When I was four years old our neighbor's dog mauled my face. My father had to search their lawn looking for my nose, something I don't wish on any parent. When we got to the hospital and the plastic surgeon was stitching my face, I remember lying on the table with bright lights shining down on me and silent tears streaming down my cheeks. The nurse chided me and said she didn't want any alligator tears. And I remember my father telling her sternly that I was FOUR and to shut the hell up. In contrast, my mother cut her pinky toe nearly off as a child and when asked to retrieve water for her, my grandmother returned with a pitcher of water and promptly poured it on Mom's head. Grandma didn't deal well with crises.
Our family was always raised that we were not allowed to panic. Daddy had watched a man die in Vietnam after stepping on a mine and only losing his foot. I can remember his ranting, "and it was a clean wound! He never should have died but he panicked!" So panicking was never an option for us.
It poured "like a motherfucker" as Rich would say Friday night and the restaurant we were in lost power for a few seconds. The hostess next to us literally told her friend she was terrified and that blew my mind. Her voice was shaking and all I could think was "it's rain, not War of the Worlds."
I was diagnosed with diabetes 25 years ago. The doctor told my mother there was no cure and that I'd die without injections for the rest of my life. But my strongest memories from the ordeal are being bored in the hospital room and using needles to suck the juice out of oranges with my roommate. I certainly don't remember being terrified. And in the last 25 years, I've remained pretty optimistic about being diabetic.
When I was first asked about what I wanted from my birth, I told the doctor I wanted a healthy baby, I wanted a quick recovery and I wanted as little drama as possible. My "birth plan" equated to "don't do anything you don't have to and don't do anything without explaining why to me first." I'm pleased to say I got what I wanted in all those areas.
Each of these is a specific event but they combine some of my best traits. I'm unusually optimistic, I don't give up easily and I never panic.
I got my optimism from Mom. She's amazingly patient with so many things and able to find a reason to laugh or smile through nearly anything. When I got pregnant it never occurred to me I couldn't have an unmedicated birth. I would have even stayed home if I thought Rich and any midwife would have stood for it. Some may call that naivety but I call it optimism and empowerment.
As we drove to the hospital at 3am I had no idea I'd still be pregnant 24 hours after that. But as the days of labor stretched on, I remember just rolling with it (quite literally with the aide of the birth ball). The game plan kept having to change and I admit to a fair amount of frustration, but I wasn't going to surgery unless we literally had no other options. I still had fight in me.
I got my vaginal birth, I got my beautiful baby boy and when they needed to take him from me for monitoring, I happily let them. I've read birth stories of women yelling because their babies were taken from them for minutes. Ian was in the special care nursery attached to a CPAP machine and couldn't nurse for the first day at all, but we did fine. I learned to nurse my son in the rolling office chair next to his bassinet and remember only joy and wonder at his tiny perfect little features.
Rich's uncle Tommy is in very poor health. We thought we were driving to Richmond this weekend to say our goodbyes to him and have a memorial service Sunday. In an amazing turn of events, we just left his hospital bed where he joked with us, smiled and said he hoped to be out of the ICU soon. It's been a whirlwind week of emotions for everyone, but I just did my thing. I remain optimistic about Tommy, I didn't give up on him and no one was allowed to panic.
So if there is an alien invasion, come to our house. We'll be the best prepared and no one will dump water on you.