Friday, October 9, 2009

The Great Leap

I wrote this just before I had Anna, and I thought it fit quite appropriately here, as I start this blog. I titled it "The Great Leap:"

I glanced at the clock again. Forty minutes. I’d been sitting there, flipping through the one dog-eared magazine within my reach and watching every other pregnant woman who entered the office come in and within minutes get called to the back for their appointments.

I was there for a quick 36-week ultrasound, just to make sure the baby was head-down. Thankfully, they don't require you to guzzle gallons of water for an ultrasound this late in the game, or else I would have been really antsy.

Still, this was ridiculous. The office wasn't that crowded. They didn't seem to have fallen behind schedule. I'd already been out of work for an hour and needed to go across the hall for my appointment with the midwife once the ultrasound was done.

Five minutes later, the door to the back creaked open and a pregnant woman with a clipboard called my name. I waddled beside her down the hall to the exam room.

"I'm so sorry you had to wait so long," she said, and I could tell that she meant it. In the exam room stood another pregnant woman, the ultrasound technician, ready to get to work. I crawled up on the table. The cool gel on my belly always startled me a bit. But then the picture appeared, a picture I couldn't make heads or tails of, but that was still so cool, because this was my baby, my first baby, a little girl.

"Ah, there you go. Looks perfect," the technician said. Then, as she continued to look around, said in a low voice, "I'm sorry it took so long to get you in here. We had a problem with the woman before you. We found an abnormality in the baby."

A silence hung around us that said many things. Here stood the two pregnant women, thinking about finding our worst nightmare realized. All thoughts of my long wait, every last remnant of irritation, fled my mind.

"When that happens, we have to call the doctor in," she was saying. "Now the patient is across the hall, meeting with the midwife."

Five minutes later, I was sitting in the same office, waiting to see my midwife, wondering what was going on behind closed doors. A young woman sat beside me, alternately distracted by a rambling toddler and grinning at a baby in an infant carrier.

"How much longer?" the little boy was demanding. "I told you, we have to wait for auntie," the woman tiredly replied.

A couple walked in, the father holding a little boy with deep, dark brown eyes. He scrambled over to the other boy and they began playing together.

I sat watching them, the same two words echoing in my mind. What if?

What if that was you back there? Immediately I was ashamed at my smug sense of relief that it was not. You know that feeling. We all have it but we don't like to talk about it. It's that quiet sense of buoyancy we get when something bad happens to someone else. Oh, we ache for them and we grieve, but there is a secret part of us that feels the most subtle sense of joy at being spared.

Spared this time, that is.

I am not naïve. If anything, I lean on the side of thinking that anything can happen. I instinctively imagine the worst. This may just be part of my nature, or it may be because I've been on the other side. My younger brother is severely autistic. I know what it's like to watch someone grow up different than everyone else; to see the people subconsciously shrink away, not knowing how to relate; to have a family in chaos at times because of one person who can't help the way he is.

But I don't yet know a mother's pain. This is what hits me, as I listen to the high-pitched babbles of the two boys. For many of us, children are almost a given; a natural progression of life; an undoubted miracle. But they are also a risk -- not just to our prior, carefree way of life, but to our hearts.

I worry I'm not strong enough to have mine broken.

The nurse called my name and I headed back to have my weight checked. I heard a midwife in the waiting room, talking to the woman with the two children.

"Why don't you come back here," she said in a kindly voice, "and I'll explain what's happening with your sister..."

I murmured a few prayers for her. Then I prayed for all of us who have taken this quiet leap of courage, because we've chosen this most precious way to open our arms, and let go of all we can't control.

No comments: