My head is spinning out of control. I feel like I am on a tilt a whirl at the carnival and it’s not stopping. A wave of nausea has hit me so hard I edge my way along the wall in the direction of the bathroom. The antiseptic cleaners sting my nose, which make the room spin harder. I open the bathroom door and drop on all fours, positioning my head over the white bright toilet bowl. The next wave of nausea convinces me that I am going throw up. However, nothing happens. This position hurts my back so I sit my bum on the hard cement floor. What is wrong with me? I need to go back into the room to tell my Grandma I want to leave mom’s hospital room. Everyone is crying. My mom is not able to speak. I do not understand what is going on.
“Everything okay in there?” A man’s voice asks.
I realize I am not actually in that hospital room. I am in my own bathroom, in my own house. Its twenty-two years later and I am nauseous again, but for a very different reason. My big, swollen belly is making it hard for me to get up. My husband comes in and dabs a cold cloth on my forehead while I steady myself on the sink.
I cannot tell him what I just experienced. I do not understand it myself.
He yawns as he asks me if I want to lie down on the couch or upstairs in our bedroom.
“The couch. I can’t do more stairs”. In the ten steps it takes to get to the couch, I stop twice for contractions.
It is Day 2 of labour without any hope in sight. The contractions are every ten minutes for thirty-six hours now. We have just gotten back from our second attempt to be admitted at the hospital.
After I am settled on the couch I realize it is 2:30 am, so I insist my husband to go to bed. He hands me my cell phone so I can call him if anything happens. His will be beside him in bed.
The house is very still. I turn on the television in hopes of distraction. It does not help. I cannot get my mind off my bathroom flashback.
I really could use my mom right now.
I was ten years old when she died of breast cancer. When I had that intense bout of nausea outside her hospital room, I did not know that four hours later she would pass away. Even though it has been over twenty years, I still miss her.
I want to ask her about what she went through when she was in labour with my younger sister and I. One of my labour fears is that I will give birth to a big baby as my sister and I were both over eleven pounds. I am uncertain if our births were natural or by c-section. I am almost ready to wake up Michael. The loneliness is too much to bear. It is my finally throwing up that wakes him.
After seventy hours of labour we have a healthy baby girl named Alexa Patricia weighing 8 pounds, 12 ounces. After one night in the hospital, we are released to go home. I could not wait to show Alexa her home and her new crib and our cats.
We arrive as a threesome to a quiet house and quickly realize we do not know what to do. Do we just hang out? Based on what the pregnancy and baby books recommend, I ask for no visitors until we are settled at home for a few days. I cuddle with Alexa as Michael heats up a frozen entrée from our full fridge. Another tip from the books is to stock up your cupboards for the first few weeks.The books are my only resource with the exception of a few friends. What family we have live acrossCanada. In my baby photo album, the photos show grandparents, aunts and uncles surrounded in the house the day I came home. My mom is pictured in a comfortable chair with her feet up, eating or socializing. I am passed around for photo opportunities, being the first grandchild and niece on my moms and dads side.
We eat our dinner with Alexa sleeping on my chest. I take the first night shift and let Michael go to bed for a few hours. The rest of the night we take turns to feed and burp. We are proud of how we are doing it together as new parents. My soul hurts not being able to share this wonderful day with my mom.
During my 3am shift, I look at our little bundle in my arms. My next breath brings panic. What if I have the same fate as my mom? What if I am gone before I can tell my child about all these moments? I am thirty-three years old, the same age as my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. My mom died at thirty-eight. I have taken care of myself as much as possible by having regular mammograms, watching my diet, exercising and fund raising for breast cancer. I yearn to record my history and Alexa’s stories, just in case.
I settle in the feeding chair with her. In my right hand I grab a pencil and notepad. I pen my first children’s book about our aging cat, Harley. Pictures are what I have of my mom and my childhood, but it is not enough. My child may not remember him so it excites me to put my love for him into a book. If my story ends early on Earth, my child will know, in my words, how much I love them.
Two years later, I am in a birth room at the hospital that I gave birth to Alexa. I am hunched over the table with my naked spine facing the anaesthetist who is prepping the epidural. I am one week early from my due date with my second girl. The gender already confirmed by many ultrasounds. It has been a half an hour of the drug doctor poking at my back and nothing is working. I overhear him tell the doctor who is to perform the caesarean that he will try a spinal tap. My body is shaking so hard. Shivering to the point that I can’t talk clearly. The hospital smells are making my head spin in an all too familiar way. In a room full of people, I feel so alone. Hospital rules say that my birthing partner (my husband) has to wait outside until the i.v. hook up is done. Two nurses are trying to hold me in position with a warm blanket draped over my shoulders to try to calm my nerves. Tears are racing down my face. . I am thirty five years old and I want my mommy. I am scared that my fate is sealed and I will never make it to see my children.
Finally, the staff tell me that they need to put me under to get the baby out. I beg them to let me tell my husband. He will still have to stay outside for the birth. They let Michael in briefly. All I can get out of my mouth is that I am sorry he will miss the birth, and if anything happens save our child over me. I black out.
In a morphine haze, I open my eyes confused. I can hear my name being repeated followed by questions if I am still in pain. Then, I hear my husband’s voice telling me we have another beautiful healthy baby girl. The fog clears, my eyes focus on my Michael’s face. Relief washes over me like crashing ocean waves as I hear him say that Jessie Torianne is okay. She is 10 pounds and 13 ounces. She has all her fingers and toes. The staff tell me she has a great set of lungs. I am alive. I made it through the surgery.
Hospital procedure states that all post caesarean babies must remain in ICU for ninety minutes until being reunited with their mom. Michael shows me pictures of her on the digital camera.
Jessie arrives in to our room right at the ninety-minute mark. Michael passes her to me from the hospital bassinet. I introduce myself to her. She is fast asleep. I can not take my eyes off of her. She is perfect. I want to show her off to my mom. I ache to call her with the news and have her burst into the room in full grandma glory.
Jessie stirs and opens her hazel eyes to look at me. Her expression of joy to be here reminds me of how my mom looked every time she got to come home after chemotherapy. It is as if my mom is here. As a legacy gift to her, both of our girls carry her given names. They carry a piece of her always.
My gift to my girls and their children will be to write my momoir stories. The stories I write for my girls is also great therapy for me. It fills a void in my life in hopes my girls will not feel what I have felt.