Hold it together, Suzanne!
"I AM the biological mom," I said firmly, through gritted teeth. The nurse interrupted our awkward exchange, "There are trace amounts of blood and leukosites in your urine." I stared at her blankly and waited for further information but none was offered. "So what does that mean?" I pressed. "It's just a quick screen so it could mean there's an infection or it might mean nothing." Helpful. Thanks. "So, now what?" I asked as Dr. M emerged from his office with an answer, "I'll prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic, but wait until we get the urinalysis back so we know exactly what bacteria we're treating." A pain shot through my love canal which ignited a sense of urgency in my treatment. "How long will that take?" I questioned impatiently. "We'll have the results of the urinalysis tomorrow. If that doesn't show anything we'll have to wait three days for the culture to grow." What?! I didn't allow my voice to reflect the stress in my head, "I'll be in Minnesota in three days. I'd really like to take care of this before I leave." Dr. M nodded and said, "We'll know more tomorrow."
It was Dr. M's office. "Hello?" I answered, expecting to finally find out what was causing the pain that was now pulsating in the lower left side of my back and radiating tingling and numbness down my leg. "Hi, Suzanne. The results of your urine culture were clear. There's no bacteria." That can't be. "But I'm in pain!" I whined, practically begging the nurse to give me a diagnosis that could actually be treated. "Can I finish up the medicine anyway, just in case?" I knew I was grasping at straws but I needed to try something, anything, to make this agony stop. She put me on hold to ask the doctor his opinion and came back with, "Dr. M said to try it. Can't hurt." That was good enough for me.
As our walk through the mall continued, I realized quickly that I was not impressed by the selection of stores in what I'd hoped would be the epitome of shopping Heaven. Jimmi and I breezed by most of the shops without entering and only stopped to marvel at the roller coasters and thrill rides in the amusement park that was built right into the center of it all. We completed our round of Level One with only a Mr. Hanky, The Christmas Poo t-shirt for each of the kids to show for it. Up the escalator we went, hoping for better luck. "Have you seen a bathroom at all?" Jimmi asked as we neared the top. Come to think of it, I hadn't, and I actually had to go too. "I'm sure we'll pass one at some point," I assured him as we started our loop of the second level. Store after store, hallway after hallway, candy shop after candy shop we searched. But no bathroom was found. And then I spotted the place I was sure we'd find relief. "American Girl will have a bathroom," I announced. Jimmi looked mortified, "I'm not going to the bathroom in there!" I giggled, "You don't have to carry a doll to use it. I'm sure they have a men's room. Let's go look!" I opened the door the the three-level store and visions of my future flooded my mind. But then I remembered our purpose for the visit and I quickly found the sign that would lead us in the right direction. We approached the American Girl Cafe, with the girliest set-up I've ever seen. Tables with flowers and hearts and frills were just begging for little girls and their matching dolls to grab a seat and order from the dainty little menu. And, in the back of the restaurant, were the bathrooms. "Want me to hold your stuff?" Jimmi asked. I was confused, "Don't you have to go too?" The look of "Hell, no!" came over his face and I had to laugh out loud at his horror. "Oh, stop! There's a men's room! Look! Believe it or not, you're not the first man to come into this store. There are lots of daddies here!" I had to smile at the fact that I'd just lumped Jimmi into the "Daddy" category. "Oh, fine!" he huffed as he stomped away and pushed open the pretty, pink door.
Our second floor perusing had come full-circle and we were still only carrying our small purchase from Level One. "I'm hungry," I said, which was perfectly timed with our ascent to Level Three, where we could choose from a variety of restaurants or a large food court. An hour later our bellies were full and we realized we'd completed the entire Mall of America in under two hours. That must've been some kind of speed-shopping record. Now we just needed to avoid the Nordstrom shoe vulture and find our rental car so we could drive an hour and a half to the hotel.
It was a fairly uneventful drive and we pulled into the hotel parking garage around 8:00 PM. There weren't any available spaces so Jimmi waited in the car while I went to check in and ask about other parking options. I gave our name to the man at the front desk who checked his computer and said, "Oh, ok. It looks like your reservation is for our sister hotel down the street. Pull out of the lot and go down about two blocks. You'll see it on the right." Confused, I nodded my head and walked out. I got into the car and said, "I guess I made a reservation at the wrong place. I thought I chose this one, since we stayed here last time, but I guess I didn't. This is the Inn & Suites and I reserved The Grand Hotel. Oh well. It sounds nicer, anyway."
We found the hotel without much trouble, parked and walked into the lobby, which was noticeably more upscale than the last one. I was immediately proud of myself for accidentally booking this place. On our way to the front desk a store caught my eye that nearly caused a full-blown panic attack. It was a wig shop. What's the big deal, right? It's just some fake hair on some fake heads in the window. No, that's not all. To me it was a reminder of the months of Hell I'd been through in 2011. It was trip back to the agony of losing my reproductive organs and my hair. A painful visual of all that cancer takes from so many of us. I averted my eyes and made it to the counter without looking back. A few signatures and a swipe of the credit card later and we were on our way to the 9th floor to rest for the night. I slid my key into the slot, turned the handle, opened the door and froze at the first site of our room. Old, dingy and dark were the first three words that came to mind. But I know I'm extremely spoiled, so I kept my mouth shut and walked inside to get settled. Jimmi dropped his stuff and headed to the bathroom (the man has a bladder the size of a pea). I sat down on the bed, which was way too small and bounced back as if the mattress was made of rubber. It's only for three nights, I told myself. You can handle it for three nights. Jimmi appeared a minute later with a look of disgust on his face, "The bathroom is gross. The sink is so dirty it looks like they've never cleaned it." Ok, if Jimmi's complaining, it must be bad. This is a man who's slept in more cheap motels while touring than most people could ever imagine. I got up to check it out. The first thing I noticed was the 1960's, brown and tan, patterend-tile floor staring up at me. The sink, toilet and shower looked as if they'd never been cleaned and the light was so dim I wasn't sure I'd be able to see if I needed to use the facilities in the middle of the night. I couldn't say anything. I just had to suck it up. As I walked back to the bed where Jimmi was sitting, we exchanged glances and each of us knew what the other was thinking. "I don't want to stay here," I said. "I don't either!" he agreed, to my surprise. "Maybe they can switch us to the hotel we went to first. We stayed there last time and it was fine. They're owned by the same place." Jimmi picked up the phone and called the front desk. "Hey, man," he said to the receptionist, "I really hate to be a pain, but is there any way we can switch to the Inn and Suites?" I assume the man asked the reason for our need to leave because Jimmi replied, "I don't want to be a dick," nice one, Jimmi. "but it's just…well…the room is kind of disgusting." I guess the guy appreciated Jimmi's candor because he thanked him for his opinion and put him on hold to see what he could do. A few minutes later we were booked into the Inn and Suites for the remainder of our stay. All we had to do was stick it out in the land of dirt and grime for the rest of the night.
Morning couldn't have come soon enough after a sleepless night of too hot, too cold, flat pillow, hard mattress, weird smell. I checked my phone and saw a text from Lyndsay, "Kid number one is puking." Oh, no! Her daughter had been sick a few days earlier and the bug had now made it to her son. We decided to cancel our plans together for later in the day and let Hunter rest and get better, which left the day free after our hospital tour. I got up and hobbled into the bathroom, not quite sure how to pinpoint the growing list of pain, numbness and tingling that was moving around the lower half of my body. I glanced at the shower and contemplated stepping inside for less than a minute before deciding against trying to clean myself in a dirty cell. "I'll take a shower once we check into the other hotel, after our Maternity Ward tour," I said out loud to no one in particular. We packed the few items we'd removed from our shared suitcase and headed to the garage to load the bag into our rental car. From there, we walked back into the hotel and took the elevator down to the Subway level. No, there weren't any underground trains. The hotel had underground walking tunnels connecting it to the hospital where our baby will be born in about five months.
"Ok, let me see," I said as I read the signs pointing straight ahead, left and right. "I think it's that way." Luckily, we managed to find the Maternity Ward where Nurse G met us for our private tour. "Hello!" she chirped cheerily as she welcomed us with a genuine smile. She didn't waste any time in her explanations, "So, this is where you'll report when Lyndsay goes into labor, then we'll bring you right down to her room to…" I cut her off, "We won't be in the room with her until she's ready to push." I explained. "Oh, ok. It's great that you already know this stuff so I can put it in your file," she wrote some notes and pointed to the rooms on either side of her. "You'll wait in here until she's ready." We peeked through the windows of the rooms which contained TVs, couches, snack machines and drinks, then continued on through the large double doors marked, "Special Care Nursery." Nurse G spoke, "If your baby is a few weeks early or needs just a little bit of extra help, she might have to be in here for a day or two. This isn't a NICU; that would be in the other building. This is just for mild issues." I immediately noticed the letters that were cut out and taped onto the windows of each door. "Mary," "Christina," "Jackson." It was so cute the way they personalized the rooms to give them less of a hospital feel. The loud cry of a newborn penetrated the silence and I looked up at Jimmi who seemed to smile in anticipation of hearing those cries. Ha! We'll see how he feels after a few hundred sleepless nights.
The tour continued into the main area of Labor and Delivery and Nurse G explained where "the mom" would go and where "the mom" would have the baby if everything was normal and where "the mom" would be if she needed a c-section. I bit my tongue, though each time she said those words it felt like a knife was cutting away a piece of my heart.
I'M THE MOM!
We ended the tour in an actual room where a woman would give birth, then stay for the rest of her hospital time. Nurse G showed us how the bed breaks down when it's time to push and we saw the little bassinet for the baby. "The babies used to stay in the nursery unless it was time to eat, but we've changed that now. The baby will stay with you the whole time." Then she remembered she needed to go into further detail about the sleeping arrangements, "We'll try to find two rooms next to each other, or at least in the same vicinity, one for the two of you and one for Lyndsay. The baby will stay with you in your room, but Lyndsay will be nearby. The mom and dad will get a bracelet that is connected to the baby but visitors, including the dad, will have to wear a name tag." I had to ask, "So, I'll get a bracelet?" The nurse was quick to answer, " No, Lyndsay gets the bracelet because…" but her words fell off and she looked very confused by my inquiry. "Hmmm," she started. "I'm not exactly sure how that will work. I'll find out for you." She went on to talk about the legalities of our situation, "You should have all of your documentation in place very soon so we can put it in your file that you two are the biological and intended parents of the child, that way there are no mistakes. When she's born, we'll have you sign the papers for the birth certificate so we can register everything right away." I broke in, "What if we don't make it here for the birth?" It's a possibility I've been worrying about for months. I realize it's only a 3-hour flight to Minnesota from New Jersey, but there's much more to it than that. If Lyndsay calls and says she's in labor, I'll first have to call and find a flight, get to the airport two hours in advance, fly, rent a car and drive an hour and a half. The whole process will take at least eight hours. Her labor might not last that long. And what if she goes into labor right after the last flight of the day leaves the airport? Then there's no chance at all. And, no, I can't really go out to Minnesota a few weeks before her expected due date because I have kids who need me here. Also, Lyndsay was a week late or more with her last two pregnancies, so who knows how long I'd be waiting? "I'm not sure what would happen if you aren't here. I'll ask about that, too," Nurse G said. My eyes started to tear up a bit, "If we don't make it, who will hold the baby? Will someone cuddle her so she doesn't feel like she's all alone?" Nurse G tilted her head to the side, "We have PLENTY of baby-cuddlers here. Don't you worry about that!" The thought of someone else being the first person to hold my daughter made me feel a bit sick to my stomach so I chose to push away the thought for the moment.
When the tour concluded, Jimmi and I headed back to the Subway of the clinic and started walking toward the parking garage. We passed a few shops along the way, but one seemed to call to me as I walked near it. "Can we go in?" I begged Jimmi with batting eyelashes. He looked behind me to see the small, frilly, pink clothing donning the windows and he knew I really wasn't giving him a choice in the matter. Less than 60 seconds later I'd already pulled a tiny pink, ruffled pair of leggings with a matching pink kitty-cat shirt and coordinating crib shoes, hat and blanket from the rack. "This will be her going home outfit!" I squealed as I tossed the bundle into Jimmi's arms and continued my search. One more pink and white ruffled outfit, a pink jacket with bows, a pink and black hat with matching shoes and another pair of shoes in a lighter shade of pink and I was on my way to the register, dreading the total cost of my 10 minute browse through only one section of Baby Baby. "Oh, and these!" I said at the last minute as I grabbed the little white, lacy socks from the rack next the the cashier. I don't want to tell you the number that rang up before I handed over my credit card, but I promise the stash of Pepto-Bismol colored clothing was so worth it! The "No Returns! Exchanges Only!" sign I noticed as we left the store forced me to turn to Jimmi and ask, "What if she's a boy?" His eyes grew wide and I laughed it off, "I'm kidding!" But I really wasn't.
Is it possible that Baby A is actually a boy?
We trudged through the parking lot to the car, ready to leave for the next hotel, when I saw the sign on the other side of the parking lot. "Maybe we don't have to leave," I suggested. "The Marriott shares this parking lot and is also connected to the subway to the hospital. It would be much more convenient to just go there. Plus, it's a Marriott. How bad could it be?" Jimmi agreed with my logic so we crossed the lot and entered the large-chain hotel's lobby. "How may I help you?" said to midwest-friendly receptionist. "Hi. We stayed next door last night and we were a bit disappointed in the condition of the room," I explained as nicely as I could. She was already nodding with understanding, "Yes, I've heard that before." Ok, this was a good sign, "We're supposed to go to the Inn and Suites, but we were wondering if maybe we can just stay here?" She picked up the phone and started to dial, "You're in luck! We're all sister hotels and our reservation specialist handles reservations for all of us." She quickly explained our dilemma to the man on the other end of the line then handed me the receiver, "Hello, this is Lenny. How may I help you?" I repeated our situation and Lenny said, "Yes, I always tell people to stay away from that hotel. Honestly, it was built in the twenties and I don't think they've EVER renovated the rooms! You'll be much happier at the Marriott." So it wasn't only us! Whew!
A few minutes later we were settling into our very comfortable room on the 5th floor of the Marriott. Now to figure out what to do with the rest of our day. Hunter was still sick so visiting with Lyndsay was out of the question. I Googled some options but came up empty. "Maybe I'll check Pollstar," I said as I typed in the web address for the concert listing site. "No way!" I screeched. "Bret Michaels is playing in Minneapolis!" I couldn't believe the singer of Poison, whom I'd had a crush on since the seventh grade, was playing 80 miles from where were were staying. What luck! But my excitement came to a halt when I realized, "Oh. That's tomorrow night. Oh well. It's no fun seeing my lover when I'm with my husband anyway," I joked with a wink.
I decided to call my mom while we had a few minutes to chat. As we spoke I noticed the lights in the room started flickering. The smell of smoke caught my attention even more and I turned around to see the white cloud billowing from the wall-lamp. "Oh my GOD!" I shouted, "Jimmi! The lamp is on fire!" Jimmi appeared from the bathroom in his underwear, ran to the wall and started blowing out the lamp like it was a candle on a birthday cake. The smoke was really coming out now and Jimmi was trying to reach in and grab the flaming bulb. My brain finally focused and I decided to turn off the lamp to avoid having my husband fried to a crisp in the middle of a hotel room in Minnesota. The fire died quickly and Jimmi and I looked at each other in shock. Then I remembered my mom was still on the phone, which I'd thrown on the floor. "Hi, sorry. We're ok but I'm gonna have to call you back." Jimmi picked up the hotel phone and dialed the front desk, "Hi, ummm, our lamp just caught on fire. Can you like bring up another bulb?" He hung up and I asked what the guy said. Jimmi laughed and shook his head, "He said he'd have someone bring up two bulbs, just in case. Oh, and a fan to get rid of the smell."
Finally, the next morning arrived. It was Baby A Appointment Day! We would start with our big anatomy ultrasound, followed by an appointment with the nurse, then Dr. C, then, finally, the social worker, who would be in charge of making sure everyone at the hospital understands that we are Baby A's parents.
We met Lyndsay and Josh by the elevators leading to the OB/GYN floor and it was great to finally see them. An adorable baby bump was protruding under Lyndsay's coat and it made me feel warm all over. Hugs were exchanged and then we were off to the waiting room. Not long after, the ultrasound tech came to get us. She looked at the four of us before allowing us to follow her and said, "You can't have all of these people in the room." Josh was about to gracefully bow out when the tech realized what was happening, "Oh! Is this a surrogacy situation?" We nodded. "Ok, it's fine. You can all follow me."
The room was small but there was ample space for all of us. Lyndsay positioned herself on the table and lifted her shirt. Jimmi averted his eyes and asked if he should step out of the room. I was confused until I realized that the last time he'd been there for an ultrasound it was an internal one since it was so early in the pregnancy. "No, it's ok!" I explained. "This one goes over her belly." He quickly turned back, "Oh, ok!" I forgot that Jimmi was the only one in the room who had really never experienced an ultrasound before. Well, not one where the baby actually looks like a baby. I couldn't wait to see his face.
The tech got to work rolling back and forth over Lyndsay's abdomen. I quickly picked out Baby A's beating heart and my pulse slowed to a normal rhythm. That was a great start. "I'm gonna begin at the head and work my way down," explained the tech about her method for measuring every part of the baby to make sure she's growing normally. "Do we know the gender?" she asked as she started scanning. "She's supposed to be a girl, but I'm hoping you'll confirm that today." She didn't say much as she started measurements on our little one's head then moved on to check her brain. "Yes! She has a brain!" I quipped. As if he was reading my mind, Jimmi added, "Then she's definitely not mine!" I giggled and the tech said, "Head and brain look normal. Let's move on to the heart." I watched as the tech revealed a beautiful, four-chamber heart that was pulsating at 141 beats per minute. "Heart looks normal," confirmed the tech. A scan of the baby's abdomen showed two kidneys, a liver and a stomach. "Organs look normal," we were told. Quickly but thoroughly, the technician measured two normal arms with two perfect hands and ten little fingers, followed by two amazing legs, two adorable feet and ten tiny toes. "Arms and legs look normal." Our squirmy little monkey was hard to chase but we got a glimpse of a beautiful spine with a nice, smooth bottom, ruling out spina bifida. "Spine and back look normal." I couldn't help noticing the noises of amazement coming from Jimmi's mouth as he watched his baby on the screen. But I was getting antsy now, "You're making us wait until the end to confirm she's a girl, aren't you?" I asked. Without hesitation, the tech responded, "She's a girl. I was just looking at that." And she pointed to three white lines on the monitor, "Those are the labia." Honestly, I had to take her word for it because it certainly didn't look like any female genitalia I'd ever seen! But she's the expert. If she says we're having a girl, I guess we're having a girl.
Oh my GOD!
We're having a GIRL?
We're having a GIRL!!
Do you have any idea how long I've wanted a little girl? Don't get me wrong. I love my boys with all my heart, but after growing up with four brothers then having two sons, I could really use a little estrogen in my life! Plus, my mom is my best friend. I've always wanted to have the same relationship with my own daughter but I'd never been blessed with one.
"Well, she looks great!" the tech said as she finished up. "Congratulations to all of you."
Our next appointment with the nurse followed immediately and the four of us jammed ourselves into an exam room to wait. She entered with a handful of pamphlets and I could tell she wasn't sure if she should be handing them to Lyndsay or to me. After thinking about it, she made the logical decision to give Lyndsay the information about signs of pre-term labor and when to call the doctor and she gave Jimmi the "Tips for Dads" booklet. She started a conversation about postpartum depression with Lyndsay, then turned to Jimmi and said, "This condition affects one in ten dads as well." I had no idea.
Finally, Dr. C appeared and Jimmi was able to meet him for the first time. "I'm sure you've heard that everything looks normal," Dr. C said happily as he turned his computer screen in our direction so we could read the report along with him as he went through it. "Brain is normal, heart is normal, organs are normal. No remnants of the second gestational sac present." That part was new. "What?" I asked, even though I totally understood what he had said the first time. He confirmed, "The sac with the twins is completely gone now." I don't know why it hurt to hear him say it. Baby B and Baby C had passed almost 12 weeks earlier. I'm used to the idea that we are having one healthy baby and not three. I guess the memories came flooding back and I wasn't prepared. "Oh. Ok," was all I could say.
Dr. C went over the birth procedure again as the nurse before him and the tour nurse had the day before. I asked questions about vaccinations and the necessity of the hepatitis B vaccine when the baby wasn't going to be using IV drugs or having promiscuous sex any time in the near future. All he could tell me was that was the recommendation of the CDC, so I made a note to discuss it with our pediatrician. Then I asked the burning question, "When do you think I should come out here to wait for the birth?" It was an impossible question. Dr. C had no way of knowing the correct answer, but he tried, "Based on Lyndsay's history, we have no reason to think she'll go before forty weeks. Honestly, I think this might be a perfect situation for induction at forty or forty-one weeks so you can plan." That was the first time he's mentioned inducing labor for anything other than a medical reason. "That would be ideal," I answered, even though I know in my heart it's much better for the baby to come when she's ready and not when it's best for our schedules. "I guess we can figure it all out further down the road," I said and Dr. C agreed. "Ok, I'll see Lyndsay again in four to five weeks," instructed the doctor before wishing us all happy holidays and heading out of the room.
One more meeting and our appointments were done for the day.
The social worker appeared and her sticky sweet voice made my teeth hurt. She was nice enough, but I just couldn't take anyone who sounded like a cartoon character seriously. I sucked it up and listened as she talked about getting the legal documents in order so Jimmi's and my name would appear on Baby A's birth certificate. After printing out a paper with all the necessary information for our attorney, Nurse G, from our tour the day before, came by to answer any remaining questions. "Ok," she started, "I found out some answers for you from yesterday. If you don't make it on time for the birth the baby will still be registered to you on the birth certificate as long as you're here when she's discharged." Well, I sure hope we'll be there by then! "Yes, that shouldn't be a problem," I assured her. "Also, about the bracelets. I found out that Lyndsay and Suzanne will have the bracelets that are connected to the baby. Jimmi will have to wear a visitor's name tag, but he will not have a bracelet." That sounded a little odd to me since Jimmi is the baby's dad but, hey, I was just happy that I'd actually have something to show that I'm the mom. I remembered a question, "Will Jimmi be able to cut the chord?" Nurse G smiled, "Of course, he will!" Good news. "And when she's born they'll put her in my arms?" I needed confirmation. "Yes," she said, followed by the most incredible three words I've heard in a long time:
"You're her mother."