Saturday, October 24, 2009
Trust your instincts...
September 20, 2009.
Although ten days before my official due date, I knew Sadie was going to arrive on this day. Knew it. Without doubt. As sure as there is a nose on my face. Dave was back from India and had all but cleared out the nasty argument between New Dehli and his lower gastro-intestinal system. Ergo, all-systems go on the husband front. And my belly was already extending outward the width of a small parking spot.
But more than that, my instincts...my blood right as a child-bearing female to sense things without empirical data...my instincts told me so. She was to be born on this day.
Yeah...so...I was close. Er. Close...Ish. Give or take...well...eighteen days...
I should've known better. You see, somewhere along the line, I unknowingly picked up a set of "slightly damaged" or "refurbished" maternal instincts. Perhaps someone's castoff maternal instinct. Seemingly not as effective as those I've seen in other women. Almost like picking up a virus. Thus, proving yet again that perhaps some things are better acquired new, in the original package, equipped with the full warranty should you need repairs or an upgrade.
Yes, I think there's argument that I have had some lower grade maternal instincts.
Take, for example, a conversation I had with my brother-in-law Dan a few years ago when he came to visit us in Amsterdam. "So Lynn, how do you feel about having a baby in Amsterdam? Would you do that? Would you feel comfortable?"
Thinking about my desires and ability to manage a "foreign" birth experience and the impact it would have on my future child:
"Absolutely, unequivocally, without doubt...No."
Or think back, dear readers, to February of this year when I was quite certain that the baby in my belly was no baby at all. Rather, a bout of indigestion due to travel. Maybe some bad airplane peanuts. And when I actually faced the Home Pregnancy Test, my common sense IQ dropped about 80 points as I tried like heck to figure out what a blue '+' meant. Somewhere in that moment, my instincts told me that a plus sign meant "no baby."
(What, in my life experience, has ever told me that a plus sign means "no" more than "yes"? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.)
Oh yes...and then there was the gender postulation.
Had Sadie been a boy, she would've been named Oscar David. Dave and my mother-in-law Brenda had come up with the nickname Oz for Oscar, and thought that was pretty dang cool. "Hey Oz...wanna go to a movie?" "Hey guys...Oz is coming over!" "Dude...check out Oz hanging ten on that crazy left!" "Ladies and gentlemen...We give you...OZ...!!!"
Although my heart was secretly longing to raise a daughter, the whole nickname thing teamed with my best gal pal Bridget's prediction (via the Chinese Baby Chart) that she would be a he landed me into a conviction that Baby Sheldon was certainly to be a Mr. I may as well have painted the room blue and bought the Oscar-to-be a football uniform. I was convinced we were to welcome a little David into our family.
Oops. Wrong again.
And then, there's the delivery. Perhaps this is less about bad instincts and more about shifted expectations (and by "shifted," I mean not-even-close-slash-the-reality-was-unrecognizable-within-the-scope-of-what-I-thought-would-happen).
After a few months of thinking things through and learning more about the Dutch tradition of giving birth at home, I had come to imagine, if not hope, that I would deliver in our guest room. In fact, I even took on a fake name (see previous entry) to receive delivery of the necessary equipment to do so. And I really thought that I was going to be waking up a pregnant lady and going to bed a mom, all within the confines of our nest on the Herengracht.
Wrong-o. Zero. Zilch. Negatory.
Twenty seven hours of labor, followed by an emergency C-section.
All of which took place in the hospital.
Oh Sadie, I hope that among the things you inherit from me are not these types of maternal instincts. My radiant personality, super model body and stunning intellect...why yes, of course. But the baby instincts...well...
There is a life lesson to be learned here, however. Trust your instincts - yes. But if your instincts tell you something new about yourself or your situation that is different from what your instincts were yesterday, then you should take note. Because it is possible that your instincts weren't as much instincts as they were preconceived ideas about how something would go. Or about your ability (or lack thereof) to handle a situation in a certain way. Perhaps instincts are tricky that way. Slippery shape-shifters posing as your gut, when in actuality, they are just a set of expectations and perceptions that you yourself have formed.
Within only hours of you being born, dear daughter, I resigned yet another of my instincts.
For many many years, as I watched friends and family members become parents, I would imagine myself as a mom. I would try to imagine the point at which I decided to extend beyond myself and hope to create a new life. Admittedly, I would choose the wrong moments to ponder such a thing: When standing over the shoulder over my sister-in-law as she changed the foulest of diapers, praying to God that I wouldn't up my dinner. While watching my best friend dab spit-up off of her formerly favorite sweater. As I tried to help a new mother in my neighborhood by offering to install her car seat...only to realize I apparently didn't have the mental fortitude to figure it out. Picking up my girlfriend's wobbily-headed newborn, hoping I wouldn't break her (baby parents always tell you that "she won't break." I was always relieved when it actually proved true).
Based on these and other experiences, I was certain that I would have the best shot of being a good mom if I could do the simplest of tasks: I would have to give birth to a kindergartner.
Really. If I could just do that, then I could manage parenthood in a snap. No diapers. No spit up. They can walk. They can talk.
Yeah, that's more my pace. None of this infant stuff. No thanks. Not for me.
Granted, I somewhat came to terms with the fact that I was indeed to give birth to a newborn. Not a five-year-old. But in the months I was pregnant with you, I was picturing that I would hold my breath in those early years and wait until we turned the corner into older childhood. That I would enjoy your infancy on some level, but really be holding out the big guns until you and I could sit across a cup of hot chocolate and talk about our days.
And then, I left the hospital with you in my arms.
Dad called a taxi to bring us home after our five day stay. I was tired and sore. You were wide-eyed and tiny. The autumn sun was shining a crisp light onto Amsterdam's cold paved streets. I lowered myself into the backseat and dad placed you in my arms.
On our way back home, we encountered the usual array of sights and sounds of the city. A group of teenagers smoking on the corner. Scooters noisily scooting. Hookers hooking. A car appeared from out of nowhere and cut us off. A lewd advertisement hung in Dam Square. People everywhere, going where they need to go in a hurry.
With each passing corner, I pulled you in closer to me. Closer. Closer. Closer. Until you were a bit smothered by my throat and chin.
We got home and I fed you on the couch near the front window. Within minutes, you had curled up in a ball on my chest and fallen asleep. I watched you breathe. I felt your warm little body rise and fall with my breaths and enjoyed the rhythm of it. We stayed there for what felt like hours.
The second night we were home, I walked you around our front room, introducing you to all of our favorite trinkets and baubles. Not even a week old, you mustered all of your strength to lift your head and look up at a row of books that was slightly over your line of sight. You bobbed and nodded involuntarily, mouth wide open and eyebrows lifted. But you kept your eyes on the prize: to catch a glimpse of those colorful objects on the shelf.
In only days, you had started to become alert and curious. And determined!
How could this have happened? So quickly? My pre-kindergartner was changing so fast. Too fast. Something was slipping away. And too soon. Was I still sure I wanted to zoom ahead past the point where we were that very day?
My reformed instincts now tell me to savor every moment of your current smallness. Your newness. The simplicity that accompanies each day's routine. The fact that I can turn on a lamp and the mere change of light in the room fascinates you for a half an hour. The love you have of the pictures we have on the wall, the cardboard deer head hanging over the fireplace, the sound of my voice. That I can either wear my glasses...or take them off...put them on...or take them off again...is so interesting. Or that singing "Edelweiss" puts you to sleep when seemingly nothing else can.
There will hopefully be bountiful years to come when you will crane your neck like you did that night in search for new adventures, new knowledge, new experiences out on your own...bobble-headed and wide-eyed.
But for now, you are mine.
I can hold you closer, closer, closer. You can still sleep on my chest. And I can hold your head steady so you can see something new each day.
And hopefully my instincts won't be as shabby as I first thought...