A little voice told me the podcasts were not a good idea. Did I listen? Of course not. I went ahead and tuned in to “Medical Errors,” the week’s episode on White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman. Even when I learned that the medical mistakes involved birth tragedies, and the voice became more insistent, I couldn’t bring myself to press pause, never mind delete. The story obsessed me. How could it not? Three miscarriages, a stillbirth by Caesarian; after a fifth pregnancy, a child, a few days old, brain-damaged from oxygen deprivation when the womb explodes, dead when life-support is withdrawn. Against all odds, a sixth conception, and, this time, a baby with a serious heart defect and a fused windpipe and esophagus. How can anyone survive such pain, I wonder.
I don’t think of these podcasts at all when my phone pings at 6 :30 a.m. The text from our son reads: Water broke; going to the hospital. A week early. Disappointment tempers the excitement; I can’t be with them for a few days yet, as I have committed to sessions with teachers over the next two days. Sound bytes from the podcast do pierce my filter later in the evening, however, with the next update. Progress is slow.
My own labour with this child’s father competes with Dr. Goldman’s program for byte space. I relive flashes. Sitting in my rocker at home as the contractions begin and then intensify. The decision to go to the hospital. Heartbreak after hours of labour, and I am dilated only two centimetres. Really? Doing the proportional, if illogical, math, and wondering how I can make it through another ten hours or so to get to ten centimetres, and then summon the strength for the real work of delivery. The death-grip on my husband’s arm when he announces he will grab a bite to eat for a few minutes. The conviction that this child will never be born, and I will be caught forever in the contraction loop. The relief that accompanies signing the forms for the C-section.
I live the roller coaster with my son and daughter-in-law. Labour by distance. I warn the teachers with whom I am working of the reasons for any distraction they might notice, or any compulsive phone-checking. I struggle to concentrate on the work at hand, and I try to dimiss premonitions that something might be wrong.
Erik arrives just as the session ends. I make the announcement—the teachers deserve to know, having shared the journey with me. Everyone claps. A photo accompanies my son’s text. Erik is perfect, and his mother is doing well. I can breathe again. Nothing else matters. The news has squashed the negative voices like bugs on a fall patio. Now, we can focus on getting home, repacking, and heading out very early the next day on the ten-hour trip to meet our grandson.
His son in the crook of his arm, our son looks like he’s been a father for a lot longer than 48 hours. He places Erik in my arms. The baby snuggles into my shoulder. My cheek delights in the velvet of his skin. Enveloped in bliss and gratitude, I imbibe his warmth. I memorize the curve of his tiny ears, the pucker of his mouth, the long, fine musician’s fingers.
Time stands still, and so do the haunting voices. The only voices that matter today are the ones that call me Mémère.