I didn’t think I’d be writing the “Introducing Madeline Mae” blog until two weeks from now, but as life goes sometimes…suddenly here we are.
Her arrival was fraught with high drama and all the trappings of movie cliché: a fast-onset labor brought on by spicy Mexican food and the luring beams of a Texas full moon. We had friends staying with us Friday and Saturday nights; I had gone to Sams. Then — like movie characters fast-forwarded on VHS — we were in the car at 5:37 a.m., me breathing through monster contractions, our car galumphing over speed bumps the size of Mount Kilimanjaro, missing all the turns into the labyrinth that is Harris Methodist. I was trying to scarf down a banana and NutriGrain bar in the midst of it all, knowing the evil nurses wouldn’t feed me again until I had the baby, which was a good 16 hours later the last time this show hit the road. I think the low point was contraction #469: I had a half-chewed bite of banana in my mouth and Gordon hit the railroad crossing at Park Place and 8th Avenue going about 800 miles an hour. It was an explosion of misery; like Satan himself had made a biological weapon with his red, black-fingernailed hands, and had dropped it into my gut like a grenade. Gordon endured the shrapnel which was me yelling out something very un-ladylike. They wheeled me mid-contraction past all the blurry-eyed people waiting in the purgatory of the Emergency Room. I was the one interesting spectacle to break up their monotonous broken bones and ho-hum lacerations. Having a baby makes you the queen of any ER (which is quite a pitiful, not-so-regal domain). Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. And 9 hours later, we were holding our daughter.
My doctor announced to me Friday that I would not be making it to the sacred 40-week mark, which seemed a cruel and unusual bit of tantalizing information to give someone so ready to burst. I didn’t clear my calendar because I knew that doing so would almost guarantee she would come a week late. So we had our friends in from out of town and I planned to finish up some work responsibilities on Monday, not to mention host a party for my work friends on the following Friday. (The rental company called me at the hospital to confirm my order.) Denial is a funny thing.
When I finally decided at 5:00 a.m. that perhaps it would not be optimal to give birth in our sleigh bed, we made the sheepish call to our parents and tiptoed down the stairs to evict our friends. My parents were actually out of town and had to be summoned for an early-morning NASCAR event, namely my mom driving really fast (which for her is like 75) to Fort Worth from Paris, TX. My mother-in-law showed up to our house in her cutest pajamas to stay with Drew until he woke up. And our friends, God bless them, stripped their sheets and cleaned the kitchen, and made a quiet exit.
I will spare you some of the more graphic (read: carnage) details of the birth experience, but perhaps the most worrisome point, at least for me, was overhearing a nurse tell another nurse that I had “some funky nerve thing” that was preventing my epidural from totally working. Yes, that’s what she said. A funky nerve thing. Very medical terminology, IF YOU LIVE IN THE YEAR 1604 AND USE 21st CENTURY SLANG. So while I was grateful that 65% of the pain had been erased, there was still that pesky 35% of my back and abdomen that felt like a hunting knife was being stabbed and twisted in by — you guessed it — Satan himself. This does give a girl incentive, however. When time came to push, I drew in all the reserves of every enchilada and tablespoon of salsa from my last fateful meal at Esperanza’s under the full moon, and pushed Madeline out in 10 minutes.
She was hot and pink and roaring ferociously — a beautiful, speechless moment — weighing 6.6 pounds and stretching to 19 inches long. This blog, incidentally, is number 66 for me. Creeped out? Me too.
When we were discharged and finally in the car heading home, the world looked so beautiful and sad all at the same time. I noticed a homeless man walking with his backpack, a man who had once been someone’s treasured infant. But then there were the grins of two elderly women who felt compelled to approach Madeline and me as we waited for Gordon to pick us up at the Hospital entrance. The generosity and joy of strangers towards babies is truly a mark of humanity. We feel like this is our baby too, even if we will never see it again.
We got in the car and drove back up 8th Avenue, the 4 o’clock sun heating the dashboard. “I’m amazed at the amount of non-complaining you did,” observed Gordon, as if we had only spent a hot day at Six Flags.
“That’s a double negative,” I said automatically, mindlessly, like the dorky editor I am, and I’m not even sure if that was correct. (Vicodin has carried on many a conversation in my place. As a favor to me, really.)
“You did great,” he said.
He squeezed my hand.
We both felt like we had just been on board an airplane for 48 hours, breathing in the cold, dry recycled air, and had arrived in a new country where everything looked and smelled the same as our old country and city and street, but was completely and utterly a different planet all together. Birth is like death: the world is never quite the same afterwards because the difference of a single human life really makes all the difference.
So we’re back home. My mom is with us. I have rediscovered the strength in taking in the day moment-by-moment like small sips of expensive wine. When a nuclear warhead has detonated on your schedule, the seconds and hours afterwards feel like a strange new dimension. I am almost like an infant myself, seeing things not through the lens of a schedule or a to-do list, but as a traveler on a new planet discovering its charms and dangers for the very first time.
And then there are the Twins. Did you know when you give birth to a baby, or even to twins, that you also acquire Twins? All you breastfeeding mothers out there know what I mean, especially come Day 3 of newborndom. Just when you thought one entity had left your body, you find two others vying for all your attention, nutrition and TLC. I worry I will wake up and all I will be IS the Twins and I don’t think that would fair very well for you, dear reader, because I’ve never seen two boobs type a blog.
Well. Enough about that.
More about Madeline. She’s perfect. And that’s all the description you really need. She has a head of fine black hair, rich olive skin, and a very distinctive little mouth with full lips and arched eyebrows. Basically, she looks nothing like me. She’s just about as lovely as I’ve ever seen, and even the infant nurse had to turn her eyes away for fear of being compelled to bear more children; children that would doubtless not be as beautiful as our Maddie. She is quiet and small and brings with her all the charms of all the poetry in the world.
To sum up the way I feel, I will quote the line I wrote about Drew in my journal after seeing his face for the very first time, because it’s true with Madeline as well:
“The thought of you carries me to Himalayan heights and Narnian sunrises and highways of sugar stars.”