July 28, 2005, was a game changer.
I was reminded of it yesterday when I saw my Ob/Gyn.
As I walked out, my doctor wished me luck with my soon-to-be teenager.
“Thank you for helping me bring her into the world,” I said.
I’ve known my Ob/Gyn for almost 14 years. I was frantic when I met her. My then-husband just moved to Chicago; a couple months after I made the move. He remained in Springfield when I started a new job in Chicago in September 2004. It took a few months for him to find a job. Those months between me leaving the Illinois State Board of Education and him moving to Chicago were packed with life’s greatest stressors.
Flashback to September through December of 2004.
She ends her career in state government.
She spends a few weeks readying their home for sale.
She starts her new job in Chicago.
He starts looking for a work in a city he’s never lived.
She lives with her parents.
He lives alone in their first home.
They sell the house they loved, where they thought they’d grow old.
He lives with his sister-in-law and her boyfriend.
They see each other on the weekends.
She looks for a new home for them.
He finds work in Chicago.
She rushes to find them a home when he prepares to move in with her parents, too.
They buy a home.
She feels like she has the flu.
She takes a test.
They are having a baby.
She goes to urgent care to confirm it.
She needs an Ob/Gyn.
That leads her to partners in women’s health.
She’s 33, and she’s worried. It’s her first pregnancy. Her mother was 33 when her twin brothers were born.
She lays down underneath the butterfly mobile. She waits to be examined. She meets her doctor. She learns she’s likely eight to 10 weeks along. She asks for an early ultrasound. She fears she’ll have twins.
The ultrasound reveals she’s having one.
They never learn the gender.
They buy their home on New Year’s Eve.
He spends months readying the home. Painting rooms, laying tile, and making that house a home, he brings new color and their warmth to every room.
She sees her doctor once a month. She lays down under the butterfly mobile. He goes with her sometimes. Her doctor’s hands roam across her belly. Sometimes with a tape measure. Sometimes with other things. A heartbeat is heard, then later seen, as her belly grows.
They disagree on taking some diagnostic tests. Tests that could predict the future. Tests that could require decisions and actions that challenge her moral and religious beliefs.
She chooses not to take some tests. She knows the outcome would not change her mind. He accepts her decision. Or did he?
She becomes more and more anxious. About her changing body. About affording a baby. About taking maternity leave without the protection of FMLA. About a salary-less maternity leave. About being a mom.
She thinks a lot about how, when so many stressors were in play, she became pregnant. She credits Murphy’s Law. She thinks about this a lot, especially years later when they purposefully try to have another child.
They plan the nursery. A tiny little room for a tiny little human. Lavender and lemon with light lime green curtains, a changing table and a crib used by her niece and nephew, an oval braided rug bought by her co-workers, a small rocking chair bought from a yard sale years before, that he said would never have a use, and the happiest of linens.
Her aunt, whom she’s named after, told her to spend time in the nursery. She listened. She did. She’d sit there and imagine her baby. She imagined rocking the baby to sleep. She imagined singing to the baby. She imagined gently placing the baby down to sleep. She’d think about those moments years later, and she told many a new mom to do the same.
They relax at night. She’s laying on the couch, he sits in the adjacent loveseat. She lays on her back, her growing belly moves, and they watch as hands and feet protrude. They freak out at the alien-like experience. Then they laugh. They know their baby will have strong legs.
She is excited for the baby to arrive.
She feels disconnected from him and she buys him a book about fatherhood.
She learns he’s anxious, too.
She learns he’s upset about the lack of concern from his employer about his wife and child.
She learns he’s worried about affording a child, too.
She learns he’s worried about emulating his own parents.
She tries to console him but she’s in pain. It’s not the baby. She learns she has a kidney stone.
She learns because she’s in the third trimester there’s not much she can do. She has to grin and bear it.
She starts receiving acupuncture. Her last appointment is scheduled for July 29. She has a hunch she won’t make it.
She calls him about 3 p.m. on July 28. She tells him her water broke and she spoke with the nurse. It’s time.
She takes a shower unsure of when she might be able to take her next one. He arrives and readies her bag. The drive to the hospital is usually 15 minutes, it’s doubled. It’s rush hour. They move in slow motion.
She wraps up work stuff tapping away on her blackberry. She calls her mom and gives her the heads up. They arrive at the hospital, their welcome is formulary, and relatively calm, which makes her anxious.
They take a test to make sure her water did break. She shakes her head in disbelief. As if she was lying? The test confirms what she already knows. It’s amniotic fluid. The clock is ticking. Less than 24 hours left before things change from you can do this Karen, to we need to move things along.
She learns the baby’s right where it should be in the birth canal. In fact, the little booger with the big head has been there for about a month. However, her cervix isn’t where it needs to be. It’s almost 8 p.m. before she sees a doctor. He’s new to the practice. She’s never met him. She’s not happy.
A few hours pass. She’s not in a lot of pain. She’s uncomfortable. She didn’t plan for an epidural. She feared a needle in her back. But now she asks for one. Her doctor says no. Her cervix isn’t dilating. The epidural could slow things down. He offers a narcotic to ease her anxiety. She accepts without hesitation. The next hour was the best of the 24 belonging to July 28, 2005. Soon, she sees her husband wearing bell bottoms covered in polka dots. He also has an Afro. She’s happy again. She sleeps for 45 minutes. Hallucination or not, she is grateful for the respite.
Happiness is fleeting. She throws up. The narcotic doesn’t agree with her empty stomach. Her husband, without an Afro or bell bottoms, grabs a bedpan and consoles her.
She feels icky. Contractions come and go. She breathes through them. She lays on her side holding the arms on sides of the bed. The pain is not as bad as she thought it would be.
Until she remembers what the nurse said last week. When it feels like she needs to have a bowel movement, it’s time. She tells him to call the nurse.
The nurse tells her it’s not time. She begs to differ. The nurse checks things out. The nurse is amazed and panicked that she went from 4 to 10 in a half hour.
She has no patience for the nurses’ reaction. She tells the nurse again, it’s time.
Her mom arrives and others, too. Doctors and nurses she’s never met. She tells them she’s going to labor limbo and she’ll be back soon. She listens to instructions. She’s upset her doctor isn’t there. This is not how she envisioned it. Even the new doctor she met eight hours earlier isn’t there. And then he is.
When she heard them say the baby is crowning, she asks the color of the baby’s hair. They say it’s dark. That is the moment she asks God for a girl. She imagined a girl with dark hair and blue eyes, a boy with blond hair and blue eyes. She did not want Jackson Lee. She wanted Bridget Ellen.
It wasn’t long. Maybe 45 minutes of labor. There was a lot was happening down there. She trusted that they did their jobs as well as she did hers.
“It’s a girl.” she heard. Her mother cut the cord, and the team rushed her off and did what they needed to do. Her husband brought their daughter to her. She was in awe. She could not believe they created this little human together. He joked that she made it through labor without one curse word.
They smiled. Proud of one another. Exhausted and in awe. Life suddenly made sense to her.
She insisted he take care of their daughter. She still had work to do.
She focused on the placenta. The entire pregnancy she feared, that like her mother or her great-grandmother, something would go wrong and she would stare death in the face or die upon giving birth.
Now more than ever, she wanted to live.
No one told her there was a second labor. That this organ she created to bring her baby into the world would pass through her the same way the child did. On second thought, maybe they did, she just didn’t get comprehend it.
The doctor said it was perfectly intact. All was good. The congratulations quickly passed and the nurses worked on getting her into a new room.
Bridget Ellen was 7 pounds 9 ounces and 19 inches long. She was born just before dawn at 4:46 a.m. In the year to come, she would wake up every 29th day of every month at 4:46 a.m. And she would thank God for their daughter.
Bridget Ellen was a sweet baby. Loved by all.
Sunday she becomes a sweet teenager. Thirteen years ago today, I woke up at 4 a.m. I was uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable common with PMS. The cramps kicked up a few notches and less than 12 hours later, my water broke, signaling it was time. And a little more than 13 hours later, at 4:46 a.m. our daughter was born.
She was named for Grandma Burns, in honor of her mother, my great-grandmother Ellen, who died after giving birth to her. And also in honor of Ellen’s sister, my great Aunt Bridget, who helped raise my Grandma. I later learned the Craven’s had some Bridgets, too, which made me even more confident we chose the right name.
It’s said that becoming a parent is a life-changing event. It’s true on many levels.
Parenthood is a game changer.
Writing this today, labor is the word at the core of parenthood. Having a child, whether birthing or adopting one, is a true labor of love. It’s one that I am so happy to recall, to write, and to share. Bringing Bridget Ellen into the world is and will always be my greatest accomplishment. Looking back, I am grateful to all of the people and all of the stressors that made her life possible.
Happy 13th birthday to my daughter, Bridget Ellen.