Dylan will be 13 years old on September 11. This is a memory of his birth. We are so happy he is here.
The wait is almost over. Dr. Hofstrand asks the nurses to page my husband in the cafeteria where he has gone for breakfast.
They induced labor awhile ago and finally it is time to push.
Dr. Hoftrand is in the room with my mother in law, Erma. At my last visit, Dr. Hoftrand told me there would be a surgeon on call today in case the baby needed an emergency shunt to drain the water from his head. She also reassured me once again that the active movement of the baby the last few weeks usually indicated good brain development.
Erma and the doctor keep eyeing each other from across my bed as the contractions start to move closer together.
“Where do I know you?” Erma says. She is smiling and the corner of her eyes appear to curl upwards. There is something mischievous in her smile that I cannot place.
My doctor looks back at her and smiles in that same childish, secretive way.
“Perkins,” they both say together.
I learn then that they both waitressed together at the Perkins in White Bear Lake. Attention and conversation turns away from me now but carries on across my bed about various customers and moments leaving them laughing uncontrollably at times.
I am left to my own thoughts.
I have been waiting all summer for this day. The arrival of my second son Dylan should have been one of excitement but instead was a stormy mixture of fear, uncertainty and hope.
The pregnancy had not been easy. After three previous miscarriages, I became pregnant again only to believe I was miscarrying again but this time while I was in Mexico. No one knew I was pregnant yet. I was close to that magical twelve week mark. Was I being punished? Was it because I climbed Chichen Itza? What kind of doctor would I find here? Luckily I didn’t have to find out. It was a false alarm.
Months later a series of ultrasounds revealed that the baby’s head was growing beyond the normal range. The ultrasound doctor diagnosed this as hydrocephalous: water on the brain. He escorted us to a room where a genetic counselor told us that our baby would most likely be mentally retarded. And in a voice that sounded almost cheerful she asked, “Would you like to know which states allowed abortions at seven months?”
After the diagnosis, I stood in the parking lot of Fairview Hospital digesting the news. I had neither words nor tears. My gaze fixated on the revolving door for the Fairview Amputee and Gait Training Program across the street. Was this something our marriage could survive? Was it wise to try to have another baby at 38? Why didn’t I give up like my friend Teresa who was the same age and miscarried once? Was this some new challenge that would open new doors? Meanwhile I remember staring at those revolving doors wishing I would see a veteran hop out without a leg, something to stop me from feeling sorry for myself.
Shortly after the diagnosis, I was put on bed rest. Once I went into false labor while Bill was at a scouting camp in Wisconsin. Hearing the news he left the camp in Wisconsin and raced for home escorted by the state patrol who asked him to slow it down just a bit. It was a false alarm and by the time he arrived at the hospital I left to go eat breakfast.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, I gave up on sleeping in bed and instead slept sitting up in a recliner (which only helped a little). From the living room window, I watched as summer grew tired of itself and September rolled in. The trees shook their worn leaves off and the wind tossed them around the dusty streets like a rotten salad. The crickets grew louder each evening and the sun slept in later each morning. Still the time this would all end seemed so far away like watching an all-day rain from your window, rain drops pelting the side of your window and you keep thinking when will it stop?
This was also the first year I missed the State Fair and I watched it on the television feeling depressed until the State Fair came to me. After work, Bill raced around the fairgrounds in 90 degree heat, gathering a tray of my favorite fair food. It was a good distraction.
Bill arrives back in the room in time for me to start pushing. There will be jokes later about Dylan interrupting his breakfast but for now there is only tense anticipation of his arrival and his condition.
The pushing is difficult and nothing seems to be happening. The doctor is at the end of the bed coaching me to keep going.
I tell myself it is almost over. I push but I am exhausted.
“Well, I have never seen this before,” the Dr. says abruptly. “He is actually trying to go back in. Unbelievable!”
No one can believe this either and there is a momentary silence in the room followed by a chuckle by Bill in the corner.
But I keep telling myself the wait is almost over; I give another push and tell myself it is almost over. And I will know.