Monday, March 3, 2014
I sat in the cushy glider on Wednesday night, rocking gently, looking around, knowing I would be the only woman in the room without a baby bump. Slowly, the obviously pregnant women and their male counterparts filled up the gliders on either side of us. They tried to be inconspicuous as they eyed Dylan, Justin, Jimmi and me, wondering why we would be attending a Baby Basics class at Babies "R" Us. "Don't worry!" Jimmi said when my face told him exactly what I was thinking.
Is it too late to leave?
I wondered if the two women who were setting up to run the class would ask me questions. I wondered if I'd be put on the spot. I wondered if they would inquire about my relationship to whatever baby was coming soon, as it clearly couldn't be mine. I pulled at my oversized sweatshirt, which I'd worn on purpose, to try and make it puff out in the midsection. That worked for about three seconds until it deflated back down to my flat stomach.
I really want to leave.
The class finally started about five minutes after schedule. The blonde instructor introduced herself and her brunette colleague then suggested we go around the room and give some information about ourselves and why we're attending the class. Well, I guess that was a good thing. At least it would put an end to the curiously confused whispers and stares. "Who wants to start?" she asked with a smile. Suddenly, we were all back in the fourth grade as everyone averted their eyes, lowered their heads and attempted to become invisible as soon as the teacher asked for the correct answer to the impossible math equation on the board. "Anyone?" asked the instructor, desperately. Silence filled the air. Finally, I decided to just get it over with and speak up, "I'll go first since it's obvious I'm not pregnant and you might be wondering what I'm doing here." The instructors faces showed both relief and genuine interest as I began my explanation, "I'm Suzanne, this is my husband, Jimmi, and these are my boys, Dylan and Justin. We're having a baby in May through a gestational carrier in Minnesota." Eyes widened across the room and I could almost see the questions forming in their minds. I brought my monologue to a quick close and hoped no one would pry into the details. The other women told us their names and their run-of-the-mill pregnancy specs: first time pregnant, due in April, having a girl, blah, blah, blah.
"Ok, let's begin!" chirped the blonde instructor, bringing out a baby doll and sitting in on her knee. I was slightly confused, as I'd expected there'd be a doll for each of us to use as practice. I quickly realized we were preparing for more of a lecture than a hands-on experience. I wondered how long the boys would last. That's when a discussion of immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth arose. I slouched down into my seat, hoping the floor would swallow me up. Our leader looked in my direction and asked, "Do you know if you'll be in the room when your baby is born?" Oh, how I hate that question. "As long as we make it in time," I answered truthfully. "Well," she continued. "Maybe you can let the doctors and nurses know you'd like some skin-to-skin contact right after the birth. You can just take off your shirt." I smirked as the sarcastic remark traveled from my brain to my mouth without being filtered, "Sure," I said. "If Jimmi gets to see another woman naked I guess it's only fair they all see me as well." Since my audience had only met me a few minutes earlier, they weren't sure how to take my sense of humor, but the blonde instructor replied with a smile, "That's right! Make it a free for all!" I could've added to the fun but I chose to cork my mouth and allow the class to continue on to feeding. Here comes the guilt, I thought to myself as the breastfeeding chat began. But, to my pleasant surprise, the leader turned to me and mentioned the best bottles for the least amount of gas while offering her formula picks as well. I lifted my head a bit higher and felt like slightly less of a Mommy Failure. But the next topic shot me right back down again, "Did you know your baby can recognize your voice at this point?"
Not mine, I thought.
"When she's born your voice will be soothing because it'll be familiar."
Not mine, I thought.
"Try this out. When your baby is born, let your husband hold her and then say something from across the room. Your baby's head will turn toward your voice."
Not mine, I thought.
When the class came to a close I thanked the instructors and Jimmi, Dylan, Justin and I left Babies "R" Us with just enough information to refresh my memory of newborns and give my men the minimum gist of what to expect.
I woke up on Thursday morning, excited for our 28 week pre-natal appointment which Jimmi and I would be attending via Skype. I logged on and waited impatiently for the numbers on the clock to change. One by one, slowly, slowly, until finally it was noon. No call. Lyndsay shot me a text to let me know the doctor was running behind. We both waited, states apart, for Dr. C to arrive. Fifteen minutes passed, then thirty, then sixty. Still nothing. "I'm starving!" Lyndsay texted. "I hope he gets here soon." As time ticked on, I was mentally canceling plans for the day in my head. I guess I could always go food shopping tomorrow. I don't really need gas that badly. Do I have time to shop for a dress for my baby shower?
Finally! "Jimmi!," I called to my husband, "It's time!" He rushed to my side. An hour and twenty minutes after our scheduled appointment time, we were about to begin. I clicked the video button on the Skype screen and Dr. C's smiling face appeared. "Hi, Suzanne! Hi Jimmi! So sorry to keep you waiting," he said then moved his laptop so we could catch a glimpse of a very pregnant Lyndsay. "So, Lyndsay's labs look great. She had her glucose test this morning for gestational diabetes and everything is fine. I'm gonna wheel in the portable ultrasound machine so you can see the baby," Dr. C explained. "I'm sure you know there hasn't been any more bleeding, so that's a good thing." I nodded, "Yeah, that was fun," I snickered sarcastically. The doctor aimed his computer at the ultrasound screen as Lyndsay positioned herself on the exam table. We could see a blur of white but not much else. "There's the face," he said. "Can you back away from the screen a bit?" I asked. "We can't make out the picture." Dr. C readjusted the machines, "Is that better?" Unfortunately, it wasn't. "Not really," I said as I moved my fingers off the keys I'd need to capture a screenshot. I could tell we weren't going to get a clear picture anyway. "Let me try something else," said the doctor. He left the room and came back with a young woman he introduced as a resident. He then handed her his laptop and instructed her to hold it, "over there" to remove some of the glare. She did as she was told and he started the ultrasound again. "Ok, the baby is moving its hand up and down and opening and closing its eyes. See that?" he asked excitedly. Lyndsay answered, "yes" at the same moment I answered, "no." Dr. C had the resident move again. "I can see that he's practicing breathing, which is really great at this stage." I ignored his incorrect pronoun and asked, "You can see that?" Dr. C grinned, "Yes, very well. Looks great!" I hoped they couldn't detect the pain in my voice as I asked, "Can you please print out some pictures and give them to Lyndsay for us? We really can't see anything at all." He agreed and then tried to give us something that would make us feel like we were involved in our baby's life, just a little bit.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
We heard our little Aria's heartbeat on and off as he chased her around with the doppler to catch the sound. "He's an active little boy!" Dr. C laughed and I had to correct him this time. "Unless something's changed, she's a girl!" A shot of fear flew through me, wondering if Dr. C had seen a newly formed penis on the screen. I heard the painters upstairs working on the hints of glitter and bling in our baby's room and I imagined having to go over it all with a giant roller dipped in blue. The ultrasound machine was turned off after the doctor was finally able to get a reading of 136 beats per minute then he moved on to measuring Lyndsay's growing abdomen. "Twenty-nine centimeters," he announced, "Perfect! I'll see her back in another four weeks."
We ended our call and I turned to Jimmi, "I wanted to see her blinking her eyes and practicing breathing," I whimpered. He hugged me, "I know. I'm sorry." I tried to be thankful that we're even fortunate enough to have a biological child, but each experience we miss tugs at my heart a little bit more.
I'm having a baby but I've never felt her kick. My husband has never rested his head on my pregnant belly. My baby has never heard my voice. I've never read her a story. She's never heard me sing her a lullaby. When my baby is born she won't know me at all. What if I can't soothe her with my voice? What if she feels abandoned when Lyndsay, the only "mother" she's ever known, is no longer there for her?
I'm going to be a total stranger to my own child.