The Gift

By Christine Redman-Waldeyer

 

My third child was born when I was thirty-eight.  He came ten years after my oldest, eight after my middle child.  It was Christmas Eve when my husband and I decided to tell our children we were expecting their little brother, though we had known for weeks. We were successful, almost a little too successful in conceiving our last baby—there was no going back on the decision to expand our family.

What came later, was not joy but the stress of doctor visits. I didn’t realize I leapt into the pool of mothers given the diagnosis “Advanced Maternal Age” and there would be calculations and preliminary tests that would measure the folds in my to-be son’s neck to determine his ability to enter the world with the blessed five finger and five toe count.

Later I would qualify for the amniocentesis test, watch a needle on the screen wake my sleeping baby, watch him swim away from the invasive piece of metal that entered his safe place.  I waited for another four weeks for the results, happily receiving the call from my doctor assuring me everything was going to be okay, a call that was timed by the gods of good fortune.  Only twenty minutes prior to the call, a colleague at my college, brought up the fact that I wasn’t looking too well, was looking a little fat, when I finally confessed at five months, I was pregnant and quickly made my way to the chair of the department who wasn’t surprised at my announcement.  “I kind of had a feeling,” she said, “as a mother of two children myself.”

So, it was only then, the joy that was at the onset of this journey resurfaced after a long hibernation from the winter of cold needles and doctor visits.

When the time came, it wasn’t as the doctor predicted, who thought I would go into labor (though I had not gone into labor the first two times).  I was conveniently three weeks early (something a teacher may understand), when my water broke early August, after arriving home from a poetry reading where I read a poem about my dead cat who had died only days before by a hit and run.

The four of us clamored into the truck for a drive to the hospital, I with a towel between my legs, my youngest unsure of what the long night ahead would bring brought coloring books and pillows.  At
arrival, a wheelchair awaited me, and I was whisked off to the maternity floor.

With the IV quickly administered, my doctor had the nurses begin the magic potion that would induce contractions.  Uneventful, because I had been through this twice before, I did not worry, already decided I would take on the fearful needle in the back to mask the pain—remembered the burning of my thighs, then the numbness.

My children waited now with their grandmother in another room who arrived shortly after the news broke.  My husband was poised behind the doctor.  Everything in its place until my sweet, calm Dr. Thind says, “Okay, stop pushing for a moment.”  She is working on something behind the blue curtain that drapes over my thighs, like a darkened stage before the arrival of the cast of characters and the curtains are drawn.

After a few moments, she says, “Okay, we can push again.”  So, I grit down, bear my teeth and I think push because I cannot feel what my brain is telling my body to do.  It is at this moment I remember, my
firstborn, inconsolable in his crying upon entering the world, his yellow dark complexion, and remember my second, fair-skinned and calm from the moment she took her first breath that Jonathan Austin arrived,
a lot like his sister, fair-skinned and easily put to rest as they laid him up against my bare chest.

What they waited to tell me—we could have lost him.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  If it wasn’t for Dr. Thind’s poker face, a woman of cards, who gambled with Death day after day, night after night, that we could revel in her winnings.

 
 

 

Christine Redman-Waldeyer - Christine Redman-Waldeyer is a poet and Associate Professor of English at Passaic County Community College, N.J. She earned her doctorate from Drew University with a focus in creative writing and her certificate in college leadership from Rowan University. She has published three poetry collections, Frame by Frame, Gravel, and Eve Asks (all with Muse-Pie Press), co-edited Writing after Retirement: Tips from Successful Retired Writers (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers). She also founded Adanna, a literary journal that focuses on women’s topics.

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