Hello Again! It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been able to post and my apologies, I had a serious issue in my computer that was not allowing me onto the site. So, I’d like to make up for lost time! This post is very long, but I think worth the time to read, it’s a lesson everyone touched by adoption needs to hear: my son is 27 years old now, and it’s all still clear as a bell. Enjoy!
Giving birth changes a woman forever. It is the most personal, emotional, incredible experience she will ever have. It is not an experience that can ever be forgotten or discounted. Women who have chosen adoption can no easier forget their child as they can forget they have legs.
This April, just like each April for the past 26 years, on the 5th, I stop my day, get out The Box, sit down, and remember…
It was April 4th, Good Friday, and true to the end, my family had gone on to mass without me. I sat in my Dad’s ugly red-orange recliner and watched the news. It was nice to be alone and be able to rub my belly without feeling self-conscious in front of my family. I was a full week overdue and had begun to accept the idea that I was going to be pregnant forever.
Just before everyone returned I felt a warm rush of liquid, like I had peed in my pants. I was horribly embarrassed, even though I was completely alone, and I ran to the bathroom to clean myself up. After putting on fresh pants I returned to the living room, and it happened again. By the time my parents got home I was sitting on the toilet “peeing” every 10-15 seconds. I had no idea what we happening. I thought that maybe the baby was just putting a lot of pressure on my bladder.
My mom stepped into action, slightly panicked, slightly excited, very worried. She talks fast when she’s nervous (a trait I’ve inherited) and that night she had plenty to say. Dad on the other hand went into the living room to watch TV. He was calm and quiet and mumbled something about how it would probably be hours yet before we had to do anything. He’d been through this four times already and the calmness his experience had given him flowed throughout our house and everyone settled into a waiting routine.
At 15 years old, my younger sister Karen thought it was all a game – literally. She got out a Trivial Pursuit game and kept firing questions at me to keep me busy. The youngest, Jane hid upstairs most of the night, appearing only briefly when curiosity got the best of her. Karen got out a notebook and kept a nice record (in case anyone needed it) of each contraction, fluid leak, and my general pain threshold. It didn’t hurt (yet) at all, so it was almost fun. We laughed about the answers in the game and teased each other about the ones we didn’t know. I learned that an aglet is that little plastic piece at the end of a shoelace and we wondered if inventing something so small, but functional had made the inventor rich. Growing up with next to nothing on our farm had led to an ongoing fantasy of wondering what it would be like to be rich and we found ways to bring it into any conversation.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the doorway of our small bathroom, wavy red-brown hair falling off her shoulders and brushing against plump pink cheeks, she looked like a little fairy sitting in a buttercup waiting for spring to arrive. Her sparkling green eyes were wide with excitement and wonder as she asked if it hurt and wondered if I should be on the toilet at all, what if the baby fell in the water?
I assured her that the baby would not simply fall out, the film I had seen in birthing class made it pretty clear I wouldn’t be getting off so easy. I looked into the mirror across from where I was sitting and was surprised at how old I suddenly seemed to look. Playing the game with Karen, I felt inside as I did when we were little and hiding in forts in the hayloft giggling about nothing in particular and sharing secrets. But looking into the mirror I saw that my body had been defying my mind and had continued to grow up, something we had once promised each other never to do.
The last question Karen had asked me was: “Which insect has teeth – mosquitoes or fleas?” Neither of us was sure, and at that moment I was getting uncomfortable and really could have cared less. “Who cares?” I barked at her. Then, seeing her hurt face I quickly added, “so, are you going to tell me or what!” She brightened immediately and answered that mosquitoes have wings and fleas have teeth. We laughed together briefly before another contraction hit and I yelled for Mom.
After surveying Karen’s chart and timing a couple of contractions herself while monitoring how hard my stomach felt, Mom deemed me ready to go. As it had with Dad, her experience of bringing four girls into this world gave her a sense of calm and control that allowed me to relax and put my trust in her.
Karen begged to go with, which of coarse was immediately denied. It was almost midnight. Mom pointed out that she had been lucky to be allowed to stay up this late in the first place, besides someone had to stay home with Jane. The mood began to change as we gathered my things and Dad closed the front door and headed for the car.
By the time we arrived at the emergency entrance to the hospital I was a bit panicked because the contractions had started to hurt and come faster. I had been egging my Dad on to drive faster. He stopped the car and turned back to hold my hand and said, “Don’t worry Babe. I got a feeling this little guy’s coming at 5 on the 5th!” He gave me one of those smiles that made the edges of my vision blur. For that one instant, I could believe, everything was O.K.
Then I got out of the car. Mom put her arm around me. The big glass doors parted. Mom held my hand and together, we walked through.
I vaguely remember getting into the maternity ward, changing into a gown, getting onto the bed. What I do remember is the butterfly.
During our Lamaze classes they had told us to find a “focal point”, something to concentrate on to ease thoughts of the pain. The room I was in hand a border near the ceiling with pastel colored butterflies. I remember thinking how nice it looked – sweet and cheery.
At three a.m. I hated that damn butterfly. I glared at it, daring it to flutter, to look happy, to blissfully fly away to a better place. I projected every ounce of pain I felt onto its back, and got pissed each time it was not crushed.
Between contractions, Mom gingerly offering me ice chips, and dozing in and out of consciousness. A nurse came in and announced that it was time to move me. When she asked me to get up from the bed and crawl onto a gurney, I thought she was crazy. My insides were burning, every muscle was pushed past function and I was supposed to just hop up onto this bed like I was at a track meet in high school? Somehow, I did manage to get there. They put me in what looked like an operating room. My feet were yanked up into cold stirrups and a large dome light was pulled over my body. I looked up at it and instantly was convinced I was dying. The light was so blinding I saw pure color and was sure that I had left my body.
The next contraction came and reminded me clearly that I had not. I closed my eyes and between screams and squeezing my mother’s hand into an unrecognizable form tried to do as I was told. They had been asking me for awhile if I felt the need to push. I had no idea what I was supposed to be pushing with so I answered no. Finally the doctor said it was time to push. The nurses told me to try. My mother urged me on. Not having a clue what I was suppose to do, I remembered by Dad’s comment about the sit-ups I did during my workouts and pushing the baby out. So I did a sit up. When I contracted my stomach muscles it felt so good I couldn’t stop. I thought, “Oh My God! Why didn’t they tell me to do this hours ago!” I kept my eyes closed, stopped breathing, and pushed with everything I had.
After sometime I recall my mother screaming at me to breathe. All I could think of was that if I stopped to breathe the pain would come back and there was no way in hell I wanted to feel that again. Finally, I had to breathe. I gulped for air as quickly as I could, eager to dive under again and push. By the third push my mother was screaming again. This time it was “Open your eyes! Patty! Open your eyes!” I couldn’t think of what she thought I should see, the damn butterfly was in the other room. “Open your eyes! It’s your baby!” she screamed again. I opened my eyes.
Instantly I saw the reflection in the mirror above my knees. It was the top of an infant’s head. I was so shocked I couldn’t move, or breathe. He was real. That’s my baby. There really is a baby inside me. It was surreal. Time stood still. The edges of my vision were blurred again.
Then the doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, “give me one more good push dear.” I didn’t want to close my eyes again. I tried to keep them open but as soon as I started to push I again had stopped breathing and had my eyes glued shut. Then a loud cry brought me back. I opened my eyes and there he was. My son. “He’s beautiful,” Mom whispered in my ear as she hugged me. His long legs were kicking and his tiny fists punched at the air trying to take down whoever it was that was holding him out in that cold, bright, light.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The doctor handed him to the nurse and she wrapped him in a blanket and carried him over to the corner of the room. Panic hit me as she turned from me, “Don’t take him away yet!” I thought. Quietly, I asked the nurse if I could hold him. She looked at my mother for direction. “Of course you can” my mom answered. The nurse smiled and placed him in my arms.
The tears started to form and fall as I kissed him over and over and over whispering the first of hundreds of “I love you’s”. Mom was crying too and we both frantically wiped the tears away so they wouldn’t cloud our vision. I don’t remember if we said anything else to each other, I just remember that in that moment when I held my son, as my mother held me, we were a family.