Oh crap! Did I just pee myself? It’s 8:00am and I’m making a peanut butter sandwich for Corbin’s lunch. There it is again. The tiniest dribble into my pants. I’m sure I didn’t pee myself. Walking not running to the nearest bathroom, I trickle again. I retrieve a clean pair of underwear and rummage through the bathroom looking for a pad. Finding one that was issued by Atlantic Airlines last winter when we went to Hawaii, I fix myself up and go back to the lunch making. My husband, Loch, is getting Corbin dressed. I’m sure I didn’t pee myself and Roome2 is not due to arrive for over a week. I’ve only had one day of luxury pre-baby mat leave. I’m in a state of disbelief and still believe that I will make the 20 minute drive to the Canadian Superstore to do the hospital bag shopping. Do I say anything to Loch? I don’t want to alarm him. A larger amount of fluid leaks out.
“Um, sweetheart,” I say. Voice calm. “I think I’ve either peed my pants four times in the last 15minutes or I might possibly be leaking amniotic fluid.” The look on his face tells me he’s not quite ready to hear this. But, typical of my very quick to adjust and act husband, he is telling me that I’m not going to the Superstore, that I’m to go to Zellers which is 5minutes away and that I’m to go to my doctor’s office which is just across the street. This is a good plan.
At the doctor’s office I drop my pants and flood the floor with what I am now sure is amniotic fluid. The labour fairies have come early. They are armed with their dusters and other assorted cleaning implements and are waiting to work their magic.
Joy of Joys, I am strep B positive and so I need to go to the hospital to get antibiotics. Yes, I have time to go to Zellers she tells me. “Get your diapers and then go home, pack a bag and go straight to the hospital.”
At Zellers, I am anxious but composed. This baby is wonderfully healthy, but I’ve waited almost nine months to know the sex and now I’m about to find out. I’m vibrating with trepidation and excitement. Moving through the store calmly but erratically grabbing things off shelves. I seize two large packages of super pads with wings. I consider my options when I pass the depends. I pick up Epsom salts, witch hazel, pampers swaddlers for newborns, a soft blanket with patches of colour – pink, white, yellow & blue – good for a boy or a girl. I know I’m having a girl. I know because I know. The blue will match her eyes. Slippers, I need slippers. There’s been lots of leakage. Are the back of my pants wet? It takes me 10 minutes to pick out slippers. Why is it so difficult to find slippers when you are on the verge of labour? On the way to the till I impulsively snap up a new set of cutlery for Corbin. “He’ll love these, a Tow-mater fork and a Lightning McQueen spoon.” I make my way to the till. Oh Crap, the line-up is twelve people long. Apparently it’s a sale day. Of course, not on any of the items that are loaded up in my basket and tucked under my arm. I strike up a casual conversation with the woman behind me about the amount of time it will take to reach the till and the fact that my bag of waters has broken.
I’m through the till and gliding towards the exit. Is it senior’s day as well as being sale day? There are old slow people everywhere. A man and his walker cut me off. I’m trapped between the line-up for till number two and a display of cookies. I slow my pace and feel another surge of fluid fill what I’m sure is an already saturated pad.
I arrive home with a very large wet spot on the back of my pants.
We are back home after two trips to labour and delivery to receive antibiotics. I give my toddler a bath, read him a story, have a cuddle in the rocking chair and talk to him about his day. “What are you grateful for today, Corbin?” This question is part of our ritual. “Um … trains,” he says and smiles. I tell him that I’m grateful that our new baby is big enough to be born. I ask him if he is ready to meet the new baby. He says yes. He whispers into my belly “I’m ready to meet you” and plants a kiss on my belly button. I tuck him in and Loch and I drive back to the hospital for a long night of induction, nitrous oxide, fentinal & eventually an epidural.
I lay awake all night watching the clock between contractions. I have sent Loch home to sleep until I really need him. My nurse, Diane, keeps vigil over me. When I need to, I rest. When I cannot we talk about life, children & home renovations. We hear but don’t comment on the screaming down the hall. Someone else is in transition. We hear the newborn cry. A new mother’s pain is blissfully over and, yet, also just beginning. I watch the clock – 11:30pm, midnight, 1:30am, 3:00am – at just after 4am I call Loch and tell him to come back to the hospital. I labour all night and then at 11:11am on the 11the day of the 10th month, I give birth to my second child.
In the moment that the baby slides out of my body and is flipped around by my doctor, I see that my baby – the one I was sure was a girl is not. The moment is surreal. I am in disbelief. But, somehow my mind has a single thought that I will forever be grateful for. Corbin is going to love having a brother. My newborn is on my chest covered in vernix and already rooting for food. I cry tears of joy, relief and amazement.
The labour fairies have been circling now for hours. Hamish and I are cleaned up and with that first feeding after the epidural has worn off, I can feel them at work. With each contraction, I can feel my uterus diminishing from its watermelon vastness back to its original chestnut size. I am alone in a newly decorated private room at VGH. The walls are a warm and cozy mocha colour. I think to myself that I’ve slept in worse hotels. With each contraction I feel the remains of the home I built for my son to grow in shrink. With each contraction I grieve. I feel what is left over seep out of my body and my heart is heavy. This is my last time. I had a glorious pregnancy – so comfortable. This baby, my Hamish, felt so right in my body like he was made to live in me. I look down at his very wonderful features. I take him in completely. The sweet smell of his skin, the lovely curve of his lips as he suckles his first food. I am in love all over again. There is no denying that I want him, that he belongs to me, that he was sent to me and that he is my angel baby. But, as I think this I am also crying tears of grief, of loss for something I never had, something I never will have, something I thought was mine. It makes no sense to me – this duality. This feeling that I am completely filled by the arrival of this small human and yet am so devastated by the fact that I will never experience the unique, spectacular and often troubled bond that exists between mother and daughter. It is thanksgiving weekend and I am so wonderfully grateful for all that I have. And yet, I am also left with longing.
A few days later I am in Old Navy looking for a Halloween onsie for Hamish. I chat casually with another mother. We compare notes and joys as mothers do. She says she has a daughter at home. That she has both her girl and her boy and that her family is complete. My heart feels cloggy and sullen. Does this mean that my family is not complete? I force myself not to look at the newborn baby girl clothes.
Later that evening, Loch, Corbin, Hamish and I make our way to the polling station to vote in the federal election. On our way home, the sun is setting. It is an amazing autumn evening. The light is both warm and soft haloing the heads of my son and husband who walk ahead of me. I look down at my bundled Hamish and I am in a state of grace. I know instinctively that the grief I harbour for the daughter I will never have is diminishing and that my family is utterly complete.
Written for the Momoir Project Writing Class on Saturday October 10, 2008