When I went to bed on December 27, 1996, with Neil reading quietly in bed beside me, I had no idea that Jordan would be born the next day, or how much drama would be involved in her arrival. After struggling with preterm labor for two months, dealing with medicines, bedrest, and frequent doctor visits, I should have known things wouldn’t suddenly become easy.
Neil and I woke up leisurely to weather that promised to be unseasonable warm, and then sipped coffee in the living room, admiring our enormous Christmas tree. As I got up to refill our mugs, my water broke, and after the initial shock, it was a relief to know the time had really come to go to the hospital.
As we drove the hour to the medical center in Roanoke, the contractions started coming hard and strong. I distracted myself by singing along with the radio. When Celine Dion’s powerful voice noted, “It’s all coming back to me now,” I belted the words loudly right along with her, thinking it was ironic that I had forgotten until then how painful labor really was.
By the time we got to the hospital I was uncomfortable. It had only been about ninety minutes since my water broke, so the staff seemed inclined to take their time. The anesthesiologist who was supposed to do my epidural stopped on the way to check on another patient. Neil and my obstetrician went outside to enjoy the sunshine and have a cigarette. The nurses got me situated in the labor room, and as a very kind looking one started my IV, I calmly announced, “Its time.” No one seemed convinced, and the pace of activity in the room didn’t change, but I could tell there was no stopping this little girl who had been trying to come in to the world for the past two months. “It’s time NOW!” I wailed, gritting my teeth and squeezing the side of the mattress.
For a split second the nurses looked at each other, hoping I was wrong, but then they hustled into action. They paged the obstetrician and the anesthesiologist to “come stat!” One nurse quickly dropped the end of the stretcher and positioned my feet while another one tied my sweaty hair back out of my face and reinforced my IV. Neil and the obstetrician bolted in, still smelling of cigarettes, both apologetic and afraid. Jordan literally slid into the doctor’s hands before he even sat down at his designated position.
The anesthesiologist arrived too late for my epidural, but just in time to work on the quiet, blue baby who had just presented herself. Her first Apgar score was only three (if you’re nonmedical, that’s bad) and I didn’t know if she would be okay. Neil held my hand and I held my breath while they worked on her in the tiny incubator. What felt like hours was really only a few minutes, and she finally improved to a healthy, pink infant with an energetic cry. Her Apgar score came up to 10 (which is perfect) and the whole team burst into relieved applause. “Good grief; that scared the heck out of me!” my doctor confessed as he plopped down into the chair. Neil took the baby from him, and gently placed her in my arms.
The first thing I noticed about my newest daughter was her mass of dark hair. She had more hair as a newborn than Jacquelyn had at nearly age two. Even more impressive were her eyes: big, bright and wide open, peering up at me with a look that was just as intense as the one I was giving her. Suddenly my labor-weary brain was overwhelmed with questions. Would she be healthy? Would she be kind? Would she be safe? Would she be shy like me or outgoing like her father? As I held this precious gift of a child, I was overcome with an intense and painful need to know her future. Worries and fears swirled around in my head, but a peaceful serenity gradually chased them away as her breathing slowed and she fell asleep. In those moments before I drifted off to sleep, too, I accepted the fact that I had to wait patiently as each day, one at a time, revealed itself.
Looking back, there was so much I didn’t know. I didn’t know the Cowboys would beat the Vikings later that day. I didn’t know that six days later my Dad would die and that my newborn baby’s whimpering would be a comfort to many at his funeral. I didn’t know that by the time my sweet baby graduated from high school, her own Dad would be dead.
As I look back twenty years and consider all I didn’t know then, I’m tempted to look to the next twenty years and worry about all I don’t know now. I should save money, eat healthy, exercise regularly – all these ideas nurturing the illusion that I have control over what happens in my life. I have no control over the next 20 minutes, let alone the next twenty years!
So how do you let go of the need to know the future and the foolish desire to control it? The answer is simply to concentrate on today. You do your best on this day, in this moment, and you put tomorrow away until it comes.
Dear Tomorrow, You will just have to wait your turn. Love, Colleen