I wanted to share my experience bringing Hawksley Storm Henry into the world while I still wasn’t feeling my best. There is something about this idea that I wanted to be able to come back to, to reflect on later when I am recovered. I wanted to share this vulnerability and honesty through writing, while perhaps having a few typos and incoherent thoughts thanks to sleep deprivation and my medication cocktail… and let’s be honest: with a little bit of Mercury Retrograde still rippling around me.
There is nothing else that can propel a person into anonymity like sitting bare-legged in a wheel chair while the cool draft of the vacant hospital hallway tickles your exposed back. When a scrub-clad body does pass, it doesn’t see you and it doesn’t care about who you are, what you’ve done or if you’re worth knowing. Your sallow face and stringy hair act like a mask to hide the real you anyway. I had all kinds of thoughts while I was away from Derek and Hawksley - sitting alone in the bowels of the hospital, completely alone. Waiting for the runner to wheel me back to my room after my midnight emergency scans felt like a tortuous scene in a horror movie. The hallway was never-ending. The overhead sterile lighting was extra ominous.
The labour was easy. Manageable. I’m told I’m very lucky. Baby was born healthy. Perfect. He came in at 6 pounds 9 ounces with a head full of black hair. He took three pushes and some of the most silent intense concentration I’ve ever had to focus on. The room fell away. I kept coaxing myself to “allow” what I was feeling. The labour wasn’t the arduous gory hellish experience I had anticipated. I had a nervous but calm Derek by my side and a great team.
As things progressed, baby continued to stay resiliently happy (a trait from his dad) and mom seemed to spiral out of control. Oxygen wires looped around my nose, doctors poured in with portable X-ray and EKG machines, and the monitor I was attached to continued to show climbing numbers. That was the first instant I felt dread, knowing that a past diagnosis might be creeping its way into my life.
When I first got pregnant, I met with a cardiologist for a condition I have. He OKed me to have a vaginal birth but did warn me that when baby came out, things could unravel quickly due to the trauma labour puts the body in. There wasn’t anything I could do, so I took his warning in stride, and buried it down deep inside me - only releasing partial - selective details to my loved ones.
Once Hawksley was born, we stayed in the hospital for a few days to make sure he was healthy (he was born at 37 weeks) and I had to watch the doctors poke him in his tiny foot every few hours to monitor his blood sugars. It was terrible. He would wail, and his feet were turning black from bruises. They would poke him, and then squeeze his tiny foot to get the blood out while I paced the hallways listening to him howl - desperate for it to be over. I had gestational diabetes during my second and final trimester, and my sugars were so out of control that they needed to make sure Hawksley wasn’t affected by it. He wasn’t of course. He’s resilient (and half Derek).
We weren’t home for very long before I really started not to feel good. When a headache woke me up and had me screaming, Derek took me to emergency - and we left Baby Hawk at home with my mom. He was only a couple days old, and my hormonally distraught state was overwhelmed by leaving him. I don’t think of myself as very maternal, but it is truly fascinating what the body experiences after it creates a human and then releases it from the body it grew in. It attaches to it so hard that it’s actually pretty indescribable.
Tests were performed, and it seemed everyone knew just what to ask me in the way of symptoms. Dread pooled in my stomach as doctors kept predicting what I was feeling. Weakened, stuck on my back, half naked and still healing from giving birth, I felt defeated. I hated myself for bringing Derek back into the hospital after he was so relieved to finally go home, and I was consumed with guilt for leaving Hawksley at home and not in my care. My mom was sending me photos of him at home with her and with each photo I wept. It was so confusing to me - to cry for this little person I didn’t even know.
Heart failure. When they said it, I felt Derek deplete beside me. Emotionally. Visually. His strong silent demeanour was penetrated. It was the first time I thought to myself, “Holy shit. I’m going to finally die from this and leave Derek with a newborn. I’ll never know Baby Hawk, and Derek will have to do everything alone.” I nodded to the doctors, and let them wheel me back onto the floor where I recovered from delivery. I was immediately attached to all kinds of meds meant to drain the fluid around my heart and pooling in my lungs. I was so swollen nothing fit me, and I laid floppily in bed half draped in the garb from the hospital.
If this was it - it couldn’t be it, could it? Not after everything… - I needed my baby. I sent a fissured Derek away to go get the baby, pack his first diaper bag, load up the baby alone for the first time, and bring me a few cozy things. And I asked for my mom. Kids always want their mom when they’re hurting, upset or scared. And since mine is a fortress, I wanted her strength around me.
While I waited for them, I cried and cried and cried. My sterile room had no personality, no life; only a beeping machine that made me feel sixteen again, dripping some sort of venom into my arm. Chemo or not, I felt like a child. Babies having babies. We're all just children - somebody's child. I felt forced to relive the nights I spent alone, pondering my young life and wondering if I would die. I knew I wouldn’t then. I was too pissed off and determined. But now was different. I felt tired. I felt sore. I ached in places I didn’t know I could ache. I thought my chest might crumble and cave in on top of me, revealing the stone heart I’ve been hiding for all these years. But I was more scared for Derek, my love, then for me. I felt so guilty that he had to stand by my side.
When he and Baby Hawk finally walked into the room I erupted into Derek’s arms. It had been the longest hour of my life. His face was strained, but he held my puffy sore body while Hawksley watched us from his carseat. I was comforted by the smell of him that I knew so well, the feeling of his arms around me - even the bristle of his cheek against mine. He handed me the baby, and I tried to memorize this new smell and feeling that this little person gave me in case I would never experience it again.
Since the fluids went vascular, priority was draining them. I grew stable. I de-puffed. I slept. Derek changed diapers; gave bottles. Alone. More guilt. I was sent home with a pharmacy of medications to take - both me and Derek loading our baby into the car with trepidation. Nervous. Scared.
A week later, we’re still moving cautiously, counting pills and trying to get to know our baby. Our black-haired prince who lost his belly button early. Who eats twice as much as he’s recommended. Who sleeps through his nights. Who scowls when he disapproves of our silliness. Who always sneezes twice. Who wears his dad’s crinkle eyes perfectly.
Motherhood is an adjustment that I don’t think I was prepared for - if anyone can be prepared for it. I feel smaller, more fragile. But more whole and certain. I feel like myself again - something pregnancy took away. And while my thoughts and clarity might still be cloudy from medicine or lack of sleep, I feel determined that my health will no longer be this defining hindrance that has insatiable power over me. I’m over it. I can curl up on the couch again, (not sprawl) staring out at our lilacs, and think about all the things I’m scared to think about. I look at Derek differently, though always infatuated with him, I’m more comforted by him now than I am by a parent. Even if a child always wants her mom.
I feel like my earth journey revolves around my heart. Physically; emotionally. Whether it is stone, or pink and full. Whether it will die prematurely or overcome its hardships and thrive. Whether it will learn to love me just as much as it loves Derek. Hawksley. Rogue. I always wonder if we come into this life with a particular lesson. One that shows itself in multiple ways over multiple years. If it’s one long life lesson that we hopefully understand while we lay on our deathbeds trying to see through the light at the end of the tunnel. If history repeats itself. If we are ever conscious of what our lesson “is” - its theme; how it feels; how it smells; what it looks like; who’s involved; how it hinders us; what we need to acknowledge in ourselves to understand it.
MR is a time to re-flect. Re-visit. Re-learn. I didn’t anticipate to have to do the work so intensely. But I am grateful for its lesson. I mean look at these two.