Thinking back 13+ years ago to when Tom & I decided to start a family, I was convinced I could control everything. This belief was only affirmed when I got pregnant on our first attempt and my due date (April 5th) fit perfectly with my academic calendar. I truly believed that I was in charge! I had a wonderful pregnancy, completely uncomplicated. Very early in the morning on 2/27, I got up to pee – again. An aside here: I am continually amazed by the body’s own wisdom and sincerely believe that the reason pregnant women pee so frequently around the clock is to prepare them for never sleeping more than 3 or 4 consecutive hours again. When I returned to bed and laid down, oddly enough, I peed some more. Hmmm. Back to the bathroom. I repeated this 2 or 3 times before it occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t in fact peeing myself (what a relief!), but instead might be leaking amniotic fluid. Since I wasn’t experiencing any contractions and I didn’t feel it necessary to bother my midwives so early in the morning, I tried to go back to sleep.
At about 9 a.m. Tom I headed to the medical practice. Yep, amniotic fluid. Time to go home, gather a couple of things together for my imagined Bradley birth and meet this baby 5 + weeks early. There went my schedule. After arriving at the hospital I was given an ultrasound and learned that my baby was transverse, or sideways, i. e. this baby was not coming out the preferred way. There went my natural childbirth along with my midwife, in came a obstetrician and a C-section. Wait – this wasn’t what I imagined – planned – expected. Oh – this is what parenthood is like – adapting, doing what is best for your child even at your own physical and emotional expense.
Liam was born at 4:24 p.m. to the sound of Van Morrison. He was perfect in every visible way – other than the fact that it took some time before he “unfolded” himself – he had seemingly had his legs straight with his feet up around his head and still was inclined to be in an awkward position. He was beautiful. The surgery was completely awful for me – I hate those kinds of drugs and I felt incredibly removed from the process. The recovery room was a blur and I only have some vague memories of Tom holding our boy and staring at him with wonder.
It seemed that Liam had a birth defect – one that occurs in 1 out of 700 births, yet despite the additional people present in the operating room mandated because of Liam’s gestation of less than 35 weeks, no one detected it. This birth defect, a cleft in his soft palate, prevented him from nursing effectively and he was essentially starving to death. Those of you who were around at that time remember how dire the circumstances were – we almost lost him. Those 3 1/2 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit were the most intense, exhausting days of my life, but I sure learned a lot in those days about parenthood. About advocating for my child, about listening to myself and that voice in my head telling me that something wasn’t right, about doctors not always take good care of their patients and their needing to be held accountable.
I will always carry with me a sense of responsibility and guilt that Liam had to suffer for my lack of parenting wisdom. The early intervention, the speech therapy, the PT and OT, the Special Ed…we all worked so hard to get Liam to the place he should have arrived at effortlessly. And what does all this mean on this snowy day when we celebrate Liam’s birthday? Well, for me, it means that parenthood is the highest of tightropes, a balance between taking control and knowing when to yield. It means that despite all of one’s planning and scheduling, children do what they’re going to do and all I can do is try to prepare them for a world which, unfortunately, doesn’t always have their backs. And it means that I will never allow anyone to dismiss me when it comes to the well-being of my children – ever.