Friday, May 11, 2007

The Tides of Yesterday

We are close. We are so close, my due date is only two weeks away. Somehow I don't feel quite ready. I don't think Max does either. We are comfortable with the idea of bringing a baby into our house, but not quite ready to actually do it. People have "helpfully" been telling me things I should do to bring on labor, and I have to explain that I'm trying to avoid that right now. We need these two weeks.

When my parents had me, their first child, they were not ready. They were young and unprepared to start with, and on top of that I was born by emergency c-section at 30 weeks' gestation. My mother said she "got a headache, got a nosebleed, had a baby." So as unprepared as I feel right now, I can't imagine how much more disorenting and frightening it would be to come into parenthood so abruptly. Our child is at 38 weeks' gestation; by this time in my own life, I had already been out in the world complicating their lives for two months.

When we took our hospital tour a few months ago, our group stopped in front of the NICU window. There were only a couple of tiny babies on the other side of the glass, but one incubator was pulled up close. A doctor and at least two residents were clustered around it, working intently at doing something to the baby inside. As they moved around the artificial womb of plastic and rubber, I caught a glimpse of the baby's foot waving around. It took me entirely by surprise. That little baby's foot looked like the tiniest thing in the world. I wondered how old it was, how far along it had been when it was born. I wondered if my foot was that small when I entered this world.

I have read blogs of parents with NICU babies and wondered about the circumstances of my own birth. I know I was in the hospital for a number of weeks; I know I weighed around three pounds when I was born. I know it was pre-ecclampsia that caused the doctors to rush my mother into an OR. I have seen a few pictures of my tiny body, wires and tubes snaking out from my small form like extra limbs. I know they told my mother that I would always be behind the other kids, I would be slow and would never really catch up mentally or physically and that my mother has spent all the years since then laughing at that diagnosis. I know I have never been a very good sleeper and my mother has always thought it was the result of spending my first weeks among the lights and noise and bustle of that NICU. But lately I have begun to wonder about other things. Did my parents come visit me every day? Did they bring toys to put in my plastic cradle? Hats to put on my tiny head? Did my mother and father come, sit with me, hold me when able, rock me in the stiff hospital-nursery chair?

I have never had the courage to ask these questions. I don't even know how to bring the subject up. Whenever we are discussing babies or preemies I hold my breath and wait for a new scrap of information, a nugget of story I have not heard before. I cling to these snippets, and wait for the day when I can piece it all together. This is one of the times when I regret the unspoken rule in our family that does not allow for direct questioning about past events. If someone offers information, you listen, but we are not people who probe and push to get it. Even with the birth of my own child looming, I do not have the courage now to ask my mother if she was as terrified at the prospect of motherhood as I am right now.

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