- 1:55 a.m. I told myself I couldn’t go to yoga tomorrow unless I actually wrote something tonight… and got it up on the ‘Net.
- Generic Grocery Store Flavored Seltzer Water. Yoga is at 7:30 a.m. No way am I risking coffee now, bummer!
- Chicago: ‘You are the love of my life…You are my inspiration…’
For nearly 13 years now, I’ve been a non-residential custodian, but there was a time, a precious time I can never get back, when I was residential custodian. I was young, married just over a year and a new mom to be.
My son was conceived on his father’s birthday. I was aware of his conception one missed period, two weeks, three consecutive bouts of nausea, and no less than 5 EPTs later. It took that many to convince myself I was actually pregnant.
The ensuing 39 weeks were a gift. I was alone, truly alone, for the first and only time, with my son. Granted this gift was filled with every trimester, all-day morning sickness. It featured swollen feet, swollen hands, and, even worse, restricted caffeine intake.
Pregnancy was also an anxiety-filled gift. I lived in fear of my body’s autonomous systems and the complete, involuntary control they had over the fate of this tiny human growing under my heart.
I cherished every second of those weeks. I didn’t care about the wave of nausea that came over me in the butcher aisle of the grocery store, or the Outback Restaurant, where it once cost me a very good steak. I still don’t mind that I cannot, to this day, drink plain water because I promptly threw up the eight, 32 oz. glasses I drank, in rapid succession, in preparation for my first ultrasound.
For 39 weeks my son and I were, literally, inseparable. It was just me, Mattie, and my caffeine-deprived brain. I spoke to Mattie while he grew under my heart. I caressed his shoulders and feet pressing up against the stretched-tight skin of my belly. I sang to him. I played the Moody Blues, the Beatles, and Mary Chapin Carpenter on my car’s stereo cassette player for him. I talked to him about the books I was reading.
Even as an embryo, Kiddo inspired me to do things I had always wanted to, or was afraid to. I learned to sew, so I could make Mattie baby clothes. We watched all five seasons of Babylon 5 “together”. I finally read Frank Herbert’s Dune. I finished Dune Messiah, the second book in the series, the night I went into labor.
When my contractions started, they were, for a woman who had had two impacted wisdom teeth pulled by a dentist in his office with minimal Novocain, not very painful.
Call it pregnancy brain: I ignored them. They were coming 25 minutes apart. I reckoned I had plenty of time the next morning to hit the public library and drive back, especially since they weren’t too painful. I would spend the rest of the afternoon reading and waiting for my then not-ex-husband to get home from work before going to the hospital.
At 8:00 a.m. I bustled my husband off to work, reassuring him my contractions were only Braxton Hicks…if they were real it would be hours…I would call him if they grew closer together…
That didn’t prove to be a mistake exactly. I did have plenty of time to get to the public library and check out my book, and get home in between contractions. It just turned out the library was a mile and a half – five minutes – from the house my ex and I shared.
I had just finished getting dressed when the first bolt hit. This was painful. This contraction made me want to have my remaining wisdom teeth pulled with no Novocain. When it stopped, I headed to the public library.
When I arrived at the public library, a mile and a half from our house too, another shock wave hit me. I checked out my book, smiled at the librarian, waddled out to my car, and waited a few minutes a third contraction hit. I decided my then not-ex-husband would probably need to eat something before we left for the hospital, and while I was in it after I had Leading Man #1, so I drove to the Stop and Shop half a mile away from the library. In the grocery store, another contraction hit. I paid for my groceries, waddled out to my car a second time, and, as soon as the final bolt hit, drove home.
When I pulled into the driveway, I barely had time to turn the car off.
I called my future ex-husband home.
The rest of the remaining 30 hours are a blur to me until 3:49 p.m. the following afternoon when the child who had been growing under my heart and in my mind for 41 weeks was placed, naked, on my chest.
“Meet your son, Mrs. Miller,” someone – I don’t remember who – said.
I looked down into the most beautiful grey eyes I had ever seen. The rest of the delivery room faded away. I was only aware of the warmth of my son on my chest, and those eyes, staring into mine.
Intellectually, I knew he couldn’t see me. I was well aware of that newborn’s eyes are out of focus. Still, it didn’t feel that way.
That day, I felt something in me change, almost like my DNA was recoding itself. I was no longer just Maria. I was no longer merely human. I became Mara Jade Skywalker (my “Supergirl” or “Wonder Woman”) that day. I became a fighter, a nurturer, my son’s greatest fan, a survivor, and a protector of my own, no matter the personal cost.
I became Leading Man #1’s Mom.
Since then, I’ve never been anything but.