I think that there are points in a person’s life that can truly be classified as a moment of epiphany. Of life change. Of mental shift. Until now, I don’t believe that I’ve had any of those. Of course I’ve had moments of impact; ones I will remember until forever. Some were special, such as the first time my husband kissed me, the night I realized how good sex could be, my wedding day, and the birth of my three children. Others were devastating, like the day I found out my father would die, the phone call that told me of his death, the news that my baby niece had cancer, the devastation wrought by 9/11, and the year I was bullied at work.
But, however wonderful or horrible those times were, they didn’t seem to change me at my core. It wasn’t until this past January 30, at 12:15 a.m., at the age of 44, that I truly learned to appreciate the tenuous nature of new life, and how happiness can change to heart-pounding terror in just one moment.
I am lucky to be a mother. I had three easy conceptions, enjoyable pregnancies, and uneventful (if speedy) childbirths. After my second child, a boy, was born, my doctor poked his head into my room to ask how I was doing. I said to him, “Just fine. Look how sweetly this baby is sleeping. And, no stitches again, eh?” He replied, “Nope, and I wouldn’t go bragging all over the L & D floor either. The other mothers aren’t so lucky.” I nodded, and kept my mouth shut, as ordered.
My youngest sister hasn’t been so lucky. Her first pregnancy had a devastating early end—a blighted ovum —and she was unable to conceive for over a year following that. Finally pregnant with her second child, she suffered with all-the time depression. At the 39-and-a-half week biophysical ultrasound she found out that her placenta was nearly dead and her baby had been living with no nutrients or amniotic fluid. She was induced, and as he was delivering he had the cord wrapped around his neck. In the end all was well, and I, as the aunt, had the privilege of cutting the cord on our tiny treasure.
With her subsequent pregnancy the doctors monitored her very closely. They didn’t know if her gestational difficulties were a one-time or every time situation. At 37 weeks, once again, her baby wasn’t growing, and they decided it was time for what was estimated to be a four-and-a-half pound baby boy to come out. Still by my sister’s side, and full of the optimism that my own pregnancies and the healthy births of my 20 odd nieces and nephews had imbued in me, I waited to witness the birth of this newest baby.
She was induced at 4 in the afternoon on January 29 of this year, and by 11:30 pm that baby still hadn’t come. I joked with her and my brother-in-law that he was waiting to share his cousin’s (my son’s) birthday. I was right. Because at 12:08 pm, after she pushed just once, that boy shot out like a rocket; just like his brother he had the cord around his neck, but he was so small that he slid right through it.
He didn’t cry. He was so quiet. The nurse rubbed and rubbed and finally he squealed. His hands and feet were blue. He was so quiet. They weighed him and placed him in the bassinet. He wasn’t moving. The pediatrician came in and laid her hands on him. She looked worried. Our hearts started to beat. She announced, “He’s very stiff. I’ve never seen this before.” Our hearts started to pound. The doctor looked at my brother-in-law and said, “I wish I could reassure you, but I can’t.” Our hearts stopped. They insisted my sister have one more picture with her son, and then they took him away in an incubator.
His name is Nate. He is fine. The doctor jumped the gun, and was obviously suffering from a case of too-much-talking. The baby was in shock, possibly because he was living in an inhospitable environment, or maybe because he was jerked from it so violently.
I am different than my sister, and many other women who have struggled with childbirth. When I realized how quickly everything that should be joyous can turn bad, I had had my life-changing moment: I found out on January 30, 2013, at about 12:15 am, that I am lucky.