Pregnancy does me well. I relish the idea of creating life and all that goes on in these miraculous months, from the formation of first cells to an entirely put together human being. When I got my period at thirteen I was in utter awe of the whole situation. I came out to the living room, plopped myself down by my mom on the couch and staring out in a daze said, “I can’t believe my body did that!”
“Did what?” she asked.
“Released an egg!” I said.
When I met my husband, I had a similar sense of wonder and excitement. I knew I wanted to spend my life with this man and I regularly feared the day I might lose him. Since early childhood I have been inclined to fear the death of a loved one with a fair bit of anxiety. I wasn’t sure how I could cope with such a fate. Scott was, and is, the man of my dreams, love of my life, everything I ever hoped for in a life partner.
When we were brand-new newlyweds we moved from the safe suburbs of Spokane to the big unknown suburbs of Los Angeles for me to attend graduate school and begin our lives as a Mr. and Mrs. We often enjoyed late night movies in those early years, even on mid-week work nights, which feels like a big luxury now that we are homebound by early evening for young children’s bedtimes. In the land of entertainment, we could hit a movie as late as 1:00 a.m., streets still buzzing with energy and life. If ever there was a theme of death in a movie, which it seemed there always was at least some reference, I would end the night in tears. I would bury my face in Scott’s chest sobbing, lamenting death altogether, upset with God whom I very much loved and believed in but just could not grasp why this horrible thing would be our inevitable state. Cuddling into bed with no kids between us, I would testify to my undying love for him and plead with God to never take this man away from me. I feared I wouldn’t survive such a loss.
Then came the babies. Oh those amazing, precious, fragile babies! Rumor was they could suddenly stop breathing for no apparent reason in the middle of the night as they peacefully slept. I still sneak in their rooms before I retire to bed each night to listen to my children breath, give them a kiss and whisper one more I love you into their dreams. Well beyond any risk of SIDS, it gives me peace to hear their breath and kiss their warm skin so full of life. I sleep better. The thought of losing these little ones was unthinkable.
My third pregnancy was especially blissful. With three behind me, the first ended in an early miscarriage, I knew by now it would be exhausting so I took my maternity leave 3 months into gestation. I wanted to relish this time and nurture my baby’s growth as much as possible in this full season of life as a family. With some scares in my previous pregnancy that put me on bed-rest I intentionally took a step back to give this baby life. I felt calm, at ease, nothing to fear or worry about this time around. My little guy in there was an energetic delight, similar to my 2 year old son, the boys were already full of energy in-utero. I’d had one calm, serene, girl when my 2nd born little guy turned life upside down with his first top-of-his-lungs “vroom-vroom!” It warmed my heart to think of my boys taking over the world, destroying it, and figuring out how to put it all back together again. Inseparable buddies they were destined to be.
Six days after my due date I went in for my routine obstetric exam and to discuss birth options. I always went overdue, 4 days with my daughter, 11 with my son. My nurse and OB, who knew me well by now after nearly 5 years of routine appointments, and I laughed about that. This was my normal. Everything looked good that day but it was routine for an over due mom to have a non-stress test that checked the baby’s heart rate and my contractions, just to be safe. It was just a routine.
We were the last appointment of the day and it was starting to snow in Seattle. Scott needed to return some books to his University library before it closed for Christmas break. He asked how I felt about him running this errand and with absolute certainty gave him my blessing that this would be a great use of his time while I sat with monitors on my belly for the standard 20 minute check.
“No big deal” I said so casually, so naively confident, “Go get that done and we’ll grab a coffee together afterwards.”
Looking forward to our mini-date – precious stolen time together with two little ones at home – I waddled my way alone down the hall into my own curtain enclosed chamber to join the room full of expectant parents. I had gone through this routine many times in my last pregnancy with my now 2 year old son. I had early bleeding and contractions that warned us he might come too soon, so often I was sent for these tests to make sure he was okay and wouldn’t come early. He was born 11 days late, at a hefty 9 pound 12 ounces. It had all worked out in the end.
I huffed my big pregnant body onto the hospital bed with mint green and white polka dot sheets. The non-stress test nurse was a tall, serious faced woman with long dark hair who didn’t have much of the usual joy and excitement of the other OB nurses I’d come to know at the office. Without much more than a simple hello, she got to business, slathering me with goo and hooking up the monitors, roaming around for the best spot to pick up Fisher’s signs of life. She kept roaming. And roaming, and roaming. And roaming.