Let me explain something about myself. I am a bit of a loner. If the FBI had to profile me, they would say "she's a loner, in her late twenties, likes unusual music and hanging about in secluded places..." and they'd be right. I've always been like this. From my earliest childhood, I was the kid telling stories to other kids. I did it to entertain, to provide a service, not to be social, though. I think I got that trait from my Dad - we both like being alone a fair amount (though we certainly appreciate company from the right people as well) because we have things to...do. Things to do in our own minds - we create by weaving complex tapestries that emerge from the centers of our foreheads to spill out onto paper, or into whatever we are making. The wrong kind of disturbance can cause the threads we are using to snarl up, creating knots that are difficult to unravel.
Ah, such is the creative process of an artist, and probably this is why other people refer to our temperaments as "artistic" in the first place. Why is one person's presence acceptable when another's is not? Aren't we all equal as human beings? Yes: you're right - I think it has something to do with the energy of people. Bella could always feel the energy of a person when they placed their hands on my pregnant tummy: if she chose, she'd kick about and make herself known; on the other hand, she'd often hide. Likewise here on Earth, she knows when I enter the room while she's napping and responds with a small noise - a little disturbance because it is me who has come in and nobody else.
I can't really apologize for being so picky and so odd about things, because it's me! I am who I am - I don't mean any harm in it - I'm a little strange and like talking about nuclear physics at improper times, but that's just the person I've turned out to be. No point in defending myself either: that never works.
So anyway, during one of my quiet, thoughtful times alone here - probably sitting on the sofa tuning out of some television program - I thought about the car ride to the hospital, and how such a familiar ride was so different on the occasion of these two births.
Josie's car ride was terrifying. Now when I say terrifying I don't mean "screaming out in abject fear with my hands over my eyes" - no - true terror is quite silent. It's the horrible, slimy, black feeling percolating through one's entire body at the absolute knowledge of everything being suddenly very wrong. For me, it was the sickening thought in my mind that my child had just died, and that I was riding along in R's silver Ford sedan on a freeway - there were no electric heart paddles on a freeway. She was trapped, and everything had come crashing down - I knew it. R's coffee mug sat in the holder at the front; she was saying something about my baby being strong, and I sat there with a dull pain in my tummy (my body was going into shock) riding along at 85 mph clutching my recently deceased pregnant belly. Watching this beautiful sunrise. The most gorgeous sunrise coming up in the cool October morning air.
H was behind us, speeding along in the Jimmy. He'd gone out to get donuts and while he'd gone, his baby had died. To this day he wishes he hadn't gone out for those donuts. To this day, I tell him that he couldn't have done anything even if he'd been there. Donuts had nothing to do with what happened. God was not punishing him for buying pastries.
We reached the hospital and I got out of the car - we'd parked in front of the ER - and in the midst of this beautiful sunrise, walked into the lobby a broken woman - a pregnant failure - someone who'd brought this pregnancy to term only to lose the child. A pitiful, foolish girl who should never have tempted fate. As I walked across to the check in, blood just started pouring out all over the floor. Someone ushered me through doors at the end of the waiting room without even sending me to triage or checking me in (R had called ahead from the car). I was stripped down, many people around: catheterized painfully, had needles stuck in the middle of both arms, an ultrasound and a Doppler failing to show the heartbeat. One painful exam later, my terrified OB announced there was no time for a spinal, and I'd have to be put under general: a mask came over my face and a young man - the anesthesiologist - told me to breathe deeply because the oxygen was good for my baby... Then, all went dark.
That was the journey into the hospital with Josie. We made the same route with Bella...
I'd been up all night long, laboring in various places: the birth ball, the tub. I'd had some blood come out - just a little less than with Josie - but enough to make my heart thud in my chest (though later when we looked at the placenta, there was absolutely no sign of any kind of problem at all) thinking perhaps after 40 weeks and 1 day, I might lose this baby as well...
4am came. I'd been on the telephone to my mother in England and could hear H's alarm going off in the bedroom. He kept switching it off, in denial of what we had to do. I found this cute but also frustrating! Finally, he did get out of bed at 4.15am, slightly grumpily and not really fully aware of the extent of my labor (I was having contractions about 2.5 minutes apart and could not move through them). I think he made coffee, and warmed up the car. Then he helped me with my clothes, which I was having trouble putting on because of the contractions: and we were off, out of the door.
My gallant knight held my hand as I climbed over the small snowdrift at the end of the path he'd carved out to the car. It was hard to walk, dark and there was no-one else around at that time in the morning. The streetlights seemed sleepy even - condensation and ice everywhere. The bank across from us seemed so utterly deserted that I imagined it hadn't been used for years. Basically everything seemed frozen in time, like a town abandoned because of the winter. I felt as though we were the only people alive in our town as I climbed into the passenger seat of the car and buckled up.
We drove off toward the next town and the intersection with the interstate nine miles away. The sky was dark; the snow thick on the ground, blanketing everything like a duvet. We were the only people going anywhere, I thought - though I'm sure there were others around.
Every time a contraction came, I would raise myself off the seat by bracing myself on the door handle and the center console, allowing my body to become limp in the middle so that I could let the contraction flow through me effectively. I remember doing this acutely as we rounded the last turn toward the next town because I had to tilt myself as well!
We sailed through the frozen next town, past the lake in the night. There was no hint of a sunrise this time. Nothing was stirring yet... Just white ice and snow and silence, and the imagined breathing of a thousand souls around us in the darkness, peacefully asleep as we raced through the early morning to get to the place in which we would release new, independent life upon the world.
We turned onto the interstate and I began recalling the same journey with Josie. But this time, we had a living baby, contractions and movement. Bella turning her head from left to right, rooting her way out like a puppy looking for it's mother's milk. I kept repeating to Harry "It's okay, she's moving around, everything is fine" as we drove. He drove over the speed limit - about 80mph I think. I didn't blame him: he worried, and I understood.
We turned off the interstate and onto the road leading into the town where the hospital sat. This time though, the sensation was one of impending relief the closer we got to the hospital - not, like with Josie, impending doom at being told what I knew had already happened. Bella twisted and turned in there and apart from one small thought "what if her moving so much means something is wrong?" I had no worries, just excitement and knowledge that I would soon hear her heartbeat again - something we never heard with Josie.
We drove past the animal hospital and the lake, and the houses all dark. We turned onto the street the hospital was on, and up the hill toward our final destination. Left, into the ER parking lot - except this time, we didn't park, we pulled up next to the entrance where I turned to see a smiling K clutching R's laptop inside the doors, talking to a man. H got out, telling me cheerfully that he was going to find a wheelchair. I waited for the chair and gratefully got in it. The sensation of being pushed along was strange because the last time I'd been in a wheelchair was when we'd gone to HyVee for my Percocet prescription after losing Josie and getting out of the hospital.
Gliding across the lobby, the same route I'd walked...again, strange. Speaking to the receptionist checking me in was interesting: I had to keep stopping for contractions. I kept thinking how stupid it was that they had to do this with a laboring woman at all. Couldn't they do this later?
And that is where the paths separated...
Instead of going into the swinging doors on the left and being rushed into emergency crash surgery as the ghost of Josie's birth had been, the lady behind the desk asked a friendly security man if he could "do them both at the same time" - meaning take me, and a woman I'd shared a room with for double NST's a couple of weeks earlier (who had come for a scheduled cesarean) up to labor and delivery at the same time. He replied to the affirmative, and off we went.
That was when it hit: this other woman and I were going to have real, live babies that day. Instead of medical personnel rushing around me in a prep room, I was having contractions in an elevator with H, another pregnant lady and a cheerful security guard. We were getting off the elevator at the maternity ward level - 3 - and I was being shown into the room furthest away from my previous room (which had been 358) - 308. The layout was completely different. K was parking my silver Dodge in the main hospital parking lot and would be up soon. I was not being cut open under general anesthetic; there was no blood on the floor.
There was a heartbeat on the monitor.
There was movement.
There was life.
It was like waking up from a nightmare that had lasted 15 months. As the sun rose that morning over the view from the window, it called in the very first day of our new daughter's life. It was just as beautiful as the sunrise for Josie, but it's beauty and meaning sat diametrically opposite from the first dawn on October 10th, 2008.
And here are both my daughters, two little human beings; two little souls very alike, but different at the same time. I hope one day everyone will understand that just because a child is gone at birth or before birth, it doesn't make them any different in terms of humanity than another child born alive: both are people, and both are loved equally.
My first daughter, who I love, who left us...
My second daughter, who I love, who has stayed with us...
Always sisters, always held in my arms and in my heart.