The early morning was surreal.
The night before, I couldn’t sleep, mainly because I was afraid I would miss the alarm, and I didn’t want to miss my scheduled induction at 37 weeks pregnant. I was feeling somewhat joyful, but out of myself… like this was “another me” going through the motions of another birth.
I had never had someone take a picture of me just before I got into the “labor and delivery” gown. But this time was different. I remember saying to my daughter, “let’s capture this, since it’s the last time… might as well get a picture…”
Looking at this picture, I want to tell “me” to run. I look at each item in the room and I remember it, in a far too dramatic way.
That Gatorade would still be unopened a week later… and I would only have these clothes to wear a week later as well… My hair would be in that same unwashed bun a week later….
If only I didn’t… if I had only… if …..
I remember laughter, excellent nurses, my husband being nervous and distant, my daughter being a silent pillar of strength in the room, a quick and easy birth, and an exquisite little boy being born.
It was all too perfect.
Simeon Emmanuel was precious. He smiled right after he was born, (and it wasn’t gas because I know the difference.) He seemed to have a permanent little smile on his face, so peaceful; and this both amused and surprised me because I thought surely he had “picked up” all of the arguing I had done behind closed doors, sobbing I had done, negative vibes I had felt, distress I had experienced physically and mentally… no, it seemed he had been shielded from the outside problems, and this greatly pleased me.
Less than an hour after he was born, our priest seemed to magically appear and bring me Communion and hear my confession. This doesn’t normally happen, for those of us who are Catholic (or not), unless there is a life-threatening emergency. And even then, finding a priest at even those moments can be exceptionally rare. Add to that, it was Holy Thursday, beginning the busiest season for priests and pastors, Easter (for us Eastern Christians, “Pascha.”) I felt overjoyed and honored that he took the risk to come and include me as a member of our parish family during such a hectic time for him.
I didn’t know that this would be my last real food for over three days.
That night there was a beautiful peaceful spring morning snow that only those of us awake at midnight could see. It was too late to snow for this area of the country, and it almost seemed defiant it its insistence, quietly saying “I won’t let spring come….”
Simeon seemed do be doing perfectly. The maternity ward was quiet and peaceful, and my husband and daughter went home. I was alone with the baby and relieved that all went well.
One of the sweet nurses came in to check on us. Simeon had a little cough, like he needed to burp out some milk or some fluid from birth, but we were cuddling and he was nursing, and after I had tried to burp him the nurse took him to the changing table to routinely check his little vitals. He was doing just fine. She suctioned out the little remnant of extra fluid in his throat and lungs, and he was of course irritated but still fine as she gently held him against her shoulder.
She asked, “Do you mind if I take him to the nursery to check his blood sugar?”
I said, “Sure! What ever is best for him….”
That exchange, harmless and normal, was the first domino that began a journey I had never before travelled….
I dosed off for twenty minutes, the first sleep I had in well over 36 hours. When I woke up, I expected baby Simeon to be back in the baby bassinet. But I figured they were bathing him or he was sleeping in the nursery…. and I waited. I finally called the nurse’s desk after an hour asking about him. They vaguely said he was “still in the nursery…..” After about two hours, I stood up, weak and frail and not recovered yet from giving birth, and waited at my door in the hall. And with all the gusto I had, I walked over to the nursery.
I was told that “I wasn’t allowed to go in yet,” and I could feel anxiety rising within me. WHAT?! Why can’t I have my baby? “We are checking his oxygen….” Everything was still all vague, but I realized that when I woke up from my tiny nap, much had changed without my knowledge, and my husband and family were sound asleep at home.
I was on my own.
This was a “level 1” hospital, meaning they have limited facilities and staff for complications. It is mainly for healthy mothers and babies. I didn’t actually realize this at the time, but it hadn’t mattered because I had had so many successful births previously. And I had delivered in hospitals where every option was available. I was in Amish country and didn’t realize that this particular one was more like a home birth, but with MD’s and nurses and necessary IVs for dehydrated people like me… and if you needed more than that, you needed to be in Cleveland.
Still, I waited, and waited, and then I gathered up all of my “mama bear strength” (which has an energy that can power a small town), and I begged my way into the nursery.
There he was…. and there the second domino would topple over…..
(… to be continued…)