Our second little girl joined this noisy world completely silent. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and her face was blue. My husband caught only a glimpse of her before she was whisked away to a small table in the birthing room. I didn’t see her at all those first few minutes, and during that time, my mind played tricks on me.
My baby’s heart rate dropped during delivery and a nurse abruptly called for the doctor. Multiple nurses began working the room with urgency. The doctor arrived quickly and disappeared to a stool on the other side of my gigantic belly. Additional equipment was rolled into the room and it was all business and controlled calm. My focus was on pushing and little else. I compartmentalized what I didn’t understand, leaving it up to the professionals. We all had our own jobs to do in that moment and I was keenly aware of mine.
I pushed with everything I had and felt the pressure on my lungs lift as my daughter shot her way into the world. They didn’t hand her to me like they had with my first baby. I heard no cry like I had with my first baby. They moved her out of my line of sight to a table across the room. The doctor and nurses were around the baby; there was no chit-chat, only commands for medical devices.
One of my first thoughts was feeling thankful I was able to take a full breath again, my second thought was that my baby hadn’t done the same. Something happened in that moment that can only be described as a primal shift. I shivered and my mind began to move in slow motion. I didn’t cry. I didn’t emote a reaction of any kind. I closed my eyes and fell into a micro-sleep.
I briefly woke up with a jolt and thought about how today was her birthday. It was my birthday too. Not figuratively – I gave birth to her the same day my mother gave birth to me. This coincidence felt reassuring, like a deliberate master plan I knew nothing about and I found this comforting. I felt a nurse’s gaze but I was too tired to know why. My eyes closed a second time.
I had only a half-potent epidural that didn’t do the job so luckily my labor was not very long. I was tired from pushing, but, my exhaustion came from something else. I was unequipped to deal with the possibility my child wasn’t going to survive and this was the most exhausting thing of all. In my confusion, I didn’t cope at all. I checked completely out.
I woke a second time to the nurse holding my swaddled newborn over my right ear. She asked if I wanted to hold her. I tried to look up to see her, but couldn’t. I said, “not yet, give me a minute.” I was confused. My husband came over and lovingly gazed at me with a smile. He had no idea I thought we had lost our child. He looked up at the nurse and smiled and told me, “she is beautiful.”
I turned again and an inch away from my nose was the sweetest smelling warm head. She smelled like her sister when she was born. She shared a sweet cry. My arms abruptly lifted to greet her and I was handed my perfectly healthy, adorable and polite little miss for the first time. A switch in my brain turned back on.
The nurse studied me to make sure I was alright. Who could blame her? She didn’t know why I denied my baby and I couldn’t verbalize what I had experienced. I was given fluids and started feeling better almost immediately. My husband took her out to meet the family and my fog slowly lifted. The nurse still kept a close eye on me.
My baby’s time without oxygen has had zero impact on her development. Today she’s my happy, energetic sidekick with a cheeky sense of humor. She is able to wrap even the sternest curmudgeon around her little finger. My blonde charmer, my mini-me completes our family of four.
The guilt of my first reaction to her sticks with me. I share this because I believe it’s a very natural reaction, under odd circumstances. It’s a reaction we rarely talk about, but should. Nature is a fascinating force.