"I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the house; and how good Mrs. West could have written such books and collected so many hard works, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment. Composition seems to me impossible with a head full of joints of mutton and doses of rhubarb."~Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, 1816

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wonderful Unknown

We pulled out of our driveway at about 4:00 am Friday. My sister-in-law seemingly had made record time on the drive over to our house to watch our two sleeping kids. “Good luck!” she said as I appeared in the kitchen to replenish my water bottle. “Don’t kiss me,” she added as I leaned toward her. “But, not to worry. It’s just a summer cold, nothing serious.” I did want to kiss her. I was so grateful that the birthing process had gone into motion: my water had finally broken and contractions were starting to crunch through me.

The moon was white and round in the black sky over the field across the street from the entrance to our housing complex. Every time I see the moon I think of all the nights my dad called me to the screen door of our townhouse to gape at its lustrous beauty. Hubby turned our car onto the empty road and a contraction started as we crossed the first intersection but, watching the moon dip under the glowing clouds over the hills, in place of panic a sense of calm nestled around me.

The girls at the reception desk in my OB’s office had joked that I would deliver last weekend because there would be a full moon. After pre-term labor at 35 weeks had suggested that Baby would come early like my other two children, we were all surprised that it appeared I would make it to my due date. I’ve never felt the ripeness of late pregnancy before. Toward the end of this pregnancy my earlier fears of needing to take care of a preemie baby, needing a c-section, or of some other unforeseen calamity, mercifully gave way to the relative peace of knowing that the pregnancy needed to end - in one way or another.

Labor surprised me as quick and unmedicated. There was not enough time for the two bags of IV fluid that were a prerequisite for placing an epidural. After a particularly strong contraction accompanied with a yelp for what I then knew was my illusive epidural, the labor nurse firmly instructed me to get in bed. She hurriedly checked me then desperately called for my doctor, who happened to be on duty at the hospital that morning. “You’re going to have this baby naturally,” the labor nurse, MJ, said. “He’ll be out in one good push.” Pressing into the pain as she and my doctor instructed, pressing through the push, the rest, the second push and the delivery, I was given the unexpected gift of doing it myself.

The last two weeks hubby and I have been frustrated with our lack of control over when Baby would be born. Hubby started his leave when I hit 38 weeks, which was when Toddler was born, and seemed reasonable considering the pre-term labor scare I had already had with Baby. But Baby faked us out and came much later than expected. Hubby had wanted the majority of his two weeks’ leave to be bonding time with his new son, but he had to go back to work yesterday, after a scant two days at home with Baby. Actually, those two weeks that hubby intended to spend bonding with Baby were well spent giving Girlie and, especially Toddler, extra daddy time.

As parents we should know by now that really we can never fully control our relationships with our children, who are completely separate entities from us with their own personalities and desires. I remember being surprised that Girlie was such a stranger to me when she was born. I did not know her face. Baby is a stranger too. I don’t know how I will be called upon to minister to him. I don’t know how his presence in our lives will change our family. On day two of his life, desperate to snag a lactation consultant up on the pediatrics floor where I had been dispatched for my recovery, I finally reminded myself to be open to whatever messages Baby was trying to tell me about himself. He didn’t want me to put him down. All he wanted was to lay his cheek on my chest. Why was I so sure that was the wrong thing? So what if my other children ate, were satisfied and then slept? I needed to recognize that this child wanted to hang out with me.

Of course parenting is a balance of listening to your child and providing him with limits. In my experience with sleep schedules for my older children, for instance, I have learned that they thrive on the support of a structure. But I am trying to let Baby lead me through his infant days as much as possible. Yes, it means putting myself in the hands of someone whose only field of expertise is nursing (and “expertise” is a very generous term for his knowledge of that subject) but walking into the unknown has never felt so safe.

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