About 5 years ago I was in a car accident with my two sons on the way home from their annual pediatric check up. It was a beautiful summer day. I sat at a red light. My 2 year old and 7 year old watched a movie on the DVD player in the van. While I sat, staring at the light above, I heard a loud crash and was jolted out of my trance when my body tried to go forward while the seatbelt held me back. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a man in his Infinity SUV hanging up his cell phone. My boys were very confused and mostly annoyed about the DVD player shutting off on them. I got out of the car quickly to check on them and saw Max, the 2 year old, had a scrape across his neck from the seat belt. When I saw that scrape I became the female version of the HULK.
I turned, teeth barred, growling, hissing, and pointing my finger while I marched towards the man in his car. “What’s wrong with you? You were on your damned phone weren’t you?!” He stayed in his car and pretended not to notice the crazy lady screaming at him. Suddenly I felt a lot of pain in my lower abdomen. I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. We spent the better part of the day and early evening at the ER while they monitored my contractions. They did a CT scan of my abdomen assuring me it was in my best interest to check for internal bleeding but I feared for my little girl growing in my belly. There was no internal bleeding, contractions stopped, and I was told that I would likely be in pain for a while.
The next 89 days remain the most painful days I’ve ever had. I had herniated several discs in my back and the bigger the baby got, the more intense the pain became. My son Max was an active 2 year old—even more than your average toddler. I was so afraid I couldn’t keep up with him that we never left the house. To this day, when I watch House, I totally get it. When you have constant pain you feel like the world is your idiot. Everything was difficult and caused me to curse—standing, sitting, attempting to walk. The pain was so intense that the OB put me on Vicodin while pregnant so I could cope. They assured me the Vicodin was safe and I was grateful for relief but it barely took the edge off—so I used it very rarely.
When I got close to 30 weeks I begged my OB to schedule an earlier C-section for me (vaginal not an option for me—it just isn’t. Don’t flame me. It is what it is.) When we got to 32 weeks they did a Fetal Lung Maturity test. While performing an ultrasound they stick a long needle in your belly looking for amniotic fluid. It’s a tricky procedure because they cannot hit the baby. (The doctor doing the procedure literally said, while sticking that needle in my belly, “If I hit the baby it will be a disaster.” I’m not sure if she found that a comfort to me). When an amnio is done in early pregnancy there’s plenty of room but not when you’re 32 weeks pregnant. The test results came back that my daughter’s lungs were not ready. If she were born she would go straight to NICU. I was devastated. My mind wanted her born healthy and safe but I needed to be rid of this pain. I just wanted her out.
Seven days later they were trying again. The nurse prepping me asked me if I was anxious to have the pregnancy over and I sighed saying, “Oh, I cannot wait.” My husband came over, smiling, and said, “I haven’t heard you say that before. I was kind of worried.” Confused I asked him what he was talking about. Haven’t I bitched every single day about how much pain I was in? He said, “I’m glad you’re so excited about having a girl. I heard you tell the nurse you couldn’t wait.” I smiled back but didn’t have the courage to tell him he misunderstood.
While they performed the second, and more painful, Fetal Lung Maturity test I went into labor and they whisked me into the OR for an emergency c-section. When Annabelle entered this world she screamed her head off. I closed my eyes and then smiled when a nurse said, “Wow! Listen to THOSE lungs!”
When they told me I was having a girl I worried. Boys are easy for me. I am an only girl with 3 brothers. I grew up hearing my mother complain, “I’d rather raise another 3 boys than a girl again.” Personally, I don’t know what she was talking about, I was a pure delight. But I’ve been most comfortable with boys. I can talk about money, techy things, and cars—and men make me laugh. Between you, me, and the lamppost, I may have married my husband because he was the funniest guy I had met.
Annabelle has started kindergarten this year. I’ve never been the type to cry when my kids started school. Why cry? I was so looking forward to some quiet time to write, to get the things that usually have to wait until the wee hours when I’m exhausted. And she was over the moon about being a kindergartner and going to school.
It has been 12 1/2 years since I’ve been home alone. When Luc started kindergarten I had a baby at home. When Max started kindergarten, I had a toddler at home. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s the last one or because she’s a girl. But I’m finding it really unsettling how much I miss her. I see the small bouquet of flowers she made for me yesterday and smile. A song comes on the radio and I can hear her voice singing along and see her flicking her long, knotted hair around.
I saw five monarch butterflies, at once, in the garden yesterday and thought, “let me get Annabelle, she will flip over this” and remembered she was at school. Mostly, I miss her constantly needing to be right by my side. I miss her pulling at me to bend over so she can shmush her face into mine, saying, “Mama? I love you Mama. I love you more than anybody. I even love you more than 11.”