A year ago, I woke up nervous and still sick with the cold that wouldn’t go away. Big, wet snowflakes fell outside, and I was snuffling and coughing. D took Stella out to breakfast so I could rest, but it was difficult for me to sleep. How could I sleep when I knew that in a few hours I would be getting a huge dose of anesthesia in my spine and would be sliced open? How could I sleep when in a few hours I would meet my little Zoë, who seemed so huge inside me?
At noon, when D and Stella were back from breakfast, my doctor called to see if I could come in early. I had been scheduled for a 4 pm C-section, but there was an opening at 2 pm. Could I get to the hospital in half an hour? We rushed around the house and called my mom, who came over to be with Stella. From that moment, everything felt rushed. The nurse anesthetist was waiting when I walked into the maternity ward. I was ushered into a small room, a monitor was slipped over my belly to check the baby’s heart rate, my blood was taken, and an IV was inserted into the back of my hand. D snapped a picture of me there, in that recliner in that small room. In the photo I’m smiling broadly, and I looked relaxed, but I wasn’t. I’m sure anyone who has had more than one C-section can relate to this—the excitement of knowing you’ll have your baby in your arms soon, mixed with the fear of surgery.
But then the anesthetist came in and was so calm. She called me dear, and when she ushered me into surgery and had me curl my spin to insert the anesthesia, she kept telling me what a good job I was doing. This kind of familiarity and constant affirmation might not work for everyone, but it worked for me. And then D was there, above me, asking if I was okay, and the nurse anesthetist was there, offering to take pictures, and my doctor—my doctor who saved my life and Stella’s life four years earlier—was there, opening me up, pulling back layers of skin and muscle. And then Zoë was out and being held to my face. I ran my finger across her brow and started to cry. After I was sewed up, she was in my arms, nursing, and I couldn't believe it, that I was holding my baby and that she was nursing.
It's true that I wish I hadn’t had to have another C-section. I debated it. I went back and forth, weighed the pros and cons. But in the end, it was the choice I had to make. My fear and the trauma of Stella’s birth still loomed so large for me. I know I couldn’t have made the other choice then. But still, I feel a little sad knowing I will never give birth naturally. I’ve been thinking about this more lately, partly because of Zoë’s birthday and partly because recently I’ve read two lovely, gripping birth stories. You can read one of them here. But it is very easy for me to feel regret now that I have a chubby, healthy one-year-old in my arms. It is nothing compared to the regret I would have felt if something had gone wrong after an attempted natural birth.
I suppose it is natural to relive your child’s birth on his/her first birthday because it seems impossible that a year could have gone by already. How is it possible that Zoë is now a toddler? I think of the Deborah Garrison poem “Both Square and Round,” which I love so much and have posted about before. She so perfectly captures that desire to slow time, to stop it for a moment when you have a baby in your arms.
So I am raising my cup of coffee to my dear Zoë this morning. These are some of the things she loves:
- Dancing—She loves to be spun around the room, bounced and dipped. The throws back her head laughing and points to the stereo emphatically as soon as it falls silent.
- Blueberries—Actually, she seems to love all food, but blueberries will keep her seated in her high chair the longest.
- Baby dolls—Stella didn’t get a baby until she was at least 18 months old, and even then, I dragged my feet about it. Now, you can find a baby doll in any corner of the house. Zoë will pick them up and squeeze them in tight hugs. “Oh, loves,” I say to her, and she smiles proudly.
- Dogs—She points to the window and says “Da! Da!” whenever she hears a dog outside. Again and again we look out the window, hoping our neighbor’s dog is out in the yard.
- Nursing—I’m not sure how I will ever wean this child. Any ideas?
- Stella—everything pales next to Stella, whom Zoë reaches for first thing in the morning. Stella can make Zoë laugh like no one else. And Stella is so patient and caring with Zoë, except in the car, of course, when Zoë’s wailing gives Stella a headache, or when Zoë turns off the television in the middle of Stella’s show. But mostly she is patient and caring, and Zoë adores her.
Happy Birthday, Zoë! I love you!