I don’t know what these posts (yes, a series) will be about. I was prompted to start them, and I’m trying to learn to listen when that happens.
I don’t think I’ve ever fully told the story of my birth here. I don’t know why I’m going to now, but I’m being prompted. So, the story as told to me (repeatedly) by the Keeper of the Holograms.
I was my parents’s first child, the first one to come to birth after a couple miscarriages. I wasn’t an easy baby to keep either. My mom was put on bed rest and needed a cervical cerclage (sewing the cervix shut) to hold me in there. She was sick all the time, through the entire pregnancy. She said instead of gaining weight, she lost it. She couldn’t keep food down, was dizzy, weak.
Despite all the precautions, I was born 8 weeks premature. This was 30+ years ago, so preemies didn’t do as well as they do now. I was very small when I was born (my birth certificate says 3.5 pounds), and I had breathing trouble because they had to give me steroids to develop my lungs before I could be born. My mom says it was a long hard labor; 36 hours of pain and dry pushing, as her water had broken very early on.
My mom says that my Apgar scores were really low, and I wasn’t breathing very well on my own, so they whisked me off to the NICU in an incubator. She said I was so tiny that the nurses had to stick the IV into my scalp, since that was the only place they could find good veins (hair doesn’t grow in that spot to this day). They told her that I had a 30% chance of living. She said I couldn’t suck a bottle at first, so they fed me through the IV, and that I would forget to breathe a lot, so I’d have to be thumped on the bottoms of my feet to make me.
I developed really bad jaundice at some point, so they put me under a UV lamp. My mom says my dad didn’t like that, and had to be assured that it was a standard treatment. My mom says each day was a struggle to get me to eat, to get me to breathe by myself.
Then I developed meningitis, and it was touch and go for weeks. My mom says the doctors were about ready to give up on me, as I was still very small and not thriving. But she says she called up all her family–including an aunt who was a minister–and had them pray for me nonstop. I know prayer works, so this part of the story has always rung true to me.
She always says at this point of the story that that was when I began getting better. I started breathing better, gaining weight, eating. The meningitis went away and she says I “started looking like a real baby.” I went home when I was two months old–on my original due date, a week before Christmas.
Hearing this story has always hurt me, and it was hard to retell it. Not because it’s a hard story to hear (though it is), but because of the way it’s always been told and how it makes me feel.
Yes, I felt my mom’s pain and fear and anguish. But always, always under it I heard the demand. See what I went through for you? Look at what I did for you! All that inconvenience deserves payback, damn it. Start producing. Make yourself into what I want you to be. After all, you owe me that much. I’ve always felt that I was a huge inconvenience to her, since I couldn’t make myself into what she wanted. I always felt that because I couldn’t be what she wanted, I should die, thereby ridding her of the burden.
She tells this story every year on or near my birthday. She says she’s thanking God by telling it, but I don’t think she is. It feels like she’s demanding why I haven’t begun to repay her for all the trouble I put her through back then. I feel like she’s looking for me to honor her heroism or something. The Lord of Lassitude and the Bestower of Righteous Silliness (my younger brother and sister, respectively) weren’t nearly as much trouble; they were normal births with no attendant problems.
Most days I still wonder if I shouldn’t just die and have done with all the pain. She’d be happy, and the world would be happy, too.