This is the story of the arrival of the baby I was almost sure we wouldn’t have.
That’s not because she wasn’t wanted, but because I didn’t know whether I could tempt fate again in hoping for a second healthy baby, whether I could bear the anxiety of trying to get — and staying — pregnant again, whether I had the energy for another highly medicalized pregnancy.
B was ready for baby #2 the day we brought Teddy home. It took me a while longer to come around to the idea. I was finally convinced to take the leap when my endocrinologist gave me his blessing, secure in the idea that another pregnancy wouldn’t jeopardize my health.
We found out about this fifth pregnancy just shy of five years after pregnancy #1. And just as pregnancy #1 ended while we were on vacation in London, we feared that this one was ending while we were on vacation in Florida. I was sure we were at the end of yet another ride on the pregnancy roller coaster, disappointed but resigned to the idea of remaining a family of three. An ultrasound when we returned from our trip surprised me in confirming otherwise — an embryo that measured right on track, heart beating away.
We told our families early on but swore them to secrecy. I didn’t tell anyone else in those early weeks, for fear of jinxing it. When we got good genetic testing news at the end of the first trimester, I feigned optimism — fake it ’til you make it and all that — and announced that I was pregnant in a most public way, at my Listen to Your Mother show performance.
Nevertheless, my pre-Teddy track record of losses meant that I’d never be fully confident that pregnancy = take-home baby, even with all the ultrasounds and healthy heartbeats and a distinctly growing belly. I ached with her sharp jabs to my ribs, but I also gave thanks; the swift kicks meant she was still in there, rolling around.
Early on, B and I decided to go for a repeat c-section. I knew all the reasons why I *should* have tried a VBAC, and my doctors would have supported it, but a desire not to repeat the 28-hour labor that resulted in failure to progress and an 8 pound, 10 ounce Teddy had me scheduling the surgery.
Scheduling your child’s birth day is surreal. There were only so many slots in the hospital for the day and time I wanted (Monday, October 27, when my preferred OB would be on call, and 8 a.m., so I would have to go without eating for as short a time as possible), so I had to call at 8 a.m. on the day I hit 28 weeks. Dialing the number that morning, I felt like I was calling Ticketmaster for concert tickets back in high school. Would I get the slot I wanted, or had other anxious moms beaten me to the punch? Would I be relegated to a later time (HUNGRY) or a different day with a doctor I knew or liked less?
As it turned out, I was the most anal of the moms to be (shocker), and got the first delivery slot for our preferred date. All that was left to do was to count down to October 27. And, you know, grow the baby.
I waddled my way through the last weeks of work, planning for October 27. I’d work until the 23rd, giving myself a “luxurious” single work day off before D-day. My mom would come on the 26th to take care of Teddy while we were in the hospital. We’d be home on Thursday, in time for Halloween.
In theory, I thought about the fact that she could come early, but Teddy was late, and the delivery was actually planned for the week before my due date, so I didn’t focus on the possibility of an early arrival. Still. I shouldn’t have been quite so thrown when the OB’s office called the Wednesday before the scheduled delivery date. My doctor had an immovable conflict now on Monday, they said. Could I come in on Sunday, instead?
I didn’t even think to ask what the alternative options were. “Um, sure?” I said, and with that, all the focus on 10/27 switched to 10/26. Good thing I hadn’t gotten her birthdate personalized on anything…
There was the pesky problem of my mom flying in at just the same time we needed to be at the hospital. On the day of the Marine Corps Marathon. When all of the main roads between Virginia and D.C. would be closed, leaving no easy way for us to get to the hospital or for my mom to get from the airport to our house to look after Teddy.
We figured all that out, with the help of good friends who stepped in to look after Teddy in the very early-morning hours, and to chauffeur my mom around town.
Trickier was what to do the day before you know you’re going to have a baby. When I thought we’d have the full weekend, I figured we’d spend Saturday on the errands we had left to do, and Sunday leisurely getting coffee and donuts and hitting the playground and watching football. But now we had only Saturday, and in my classic fashion, I expected way too much out of our last day as a family of three, which left me frustrated and sad after Teddy’s bedtime. I felt like I’d blown a memory-making opportunity.
Except that the next morning, he woke up happy and grinning and excited about going to play with his friends. His smile calmed my nerves and appeased my guilt about the day before.
We dropped him off, and with that, we were off to the hospital. The surreal experience continued: I drove myself to the hospital. I walked into the delivery unit without clutching the wall, as I had when in labor with Teddy. The nurse checked me in with the comment “Oh, you’re the c-section,” with scheduled deliveries coming few and far between on Sundays.
They hooked me up to the fetal monitor (nope, no contractions) and attempted to find a vein for my IV. When the first two tries failed, they brought in the big guns: the anesthesiologist. Who turned out to be the same one we’d had two years earlier. He remembered us, too, upon hearing our story about meeting in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day. (What, do all anesthesiologists not ask such questions just before delivery?) A med student came in to review my medical history. Thyroidectomy, three miscarriages, fifth pregnancy. Check. Reminders of days gone by, now part of the story of how this version of our family came to be.
Some parts of this pregnancy dragged — the seemingly endless morning sickness, the weeks without dairy, the insomnia — but not the delivery. At 9:10, they had me hop off the bed in the triage room. (Major abdominal surgery apparently doesn’t buy you a wheeled ride to the operating room when it’s scheduled.) I walked down the hall and climbed up on the surgical table. Doctors scrubbed in, nurses checked all the equipment in the room, and they gave me a spinal that within minutes left me numb from the chest down.
At 9:46, Katharine Elizabeth was born with a wail that left no question about the health of her lungs or her opinion of being pulled out into the cold. (She is her mother’s daughter, after all.)
They wrapped up our little pumpkin baby, who at 6 pounds, 10 ounces weighed exactly two pounds less than her brother had at birth — less even than the gourd we’d bought a few weeks earlier at the pumpkin patch — and handed her over to B. The anxiety of pregnancy was gone, and all I could do was beam.
The process of becoming a family of three took several years, many doctors, and, somehow fittingly, a labor that stretched over three days. Becoming a family of four was, in many ways, easier, but it’s left me just as thankful.
(More harried by the newborn + toddler combo, but just as thankful.)