This isn’t a post about decorating, or recipes, or a craft I happened to create. If that’s what you are here for today, please stop back tomorrow and I promise we’ll resume some normalcy around here at that time. But for the rest of you, those who stick around because you believe this little blog has heart, I invite you to pull up a chair and perhaps suspend belief for a few moments because I promise what I’m about to share with you is 100% true. And I feel compelled to share it for reasons explained at the end, that will only make sense if you come along on this journey and wait for it to come around full circle, as it will, I promise.
I really do try to keep it light and home & lifestyle related on this blog. But the title, Making Lemonade, was born because of my daughter and our journey that started well before she was even conceived. Something I’ve never gone into detail here on the blog is that Noodle was a miracle even before she was born. A long three years after we started hoping we’d be pregnant, I was given a 4% chance of giving birth to a child of our own (or having “a live birth”, as my doctor called it).
Amazingly, the month we heard that awful news was the month I became pregnant. And that pregnancy continued past the 7 week, 9 week, and 12 week milestones I’d never been able to attain before. For the most part, this pregnancy was proceeding exactly as it should… except, deep down, I knew it wasn’t.
Here’s where I’m about to say things I’ve only told a few people, those friends I know I can confide in when the lights at the restaurant dim and we’ve had a few too many mojitos and things start pouring out.
And there’s a reason I’m sharing it on the blog today.
But first things first. One typical weekday morning a few years ago I was standing behind the circulation desk of my school library, chatting with one of my favorite people in the whole world– who happened to be a parent at that school. She and I had first met formally years before, on the day she was interviewing me as part of her role in our school’s evaluation process. Her 3-year-old daughter, a beautiful little girl with a rare condition called Rett syndrome, sat in a wheelchair at her side. Without thinking, I started doing what I’m usually compelled to do– I started smiling and winking at that sweet angel. In return– in that silent, silent room– I got a huge belly laugh out of this non-verbal girl with the wise eyes of an old soul.
Her mom stared at me and asked, “what are you doing?”
Startled, I thought I was in trouble… until she continued,
“She never does that. Not with people she doesn’t know. Look at her smile!”
Sure enough, C. was smiling and beaming at me. “It’s because she knows I love her” I said, to this almost complete stranger. And I meant every word.
Fast forward a few years later, and to her mom and I chatting on that typical morning. Sweet C. had sadly passed away not long after that laughing, joyful first exchange. As I rubbed my growing pregnant belly, her mom and I talked about pregnancy and intuition and all those things you don’t typically discuss, unless, for some reason, you do.
They hadn’t known about C’s Rett syndrome until well after she was born. Yet her mom stood there and told me several startling revelations she’d experienced during the pregnancy that in hindsight made sense. She recounted reading the book Expecting Adam by Martha Beck (a memoir about a Harvard trained author who discovered she was carrying a child with Down Syndrome and the everyday magic she discovered through this experience), and having an incredible connection to it despite her own pregnancy going so smoothly. Or remembering how the sight of a handicapped van in a parking lot filled her with such sorrow and compassion for that family it almost overwhelmed her.
And now, I can recount to YOU, with clarity usually reserved for life’s momentous occasions, how I remember that conversation word for word. How I knew it would mean something down the road. How I wanted to go read that book, and how I could intensely visualize my friend’s grief at seeing that van (despite at the time not knowing that would someday be her daughter and family in the handicapped parking space).
Amazingly, that’s only the beginning of my story, the intuition, the “knowing things” that simply should have been impossible to know.
Well before it was possible to predict whether I was having a boy or a girl, I knew this baby we so desperately wanted was a girl. In fact, by 10 weeks along I confidently talked to my little girl as a “she”, knowing full well I was carrying a daughter.
I suppose that’s not so unusual. Many people have intuitions about the sex of their child… and, hey, I had a 50/50 chance of being correct. Those odds were not bad at all. But another not-so-unusual-but-rarely-discussed-thing is that I also knew her face. Before I ever saw it on the 3D ultrasound, the face of my daughter floated through in a dream. I knew it as sure as I knew my own face. Her cheeks, her smile– I knew exactly what she looked like well before I should have know.
When I finally had my 20 week ultrasound and was told I was carrying a girl and given a glimpse at her face on the screen, my heart felt right at home. I knew this. I knew her. I wasn’t even surprised or shocked at the face staring back, because I’d already seen it and known it all along.
Yet… something wasn’t right. Sure, I passed my ultrasound exam with flying colors but as I stared at the ultrasound photos something did not sit well with me. Specifically, the umbilical cord.
Embarrassed my husband would catch me and chide me for “researching” online, I slyly googled as much information I could find about umbilical cords in ultrasound photos. A school librarian by trade, what on earth did I expect to find that both the highly trained ultrasound tech and doctor couldn’t?
Looking back, of course, that answer is obvious. My daughter’s umbilical cord had grown over my cervix, causing it to burst during those first gentle contractions induced at 41 weeks of pregnancy in the hospital. But no one diagnosed it before it burst. No one, except for me, and what on earth did I know? Truthfully, you couldn’t actually see that on the ultrasound. Vasa previa, the fancy name for what happened, is almost impossible to diagnose by standard ultrasound. But by intuition? That’s new territory.
Let me tell you what I knew, well before we actually “knew”.
During the hospital tour a few week’s before my due date, nothing felt right. I was jumpy. I didn’t smile and laugh and dream like the other expectant couples. Instead, I stared at the bed I knew I wouldn’t use and the emergency warmer I knew we would. I studied the monitor and asked about how they measured the heartbeat during labor. When it was over I practically ran out of the building, not easy at 35 weeks of pregnancy. I could not picture myself in labor, no matter how hard I tried.
I’d return a few weeks later to visit a dear friend and her newborn baby. Sitting in the c-section recovery room three weeks before my due date, I had the overwhelming knowledge that I needed my baby delivered NOW. As we all sat there and commented on her beautiful daughter, my friend said she couldn’t wait until my daughter was also here. I fervently and vehemently exclaimed, “now she just needs to get here. I need her out, like, now. I JUST WANT HER OUT.” A panic rose up inside I’d never before felt and I was so certain they just needed to cut her out of me, right then and there.
After that strange outburst, which I chalked up to being nervous, I had another moment of lunacy insight. At my 40 week appointment with my husband by my side, my doctor determined it was time to schedule an induction. As she left the room to make the call to get the date, I burst into tears. I had a horrible feeling that date would be the worst of our lives. Again, as I called my mom to tell her the “good” news, and she said she couldn’t believe that by Thursday she’d be a grandmother, I hung up the phone sobbing uncontrollably.
“I want this baby here.” I told my husband. Not in the “it’s been 40 weeks, enough already” type of exhaustion, but rather in the “let’s cut her out NOW so she can be safe” type of declaration. Only I could not tell my doctor that. Could you imagine the response? “Listen, doc, I know you are an expert in these things and everything but I’ve decided I just need a c-section. So let’s skip the cervadil and the pitocin and all the drama and go right for the c-section, okay?”
Not. Gonna. Happen.
As we drove to the hospital for the induction, I turned to my husband and said, “you know this is going to end in a c-section, right?”
He looked at me. “Um, no?”
At 1:04 AM on the day of my daughter’s birth, as we heard her heart stop beating on the monitor and my world crumbled around me while the room filled with nurses, they flipped my onto my knees to prep me for surgery and I did the only thing that seemed right. I began to pray, nonstop– and out loud for the first time in my life:
Please God, save my baby.
Please God, save my baby.
Please God, save my baby.
Then they ran my gurney down the hall, the mask went over my face, and I breathed in– falling asleep not knowing her fate.
When I woke up, she was transferred to another hospital before I was able to see her. As I looked at the people gathered in my room, someone else’s voice came from deep inside and I told them I was at peace with this, I’d known something was wrong all along. That I was terribly heartbroken of course, but at peace with the fate I’d known was coming.
That baby and I had an incredible connection before she was born. She spoke to me and told me secrets. Somehow I knew she’d be different, she’d be special; that something was wrong with her umbilical cord, and she would be born via c-section. However, apparently the intuition that had been my constant companion for all those months was severed the moment she left my body. I’ll leave you with one more story to prove it perhaps lived on, but in another person.
Exactly 24 hours after her dramatic delivery, with a cooling cap on her tiny head in an attempt to slow the inevitable brain damage about to occur from over 30 minutes without oxygen, I met my daughter for the first time in the flesh. As I neared the warmer, surrounded with countless pumps and tubes and wires, I was able to stroke her pink skin for the first time. We’d been warned she had almost no chance of survival, and I needed her to know something first. Again, another person’s words rose out of me.
“Abby. Thank you for allowing us to meet you. You are more beautiful than even I imagined and we are so, so proud of how hard you fought to be here. We are the most proud and lucky mommy and daddy in the world.”
The monitors beeped, the bag breathed for her, and alarms sounded every few moments as various things continued to go wrong with her tiny body.
“But I know how hard you fought, and how tired you must be, and I want you to know it’s okay. It’s okay if you have to leave us. I’ll love you forever and with every part of me, but I know you are tired and if you need to leave we’ll understand. We’ll be forever heartbroken, but we’ll understand.”
That’s when my husband, her daddy, spoke to her for the first time since he’d wheeled me into the room.
“But keep fighting. You can do it. You really, really, need to keep fighting.”
Yes, it seems that special bond may have left me but was born again in him, because as you know by now that little one is here today– keeping me on my toes in the best way possible. Even from day one she didn’t listen to me. I’m not sure why, and we don’t question it.
To this day, even with her daily struggles and weekly OT, PT and other services, our little fighter shows that her daddy is quite clearly the more intuitive of the two of us. Despite all that I “knew,” he was the one that was right. She needed to keep fighting, and she somehow had it in her to do so. And she still does.
Thank you, God.
It took 4 years and perhaps some divine intervention before I’d read the book my intuitive friend had mentioned all those years ago. When Expecting Adam was offered to me as November’s From Left to Write book club choice I was surprised this “blast from the past” came back to me in this way. Imagine my shock when I began to digest the first few chapters and realized the book itself is about things that can’t be explained and the everyday magic the author experienced during her pregnancy.
If Martha Beck, a Harvard post-grad student at the time, could admit to society the inexplicable things she experienced than who was I to keep silent about the intuition and magic with my little angel, Abby?
Hope you aren’t considering admitting me to the psych ward deleting your subscription to my blog. I promise this is the only time I’ll go all “X files” on you (is that even an appropriate reference? perhaps I should say go all “Medium” on you?) It’s an internal dialogue that I’ve wanted to put into words for 3 years now, and reading this book provided the perfect push to do so.