My daughter Emily is celebrating a milestone birthday next week, and I am in awe of her splendid spirit. She inspired my story in the recent anthology published in an eBook titled A Cup of Love. Here is an excerpt.
Rocking Babies in Rhythm with Heartbeats
The nurse pushed my wheelchair to the viewing window of the intensive care unit so I could see my baby for the first time. I stared at the sleeping newborn and felt an indescribable ache for the baby I had never held. She had been in critical condition after a difficult two-day birth and was hurried away to ICU. After the delivery, I had been left alone wondering if all the birthing videos had been a lie.
One video had featured a smiling woman in full makeup and perfectly teased hair as she gave a slight grimace and then held a flawless baby. This untrue propaganda portrayed labor and delivery as a pleasant walk in the park. Unfortunately, my experience took a detour through the haunted woods and fell down a muddy gully. I had no opportunity or desire to apply makeup and appear cheerful.
After 20 hours of labor, I was trapped beneath an oxygen mask and heart monitor while the unborn baby had a fetal monitor attached to its head as a machine sent warning beeps every time the baby’s heartbeat reached 170. The baby was too far down in the birth canal for a cesarean section. Besides, it was Easter of 1978 and my doctor didn’t want to leave his family dinner to come to the hospital. A stranger stood at the end of the gurney studying my private parts and begging me to push harder. I intensely disliked him.
After 22 hours in labor, the doctor actually anchored his foot on the bed and used huge metal forceps to pull her from my body. At almost 10 pounds, she was too big to be born without the instrument. The bruises and indentations on her head from the grip of forceps remained visible for months. The nurse rushed her to the neonatal intensive care unit and her Apgar score was an alarming 3. I didn’t get to see or hold her for eight hours.
The following day, the nurse informed me Baby Emily would be released from ICU and would be brought me. I remember combing my hair so I would look presentable for our first official meeting, but she was asleep and couldn’t care less about my appearance. The nurse handed the blanketed bundle to me and the moment I felt my daughter secure in my arms, I wept.
I gently unfolded the blanket and peeked at her face and head. I was shocked and had to admit that she wasn’t the cutest newborn in the world. The forceps delivery had left her head swollen, bruised, and misshaped. The pictures of perfect babies were just another fabricated tale from the birth videos.
Back then, we didn’t have pregnancy tests or “gender reveal” parties. We didn’t know if the baby would be a girl or a boy, and we were delighted with either. I never again saw the doctor who delivered her. The second day after the birth, a serious-looking pediatrician visited and said in hushed tones that difficult deliveries can result in birth defects and I should be prepared. I remember closing my eyes and begging, praying for help to meet the unknown challenges. A day later, I was completely at peace and in love with my baby.
“Just put her back in and let’s do it right,” I said, tired of all the intrusions. I had spent two days in labor and received more than 100 stitches to repair the damage of having a 10-pound baby. I wasn’t in any mood to endure a complicated discussion about the potential problems with my child. I thought of him only one more time: when my daughter graduated from college with scholastic honors.
Emily and I remained in the hospital for four days so we could heal. By the time my husband could take us home, her head had transformed into the acceptable round size but the bruises took a few weeks to disappear. I rocked her day and night, sang silly lullabies, and didn’t care about too many other distractions such as getting dressed, fixing meals, or doing laundry.
Fortunately, my mother came to help, and I was happy to rock and sing to my baby. I got up several times during the night to touch her and make sure she was still there. Having a child introduced a passionate kind of love that was new and forever. I would battle giants, enemies, and slobbering alien creatures to protect my children. The power of that kind of love scares me at times but remains a force almost 40 years later.
Emily became a precocious toddler as if to show the pediatrician that she was the smartest baby in the world. I read daily to her and by age two, she had memorized 20 stories and poems in the Childcraft Books, Volume 2. I was having so much fun being Mommy that my husband and I decided to try it again. In January of 1980, we created a most magnificent baby. He was born in October, and once again the delivery didn’t correspond to any of the birthing videos, not even the new and updated versions.
I should have suspected something was different when the buttons began to pop off of my maternity blouses. I was so huge, I couldn’t reach the table so I perched my dinner plate on my belly. At seven-months’ pregnant, I couldn’t hold my daughter in my lap. I couldn’t turn over in bed because my back hurt so much. Still, the mothering instinct carried me through the toughest times. I couldn’t wait to meet Baby Two.
On the due date of October 20, the baby decided to be born. The delivery was so intensely painful I blacked out with every contraction. The baby weighed 11 pounds and appeared ready for a steak dinner and a game of football. The nurse snatched him and took off to show the big baby to other nurses.
“Excuse me,” I meekly said. “I would like to hold my baby.”
I was a whipped puppy but could rally soon to become a fierce beast. What was the reason for my personal tradition of being forced to wait to hold my babies? We needed new videos to deal with this unpleasant dilemma.
Finally, my son Adam was placed in my arms. Again, my tears flowed freely and I thought my heart would burst. How can one mother’s heart include more than one child? Now I know it’s possible. I had room for both of them equally, and I loved them totally and unconditionally.
I blinked a few times, and thirty years flew past. Now Emily and Adam are grown, married, and have children of their own.
Science says the emotion of love comes from a chemical reaction in the brain. I think love spontaneously erupts from our heart when we rock our babies in harmonic rhythm with our two heartbeats. The feeling is more powerful than any other, and I’d like to order some more, in great quantities. I need to stock the pantry.
Now that my empty nest is filled with other priorities and distractions, I have time to reflect on what matters. If I could go back and choose favorite times in my life, they would include rocking my sweet babies and singing soft lullabies. As a young mother, I didn’t know what the future would bring, but I was fulfilled and grateful for the warm weight of my child upon my chest.
I am truly grateful to be a happy and loved wife, mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. But of all the inspirational sensations I have known throughout the years, there is nothing more powerful than the feeling of love I experienced when I held and rocked my babies. If we could harness that force, we could move mountains, tame the winds, create truthful videos, eliminate calories, and end a few wars. Love wins, every time.
Happy Birthday, Emily.