30 Days of Thanks: Why I'm Glad My Mom Was Around For My Pregnancy
My mom never got to be the kind of grandma she wanted to be, but in the first two years of my son’s life she was the kind of the kind of mom I needed her to be.
“I ordered you a sundress. You’ll love it. I wore sundresses the whole time I was pregnant with you and your brother,” my mom said. My mom proudly spoke of her mythic low weight-gain pregnancies. “I walked right out of the hospital in one.”
I bristled. My first instinct was to reject the gift, unseen. I argued many of my mom’s unasked-for favors. The irony was, her hope that I wouldn’t pack on too much pregnancy weight was right there with me. The women in my family aren’t good dieters—daily deprivation of favorite foods is a surefire hit off the madness pipe—so I’d never take off the excess pounds.
I bit back my worries and my protest but I’m sure I had an edge in my voice when I asked if the dress was returnable. They say you always hurt the ones you love, and I’m pretty sure the phrase originated with mothers and daughters.
I didn’t want stress; I was finally pregnant past the seventh week, heartbeat heard and all. Two years of trying, two early miscarriages, had led to finally deciding that if I wasn’t meant to carry a kid we’d adopt one or my husband and I would be the kind of child-free people who went to Hawaii all the time and had really nice furniture.
It was my mom who’d helped me make peace, after the second miscarriage when I cryingly drove to work and she told me, “If it doesn’t happen, so what? You can still have joy.” She didn’t say how I’d do that, or why she believed it, but it was enough for me. She wasn’t an optimist, my mom, so her more positive pronouncements were the ones I took the most seriously.
For a non-religious, superstitious person like me, pregnancy after some false starts is a weird thing: Every tic, every twinge, every lack of tic, every lack of twinge had to mean something. I was so wrapped up in waiting for something to go wrong, I didn’t notice when it did.
I should have sensed something was off on my dad’s birthday. My parents were in Las Vegas for a quick getaway. I called to wish my dad a happy birthday and afterward my mom got on the phone.
“I forgot your father’s birthday, I feel so bad,” my mom told me. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” The casinos were cold and hard to walk through. She was getting out of breath, she said. I thought she was making some kind of excuse for forgetting her husband’s birthday. I should have known this was much more than absent-mindedness; this was a woman who prided herself on giving great gifts.
She was in the ER a few weeks later: her breathing was labored, her kidneys weren’t working well. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. They released her, slightly improved, after breathing treatments, citing (maybe) pneumonia. The doctors still weren’t sure but my parents didn’t ask too many questions. She was out of the hospital and on the mend for the baby, and that was all she cared about.
Then, she went into the hospital again in September, just before I delivered.
She was really sick. Kidney failure, high blood pressure, and now a diagnosis. She had scleroderma—a rare auto-immune disease that in its most severe form attacks and hardens your internal organs. She had the severe form. I was sure she wouldn’t be there to see the birth of her first grandchild.
But she got out of the hospital just before I went in. I was induced and my son’s heart rate dropped dramatically. My doctor asked, “Do you want to try induction again tomorrow or do a C-section?” I hadn’t figured on a C-section, researched it, anything, but I just wanted my baby out and in my arms. Our family had had too much bad luck lately to risk him. I said yes in an instant.
Everything went fine. My son emerged and his cry washed over me. A nurse lay him on my chest and I felt relief and hope. I sang to him before staff carted him off to the nursery.
After a peek at her grandson, my tiny and tired mom came immediately to me. She sat by my side in the post-op room, trying to keep me warm as I shivered off the after-effects of the epidural. Everyone else was marveling at Clark, and I was a little mad at her for not being with them, but she was holding my hand and I didn’t let go, either. I wanted my mommy, even if I wouldn’t admit it out loud.
She didn’t say a word about her own illness, even when I asked. My mom hated parents who complained to their kids about their ailments. She just worried about me and asked for more blankets.
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