Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflections on Luke's 12th Birthday

Today, my son is turning 12. This is his last year of childhood and next year, he'll be a teenager. An adolescent. Oof.

Craig, my ma and I spent the evening of January 15, 2000 at my Aunt Pat and Uncle Jerry's house for dinner and to go through some hand-me-down baby clothes (onesies, useful stuff) from my cousin. I honestly thought I'd have the baby that night, the contractions were so strong that we were timing them. I remember being on the floor, hunched over my aunt's ottoman in pain. But the contractions went away. It was a Saturday night, so I didn't go get checked out at the hospital, plus I wasn't due for another 2 weeks, so I chalked it up to Braxton-Hicks contractions and went back to my meatballs.

That baby REFUSED to move out of the breech position, with his head cramped into my rib cage for MONTHS. The OB kept telling me the longer I was pregnant like that, the less the chances were that the baby would turn and be head-down and I'd be able to deliver vaginally. I guess I know where Luke gets his stubborn streak from.

So on January 16, 2000, Craig and I decided we'd get out for one more "date" before the baby came. The nursery was ready, the bag for the hospital was packed, and I was dying to see the movie "Magnolia," by one of my favorite directors, Paul Thomas Anderson. Craig and I went to the 12:30 showing of the film, and I inhaled some popcorn and purchased a 44 oz vat of Coke.

The film is 3 1/2 hours long. I was sitting uncomfortably in my theater seat, unable to get into a pleasant position. The contractions were starting again, but I didn't want to alarm Craig during the movie, and I damnit, wanted to see how this film ended, so there we sat. I was fidgety, and going "ooh" and "aah" quietly to myself. The film finally ended and we were leaving the theater.

"Craig, we need to call Dr. Kismartoni NOW." "Why? What's wrong?" Craig asked me. "I think I'm in labor," I said. "Labor! I thought you were just bitching like you always do!" he replied. We didn't have cell phones back then, so we went back to our apartment and had the doctor paged. We got the bags and headed to Resurrection.

On a Sunday night, it's not chaotic at the hospital. The security guard, who was this enormous African-American woman, got me a wheelchair and she said, "You're gonna have a baby!" I said, "No, I'm going home. I'm just here to get checked out." "You' ain't leavin' this hospital until you have that baby, honey," the guard told me. Was it THAT obvious?

Even the OB nurses knew I wasn't leaving the hospital this time, though I'd been in for OB checks numerous times during my pregnancy. "What do you plan on naming the baby?" one asked me. "Lucas," I said. "And do you have the car seat ready for Lucas?" she asked. "Um, yeah...." "Good." She spunkily then went to page my doctor as I breathed through the increasing contractions.

Dr. Kismartoni met us in the OB ward and did a final ultrasound to confirm the baby's position and felt my cervix for dilation. I was 1cm dilated, 80% effaced and in early labor. The baby was in a double footling breech position with both feet caught in the birth canal at zero station. There was no way he was going to come out vaginally, so I was prepped for a c-section, which we already assumed I'd have anyway.

I told Craig to call Ma. He returned with bad news. "Your mom can't come to the hospital now. She's making a meatloaf." "MAKING A MEATLOAF!!?!" I said. "I'm HAVING THE BABY." Craig told me to calm down and assured me my mom would be there as soon as the meatloaf was done baking. I was out of my mind nervous and will never let my ma live that meatloaf down.

I remember the c-section vividly, though I was pretty drugged up. I spent most of the time chit-chatting with Dr. Rock (yes, that was his name), the anesthesiologist, and Craig remembers there being an inordinate amount of blood involved. They lifted the baby out of me at 7:28 pm and he let out the signature wail of "What the fuck is going on?" and thus was born Lucas Alexander Bechtel. They wrapped him up and briefly showed him to me as I lied on the operating table and I remember my first words to him, which were "Oh, look how cute you are!"

Craig and Luke, and by that time, Ma (the meatloaf was done), had gone away to get Luke cleaned and warmed up, and I asked Dr. Rock for an extra shot of Fentanyl because I said I was feeling pain, when in reality, come on. I'd spent the last 9 months clean, the 3 months prior to getting pregnant clean, and goddamnit, if there were narcotics I had access to, I was asking for them. So I did.

Dr. Kismartoni told his team of residents and med students to take a good look at my baby's position, at my body, that they'd "not see this again for a very long time." Apparently, a double footling breech is one of the weirdest and rarest presentations a baby can assume (which is only fitting for Luke). He was little--6 lbs, 6oz, and 18" long, 38 weeks' gestation, so just about full-term.

They finished sewing me back together, after showing me my uterus, that they'd taken halfway out of my body to massage and contract it back to normal size (the same uterus that I'm having removed because it's growing cancer). I was in recovery and they brought Luke to me and told me to try and feed him. Just having taken a breastfeeding course the week prior to his birth, I thought it'd be a breeze. It wasn't. Breastfeeding was a clusterfuck in general, and within days of his birth, my son was a formula-fed baby and still managed to grow up to be a healthy genius, so spare me the lactation, breast-is-best lecture.

Moved into our private room in the hospital finally, my mom spent some time with us and bid us farewell so Craig, Luke and I could rest and adjust to our new family. Craig was exhausted. The trendy thing at the turn of the century was "rooming-in," where, instead of your baby being in the nursery, looked after by the nurses so you can get some fucking rest, the baby is kept in your room with you, even if you've had a c-section. Once the anesthesia wore off, I felt, every time I moved to pick up the baby, that I was being ripped from stem to stern. Half the time, some nurse or doctor would come in and move him, so that I couldn't reach him when he was crying. Craig eventually had to go home, then had to go back to work, and I was in the hospital from Sunday until Thursday.

The day we were discharged, the nurse came in and said, "Where are his clothes?" and I got up and showed her the outfit I'd picked out months before to plan to take him home in, and I had his hat and (comparatively) giant snowsuit ready, and the aforementioned car seat basket was ready, and I told the nurse to dress him. "YOU dress him, you're his mother!" she insisted.

"I don't know how." I had no practice with babies. I didn't babysit babies when I was younger. I didn't know what to do with a newborn. I'd just started getting the diaper thing down. I couldn't even feed him properly--how was I supposed to dress him?

Sorry, Luke, if I twisted you around too much, buddy, but I got the outfit on you, and the hat and snowsuit, and took your newborn jaundiced, yellowed little body home to our apartment. I think Craig drove 5mph home to our house just 5 minutes away from the hospital, but once we were home, apart from the breastfeeding and jaundice problems (nothing a little natural sunlight didn't cure and a few honkin' bottles of formula), we settled in together, all 3 of us, as a family.

Amazingly, my best girlfriend, Kate, had called and left a message on our answering machine to check up on me at exactly 7:28 pm, the very moment Luke was born. We've always been astonished at that coincidence.

Things have changed a lot as the times have, and Luke's been through hell and gone with me in the 12 years--divorce, rehab, financial struggle, illness, you name it, but that child still loves and maybe even more importantly, respects his mother (and father).

We're sitting beside one another right now--Luke's building one of the big Lego sets he got for his birthday, and I'm writing, as usual. I'm trying to listen to music and he keeps interrupting my groove with his off-key, voice-is-changing melodies and annoyingly tapping his bare feet on the hardwood floor. (Please, Luke, if you think you have the signature Miklasz rhythm, we have work to do.)

"Quit posting things about me on the internet!" he says, as if he's entitled to an opinion.

"Why are we staring at one another?" he says. I don't know why we were looking at one another. "We have the fuck-ugliest couches in the whole world, you know that?" he tells me. (We've been over this 100 times. Yes, my son swears in front of me and only me, unless he swears with his friends, I don't know. But it's part of our vernacular, it works for us, and he's an otherwise very polite person to other people.)

"What's the difference between a burp and a belch, oh shit!! Where'd that Lego piece go?" he says. Yes, he's my child. But he's not my little boy anymore. He's a young man.

"Just the Two of Us" by Bill Withers, befittingly plays on Pandora.

At TGIFriday's tonight, we'll take our annual "How Much Taller Is Luke Than Larry Hagman' Cowboy Hat?" photo to see how much taller he's grown in a year, which has become an annual tradition the last 3 years, at dinner with both sides of the family.

Happy Birthday, Luke, and Happy Birthing Day to myself. Our future is ripe with possibilities and opportunities that we'll stick together for. He thinks I'm weird for blogging about his birthday and I think he's weird in general. But we're a good weird together. Luke is literally the one thing in my life I have managed not to utterly fuck up in some fashion or another.

Luke is gentle, a pacifist, an intellectual, an artist, a lover of knowledge. He's a fascinating person in which to engage in conversation when he opens up, being a little on the shy side, like both of his folks.

He asks me why I don't play with him more. Why I don't build Legos with him. I explained to him that I have spatial orientation problems and find Legos really aggravating to try and build, while he can barely look at instructions and build a 300-piece set in an hour. When he plays video games, they make me nauseated, so I can't watch them for any length of time. So at this stage of his life, we don't have much in common with one another to "play." That's kinda shitty, and I wish I could figure out more to do WITH him. We'd planned this summer to go to MA to visit Kate and my cousin Paul, but with me losing my job, I don't know that will happen. We can only hope. I hate to disappoint my son.

I hate to disappoint my son about lots of things, but I think since I got sober, I've been doing a damn good job of raising him right. I look forward to his teen years to watch him blossom into an even more unusual, unique individual....

1 comment:

MtnSk8tr said...

GREAT birthing story! GREAT Luke story! Loved it all!