A child of mine
Would eat fire, sing death
Still my hands forever
With her uncompromised mortality
— Marilyn Hacker, The Song of Liadan
I have one regret from the birth of my daughter.
I wish I could remember the anesthesiologist’s last name.
His first name was Luke, and he had the unfortunate job of holding my head while the doctors stitched me back together.
When they took Kick from me — it felt like that, like they’d stolen something that was mine, ripped it away — in the operating room, Mr. A got to hold her first. I kept asking, “Is she okay? Is she okay? Is she okay?”
“Is she okay?” my OB asked, incredulously. “Listen to her.”
She was howling, red-faced, flailing her tiny arms and legs. The doctor held her up over the curtain, then put her face next to mine for a second, just a second, so soft. Then she and Mr. A were taken to recovery and I was left alone with Luke. I was shaking, the adrenaline rush completely unexpected, shaking so hard I rattled the table.
You’ve got to understand, I said to Luke the anesthesiologist. She was our last chance. She was our very last chance.
We’d been trying for ten years to have a baby, most of those years in fertility treatment of one kind or another. After this last embryo transfer, we’d have been done. Out of options, at least for a child of our own. I’d given up on the idea, got drunk at a wine festival the week before the pregnancy test that confirmed she existed, accused the nurse who called with the news of screwing with me. Our very last chance, and it worked.
My teeth were chattering. I couldn’t breathe.
I’d had a thousand tests during this pregnancy. Not one of them had put my mind completely at ease. An ultrasound could tell you if your baby had two hands, two feet, but it couldn’t tell you if her brain was working typically, if she could see, if she could hear or make sounds or breathe outside the womb. So this moment was the first time I felt the answer was certain: She was fine, and she was here.
The shaking stopped, slowly, as the pain meds seeped into my blood. I was wheeled into the recovery room, and became dimly aware that I was starving. I could have murdered a cheeseburger and fries.
She was curled in a tiny blanket, snuggled up against Mr. A’s shoulder, and they were both wrapped in another blanket. I saw the top of her tiny head first, downy and pink.
They’d taken my heart out of my body, and there it was open to the world. Anything could happen to it.
I’ve never been so frightened.
Oh God, I thought. What did I do?