Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 18: A Short Story


Tomorrow our family will commemorate the wonderful moment we doubled from three to six members, and we'll celebrate the three unique souls we've been getting to know for twelve years. This is a short piece I wrote about the experience. You can also find a truncated version at Labor Day, where, if you're so inclined, you can share your own birth story.

July 18

            Dr. Yamada stands up from the stool positioned between my legs and removes his rubber glove.  “You’re six centimeters dilated,” he says.
            My husband Jason looks at me in surprise, but there is no pain, just the same, slight agitation, a strange churning.  Everything about this pregnancy has been different from my first.  That time, everything was waiting, waiting.  I’d scour my pregnancy books, watching for symptoms, searching for signs.  And when our son was born at nine months and one day, I pushed him out for three exhausting hours.
            This time, everything happened quickly.  Instead of sharp blows from elbows and feet there were large rolling movements and blunt edges.  An unsettledness.  There was no time to contemplate, only the sensation of a great rolling along, a necessary growing.
            “How many weeks?” Dr. Yamada asks.
            “Thirty-four tomorrow,” I say.  I try to push myself up.
            “Stay, stay,” Dr. Yamada scolds.  At every appointment, he reminds me to stay off my feet.  No extended walking.  No lifting over ten pounds.  I can never reassure him that in my own way, I am taking it easy.  But I do lift our two-year-old.  It’s something I can’t give up. 
           “This is a good outcome,” Dr. Yamada admits.  Despite everything still before me, I feel relief.  I have so often felt like a vessel, nothing within my control.  Scrutinized with biweekly ultrasounds, my body expanded, amoeba-like.  My appetites were foreign.
           Jason shifts next to me.  “So maybe later tonight, or tomorrow?” he asks.  He remembers the first time, waiting for hours at home, then all night at the hospital.  Fragmented sleep on a stiff armchair. 
            Dr. Yamada chuckles, looking back and forth between us.  “No.  I mean that you are going now.  If there’s enough staff, within the hour.”
            Everything picks up speed.  A nurse appears with a wheelchair.  At the hospital building next door, a team of three nurses work on me from all sides, taking vital signs, changing me into a gown, giving us forms.  Then, something I hadn’t expected:  pain.  I lie on my side, wishing for the epidural.
            Forty-five minutes later, I am blissfully numb in a large operating room.  All around me is activity.  There are three doctors, many nurses, much equipment.  Jason is there in his green surgical suit, video camera in hand. 
            There is murmuring between the doctors.  “We’re going to begin,” Dr. Yamada says.
            My only view is the blue curtain positioned so that I have no view of anything.  Once again, I am strangely disconnected from the events of my body, a blind spectator, waiting to be told my part.  I feel pulling, the way your stomach drops on a rollercoaster.  And just like that, a small cry.
            “Here he is,” a nurse says.  “A boy.”
            I watch as they wipe his face.  They bring him to a wheeled bassinet near my head and prop him up.  He has Jason’s deep-set eyes, his dark hair.  They wheel him towards the door.
            “Across the hall and down a ways,” the nurse says to Jason.  “The NICU.  You can follow us or wait.”
            “I’ll wait.”
            More activity below.  Quickly, much too quickly to process, someone says:   “Another boy.”  Two more nurses appear.  One is holding a fair-skinned baby.  The hair escaping in thin wisps from the cap is pale blonde.  Another surprise. 
            She brings him to me for a kiss.  Soft skin, pink lips.  “He’s not doing much deep breathing,” she tells Jason.  “We’ll give him some stimulation.”  As if being yanked mid-nap from his mother’s uterus wasn’t stimulating.
            More pushing and pulling.  A slight, palpable change in the room’s mood.  Later, Jason says the scene was like a “construction site,” with doctors pulling things out of me, pushing them back in.
            Then a doctor announces my daughter.  My only girl.  Another first in a day of firsts.  I strain for a look at her, but there are many bodies in the way.  She struggles with her breathing the most, after having been relegated for weeks to a small space beneath my ribcage by her sprawling brothers.  They take her away before I see her.
            Then the waiting begins.  Waiting while they put me together again, waiting while they get me a bed, waiting for my first meal and first trip to the bathroom.  I am anxious.  Everyone has seen the babies except me.  Around midnight, I finally go to the NICU.
            The babies are comfortably sleeping in their isolettes.  The boys are next to each other, their names written in cheerful lettering on cards attached to the front.  They spread out, almost naked, under the lights.  The nurses assure us how warm it is.  Our daughter is a few isolettes down, next to a pair of twins I find out later have been there for three months.
            We know that we are lucky, but the next two weeks are difficult.  I am discharged after two days but the babies stay at the hospital for ten, eleven and thirteen days.  Our lives are fully taken over by eating schedules and visiting hours.  We cheer when they take in more milliliters of breast milk.  We learn how to use the breathing monitors they will bring home.  We hold them as much as we can.  Amazing that we’re suddenly incomplete without them.
            When I finally set them, side by side, in the crib in our family room, the “command center” where we also have a changing table, baby supplies and a bed, I look at their tiny, wrapped bodies and fully exhale for the first time in weeks.  I realize then what I’ve been doing, through the strange churning and the unpredictable whirlwind days, through the humbling and helplessness, the times of uncertainty, the times of profound purpose.  Finally, everyone is here.  And I realize what I have been witnessing, what we were, all this time, stumbling along to become: a family. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't know how I didn't know or had forgotten you have multiples, beautiful triplets! I love your story and I can relate to much of it. My twin girls will be 21 in August. After much waiting and infertility problems we were so blessed. In a twist of fate, we found out while pregnant they were identical, in one sac and the result of a split embryo.
    Happy Birthday to you all!!


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka