Now I have twice as many children as I did just over a week ago; that’s one way to describe it. Alternatively, I can now refer to ‘the kids’ with an attempt at the calm authority that my parents used to refer to their collection of children in the 1990s. Plural young people in the family: a group of them, a class.
M was born in a suburban New Jersey hospital that also happens to be the hospital where her father was born. Back when we were getting married he needed to supply his birth certificate, and dug out a document from this hospital that was adorned with a small blue ribbon bow. It seemed quite credible as an early-80s birth certificate from a suburban New Jersey hospital, but it turned out to be a decorative complimentary gift.
The ward where M emerged was probably not the same one that her dad was born in. It looked liked it had been updated in the past 40-ish years, with a large golden sign indicating that it was due to the generosity of the horrible Kushner family. This dismayed me, but I cheered up when a man offered to get me a wheelchair and I said, Oh no, I’m fine, I mean I’m here to have a baby but I’m not in labor! and I grinned, so moved by the kindness, but of course he couldn’t see that behind my mask.
Prior to giving birth I worried that I wouldn’t love M as much as B because how could I? I love B so much! I mean, when I was leaving for the hospital he ran from window to window so he could wave from multiple vantage points. This is the most I could have hoped for when I decided to become a parent.
At the hospital, I thought about this problem as the anesthesiologist and his residents stabbed me repeatedly in the back with a large needle to give me a spinal anesthetic. I had an emergency c-section with B and so I had agreed to schedule another one. A nurse in triage had warned me that the anesthesiologist ‘talks too much’ but this did not fully prepare me for his constant stream of weak banter, which reminded me of being trapped in a London black cab with a driver who moonlights as an unsuccessful stand up comedian, except of course that I was trapped on an operating table because the talky anesthesiologist had (as was his remit) put me in a state of temporary paralysis.
This almost annoyed me enough that I didn’t feel afraid of the procedure, but only almost. I’d been telling myself that it was no big deal, that I’d done it before. But I realized as the doctor tapped my abdomen to ensure I felt nothing was that I’d never given birth to this baby, in this place and time. Thankfully, it’s possible for a beautiful thing to also frighten you.
Maybe one day M will ask me to tell her about the time she was born and I’ll be like: suburban New Jersey, horrible Kushners, terrible jokes in the manner of an awful taxi driver, wasn’t sure that I’d love you! and she’ll be disappointed, but then I’ll get to the part where they pulled her from my body and held her up so I could see her, her lovely squalling face, and I immediately thought, Oh, it’s you, of course I love YOU. I hope that will suffice.