To start from the beginning of the story, click here.
The truth of my immediate reaction to Duncan’s birth is hard for me to admit.
After I delivered him, and the actual labor was over, the only thing I cared about was a donut.
Specifically, a chocolate donut; in addition to a honey wheat bagel, lightly toasted, with butter; and an iced mocha, with no whipped cream.
When I called our parents to tell them that Duncan had been born, and that we’d be ready to see them in our room about 10:00 PM, I was very unemotional; very matter-of-fact; very clear in my desire:
Bring me Tim Horton’s.
We have only 38 pictures of our time with Duncan, and this is one of them.
When I look at this picture, the first thing I see is the irritation I’m directing at my father for thinking this moment is photo-worthy. Beneath that, however, I see the fatigue. The strain. The shock. The grief. There isn’t a donut big enough to hide the truth behind that stare.
Our parents actually arrived to our room before the nurses had finished with Duncan, so all six of us were present when Heather returned to our room pushing his isolette. She wheeled him right up to the left side of my bed; I couldn’t see him, and I didn’t want to.
I didn’t recognize my emotions until later, but at the time, I was so fearful that I would be revolted at his appearance. I was afraid that I would look at him, and not recognize him. I was sure I’d look at him, and feel….nothing.
So, I chose not to hold him. Not to look at him. Not to acknowledge him. Not yet.
Jim, who had watched every moment of his birth – who saw each perfectly formed feature of his as he emerged from my womb – took him first. And in the most twisted moment of déjà vu, he said to our parents, “This is Duncan Thomas.” And there was just as much pride in his voice as the moment seventeen months before when he announced, “This is Seth James.”
And so we began the rounds:
Introduced to and cradled by Jim’s parents:
Wept over and loved on by mine:
But once I did – face reality and look at my son – the only thing my heart cried was, “Oh! I know you! You’re mine.”
Any parent who has been in this place knows the uncomfortable dichotomy: there isn’t enough time in the world to fit in all that you’d wish for you and your baby; and yet, there is only so much you can force to occur in the time that you’re given.
So, we spent our time passing him amongst all the waiting arms, and taking poorly composed photographs, and filling awkward silences with random observations – like how much I absolutely despised the gilt-framed Anne Geddes print hanging on the wall directly across from my bed. My father-in-law actually tried to pry it from the wall, but it held fast. Ugh. Silly, fat, not-nearly-cute-enough-for-fame baby in pink rose petals. Get off my wall!
I wanted to look at Duncan’s toes and fingers, but they were engulfed in the onesie he was wearing, and moving him too much seemed to accelerate certain processes we would rather have stalled…..so we just held him still, and studied his face.
And all too soon, we all seemed to come to the same conclusion:
There was nothing left to say. Nothing left to do. The time we’d had with him was, sadly, all that we were going to have with him.
In addition, my doctors were hovering to take me to surgery, having stalled longer than they should have, merely to give us time as a family.
In hindsight, I’m so proud of our parents. None of them showed a degree of the hesitation and fear that I’d felt; they welcomed him as they should have – as one of their own. They loved him as fully and completely and unconditionally in the two hours that they had with him as they would have if they’d had a lifetime.
They left, and I was wheeled down the hall to the OR. Heather assured me that Duncan could remain in the room with Jim; they wouldn’t separate my boys.
I’m not sure what those hours were like for Jim; I’ve never asked him. I’m not sure that he’d tell me, and that’s okay. Sometimes, some things are better left tucked away in the heart.
To be concluded….