Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pieces of Me Part V

On this, the birthday of my fifth and last child, I give you his story.
I had had four children by the time I was 25. I was exhausted, broke and lonely for adult company. I had waged a silent, vicious war for the entire term of my last pregnancy. I was done, D.O.N.E. done! I had two beautiful charming daughters and an adorable and mischievous son. They were all remarkably brilliant, natural comedians, phenomenally healthy, outgoing and charismatic through and through.
My husband thought they were perfect so we should just keep having them, one perfect child after another. I thought that if I had to spend another year changing diapers, practicing spelling words and sleeping three hours a night I would kill someone, and he would be the first one in my sights. In the end I won. It was my body, my time and my sleep that were to be affected. You carry them, I hissed at him more than once, and you can decide how many to have.
I had my tubes tied in mid-September. I felt free and unfettered by worry for the first time since I had realized it was possible to get pregnant if you slept with someone ONCE even if were only 17 and supposedly bright. I had roughly two months of feeling pretty, young, light on my feet. Every milestone my infant daughter passed… rolling over, strained peas, grabbing her toes, laughing out loud… had a new and almost nostalgic quality. I just knew this would be it. The last first- time for everything.
I was working out hard every day. At 7 AM Jane Fonda and I had a standing date for sit ups and squats, toe touches and back bends. I started looking for a part time job. I bought high heels in simple anticipation of actually having somewhere I could wear them. I was ahead of myself but I could taste the freedom that having no babies would give me and I liked it immensely.
I caught a cold at the beginning of December, waking up one morning hot and nauseous. I tried to do sit ups with Jane and felt a wave of heat over take my body and started shaking uncontrollably. A year ago I would have thought I was pregnant but that was impossible now. I had taken the ultimate step. I had nipped and tied, stitched and burned, followed every rule the doctors gave me so it just couldn’t be that. I took over the counter medications for nausea, for headaches, for the flu. I bought Pepto and Maalox, Bayer and Midol. At the end of the second week I walked to the store toting all of my young ones in strollers and backpacks to buy a test. I mentioned I was bright, right?
The test was, of course, positive. Bright blue line, yep, positive, no doubt. I went with my husband to buy another. Positive again.  If possible even brighter blue, straighter line. I made a doctor’s appointment the next morning.
The doctor, having done the procedure a scant two months earlier assured me it was a false positive as he drew blood. My husband and I sat there in silence. It took every bit of control I had to not run screaming into the street in my back tied gown. My husband, who was also bright, realized how close I was to the edge and stayed silent in an effort to minimize his presence in the room.
The doctor came walking back in the room with an over jovial grin and manner and I just knew.  I thought for a moment that I would burst into flames, that I would fall like water with a splash to the floor, that my head would literally explode. My husband was trying to not get up and dance a jig while yelling “In your face!” to me and the doctor was making a mental note about calling his lawyer and checking on the value of his malpractice insurance.
We spoke at once—
Me: Well then.
My husband: In your face!
The doctor: You signed a disclaimer.
As soon as I got home I started calling abortion clinics. I wasn’t discussing it. A girl has to do what a girl has to do. At 16 weeks I was ready. I had arranged sitters. I had several nights meals prepared and in the freezer, my house was clean and my conscience was clear. The day of the procedure dawned crystalline and azure. My head was clear but my heart was muddied. I hugged my babies good-bye, told them I would be home after lunch, poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table.  I looked at all of them looking back at me for a minute and then we all spoke at once—
Me: Mommy’s having another baby
My husband: I love you
My daughter: It better be a girl
My son: Can I have a cookie?
My baby: gah
From the beginning this pregnancy was different. My body which Jane and I had been working on for months was not adjusting very well to it’s new co-op’ed state of being. My boobs hurt, my back hurt, my feet went flat and my intestines revolted. My hair turned dry and brittle and I broke out in terrible acne. What the hell?  It turns out though while 25 is very young it is a lot older when it comes to carrying children than you might think. Every time I went to the doctors I was chastised for gaining weight, for not getting enough rest, for not getting enough exercise. I was always treated to little smirks and grins or “what kind of slut are you” looks from other mother’s as I trudged about town with my big belly and three little munchkins in tow. Single women sneered at me and any man under 75 shuddered when I passed with my diapered entourage. I was not, as they say, a happy camper.
As the pregnancy progressed and I continued my quick decent into fat ankled hemmoroidal hell I was informed that my baby was not only breech, but was in fact sitting up facing forward and had no apparent desire to flip himself over and around like a good baby would.  The baby grew so large, and I got so tight that near the end when he turned his head you could make out his facial features. It was revolting and fascinating at once. It’s little hands or feet would press outwards in a stretch and I could trace them with my finger tips.  The end result was that I felt I knew this baby; I had seen his face and tickled his feet even before I held him to my heart. I knew him already and loved him with a fierceness I didn’t know was possible at that point.
Labor Day, 1986.  I woke with a tug and a rend and an “oh crap”. We had stayed at my parent’s the night before, just in case, to be closer to the hospital. Being old hands at this now we calmly waddled to the car and, waving a cheery goodbye, raced to the ER. My midwife (who by now had delivered two of my children) did an ultrasound and assured me that the baby’s butt was socked down good and tight and, since this was my fifth would probably just tumble out and we could be home by lunch. No special precautions were taken, no special rooms readied. We were all so at ease in this situation that I was tempted to ask if anyone wanted to play cards while we waited. Every ten minutes or so she would walk back in and listen to the baby’s heartbeat and check my vitals.  On her third trip into the room she asked us to hush a minute. She turned on the volume so we could hear it for ourselves.
“The baby is in distress, the heart beat is slowing dramatically, we don’t have time for him to deliver naturally, we have to do a caesarian immediately”
Before these words had a chance to register the room was full of people, sticking tubes in me, hooking monitors to me, shoving papers at my husband saying sign this sign this, sign this. They started to wrap my wedding ring in tape but I jerked it off and handed it to my husband. He looked at the band in his palm and said I am going to name the baby after my grandfather if it is a boy. A mask was placed over my face and I was rushed down the hall watching the numbers on the baby’s heart monitor go from 100 to 80 to 50. My last thought was “Please God, don’t take this baby from me now, I am so, so sorry”
I was trying to drag myself out of a deep dark nothingness because something was terribly wrong. My body was wooden, my mouth was full of cotton, my breath rattled and I was surrounded by eerie noises, beeping and hissing their way into my consciousness. A terror so overwhelming I knew it could kill me made me jerk and sit and thrash about looking for something, looking for a piece of me, looking for my heart. My midwife shushed me, called my name, rubbed my back, lay me back down saying over and over it is all right, everything is all right, the baby is all right. I cried like a baby as she held me like a mother.
When I had regained a semblance of calm I realized three things; I had no idea if it was a boy or a girl, my stomach hurt like a sum-a-bitch, and my husband’s grandfathers were named Cyril and Henry. “Boy or girl?” I croaked. Boy! “Name?” Henry Roger! (Thank God. I didn’t know either man, I am sure they were grand, but I didn’t want to pin a kid with the name Cyril in 1986). “Can I have some good drugs please?” Yes!  I smiled as the nurse carried in my little Henry, my baby, my last. Hallelujah, life was good.
Henry passed on August 5th, 2008. Today is his 25th birthday. I love you buddy and I miss you each and every day.