TBT: Meeting My Children

My children all have birthdays this week, so it seems appropriate to devote this week’s Throwback Thursday post to their births.  I’ll try not to make it into a long drawn-out birth war story that makes all the men run for the hills and all the been-there-done-that women roll their eyes.

One thing I distinctly remember when I was pregnant with Jane, our first child, was the day that it finally hit me that we were about to become parents.  And that we were locked into it.  Committed.  Baby growing in the belly.  It was going to happen.  And we didn’t know what we were doing and I was scared out of my mind!

I remember trying to run up the headboard “away” from reality, saying to my husband, “Oh, no!  Oh, no!  What have we done?!  We don’t know what we’re doing!  Are we crazy?  We can’t do this!  We can’t do this!”

One similarity with all three births was that I worked all the way up until the day they were born.  All of them.  Although slightly different circumstances each time.  With Jane, I remember preparing everyone the day before.  I asked a guy in a club I was President of to attend a meeting for me in my place if I didn’t show up to work the next day.  I gave another guy a list of things-to-know “just in case I’m not here tomorrow”.  And guess what?  I wasn’t there tomorrow.

Daryl was induced.  I had begun dilating 5 weeks before he was due.  Every week, the nurse would comment, “Well, we probably won’t see you next week!”  And then I’d drag myself in the next week.  Since Jane had woken me up with labor, that’s how I anticipated it happening with Daryl too.  So every morning that I woke up still pregnant, the more depressed I became.  Horrible, terrible people would comment, “You ain’t had that baby yet?!”  I started wearing sunglasses, even in the buildings, as I walked into work – so no one could see the tears.

The week before his due date, they measured me at 5 cm.  Before you say anything, yes.  I know that’s supposed to be active labor.  But there it is.  When I went to my appointment the day before his due date, the doctor looked concerned.  She was afraid that whenever labor did start, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the hospital in time.  So then she did a terrible thing.  She asked me, “Do you want to have a baby today?”

I burst out crying.  Of course I did.  What I did not want (when I was in the right state of mind, that is) was to be induced.  Or have any other interventions.  But she had hit below the belt and I just nodded mutely.  She sent me to the hospital.  I called my husband and my mom.  Husband got there in time.  Mom, who lives in the next state over, made it to the parking lot.

Contrast my quick willingness to head to the hospital with Daryl to the way I conducted myself with Jane.  The night before, I had told my husband that if I went into labor, I would be shaving my legs before we left.  He rolled his eyes.  When I woke him up the next morning by tossing the notebook with the timing of my contractions on the bed, he hopped up and asked if I was ready to go.  I said not quite.  He cried out, “What are you doing?!” when he saw me waddling into the shower.

“I am not going to the hospital with hairy legs!  I told you that last night.  I’m going to shave.”

There indeed was no need to hurry.  She was born a solid 14 hours after we got to the hospital, which was about 3 hours after the contractions woke me up.  And that was after we forced the issue with my lackadaisical body.  I think I might have vegged out too much, trying to stay relaxed.  I put the Gregorian Monks CHANT CD on repeat All.Day.Long.  It drove my mother insane.  She begged for something else to listen to.  I refused.  When they finally shut off the CD to prep for delivery, I could still hear it.

That forced pushing set me up for some panic with kid #2.  Contractions are more intense when you are induced yet still going natural.  So intense that at one point, I started screaming my head off, imagining that I was in for hours of that pain.  I distinctly remember rational-me curled up in a corner of my mind thinking I’ve completely lost it.  What’s she going to do about it?  Instead, that primal urge to push came over me and the boy was out less than four hours after I headed to the hospital.

Despite a speedy delivery, the experience with the inducing and an unpleasant nurse that chastised me for not taking drugs caused me to dislike the thought of returning to the hospital with kid #3.  So I talked to my Primary Care Physician about doing a home birth or using a birthing center.  Since there were not any birthing centers nearby and she was concerned about how quickly the last kid had come and since my births had been non-eventful, she recommended a home birth.

And that’s what Hal was: a planned home birth.  That third pregnancy was the hardest.  I eventually decided that a particular day would have to be my last at work because it was just too uncomfortable to go into work.  I went home, slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to work up until the end.

Hal, always the thoughtful child, was born in the early morning hours the next day.  I woke up in the middle of the night to extremely sharp and powerful contractions that did not repeat and did not build in frequency.  I eventually retired to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb my husband.  Some time between 2 and 2:30 am, something happened that had not happened naturally with either of the other two.  My water broke.  We called the midwife.  The contractions were suddenly 3 minutes apart.  We called the friend who had agreed to sit with the kids.  We called my mom.

The midwives arrived first and quietly began to assess and prep.  The friend arrived next and quietly whispered outside our bedroom door that she was there.  Mom, again, was unable to cover the distance between us before the child was born.

I had always planned to bring the kids, 5 and 8 years old at the time, into the room to witness the birth.  I learned in those early morning hours, however, that I needed everything in that room to be about me and I couldn’t handle a kid asking a question or getting grossed out.

The kids, prior to the friend arriving, were in their shared room on the other side of our closet.  They could hear me screaming through the contractions (not panicked screams like before – these were intensity-of-effort screams).  They lay there, wondering what was going on, both of them on edge and slightly scared.  One of them finally said, “I think Mommy’s having the baby.”

They were reminiscing about that morning this week, each saying what they remembered.  It was funny to listen to because neither of them had accurate memories.  It made me wonder which of my memories of childhood are faulty.  I also learned that they’ve recounted their versions of events to their friends.  I now wonder what their friends think about me.

Right near the end of my very short (less than 2 hours) labor with Hal, I tried to call them into the room for the birth.  They arrived just in time to see Hal getting placed on my chest.  “Happy Birthday, Daryl!” I said with a tired smile.  I’ll never forget that huge grin that spread across his face as I said it and he looked at his little brother.

And each time, as I cradled my new little one, I felt just the same as I did the first, when the nurses all chuckled and smiled as I whispered, “Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!” and stared dumbfounded at the beautiful miracle in my arms.

 

Advertisements

Naming Four

Circumstances that I will not go into here had led me to be mildly concerned that I might be pregnant. It shouldn’t be a concern. My birth control method is one of the most reliable on the market. Birth control has never failed us in the 20+ years we’ve been married. But still, I became increasingly worried as the week went on.

Eventually, I asked my husband to pick up a pregnancy test. Just so we could relax about it. Or face our grim fate, if need be.

So early Saturday morning, when I awoke, I slipped quietly out of bed and peed on the stick. And waited. I hid the box and other evidence under the other trash in the trashcan so we wouldn’t get any awkward questions from our children. And then I crawled back into bed.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I can safely drink wine tonight when the Joneses come over.”

“So it was negative?” he asked.

“Yep.”

“You ok with that?”

I laughed a humorless laugh. “Of course I’m ok with that!”

“You aren’t just a little disappointed?”

“Maybe point five percent. That’s all. The negatives way out-weight the positives.”

“Well, it sounds like the biggest negative was on that stick.”

I smiled. “Some of the biggest negatives are… financial. We are less than two months away from being done paying for preschool. Done! And we’d be starting all over again. We’d still be paying for preschool when Jane left for college.

“And then there’s physical. My body didn’t handle the last one too well. How much worse would this be? Carrying all that weight around? I was thinking about that when I rolled over in the middle of the night. How much harder it’d be. And you know, the blood donation questionnaire asks if you’ve had four or more pregnancies. Would I not be able to donate blood anymore?

“And then there’s potty training. I SO don’t want to go through that again.”

“We are still going through that,” he said, referring to Hal’s unwillingness to wipe his own bottom. And his ineptitude when he tries.

“I’m too tired to have another baby,” I said. “But the positives… holding that tiny little thing in my arms? Shocking everyone when we break the news. That’d be fun. And it’d be nice for Tabitha Grace to be in the world,” I said, referring to the second girl’s name that we had chosen along with Jane’s some fourteen or fifteen years ago.

“Or Elliot,” he said.

I looked up sharply. “Simon,” I said. “Or maybe Peter.”

He said no.

“Oh, yeah. Not Peter. Peter from Ender’s Game. And my old boss. Not a good name.”

“Peter from Divergent,” he said, smiling.

“Right. Not Peter. Ok. What about Paul? Adam?”

“No. How about Arias?”

“What?”

“Arias. A-R-I-A-S.”

“Is that a boy’s name or a girl’s?”

“Either one.”

“Did you make it up?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t like made-up names,” I said, snuggling in closer.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t.”

“Ok. Samantha.”

“WHAT?!” I asked, scandalized. “You can’t rethink girl’s names. You can’t do that to Tabitha. She’s been next in line from the beginning. Don’t even go there!”

“What about Turner? I like Turner.”

“You are breaking the pattern we’ve established,” I said.

“What pattern?”

I waved my arm toward the kids’ bedrooms. “They are all Biblical,” I said (I don’t use their real names in this blog). “And they all mean something to us. And they are all simple. Common but not currently common.”

“Ok, how about Table? We can call him Tab.”

“What?! Have you lost your mind? Why Table?”

“The Lord’s Table. That’s in the Bible.”

“You are impossible.” I glanced at my Kindle lying on my pillow. “How about James? It’s my favorite book in the Bible. We can call him Jamie.”

Knowing that I was currently rereading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, he said, “No. I see what you are doing there. No.”

“James! It’s my favorite Bible book! That’s all!”

He tickled me and we both laughed.

“Hezekiah,” he said.

“Barnabas,” I countered.

“We could call him Barney,” he said and we both smiled, thinking of Jane’s love for How I Met Your Mother and Neil Patrick Harris in particular. “Wouldn’t it be funny if he turned out to be gay?”

“Beats being a womanizer.”

“Or a gay womanizer!” he laughed.

I smiled.

“Kevin,” he said. “Simple but not common now.”

“Hmm.”

Kelvin” he crooned. “I like Kelvin.”

“Going scientific instead of Biblical, eh? That works.”

“I could call him Vinnie. Oh! Calvin. I could still call him Vinnie.”

“Calvin, huh? Going with our Presbyterian roots?”

He snorted with laughter. “Our Presbyterian roots?! So our kid is going to be shallow?” This referring to the fact that we have been Presbyterian for less than three years.

“Something like that. Why don’t you name him Alvin? Then you can still call him Vinnie.”

“Ooh! Elven. Let’s go Lord of the Rings with it. And I can still call him Vinnie.”

“Tobias.”

“I like Tobias.”

“Me too. But we can’t name him Tobias,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Divergent. Everyone will be naming their kid Tobias for the next five years.”

“No, everyone will be naming their kid Tobias in five years. They are still teenagers right now. It’d be safe to name him that now.”

“Yes, and some of those teenagers will be having babies soon. And some of the Divergent fans are older. I’m telling you, there’d be too many Tobiases.”

“I like Tobias,” he repeated.

“Me too. And I guess that’s what’s most important.”

“No,” he corrected, “What’s most important is remembering that we aren’t actually having a baby!”

“True,” I laughed.

“I could call him Obie.”

“Wouldn’t it be ‘O-bye’? Toe-BYE-us?” I asked.

“Are you trying to be biased?” he asked with a grin. “I’d still call him Obie.”

“Not Tobie?”

“No.”

“Because of my brother’s dog?”

“No. Because if I call him Obie then I can call him Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“You are awful!”

“Ooh! Tobias Wan {our last name}.”

“That’s awful.”

“No! I’ve got it! Tobias Wonder {our last name}.”

“You need to stop playing now. That’s terrible.”

“That’s awesome! When girls found out his name, they’d be like ‘Oooh!'”

“No, they’d be like ‘That’s so weird. What’s wrong with your parents?'”

“No. They’d think it’s awesome because he’d be so awesome.”

“He’d be a spoiled brat,” I said.

“No, he wouldn’t. He’d be another firstborn. That’d be perfect.”

“There was a big enough gap for Hal to be a firstborn, but he sure isn’t.”

“No, he’s the baby for sure,” he agreed. “But it’s not a science. There aren’t hard and fast rules. Hal would still be the baby.”

“No he wouldn’t,” I argued. “He’d become a bitter and mean middle child, mad at the world and sure everyone was out to get him. Just like his brother.” Daryl is entering that difficult preteen stage and starting to get a little dark and moody at times.

“Tobias. Obie.”

“We’d have to call him Four,” I said, referring to Tobias’s nickname in Divergent.

“Yes, we would. That’d be perfect,” he said, drawing my attention to the fact that our mythical Tobias would be the fourth child.

“That is perfect,” I agreed, squeezing him for a hug. “Of course, it isn’t going to happen since we aren’t actually pregnant.”

“True,” he said.

Before that morning, we had been on edge and reluctant to discuss the fallout if my now-discredited worries proved accurate. We just got still and looked past each other with dread. But now that it was safe, we wiled away the morning dreaming of what could be… knowing that it was all only in fantasy land. And now Tobias can join Tabitha in our happy imaginary expanded family.

Your Laugh

Dear Papa Bill,

I thought about you a lot tonight. It was my first year to participate in Relay for Life since shortly after Hal was born. I lined up next to the track for the Survivor Walk and before the first survivor reached me, I was fighting back tears. You were a survivor for quite awhile but eventually cancer took you from us. I was 32. Jane was 5. Daryl was 2.

Mom moved on. She’s happy again. I think you’d be pleased to know that. It wasn’t an easy trial to pass through but she’s doing alright. She has a good man in her life. He knew you and respects your memory. Five years ago, they sold the house that we lived in all those years and moved across town.

I was pregnant with Hal and picked the move day to share that with her. It might not have been the best idea I’ve ever had. Telling her that news on such a fragile day. She burst into tears, which surprised me… until she explained why. It was you. You wouldn’t ever meet Hal. Wouldn’t hold him, smile at him, make him laugh.

That was one of the last things that you and I talked about, there in the hospital when we all knew it was the end. You wanted your grandchildren to remember you. You were pragmatic about it. You knew that Aaron’s kids and Daryl were too young.

And so it was that I found myself walking the track tonight, holding Daryl’s hand. He asked me why I was sad. I told him that I missed you and then he asked why.

“Because he was my Daddy,” I said.

“I thought Grandpa Ed was your Dad.”

“He was. And is. Papa Bill was my step-dad, but really he was my daddy too.”

“Oh.”

“Do you remember him?” I held my breath. I was pretty sure I knew the answer.

“Not really.” {long pause} “Wait. Didn’t he have like a little beard? And glasses! I remember his glasses.”

Maybe he just remembers you from pictures or maybe he really remembers you, but I’ll take the comfort he threw my way tonight.

Later on, I was walking the Luminaria Walk with Jane. We walked hand-in-hand as I thought about you. And Aunt Barbara. And the kids’ godmother. And other people. But mostly you.

I thought about how we were so close when I was little and how we had grown apart when I married. I thought about how you weren’t perfect, how I had struggled with that once I was old enough to see it. I thought about how much you loved me and Aaron and mom. I remembered when I scratched my initials and yours in the wallpaper of the bathroom with a plus sign in between and “= love 4ever” after it. And then I began to sob.

Jane wrapped her arm around me and we continued to walk in a silent hug. I was grateful for the dark that hid my tears but even more grateful for the beautiful, wonderful girl walking beside me. I battled inside about whether to ask her the same question I asked Daryl. I was scared to hear the response.

You see, when we talked that last time, you knew Daryl wouldn’t remember you. It hurt, I could tell, but you accepted it. It was vitally important to you, however, that Jane remember. You were confident that she was old enough. Your greatest fear was that she wouldn’t. You didn’t want to be forgotten.

She remembered you intensely for a very long time. She’d burst into tears at random moments and tell us that she missed her Papa Bill. For a couple of years, she was very sensitive about sad events. She cried watching Because of Winn-Dixie because it reminded her of losing you. Now, everyone cries at the end of Old Yeller, but when she cried, she was thinking of you.

Most everyone moves on, given enough time…especially if they are young, and eventually she did too. I can still hear her little preschool voice saying “Papa Bill” – she said “Bill” more like “Bea-ul”. But now, her life is full of many things. I didn’t know if she remembered you or not.

So I kept warring with myself on whether to ask her. To know that she did would warm my heart. To know that she didn’t would break it.

She let go of my shoulders and took my hand, mumbling an apology about it being too hot. I tentatively asked her if she remembered you.

“Barely,” she responded, with a careful look at my face. “I remember what he looked like. And I remember his laugh.”

She remembers your laugh. I think that if she was destined to remember only one thing, that was the best thing to remember. She remembers your laugh and I hope that’s enough. I love you and miss you.

Your daughter,