Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Birth of a Notion - Part 1

When Max and I got married we knew we wanted children.  I had come from a big Irish Catholic family with five kids and he was an only child.   He knew the stories about me about growing up:  seven people in a 22 foot Holiday Rambler trailer parked on Fort Myers Beach managing not to kill each other during the hot Florida summers.  The time my mom and sisters took a cruise to the Bahamas.  The image of my sister Sharon and I sitting my Dad's lap and saying at the same time - "Aren't you glad we married you?"  For the both of us, it seemed like having a family was part and parcel of saying "I do."   When we decided to get engaged and did our pre-martial surveys (which you had to do before you got married at St. Louis Catholic Church) our compatibility was 90% which was very high.   When we did our conference with Father Fetcher, Max mentioned that that he wanted to have six children which was news to me.  I was thinking more around three - but the good news was that we both wanted kids - the number was negotiable. 

We had been married for about three years and had dealt with Hurricane Andrew and the death of both of Max's parents when we decided to get pregnant.   Our marriage had been tested any number of times and yet there was no doubt in my mind that this was the man that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.   We were ready to welcome a third person into our family - someone who would bring light  to two people who already knew how to keep love alive even under the most trying circumstances.   I never really worried about whether I would get pregnant.  My mother was pregnant seven times and had five kids and both of my sisters got pregnant without a problem.    Interestingly enough, our favorite show "Mad About You" had Jamie Buckmann trying to get pregnant at the same time.   I bore a pretty good resemblance to Helen Hunt and seeing her struggle each week trying to get to pregnant made me wonder if it would go the same way for me.  

The first month we tried it seemed like it would be pretty easy.  Fertility seemed to run in my family.  In addition to the two children each of my sisters had, my brothers both had four kids.   My period was late that month and I was sure I was pregnant.   I brought two pregnancy kits just to be sure.   I peed with a certain resolve in the morning hoping that the strength of my urine would give me the result I wanted.   The pregnancy tests were negative that month and the next month.    Jamie Buckmann was having the same problem and I began to worry that getting pregnant might not be the slam dunk I hoped it would be (no pun intended).    I had been taking pre-natal vitamins for six months and had given up caffeine which I heard could interfere with fertility -  so there I was all full of extra vitamins and without a Diet coke or a colada of Cuban coffee in sight which just made me grumpy.  

When it was coming up on my third cycle and two months of trying - I couldn't take it any longer.  I didn't want to have another month of disappointment so I told Max we could go to the drug store and get a pregnancy test and a Diet Coke.    That way it was a win/win - if I was pregnant, we'd celebrate and if I wasn't I'd have the caffinated diet soda I'd been jonsing for.   We walked to the mall from our apartment.    Max decided to wait outside while I got the tests.    A little toddler came up to Max, put his hand on his knee, pointed and hummed while shaking his head.    He said nothing else and his mother called him back over to him.   Max knew at that point I was pregnant - but let me pee into a cup anyway just to get that second opinion and probably to see if I could do it.   That night we knew that Amber was on her way. 

My pregnancy rolled along nicely.   No complications - no need to call the doctor.   I had my pregnancy books and "What to Expect When You're Expecting" at my bedside and another copy at the office.    I used to watch "ER" around that time but after the episode when a pregnant women died of very high blood pressure I decided to stop watching right then and there (it didn't matter how hot George Clooney was).   My doctor marveled that I was only one of a few of his patients who didn't call him hysterical after that episode.  

Of course there were awkward pregnancy moments, like when I would misjudge my fetal girth and knock over displays in the grocery store.  It got to the point where Publix stockmen would follow me around and get me whatever I needed to keep me from pushing over  another carefully arranged display of Little Friskies.    As my stomach continued to get bigger, my coworkers would stop mid conversation watch my belly as it would shift from side to side as Amber's butt tried to find a comfortable place to rest in uteral - her once roomy mansion in the first trimester was becoming a broom closet in the final weeks.  

We went to pre-natal classes, breast feeding classes (which at that point is all theory until you have a real baby and the milk-filled boobs to really get the hang of it), baby proofing classes and delivery classes.   I had read at least four books on the subject so I should have had everything in place by the time my due date was supposed to arrive.   However, as the big day drew closer, I kept putting work before packing the all important suitcase.   The nursery was done, the baby showers had been completed (one just a few days before I delivered) but still it was surreal to think that we'd have a baby in the house.   I knew she was in there - I just couldn't really conceive of her ever coming out.   I was due on July 1st and it was June 23rd, which meant I had at least three more weeks since no woman in my family - not my mother, two sisters, aunts or cousins had ever delivered less than two weeks late.  I figured I still had time.   That night I was going to pack my bag and the bag of the little to-be but decided to work on some volunteer applications for Children's Home Society.   It was a Sunday night and I really had to get the applications processed so that I could do the volunteer orientation later that week.   At that point and time, work seemed way too important.   I was up until after midnight and then went to bed -- to our full size mattress which me with my 42 inch waist and my 6'3" husband Max all shared.    In my third trimester, I would try to spoon with Max only to have him say, "Bear, I'm getting kicked in the back."   Nighttime was the right time for a womb party as far as Amber was concerned. 

I went to bed, and woke up a few hours later feeling some wetness around my legs and nightgown.    I got up wondering if my water had broken only to see that it was blood.  Not just a few drops, but enough for a Friday the 13th movie.   I tried to stay calm and was really pissed that I had not packed.  "Max," I yelled as calmly as I could, "We have to go to the hospital - I'm bleeding!"  Max woke up and looked at my side of the bed and knew immediately that something was very wrong.   He got my OB-GYN on the phone and he told us to go to Doctor's Hospital.   I was not in pain, I was just very scared.  Max tried to help me pack and at that point I was not thinking clearly and told him to pack a hair dryer and make-up before anything else (because at a time like this - good hair was really important).  He told me to change, get in the car and he'd come back later to pack.    We got to the hospital and had tests run.  The best that anyone could figure is that I had a biopsy years before and when my cervix started to dilate, the biopsy opened over a blood vessel.  The bleeding was all external - the baby was fine.   My doctor decided to induce that night anyway-  a week early so that we could make sure that Amber was alright.    I began to panic - I was sure I had another three weeks - all the women in my family did and I still had so much to do. 

I tried to beg off painkillers as long as I could until a nurse told me that "We don't give medals for natural birth" and having something to take the would feel good.   I decided to go with an epidural and had the weird sensation of not having any feeling from the mid-back down.   At that point, I was as floppy as a rag doll and around 3:05 p.m. I started to push even though I couldn't feel anything.    At 3:26 p.m. on June 24, 1996, Amber Rose Grimm took her first breath and at the same time I felt like I had broken through the surface of the water and was taking my first breath too - as a mother.  They handed me this perfect little infant and the reality of being a mom still had not hit me yet.   How could something so amazing come out of my body?   How did Max and I manage to make something so miraculous?   Why had I not given myself a pedicure because for hours I had nothing to do but stare at my nasty chipped toenails?  

The next day, we went home as a family - this tiny stranger, Max and I.   The reality of being a mom set in which included the sleepless nights and the incredibly large lactating boobs that would make a Vegas show girl jealous (yes, there is an upside to breast feeding).  The old perception that I was only responsible for myself was gone forever when I first held my baby girl and let her wrap her little fingers around my pinky.   I had broken through the surface and began to live anew.   Motherhood was no longer a theory or concept anymore - it was real.   June 24th was the birth of that notion.