Baby daddy: take two

I was scared of comparisons

This second time around.

A second baby,

With a second father,

A second husband.

A man who’s done it all before.

I would ask him questions

About the pregnancies and

Births of his two first kids.

A lot of it he said he didn’t remember.

But some things he’d describe:

He was a long-haired 21-year-old

Making big decisions,

Trying to do the right thing.

He said after his daughter was born—

The only Packers game he’d missed

Since he started watching football—

He came out in the waiting room

Where his parents were,

Tried to tell them it was a girl,

Started sobbing.

This time around,

Three months pregnant,

Touring the L&D ward at Regions Hospital

Joe started telling me about

How nice

The hospital was where his

Kids were born:

Wood floors,

Homey furniture,

Decent food.

Comfortable pillows.

Tears gathered in my eyes and

I snapped at him:

“That hospital isn’t covered by our insurance.”

He looked at me in surprise.

“You keep comparing.

I’m scared of you comparing,”

I said.

“But I’m not comparing,”

He said, mystified.

“It just feels like you are,”

I said, crying a little,

I’m sure not the first

Expectant mom to

Cry during the tour of the

L&D ward.

“Okay, I’m sorry,”

He said,

Ginger with me.

I wasn’t an emotional wreck during pregnancy,

But there were a couple topics that got me flared up,

And “comparison” was one of them.

This was a man whose

First wife heroically gave birth

Twice

With no pain killers.

With my first son,

I had asked for every pain killer they had:

Gas,

Local topical anesthetic,

Epidural.

I wanted to try for

“Natural”

This time around,

But what if I couldn’t make it without

Pain killers,

And Joe would compare

This birth

To his older kids’ births,

And I would fall short?

As it turned out,

I did have Rocky with no pain killers

In a steadily progressing,

Eight-hour labor with

Twenty minutes of pushing.

(It’s funny to think of me

Worrying that I would be

Concerned with comparisons

During labor and delivery;

I had forgotten how completely

Consuming

The process of giving birth is.)

I didn’t dream

As a little girl

Of having

Two

Baby’s daddies

And a husband with

Private memories of the

Births of his first children

That I’m not a part of.

But now that Rocky’s born

The comparisons aren’t as scary.

The story’s been amended.

The tension of pregnancy

Released.

Life is good.

Life is peaceful.

Our family has taken its shape:

Yours,

Mine and

Ours.

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My big childbirth fear

Our doula perches on the edge of the

Chair in our living room.

She has short sandy hair,

No make-up.

I am cuter than she is,

Which I hadn’t realized was important

But is.

You don’t want a cute doula.

“I think I’m going to sit on the floor,”

She says, and slides off the chair into

Lotus position.

She pulls papers and notebooks out of her

Whole Foods bag and

Fans them in a semi-circle around her.

The rug she is sitting on

Needs a good vacuum,

And some spot remover.

She folds her freckled, braceleted hands in her lap and

Smiles up at us.

“So,” she says.

“Let’s talk about your

Fears.”

Ah yes.

My fears.

The whole point of this meeting.

I’m lucky. My fears don’t consist of

Fistula,

Rupture,

Hemorrhage,

Obstruction.

I’m not afraid of dying,

Or of days in agony,

Or crippling lifelong injury.

But I do have fears.

“Okay, so,

Remember I told you my

Mother died in January?

Of Alzheimer’s?

Well,

I haven’t really been that

Upset

About it.

I haven’t been crying.”

I look at Joe for confirmation of my stoicism,

And he nods.

“I don’t know why.

I feel weird about it.

Like, have I been too busy to grieve?

Or was it that she was sick for so long

I’ve done a lot of the grieving already?

I don’t know.

But here’s my fear:

That in the rush of emotion after the baby’s born,

In those first seconds,

The grief will

Suddenly

Surface,

Or be unleashed.”

Our doula is nodding,

Jotting in a notebook

Labeled with my name.

I fall silent,

Imagining it:

A surge of bitter,

Unacknowledged emotion,

Having its moment

Then and there

In the delivery room.

Ruining it.

Ruining the birth.

I hate this shit.

Grief.

“That makes so much sense,”

Our doula says, writing something,

Then looking up at me.

“And I’m so sorry about your mom.”

We talk for awhile,

And as she’s leaving,

Our doula hugs me and

Thanks me for telling her about my mother.

“I think your mom will come up during the birth,”

She says.

“I think it will happen.”

A few days later,

Something happens:

At my mom’s funeral in January,

I had asked my dad for her wedding ring.

I wanted to wear it for a while.

That was three months ago,

And he just remembered to give it to me

That week

After our meeting with the doula.

We were having lunch,

And he pulled the small cardboard box out of his pocket.

Presented it to me.

My mom’s ring.

“I have it now,”

I tell our doula on the phone.

“I’m going to wear it in the delivery room.

She’ll be

There,

Sort of.”

I am talking excitedly

Because the fear-dread is gone.

If there’s grief,

There’s grief.

I’ll let it in the room

And give it a symbol–

The ring–

And some

Words,

Tell my husband and our doula

I’m thinking about my mom.

Acknowledge the grief.

“What a fabulous idea,”

Our doula says.

“I love it.”

I don’t love it,

But I’m peaceful with it.

And that’s more important.