The end of innocence

standard May 31, 2013 Leave a response

I still remember how I felt the day before C was born. I was one day past my due date and feeling really full of myself. (And of baby, but mostly just myself.)

My body and I had aced pregnancy. We’d gotten knocked up almost instantly. We’d managed a healthy, pretty much ideal gestation period, only marred by a testy sciatic nerve. My breasts had plumped up perfectly, ready to take on a new, significantly more useful and important, role. And here we were, my body and I, having fully made it to the point my doctor had warned us we might not reach, the end of work obligations and almost the end of M’s first year of Law School finals.

Pretty darn full of myself and pretty invincible.

It didn’t help that we, my body and I, managed exactly what we’d told the doctor we would do. No labor until M was done with finals completely, two days past our due date.

I still remember sitting on the couch, waiting for him to get home from school, feeling so in control, feeling like everything was happening just the way it was meant to happen. Like nothing would or could go wrong.

24 hours after M put down his pencil I was laying in a hospital bed hearing the doctor tell us that she was going to have to perform a c-section.

I’d lain in that bed all day waxing poetic about the women in the field who simply squatted down and gave birth to their children before getting back to work. This whole labor thing seemed just so… natural… so elemental… so within my grasp, me, who wasn’t in a field, who didn’t have to get right back up to get back to work.

I rambled so much about these poor field women that at one point the doctor threatened to walk out on me if I mentioned them one. more. time.

But I was high on the feeling that I was doing something countless women had done before me. High on the feeling that my body knew exactly what to do and was doing it exactly the way it was supposed to.

You know, until it didn’t. Until the baby’s head didn’t fit through my pelvis. Until labor stopped progressing. Until the doctor told me she’d have to cut  me open to get my baby out. And later, until my breasts refused to do the job they’d prepped for with such unrestrained ardor.

As I held my newborn daughter those first few weeks, I couldn’t help but think back on the generations of women who had also held their infants close to their hearts. How many of these women hadn’t held on too tightly because they knew the risk of losing their babies was so high? How many of them couldn’t hold their babies at all because their bodies, like mine, had failed at labor, but unlike me, hadn’t had access to modern medicine to save the day?

Oh modern medicine. How your mere existence lulled me and soothed me during those first few months. How you helped give me back that feeling of invincibility. In our day and age parents can fall in love with their infants right away, can afford to only have one or two, can rest easy believing that nowadays babies just don’t die the way they used to.

Oh, such sweet irony. 

When C was just a few months old a friend of mine lost her second child, a son, to SIDS. He died in her arms as they both slept.

Two weeks before C turned one, another friend’s daughter died from complications of a seizure disorder. She was just about 18 months old.

So by the time C turned one, I knew, all too well, that the illusion of modern medicine being able to fix all, being able to protect our babies, was just that, an illusion.

Two years ago another friend lost her daughter. This baby was lost to a virus that struck fast and hard leaving her crib empty a mere few days after she got sick.

And this week yet another friend is watching her grandson die, felled by the very thing that was meant to save his life from the Leukemia that had just claimed his little body.

I hear these stories and my heart aches for my friends as my arms wrap themselves protectively around my children.

For a while I pretend that I still have the power to keep my kids safe at home, away from any potential germ, away from insane people with guns, away from runaway cars, away from any harm that can come tear them away from me. Then I remember that hiding from the world isn’t a way of life.

You can’t stop living, can’t stop letting your kids live, because you fear that one day modern medicine won’t be the savior we all expect it to be. You can’t stop going through your days, hoping, loving, living, because maybe, one day, something beyond your control might rip your heart right out of your chest.

You have to keep going out, have to keep engaging with life, have to keep opening the door and stepping outside into the world, even if you no longer can rest easy in the belief that the world is a peaceful protective place where only bad people get hurt. There’s just too much beauty and wonder out there to let fear win. 

Every morning I hug my children close and whisper something encouraging in their ear. I push away terrifying thoughts, shake off any dread that might be creeping up on me, and wish I could be that girl again, the one in her hospital bed who was so sure everything would always be alright, would always be exactly the way it should be.

Out there. Living life. Eating ice cream.

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