Guest Blog Post: The Third Time’s a Charm by Ylonda Gault Caviness, author, Child, Please
***Adapted from Child, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself by Ylonda Gault Caviness. © 2015 by Ylonda Gault Caviness. Jeremy P. Tarcher Books, Penguin Group USA, Penguin Random House.
I was alone in my funk—a recurring theme. It’s not that I didn’t want another baby. For years, I’d hoped to have three kids. But with the failed pregnancies, I’d given up on the idea. Who doesn’t want a baby? What I didn’t want was yet another miscarriage. And no matter how far my pregnancy progressed, I could not erase the thought of loss at some point. I was quietly preparing for what I thought was inevitable. And I didn’t dare tell anyone the fear I was harboring. How could I?
Pregnancy is supposed to make everyone happy. People approach you all amped up. No one wants to talk about heartburn or constipation, let alone death. The assumption is automatically: You are with child; you will soon have child. To speak on anything other than sunshine, flowers, and new life would be ungrateful—ungodly even.
Once I got past the three-month mark, most of my worst-case-scenario anxieties should have subsided. They didn’t. I endured all kinds of wild dreams about having Rosemary’s Baby. After that phase ended, I worried about what would happen if I didn’t make it to the hospital in time for delivery. I like to think of myself as intensely loyal. Skeptics might say I simply don’t like change. Maybe a combination of the two led me to go back to my New York OB/GYN office on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In the beginning of my pregnancy, when prenatal visits are scheduled monthly, it wasn’t so bad: the commuter bus to Port Authority, the New York subway—the 7 at Times Square across town, to the 6 uptown—then a brisk fifteen-minute walk to York Avenue. It was worth it. I knew them, I reasoned. And they knew me. Knowing me meant they shared my concern of possibly giving birth somewhere along a Hudson River crossing. Rather than risk getting stuck on the GW Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel, the doctor thought it best that I be induced, a prospect which after having quick drug-free deliveries I just couldn’t wrap my head around.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to. About a week before my due-date, during the early morning hours of a Wednesday in May, I was woken by some cramps in my side. It was time for the girls to get ready for school. I ignored the cramps at first but they returned just a couple of minutes later. Then again…and again. Mark got the girls up and started to get ready for work as I lay still—waiting.
“I feel something. You shouldn’t go to work today,” I said softly.
I got myself showered and dressed and had Mark take the girls to school. By the time he returned, the pressure against my cervix had progressed from a bout of rigorous sparring to full-blown rope-a-dope. I needed to get to New York-Presbyterian—stat. Only one teensy consideration: Traffic would be jammed across all major roadways because, after all, we were smack in the middle of morning rush hour.
Just as I’d begun to run a mental checklist of birthing accouterments on hand in our trusty crossover wagon—hand sanitizer (glove compartment); blankets (backseat); jumper cables—maybe to pinch the cord off? (trunk)—we were rounding York Avenue to the hospital’s main entrance. I was about to burst and I knew it. Before the car could come to a complete stop at the valet booth, I’d plopped myself into one of several wheelchairs near the automatic doors. Mark ran nervously behind me and began to steer the bulky vehicle through the corridors like a flag-blind IndyCar driver. He pumped the brakes only twice—once to board the elevator to the seventh floor, then to check in at the Labor and Delivery desk, where I noticed a big clock that read 10:00. I don’t recall exactly what happened next but I can still hear Mark hollering something about his “wife,” then adding words like baby and ready. One of the nurses on duty seemed to be yelling as well. I remember her talking to Mark—not to me—saying “Okay, sir. We’ll check to see how long….” I don’t know exactly where she was going with that. But I screamed, “NOW!” And they all stopped what they were doing. She asked Mark, “Is this her first or second pregnancy?”
What was I invisible? I screamed again, “THIRD!”
She directed Mark to push me to a room at the end of the hall. I don’t know, to this day, what the room was used for. It wasn’t a delivery room, but I mean there was a table or a bed in it, as well as some screens and such. I could care less. With Mark and the nurse on either side of me, I took off my clothes and got hoisted onto the bed-table. I announced, to no one in particular, “I need to push.”
And so I did. Cole, already crowning, came out with no delay.
To truly appreciate the miraculous beauty of Cole, you have to consider the boy’s deft timing and attention to detail. This man-child was the truth! And it soon became clear to me, even then, that Cole was brought here to earth to make my life just a little bit easier. Think about it. He was thoughtful enough not to announce his arrival in the wee hours of the night. Where would we have found a sitter? Would we have had to wake the girls? He loved me enough not to plan an entrance in the middle of the day. Would I drive myself to the hospital? And who would meet the bus once the girls were let out of school? Cole also had keen insights and compassion. He knew that—while he was thoroughly loved and adored—his fretful mama was so busy being anxious that she hadn’t put a single contingency plan in place in the event of an ill-timed burst of contractions. So my baby did what any strong man would do. He made things easy for me—a born leader, that boy.
Ylonda Gault Caviness is the author of the new release CHILD, PLEASE: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself (Perigee, May 2015). She has been a parenting journalist for over a decade, drawing heavily from her own range of personal experience as a mother of three—including a teen, a tween, and a toddler. Caviness has appeared on NPR’s “The Takeaway” and NBC’s “Today” to discuss topics in the news that affect women and families. Her parenting tips and introspective personal essays have appeared in Redbook, Essence, Latina, iVillage, and Parenting, among other publications. A former Brooklyner, she now lives in Montclair, New Jersey. Learn more at www.YlondaGault.com. (Note: Ylonda was pregnant with her third child at age 40.)