Monday, April 24, 2006

Eowyn's Birth

March 7, 2002
Seattle, USA
Thick snowflakes pour diagonally by the window. Bens and I howl like wolves to curb the pain at the contraction's peak. The baby who has been secretly growing inside me for forty-and-a-half weeks is preparing to make her entrance! I'm going to see her face at last, gaze into her eyes, feel her skin against mine, hold her tiny hand. Bens and I are small players on this giant stage of wonder, anticipation and delight. This is the most exciting chapter of my life! I call to tell Corrie, our midwife. She instructs me to rest until the contractions won't let me. I decide to walk in the snow at Gasworks Park and speed things up a little.
Walking out the door, at last carrying the hospital bag which has been packed for months, I squeeze Bens hand and he squeezes mine back. I nip into the loo for one last wee. The toilet paper is bright red. Hooray! The bloody show! This is real labour! The second tissue is soaked with blood as well. And the third. My mind momentarily flashes back to a scene from my midwifery days, weighing bloodied tissues to measure how much blood a birthing mother had lost. A danger alert flashed in my mind, crashing into resistance. This isn't my patient. This is me! My soul clings to that of my baby. Bens and I named her Eowyn Megan six months previously. Eowyn's life and well-being are more precious to me than anything. The fourth tissue is soaked with blood.
“Bens, I'm bleeding. Call the hospital.”
...
“They said to come straight in.”
This isn't what I'd planned. I feel afraid, confused, frustrated, ashamed. What of my walk in the snow, our howling like wolves, the special birthing position I've been practising?
Soft, fresh snow crunches under my feet. The silent dance of the falling snowflakes hushes me. Bens helps me squeeze my great womb into the car. The urgency seems surreal. I can feel the sticky trickle of blood agsinst the insides of my legs. I gently touch my tummy, wishing safety for Eowyn. I long for her with primal desire. I need her to live. She cannot remain hidden within me, unknown, hope strangled. I need the mystery of her unique face to be unveiled, to look into her eyes and to know her. She cannot die. The thought that we could try for another baby is no comfort. I want this baby, my Eowyn.
“Park in the lot” I tell Bens, wanting to be in control. Guilt niggles sharply. Shouldn't we have dumped the car at ER? What if my choices cause Eowyn to die? A wave of vagueness engulfs me, and I pull Bens upstairs to meander randomly across the road , delighting in the snowflakes wafting down around me. I feel claustrophic leaving the cool, snowy world to enter the warm, dark hospital. With Bens holding me up, I power-waddle to the elevator. More blood comes out. Terror stabs me. My baby is dying. I am not in control. We have to get there. The elevator is not moving fast enough.
Three official looking medical people are having a serious discussion at the delivery room desk. My social graces self says not to interrupt. Instinct wins.
“Can you please listen to my baby's heart beat because I'm bleeding and bleeding and I don't know if she's OK.”
They all look at me. Fumblingly I hand over my hospital card. The elder man's eyes meet mine with gravity and alarm. The woman hurries me into a room.
“How much blood?”
No words form in my anxious brain. Desperately, I pull down my sweat pants and more blood clots rush out. The woman pushes a button on the wall.
Immediately the scene changes and we are on a crowded railway station, travellers bustling hither and thither, some carrying large, bulky baggage, bumping into each other, lost, confused, chaos. People swarm in, most of them panicking and bringing machines and needles and other instruments of death. Everyone is trying to touch my body. Hands press my abdomen, trying to hear Eowyn's heart beat with a smooth, round sensor. The movment is agitated, frantic. There is no heartbeat. Then my fears are true. Deathliness descends upon me like a shroud. My body is failing her. My womb, until now a place of sanctuary, is betraying Eowyn and might become her tomb. I scream out loud: “Jesus, breath your pneuma, your spirit, your breath, your life into my Eowyn.”
Suddenly, loudly I hear the fast beating of horse's hooves. Eowyn's heart is beating! She is alive! The trace defies the emergency. The little needle zigs and zags with energy and hope across the straight graph. Relief and fear collide inside me.
The pain in my abdomen is excruciating. Everybody is asking me questions. Time shatters into fragments. A needle quivering in my arm. Silver trolleys rushing towards me. Voices, urgent, raised. “Peripheral shut-down.” “Tonic contraction.” “Three centimetres dilated.” “Placental abruption.” “Consent.” “Hypovolemic shock.”
Who am I in this scene? The body they are fighting to save – is that my body? I can't feel it anymore. I can't see or hear or smell or taste. I am alone within myself. Death. Ending. No more Megan. It is like a cold stone, heavy, straight, being pushed down on top of my, squeezing me, squashing my life away, so that there is nothing left. Faith abandons me. What if Jesus is not here, and I am about to cease to exist? Cold horror bounces like mercury droplets through my lungs. I feel the strength and realness of Bens' arm around me, his shoulder firm and strong against my cheek. I love him.
A calm doctor rubbing his long hands together is sitting on the end of the bed. His chin is long, too, and his nose. He has been here before. “C-section.” The bed is moving. Everyone is playing their role like a cadence, a perfect musical sequence. The ceiling is moving, gray-white, cracked, hazy. I feel dizzy. The bed jerks stopped and hands, many hands reach out to move me across onto the long, hard, thin operating table.
Bens is there by me, touching me, hoping with me. He holds the phone and I speak to each sibling and parent, dazed, unaware, afraid.
People swathed in blue theatre scrubs loom above me at weird diagonal angles. Suddenly, one of them is Benjamin! His skin touches mine. His blue eyes are real. He looks at me with love and desire to protect, and kisses me and slowly gets smaller because he's not allowed to stay. For him, it is terrifying, his two most beloved lives at risk. This dance with death is swallowing me. My body is tense and tight and I fear being all alone, without love, in the darkness. I can't hear Eowyn's heartbeat any more.
The anaesthesiologist's face appears above me, upside-down. His is one of the voices. His apprentice's is another, trying to engage me, beginning an elaborate discussion of available options.
The superior silences him with a gesture towards something; “Look at that. We need to get this baby out.”
A smelly plastic mask ensconces my face, filled with unearthly air. Everything goes fuzzy.
“It hurts!” The edges of consciousness are blotchy, but the pain in my abdomen is distinct. People are bustling around me. I can hear them breathing. I must be about to have the c-section. There is a voice. “You have a little girl! She weighs ten pounds four ounces.” The world opens a fraction, bright, confused, strange shapes and forms and shadows. There is a person, a baby, whose eyes are shaped just like Benjamin's. My voice makes a sound, rough, grating. “Eowyn.” My heart awakens, and stands in silent awe of Eowyn. She is alive, eyes, nose, cheeks, black hair. My two favourite people in the whole world look the same. Her Eowyn-ness is so vivid. I'd imagined she'd be a blank sheet for me to write on, but she is already created.
I want to know this tiny daughter who has battled with death and won. “She may have survived the placental abruption because she is big, and her pressure against your bleeding womb stopped you both from dying,” a faceless voice says. The sounds mingle and haze into meaninglessness.
Drifting back from unconsciousness, Eowyn is touching me, snuggled next to me, sucking my breast. Her lips curl gently against my skin, sucking in soft rhythm. What a relief that Eowyn knows what to do!
Bens voice and face and touch comfort me. He leans over Eowyn and touches her with his gentle awe. Being together, the three of us, feels so pure.
“Look! There's snow on the ground outside,” Bens says. I turn my head, but can't really see anything but disconnected blurs of black and white, and a balloon which says “Smallish friends are the best.”
Eowyn fills me with wonder. She is beautiful. More beautiful than anything I have ever seen. My words are all hers: “I love you Eowyn, ye-e-es I love you.” She looks towards my voice, knowing me. I am her mother. She is my baby. I can feel her skin, her warmth, her presence.
The days in the postnatal ward are like being in a bomb shelter, at risk of death any moment. I am terrified harm will come to Eowyn and Bens. I cling to Eowyn - I never, never want to let her go. The fear is like a snake, coiled around my abdomen, pulling tighter and tighter and making breathing hard. My body embraces Eowyn's, warming her, soothing her, feeding her, comforting her. I feel so complete near her. Yet the loneliness of eternal danger hunts me as I try to create a security for Eowyn which I cannot trust in myself. I am terrified of not being able to protect her from the fear enveloping me. I long to be mothered and protected too, to snuggle into a big, warm body and feel safe.

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