undo the undoing of my motherhood, and I thought maybe this was it, but I hadn't pictured it, I hadn't imagined this real baby would actually arrive.

But labor it was, and labor I did, strong and hard. The midwife was in a meeting and I encouraged her to stay, no, really, I'm happy with Trudy and Greg, check me when your meeting is over.

She did, and if you've given birth you know this awfulness, how you are in a position that feels right and then you have to somehow move to let the midwife get a feel of your cervix, and how awful the cramping is when you can't get yourself into that just-right position that you used to be in.

Ten centimeters, she said, but there was something off about her voice. Ten centimeters, but I can't feel the head anymore. It's not in your pelvis.

Well, go get it. I thought. The baby's head had been in my pelvis for 4 weeks already. Certainly it hadn't come out while I was laboring.

The doctor came, the doctor was summoned with the ultrasound, just like last time. Same midwife, different doctor. But still the monitor beeped, beeped, beeped.

What was happening? What was I preparing to do? I really don't think I knew.

There was a hustle and a bustle then, because the doctor determined that the head wasn't there, it was up in my ribs. Somehow this little guy had turned on us and now he was high and dry, nowhere near where he was supposed to be, with a big bag of waters under his cute little feet and a cord somewhere in there, too.

This baby's coming out the other way, and now, he said, and they all started running. There were people all around me, shoving in catheters, shaving my belly, talking to me about anesthesia as they wheeled me down the hall within about 60 seconds of this discovery. Something was given to me to stop the contractions and I was rolled over and a spinal was given, immediately, and as I rolled back onto my back, and had my little monitors and things all attached to my arms I looked down and saw that same doctor, his scalpel poised, poking it gently towards my belly. It disappeared from sight.

Can you feel this? he asked.

Could I? Could I? It had only been somewhat under a minute since the spinal went in of course I could feel that, or could I? I said maybe, I wasn't sure, and I heard him say,

She's numb. And felt the tugging and the pulling of the cut, and knew they were doing it, they were saving the baby.

The midwife was there. She looked at my eyes and she said,

Your baby is going to be here very soon.

My what? Did you say what I think you said? Did you say BABY?

(Could this really be happening?)

And then it did. Greg said, I can see the feet, and then he was rising to his feet and his face crumpling with joy, and I could hear crying, the cry of a newborn. And I saw this baby be carried across the room, and Greg said, It's a boy, and I was all tears and I could not believe this was really it, a BABY, a real actual baby had been born and I had made him with my own body and he LIVED, he was here and he was alive.

I lay there, on my back, tears pooling in my ears as I sobbed, shaking the table, He's alive, he's alive, he's alive.

Then the midwife spoke almost sharply to the doctor, who was doing his usual ritual of suctioning out the c-sectioned newborn to clear his airway, and she said, will somebody please bring this mother her baby right now?

And the doctor looked, and he did, he carried the little vernix-covered boy over to me, and he laid him gently next to my face.

I was still wearing an oxygen mask, so they couldn't hear me, but Liam heard me. I said, I want to kiss him, and when I spoke, Liam stopped crying, and he looked at me then, and so I said it again, and they heard me that time and moved my mask.

I kissed my new little boy, kissed his little, wet face for the first time and knew it was real.

Later, as a true reader will do, a chapter title came to my head to describe this day, and it was from Chapter One of the very first Harry Potter book:

The Boy Who Lived

And that was my Liam.


Hope's Mama said...

This is one of the most wonderful birth stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I'm so glad this was YOUR story. I want one much like it. Oh Liam, you beautiful little saviour.

Meg said...

This was absolutely beautiful! I'm so glad you got the happy ending.

Sara said...

Oh, Carol, I cried when I read this when they started bustling to get you ready for your c-section--even though I knew without the title that the boy lived. A wonderful happy ending beginning.

Amy said...

Well, I be you know this story brought tears to my eyes. It was so odd reading your story for me.... the name... the c-section... the final photo....
The story is beautiful however, no matter how bittersweet it may taste on my toungue. I am so glad your Liam lived.

kris said...

Oh Carol. Beautifully written, as always. It is always a joy to read about your children and the miracle of who they are--all 3 of them.

Cara said...

Oh Carol - I had no idea. We all go through a dual experience when delivering the one after loss...but this is just extreme. That moment when you kissed him must have just been...exquisite.

THAT GIRL said...

One of most beautiful works of art you have ever (lived) written.


ezra'smommy said...

thank you so much for sharing this, it gives me hope.

Rachel said...

How perfectly beautiful, in every way possible. I am filled with hope, that some day, in the near future, I may deliver such a baby. You are a blessing to me. Simply by sharing your stories from the other side of this, you are a blessing. Thank you so much!!

mama said...

It is this story of Liam's entrance into the world that gave me strength. Carol, you gave me the strength, the love and encouragement that I would also someday have a "Boy (or girl) Who Lived", and he did!

xo Always.

Dalene said...

Wow, I am hoping for a similar happy ending for the birth of Baker's little brother in July. It will be a C-section again, but a planned, controlled, and peaceful one, if all goes as planned. Thanks for sharing this story.