Saturday, March 10, 2012

the end: a beginning

A long time ago I decided I wanted to be a mother. I've been a lot of things since then, but in the back of my mind every road led back to the path of having my own family. I'm a planner, so everything had to be in place before I called my children down from the hovering ethos. I made sure my wild oats were sown, I made sure my husband and I had occupations conducive to family life. I made sure we had enough of everything and that my children would know that we planned for them and desperately wanted them.

And then we waited.

In the shadows of those long scary years, we saw our babies beckoning us from a distance, but it was so hard to keep going. To keep hoping. We'd catch glimpses of them, their heartbeats blinking on the ultrasound. Their branches under my belly. But just as we cupped our hands around them like a firefly, they'd disappear.

Who were these interlopers? What was I doing wrong that made them disappear just as we sighted them?

We waited.

We waited for test results, for levels to drop, for levels to rise, for hearts to beat, for cycles to start. We waited to wait for two weeks only to have to wait again. To hurry up and wait.

And then there was Jonah.

Like he'd always been there. His tiny heart under my heart. If I hadn't so meticulously recorded his conception I almost wouldn't believe it. I knew the second he came down that he would be our son. I wrote about it in this very blog. I dreamed about him. He is everything we could have hoped for and worth everything it took to find him.

Jonah's birth, like his conception was fraught with close calls and near misses and lots of waiting. I was due on 12/11, but I knew he'd keep us sitting on our hands as long as we let him. At 40 weeks my midwifery group, concerned with my lagging fundal height, ordered an ultrasound. I will forever regret getting it, but knew at the time we had to. Immediately afterwards they told me they suspected IUGR and wanted to induce right away. So we gave up our dreams of a peaceful waterbirth at a birth center and checked into the hospital. After 30 hours of unnecessary, excruciatingly cascading interventions, I reached between my legs and helped my son to his place in the world.

There is no feeling like that moment.

When you're describing a mural painted along the walls of a long hallway, where do you start? So much of each image relies on the entire scene to make sense, and trying to describe any part of it would ultimately fall short because it has no real beginning to anchor it. For me, that's what those first few moments with my son were like. Just when I wanted to give up, just when i felt myself ending, I felt him beginning.

They helped him up to my chest and he looked at me with these huge, clear, open eyes. There is no way to describe love like that without a cliche.

"Hi Jonah" I said. And he looked at me like he understood. Like he'd been waiting for me too.

Sometimes in coping with the nightmare of my labor, or the hyperbilirubin anema that kept him in the NICU for two days after that, in a box under UV lights instead of being in my arms, I go back to that first moment and lose myself in the little details. Like a mural, there are different places to begin and end, details to flesh out and linger over. His perfect tiny body on mine. Pulling him to my breast that first time... his shock of bright hair... his little fingers holding on to me for dear life.

There is nothing like becoming a mother. I know that a year ago those words would have broken my heart because there's nothing like *not* becoming a mother either. But no matter how long your road is, how hard and how lonely, every single step is worth it. Every glimpse of the babies that you never get to meet will be perfect in its own exquisitely painful way when you meet the baby you spent all that time finding.

Sometimes in an ocean of beginnings and endings its hard to tell where something opens and where it closes. Sometimes there is space in between and sometimes they crash into each other like waves. Sometimes what you think is an ending is actually a beginning. Sometimes the beginning you dreamt of and planned for never materializes and sometimes the ending comes too soon.

I wanted to write about love and how it doesn't have an ending or a beginning; how mourning the babies we lost doesn't end where finding our son begins. Our journey is ongoing.

A long time ago I decided I wanted to be a mother. We looked out into the abyss and jumped. We knew we were saying goodbye to a lot of things, but we had no idea how much we had to gain. We closed our eyes and hoped for the best.

It was a beginning and not an ending