It felt like I waited a lifetime for my son, though it was truly only a handful of years. Once my clock began ticking though, each minute without this child was achingly painful, and each month without conception was another grave disappointment. Then, two promising pregnancies were followed by the devastation of miscarriage.
When a child did take root in my belly, past the six-week mark, and then over the steep hurdle of the first trimester, I broke down in tears- finally allowing myself to believe, just a little bit, that I might get to be a mother.
I loved those months with a baby inside me, feet tucked up under my ribs- both of us competing for space. I remember lazy summer afternoons lying in bed waiting for him to “appear” on the stage of my belly, and my delight with each passing of an elbow or foot.
My labor came on fast and early one rainy August morning. The baby was breech- also a surprise- as we had planned to birth at home. I dilated the last couple of centimeters in the back of an ambulance as it climbed over the mountain to the nearest hospital. Once again I felt the fear that I might not get to be a mother after all.
By the time I was wheeled into the operating room, the baby was fully engaged, and they literally had to tug him out of me. I only saw him for a moment before they whisked him away to the examining table. Two hours passed before they would release me from recovery so that I might hold this long-awaited child who looked so familiar.
Later when the nurses offered to take him “so that I could get some rest”, I refused. I didn’t want to spend another moment apart from him, ever again. I held him in my arms as much as I could, and I was agonized to find that hospital protocol prevented him from spending the night in my bed because of the anesthesia I had received. I lay awake most of night gazing at him in the glass bassinet beside me.
On the third day, I resigned myself to letting the nurses take him for a bath so that I might have a shower myself. As the water poured over my empty belly, I began to cry. I felt like I had lost the sweet friend inside. I began to panic and had to very firmly remind myself that the baby that I had been waiting for was just down the hall.
My legs were still wobbly from the surgery, but I hurried back as fast as I could to be certain he was real. Only he wasn’t there. I waited a few moments and then called the nurses who told me that he was under the warming lights and would be back soon. The seconds without him passed like hours, and I rang the station again. “I need him now,” I said with a desperation that surprised me. “I’ve waited years for this baby, and I don’t want to wait anymore.”
The next afternoon, I left the cocoon of the hospital to bring this tiny being home. I spent those early weeks holding him almost every moment of every day. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” my friends told me, but I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t stop gazing at this miracle.
Almost a decade has passed since that time, and the depth of that love affair has been spread thin by soccer games, and lost teeth, violin lessons, playdates, and a myriad of laundry and dishes and carpooling.
It’s extraordinary to look back at my journal from those early days and be reminded of how intensely I felt. And to remember how painful it was when I first realized that the gift of motherhood came with the price of countless goodbyes- beginning with the separation at birth and stretched out over a lifetime. If I love this child this too much, how will I ever be able to do it, I anguished.
That awareness is no longer a part of my day to day life, but every now and then it creeps back up on me and I’ll feel that old familiar tug on my heart. Last week was a big one. It had started out as just another school day: rushing out the door, trying my best not to holler at him for taking too long to tie his shoes or for forgetting all his things.
On the drive to school, I drilled him on his spelling words, and then spent our last moments together in the parking lot having him write out those words that had stumped him. Just then, two young girls stopped their play to stare into our car.
What are they looking at, I wondered? And then I knew. They stood there eyes unblinking as my son and I kissed goodbye, and they followed him with those eyes onto the playground and down the hill where he met his friends at the tether ball court. He never even noticed. But I did.
There it was, another tearing, another good-bye that I would have to face someday–another woman. There would be years perhaps before this one came upon us, but the tugging had begun, and it felt like a needle had pierced my heart.