Friday, April 8, 2011

Coming soon...

I chose my pediatrician carefully before Liam was born.

I had visions of myself, propped up on one elbow, my face close to the baby's to feel his breath on my skin.
I could see myself diagnosing every bump and bruise as a childhood cancer, every cry and gurgle as an ear infection or cold. I wondered if we would be daring enough to drive on the highway with him once he was born.

There were moments in Liam's early days where I was nervous, and maybe close to panicked, but for the most part, after his birth I mellowed considerably. The dozens of phone calls in the night that I had envisioned boiled down to one, perhaps two. Over time I began to trust his little body, and as he grew and thrived, that trust increased to the point that I almost felt mellow.

When Aoife was born, I was just in the thick of things. I had Liam, my survivor, and had somehow bonded deeply with his baby sister during my pregnancy. I had been nervous, yes, but was beyond relieved to be handing my not-an-only child a sibling who would stay with him. When she was born I was euphoric, amazed. I would walk down the hall with her in my arms and look from one to the other, stunned that I had now not one, but two small people in my charge, two living people who might just stay. The bliss settled, and stayed, and it was wonderful.

Fiona's birth was different. It had taken me 18 months to conceive her, and this long process had completely revamped my "body as damaged goods" perspective to the point that the pregnancy never seemed real to me, perhaps less so than even my pregnancy with Liam, where hope was my only focus other than despair. I detached and refocused on my cute little clan of two, cautiously hopeful in my conversations with them that "Peanut" would join us that November.

I remember vividly rocking on my hands and knees during my labor as I was seized by a particularly intense contraction, and bursting into nearly hysterical tears. I couldn't catch my breath, and the hot tears were pouring off my face onto the sheet below me. When the wave was over, our wonderful family friend and nurse who was with us took my hand.
What is it, she said, and I simply replied: I'm having a baby. It was like that moment was the first time I had dared to believe it, to reconcile the difficulty in conception and my fears that I wouldn't earn that "third" child. I had rubbed her sweet body through my skin and sang to her, I had spoken fondly of her and even talked of plans with the older two, but I had been play acting all along. Suddenly it became real, and I was overwhelmed by the waves of love and hope and anticipation that I had been afraid to connect with all along.

When she was born, it was like the biggest sigh ever, a fantastic, orgasmic moment of pure, clear amazement. My tiniest baby yet, born with her eyes wide open as I leapt over her umbilical cord and swept her up onto my chest. Suddenly it was so very clear to me that she, too, was my destiny, and I hadn't even known to expect her.

When I brought her home it was different. I was terrified for her. I woke in the night, my breathing sharp, sure she was still beside me. I would hold her under bright lights checking for changes in her skin tone, I even considered asking the pediatrician to run blood work just in case. Something about her made me sure I wouldn't keep her. Even Christmas seemed a long shot, and it was only six weeks away. Every time people talked about our future together I cringed, sagged, it was even worse than during my pregnancy.

During this time I could not bear to look at the photographs of myself holding Charlotte. I couldn't see that moment captured, of a mother's anguish and a dead child. I feared it too much to face it. It broke my heart to have to distance myself from her.

Lately I have wondered, did that fear come after the fact because I distanced myself from Fiona during the pregnancy? Did the attachment and fear during the pregnancy somehow allow for some kind of relief when this clearly-envisioned child arrived safely?

Of course I'll never know, but the reason I'm wondering might already be clear to you: I'm in my 34th week of pregnancy right now and still struggling to wrap my head around this miracle-to-be. My anxiety is mostly in check, I'm pleased to say, having developed a myriad of survival strategies over the past seven and a half years for coping with pregnancies. I am absolutely on top of this baby's movement and he/she is a lazy, lovely stretcher and wiggler, always subtle, but always palpable and there.

But I just can't believe I'm having another baby. I feel like we've just gotten to the point where Fiona is integrating herself into our family, and she's so diminutive and I baby her so intensely that it seems unfathomable that I'm getting close to another arrival.

I can hear it now, though, the gasp that will escape me when I scoop this new baby up, and destiny slaps me in the face again with the greatest beauty I have ever seen. I will wonder where I've been for the past eight months, rushing busily after my living three as this perfect being has grown and been loved by all of us in the midst of the fabulous chaos. I will wonder how I could ever survive without this one.

And I hope that I will this time escape the fear.


Hope's Mama said...

Oh wow, Carol. One of your best posts yet. This captures so much.
You are such a wonderful mother to all of your children, both those here, not here and almost here.

Big Love, Big Acceptance - or so I say said...

This is beautiful. I teared up when I read the part of your labor when you said - "I'm having a baby." Brought me to my own reality of what I might experience during my upcoming labor with my first baby since my daughter died. I can't quite believe I'm pregnant, and we're having a baby, and I just might get to hold her soon (I'm at 35 weeks)!

kris said...

I will hope with you. Be well and enjoy the sunshine of spring. And happy almost seven to sweet Liam! There is such a magic in seven and seven-turning-eight.

Housefairy said...

Your writing is so beautiful, this could be so helpful to doctors who are working with PTSD, and for all people, all families to know that this comes in waves, each time different, ever changing. It is also a moving tribute to how different a pregnancy can be when the days are filled with child care.
You are simply wonderful. Always know that.

Mandy Hitchcock said...

Thank you for this. Just as our little girls share a terrible date, it looks like our coming babies share a date, too. I've just passed the 35-week mark and am totally bewildered by all of it-- how I am going to go through labor again, how I am going to parent Hudson's little brother after this devastation, how (or even if) I am going to conquer the fear that has reigned over me during this pregnancy. In the midst of it all somewhere is hope and the prospect of joy, but it is so difficult to see right now. So thank you for shedding some light on it for me.