To Grandma Julia’s dismay, I had a very unique habit as a child. I would walk up to random pregnant women and place my ear on their stomachs. Grandma was a Southern Christian woman who believed in “proper behavior.” She must have been mortified. As a small child of 5 or 6 years old, I didn’t have the words to tell her what I now know to be true. I was searching for you.
In most cases people use the term “unexpected pregnancies” as a politically correct term for “opps.” The many doctors who told me I would never get pregnant would probably call what happened to me the same thing. But there was nothing unexpected about you.
Time after time I sat staring at one blue stripe trying to turn the other stripe blue through my will, my prayers, my curse words, my longing. I would buy the tests two at a time and take them both, one after another every single month for years. It was almost two decades later and I was still searching for you.
One morning in June 2006, I woke up early and lay in bed next to your dad. We were vacationing with his family in a rental home in New Hampshire. I laid there in the quiet of the dawn waiting for the house to wake up. On that day it became crystal clear to me. I was pregnant.
Four weeks to the day to be exact.
There was no question or thought that I might be. There was no “I think I could be.” It was as clear as if you had walked into the room and introduced yourself to me. I was pregnant. You were finally here with me.
Your father was less convinced when I told him. “How do you know? Did you take a test?”
“Then how can you know?”
“Because I know. I didn’t take a test to find out I am black or a woman or a writer. There are some things you just know. I know I am pregnant. I am.”
We decided to wait until after the vacation to take a test but that did not sway me in the slightest. Each morning we woke I would greet him with a number. “4 weeks and one day. 4 weeks and two days.” The fact he could not “see” proof did nothing to what I could “feel.”
Even knowing what I knew was true, seeing those two blue stripes on the test made my heart want to explode. I took pictures of it. I took both tests just to see the second stripe turn blue again. “My baby is here! It’s finally here!” And I curled myself into the fetal position right on the bathroom floor and wept in celebration. I could stop looking for you. You were here.
During our first ultrasound the doctor said, “We can try to see the sex of the baby but you are only 12 weeks so we may not be able… uuuupp. Never mind. It’s a girl.” I laughed as I stared at all the shades of gray on the screen. I could see your head and your heart. What else did I need to see? A daughter. My daughter.
Over the first five months I lost ten pounds instead of gaining weight and did not show until my 8th month. I had morning sickness for 27 weeks straight. My blood pressure rose enough to cause real concerns to my doctors. They were afraid I might die while giving birth. Everyone seemed to be worried because they did not “feel” what I felt. She’s here now. She’s with me.
I spoke to you as if you were already born. “Mommy loves you, Baby Girl. Be tall like your dad and have his long curly eyelashes, but look like me. Be light brown and have curly hair so people can see we both belong with you. Be healthy and strong. Be kind and generous. Be smart and funny. And more than all that, be you. Be you.”
I also talked about our living arrangements. “You do know that’s Mommy’s lung you have your foot in, right? Are you looking for the remote control or the exit? You have a condo not a mansion so take it easy in there.”
You had shown yourself to be decidedly independent already. Case in point, I believe you had dance parties everyday at 4:30AM. Your little feet would push out the perfect shape of a small foot and I would touch you with my index finger. The first time was so amazing. “I just touched my baby and she’s not even born yet.” Long about night number 35, well needless to say I was a bit sleepy and less amazed. In fact, I would put my stomach against your father as he slept and you were so strong you would kick him until he woke up.
On February 19th, your dad was laying in the bed sick from food poisoning. Despite being on bed rest, I had an hour drive to see my doctor to check on your growth. I stood at the end of the bed, looked him in the eye and said, “I am going into labor today.”
“What? How do you know?”
“I just know.” Mind you, at this point it was not something I wanted to know. In month 6 of my pregnancy something inside my head said, “You do know where babies come from, don’t you?” Aaaaaahhhhhhh! A medley of clips from those TV birthing shows flashed in my mind.
There I would be with my business on display and ten thousand people in the room all saying, “I see the head.” Not what I wanted to do. I know that sounds ridiculous that I had not thought of giving birth, only of being pregnant.
I tried to say, “Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Women have been doing it for centuries. Blah, blah, blah.” Truth is those women on TV looked like someone was making them push the baby out through their nostril. I was terrified.
At 10PM when the first contraction hit there was no doubt in my mind. I was in labor 4 weeks early, on the day I told your dad I would be. Just as you somehow told me you were with me before the pregnancy test, you told me when you would arrive. By midnight I was crawling back and forth in the hall wondering what would ever possess women to do this.
When we arrived at the hospital it was 3AM. Each contraction would make my eyes cross and take my breath away. I was ready to push, pull or do the running man… anything to make this pain go away. They asked if I wanted an epidural as I filled out my paperwork. “Lady, I expected you to have it set up so I could get it in the parking lot.”
After the medicine started to work, I lay down to get a bit of rest. Imagine my surprise to awake and find 6 residents crowded in around my bed. It was a mash up of the Keystone Cops and Grey’s Anatomy. I gave them the warm, heartfelt greeting of, “What the hell!?!?!”
My doctor walked in, visibly trying to appear calm. She parted the residents like Moses parted the sea. “It seems the baby’s heart rate has dropped. We need to perform a C-section.”
“What? Lets go!” I tried to get up out of bed. Yes! Yes, I was going to walk down to surgery with both cheeks visibly hanging out of the back of my gown! I was going to yell, “Stat! Stat!” like they do on TV so everyone knew to move out of my way. Luckily, wiser heads prevailed and I allowed them to take me in on the stretcher.
I wish I could tell you a magical story about this part of your birth but the truth is they gave me so much medicine I was only there for parts of it. I asked for your dad only to turn and discover the person I asked to get him was in fact your dad. The nurse called out to the doctor, “4 pounds, 9 ounces,” and I remember yelling, “Is she okay?” Even loopy I knew that was a tiny weight for a baby.
“She’s perfect!” the nurse called back to me. I couldn’t see her but I could tell she was smiling and there was relief in her voice. I flipped the words over in my mind. She’s perfect. She’s perfect.
Funny thing about having a baby by surgery is they don’t let you actually hold your child. I’m not sure insurance would cover a child falling because it’s mother’s body is partially (or in my case very) drugged. They gave you to your dad and he brought you near. You were the tiniest thing I had ever seen.
You were also the pinkest thing I had ever seen. Not a single stitch of color anywhere. And even though I know babies get darker as they get older, I admit I flashed forward to images of us at the park being mistaken as the nanny. Dang! Oh well. It didn’t matter if other people knew you were my daughter. I knew and you did to.
I was soon to learn that Pediatric Nurses at Stamford Hospital are kind and loving and as protective of the newborns at Mother Eagles. I mean they “like” the parents, but you are not their main concern. I say it with much love and gratitude. They did not ever keep you from me, but I could tell by their treatment of you and the other babies, nothing would go down on their watch.
While I was in surgery, they put you on the tanning bed or hotdog warmer thing to keep your body temperature up. Then the whisked you off the secret fortress of a nursery. Back in the recovery room I asked to see you. My nurse spoke with an Irish accent and told me you could not come down until I could feel my legs again.
When she left the room, I grabbed my legs in my hands and began lifting them and stretching them. I was hoping the increased circulation would make the drugs wear off faster. I even made your father help me. “Hey! Come over here and help me. I got to get my baby.”
When the nurse gave you to me I expected to feel some wave of emotion, some rush of love with the appropriate classical theme music in the background. Instead I felt like I was seeing an old friend whom I had searched for and longed to see. I had always loved you, from the beginning of space and time. Even as a child listening to the bellies of other women trying to find your voice, I loved you and searched for you. Looking down at you as you slept on my chest my first words to you were “There you are. I’ve been waiting to meet you for such a very long time.”
You were always within my heart and will be for all time. You are the power of ten thousand suns wrapped in flesh and called my daughter. You are the most amazing human being I have been honored to know. I am humbled by the gift of being your mother. I love you.
Your Biggest Fan,