Friday, August 16, 2013

On Losing a Daughter . . . . to College

It should be easier, to send child number two to college. Reverse separation anxiety, child leaving parents, not vice versa. This should have worked itself out of my system, shouldn’t it?
            I should rejoice that she is departing for her life’s grand adventure, especially since she wasn’t the easiest child to parent. There was sass, a season of dishonesty. A lack of enthusiasm for chores, a regular pile of clothing to press. Much chauffeuring.
            And yet, she’s not just my daughter; she’s my friend. She adores art and music and fashion and theater. Me too. We can talk for hours on those things or the mysteries of human behavior. I enjoy her. I can’t imagine her not here.
Half a lifetime ago I didn’t even think I wanted children, maybe not even a husband. I thought I was New York City-bound, an advertising executive to be. Surely someone would pay me scads of money upon graduation, based on my cleverness and lively personality.
            I was wrong. As they say, first comes love, then comes marriage (Who wouldn’t marry their best friend if the best friend asked?), then comes the pushing of the baby carriage.
            Children were never my plan. I figured I could talk the husband, who wanted six babies, out of his madness. Instead I found myself consenting to have one, just one, “for you.” I wonder if he was devastated by that word: one. Or did he know there’d be no way I could stop there?
I try to imagine life with only the boy child here. The money we were paying for her voice lessons can go into his college fund. I won’t have to buy tiny tubs of hummus for her lunches. There will be no more driving her six blocks down the hill to high school at seven in the morning because, “I’m wearing heels, Madre.”
            There won’t be any more sitting beside her at the kitchen table as she methodically dices avocados, bell peppers, and onions, cilantro and jalapenos for her fabulous guacamole. No more trips to the consignment shop where she tells me I bring her luck. No more listening to her belt, “I Dreamed a Dream” over and over in the shower for thirty minutes or more.
            When a child leaves home, life may become easier, but it will also be harder.

Friday, August 9, 2013

It's a Boy!

The radiologist’s face hovered an inch from the screen. "So," he said. "Do you want to know the sex of the baby?"
            My mouth fell open. "Really?"
            My husband's eyebrows rose. "Right now?"
            The doctor rolled his stool around to face us. He rubbed his thighs briskly.
            "This is West Virginia," he said. "I don't want to start a family feud. Do you, or don't you? Want to know?"
            I nodded. My husband shook his head. I huffed.
            My husband shrugged. "I like surprises. So does my family."
            I clasped my hands in front of my face and opened my eyes super wide.  "Pretty please? I won't tell anyone inside the state."
            My husband sighed. "Oh, all right."
            The doctor wheeled the stool back to face the screen. He tapped it with his pen.
             "See that right there?" he said. "That's what makes your little guy, a guy."
             I grinned and clapped. "I did it!  I made a boy!"
            The doctor gave my husband a little shove. "You okay, Dad?"
            My husband leaned closer to the ultrasound screen. His breath fogged it. 
            "It's a boy? Really?"
            The doctor smiled and clapped him on the back. "It's a boy, a healthy son. Congratulations.”

Fluid, surprisingly warm, gushed from inside me. I glanced down. A puddle formed on the back porch, between my flip flops. I shut my eyes and groaned.
            The girls were swinging. "Watch how high we can go," the older one said.
            The younger one squinted at me and slammed her feet down to stop. "What, Mommy?" she said. "Why's your face all funny?"
            I toed the splat on the porch. "Someone bring me the phone please."
            "Mommy, you wet  yourself."
            I shook my head and spoke louder. "Just get me a phone."
            "Right now?" my husband said. "It's coming right now?"
            I exhaled my answer. "Yes."
            "My dad's in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer and I have someone here in the office with me. It’s really right now?"
            I nibbled my lip. "Last baby was born 20 minutes after my water broke."
            "I'll be right there."


"You could stimulate your nipples," the nurse said as she glanced at her watch. "Since your labor doesn't seem to be progressing."
            My eyes bulged. I touched my cheeks. Hot. I crooked my finger to bring her closer, so the whole world wouldn't hear.
            "Excuse me?"
            "Stimulate your nipples," she said. "It makes the body release oxytocin which can move the process along. Just slide your arms inside your gown." She busied herself tucking the sheets around me, adjusting the monitor beside my bed. I tapped her shoulder.
            "Can you close the door, please?"
            "Sure thing, honey. Your doctor's been paged. He'll be here any minute.” She pointed at the control panel near the bedrail. "That's the nurse call button if you need me. Don't forget, stim—"
            I pressed my finger to my mouth. She laughed as she eased the door shut behind her.


I had my birth plan for my little guy all figured out. I'd asked for an epidural with child one, liked it a lot. On delivery number two, the nurses talked me into going natural.
“If you’re cracking jokes at seven centimeters, you should have no problem going all the way, sweetie.”
So I did the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar thing that time around, thought it pretty cool the way I could walk to the bathroom to pee right after. Even so, given a choice, I wanted drugs on my third and final labor and delivery.
            "Can you write it in my chart now?" I said to my doctor. "Put it in all caps: PATIENT WANTS EPIDURAL AS SOON AS SHE ENTERS HOSPITAL.”
            Dr. Davis had laughed. "We'll see."
            "What do you mean I can't have an epidural?" I said to my labor nurse. "It's in my chart. In all caps. Look it up!"
            The nurse fussed with my sheets, patted my hand, avoided my eyes. “They said the anesthesiologist has a more emergent situation right now." 
            My fingernails bit into my palms. I gnashed my teeth. "What is more emergent than a baby emerging from my body?"
            The nurse cringed. Her hands were like nervous butterflies in the air between us. She moved toward the door.
"Let me try to get a hold of your doctor. Again."
Within five minutes I was speaking in tongues, or so my husband says.  I'm pretty sure the Mardi Gras documentary on TV was to blame. I remember one minute focusing on the drums—their primal beat—and the next, how my head started flopping side to side, to match their rhythm.
            I began to chant under my breath. "I want drugs. I want them now. I want 
             When another contraction started, I stopped my head flopping. My stomach churned. My eyes wouldn't focus. I heard someone enter the room. I turned toward the door. The person seemed to be moving in mist. Something was in his or her hand. I squinted at it, wary.
            "How about some Nubane, honey?" It sounded like my nurse.
            I snarled my nose. "What's that?"
            She brushed a stray hank of hair from my face. "I think you'll like it," she said. "It'll take the edge off, help you relax."
            I shrugged. "Okay."
            Prick. Ow!  Warmth. Oooh! I collapsed against my pillows. A moment later a noisy breath leaked out of me.
            "That's nice," I told Nurse.
I grinned at the corner of the room by the door, thinking that was where my husband was. 
"I'm the queen of Mardi Gras. And I'm floating. See? I'm on a parade float on 
Bourbon Street. That's in New Orleans, right? Want some beads?"
            I felt as if I might pour off the edge of the bed. I attempted to purr. Nurse’s teeth flashed white as she swabbed my arm. On the other side of the room she deposited the needle in a red box on the wall.
            "Hey!" I said. She glanced over. I smiled coyly, blinked a couple times. "Some more, please?"
            She chuckled. "Sorry, no.” She perched on the bench at the end of the bed and nudged my knees apart.
            I stuck my tongue out at her.
            "You're almost ready now," she said. "I'll call Dr. Davis. Again."
           "You sure you want me to stay in this chair?" my husband asked when she left.    
           "Yes, please. It feels like you're stealing my breath when you come closer."            


A half hour later I scooted myself up on my elbows. "I want more Nubane. Now!" I glared at the med student behind my doctor. "And I want Doogie Howser to go away, immediately."
            "Be nice," Dr. Davis said. "He's just observing. I won't let him touch you."
            I snorted. "Is he old enough to hear cuss words?"
            The med student cowered. Dr. Davis gave my ankles a squeeze.
            "You ready to do this?"
            I winced as another wave of pressure and pain seared me.
            "Can't you just grab its head and yank it out?"
            "Easy," my doctor said. "Don't hold your breath. Breathe. That's it."
            When the fire started in my girl parts, I headed for my pillows, determined to escape it.
            "Will whoever has their hand on my— Dang it!  I can't even say the word 'cause Doogie—"
            Dr. Davis stood. "Keep pushing!  You're so close!"
            The med student approached me from the side. His hot breath steamed my cheek.
“Ma'am? Do you want me to pull the mirror down, ma'am?" he said, "from the ceiling? So you can see?"
            I took a swing at him. "Ew! No!"
             A fresh more urgent pain arrived. I fell back on the pillow stack and sobbed. Doogie slunk back to his corner. I wanted it over. Now. I heaved myself forward once more and clenched all my muscles and shoved, forced everything inside of me down between my legs. The skin on my face felt tight. And I was so hot. The sprinkler system would trigger any minute, surely it would.
            I panted. "Someone fan me!  Fan my face!  I’m serious! And where is Nubane Lady? Get her back here this instant!"
             Suddenly the pressure in my groin dropped, diminished. I squeaked, attempted to sit up.
             "What happened! What's going on?"
           "We have a head!" Dr. Davis said.
            I felt my nose drain, then my eyes. When the stretching sensation returned, I arched my back and moaned, dug my fingernails into the mattress. More flesh of my flesh slipped out of me.
            "And we have a baby, a perfect baby boy."
            Everything in me softened, went limp, as if I had no bones. I hung in the moment, concentrated on the freedom from pain, listened to the pounding in my ears slow.
            Dr. Davis brought my boy child to me, still slick with his white icing of vernix.
            "Tell him, 'hello,' Mom. He's a little blue. He needs oxygen."
            I stroked my son's face with my pointer finger. Tears spilled onto my cheeks.      
"Hi, little guy."
            "Gosh, he looks like his dad," Dr.  Davis said. "Dad, come over here. Check this little guy out." After a minute Nurse gently pried him away from my husband. "He needs oxygen and a belly button, Dad."
            "I made a boy," I declared.
            Dr. Davis laughed from across the room. "You get what you get, you know."        
I shook my head. "Nope," I said. I tucked my husband's hands inside my own. "I made a boy, with some help, just a little."


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