The other day, someone asked me about Katie's birth.
"Oh, it was certainly not without drama, that's for sure!" I said with a little laugh, hoping I would not have to elaborate.
"But what happened after she was born? You know, when you had to go back to the hospital?" she asked.
It was as if a scar - say, the one on my left knee from the time I skidded across the library parking lot on my brand new bike in Girdwood, Alaska, when I was 10 years old. The one that left a pale, gray scar where a piece of gravel never did make its way out. It was as if a well-healed and long-forgotten wound had been opened, made fresh again with the memories that I'd tucked away because I wanted to forget them.
Things happen for a reason.
We were lucky that we even had a chance to bring Katie into this world, although at the time it was impossible to process that. Her birth came on the eve of an ultrasound to "check the size of the baby." Next thing I knew terms I did not understand were being discussed, instructions were relayed and reservations in the labor and delivery unit at the nearby hospital were cemented. Phone calls and arrangements were handled by family, because that's what families do. They handle things.
And just after 9 o'clock that night, after a cooler arrived with the special blood I'd need to get through the c-section, that little girl, my little girl, entered this world and she was perfect, absolutely perfect, not a thing out of place, not a blemish nor anything wrong with her, despite the fears.
And I'm glad I didn't know. I'm glad I didn't find out that I had mutant blood with an antigen that attacks the unborn and worsens with each pregnancy. I'm glad I didn't know. I'm thankful that the doctors didn't find this with my first pregnancy because the risks of carrying another baby after knowing would have been too great and I would have chosen against it.
I would have never had Wyatt and Katie.
They say things happen for a reason.
When I left the hospital after my mandatory 3-day stay, I had feet the size of loaves of bread. "Fred Flintstone feet," we called them. They were actually really comical in appearance. I couldn't even get them into slippers...so swollen were they. My discharge nurse was a "floater," unfamiliar with the practices of discharging patients, unfamiliar with much of anything to do with obstetrics but she discharged me nonetheless. Sent me home with my baby and my Fred Flintstone feet and said congratulations! Enjoy your baby and make sure you rest.
That was a Sunday.
I was back in the hospital on Tuesday morning. Blood pressure you would not believe, plans to be hooked up to a little thing called magnesium to keep it under control, to keep me from "stroking out." Postpartum eclapmsia. Three cases at this particular hospital in one month! More than they'd ever seen, all different, all presenting uniquely. Mine, thank God, was the least worrisome, only swelling in extremities, unlike my fellow sufferers (one of whom was a friend) who had swelling in the trunk area and the other in her brain, the worst kind of all.
Special meetings were held for the doctors. Katie went to her first official check up with the pediatrician without me. I lay hooked up to the magnesium, in a fog, sweating whatever toxin is released from blood pressure that causes your nurse to come in and check your reflexes every 20 minutes before giving you another sleeping pill and doing it all over again...for five days.
Fog. Blur. I don't remember much of the during. All I know is that she was there with me. They were there with me. My mom brushed my hair and tried to assure me that the boys were fine. Brett kept me calm. Katie kept me there. She sustained me. She, in her brand new - because she was our first girl and certainly would not need her brother's old hand-me-down sleepers but new, pink ones of her own, sleepers with the little bows and the teeny tiny flowers, she kept me.
And I tucked this memory away because - because I fear I don't have much of it. I don't own that memory like I do the days after my other children were born. It is unclear, messy, hazy. I don't have it.
But, I am certain of one thing.
That feeling, the one of being safe, being protected, being kept, I do have that. When I inhale all that is her, when I snuggle in close, so close I don't want to let her go even though I know I should. When she tip toes into my bed at night and I'm not upset but rather glad to see her because it was as if I wasn't really able to sleep without her right there by my side anyway. When she tucks her toes under my knee, to keep them warm. When she makes sure I am watching, as she does something really important and spectacular, like hit a baseball off a tee...
I am certain of all that.
And then I know, I haven't really tucked those memories away for good, they are right here with me - when I look at her, or the boys, and I realize that yes, everything does happen for a reason, and I haven't tucked anything away after all.
*Originally posted in March, 2009.