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Spencer Rendahl: Solstice Story

After being told that we would probably never have children, my husband and I briefly discussed entering the brave new world of reproductive medicine, but soon stopped talking about having kids altogether.

A year later, I started falling out of yoga poses.

“I couldn’t be... could I?” I wondered.

A test showed that I was.

“Honey,” I told my husband. “I’m pregnant.”

Routine testing showed problems, which led to less routine testing and bigger problems. The fetus was at a high risk for stillbirth. I kept expanding but didn’t celebrate pregnancy milestones. I didn’t buy a crib, decorate a nursery, or make a birth plan. I didn’t want a baby shower; I told friends that I thought the only thing worse than losing a pregnancy might be losing a pregnancy surrounded by newborn clothes.

Yet as this being inside me kicked with what felt like great purpose, I sensed a familiar strong will and a kindred spirit.

A 31-week ultrasound showed that the fetus had practically stopped growing. My OBGYN revised her plan.

Then, several days later at 6 p.m on the September equinox, my water broke. Apparently, this creature inside me had its own plan.

The birthing pavilion doctor examined me.

“This baby is coming,” she announced. “Soon.”

My husband arrived. A former mountaineering guide who had saved my life twice, he could tell that the half dozen doctors and nurses in the room were nervous but trying not to show it as they encouraged me to push.

Our daughter was born at 11 p.m. A doctor quickly cut the cord and carried her to the next room, where the hospital’s Intensive Care Nursery had machines for resuscitating newborns.

A few minutes later, a nurse stepped out.

“Daddy can come in now,” she said.

My husband didn’t respond.

“Daddy can come in now,” she repeated encouragingly.

He still didn’t move.

“That’s you,” I told him.

He squeezed my hand and went into the next room where the medical team excitedly announced that our 2 pound, 15 ounce baby girl was breathing. As my husband started asking questions, our daughter instantly turned her tennis ball-sized head towards the sound of his voice. His heart stopped as he realized that he was a dad.

He carried her to me and encouraged me to hold her. I was still shaking from the delivery and couldn’t do it - then instantly felt like I had failed at motherhood.

We tried to sleep in our hospital room, but at 4 a.m. I got up and wandered down the hall to the ICN. I lay in a reclining chair and a nurse lifted my daughter with her web of wires and placed her on my chest. With lights flashing and oxygen, heart, and respiratory monitors beeping in the background, I hummed lullabies to her. And although I knew that many harder challenges lay ahead, I promised her that we would face them together.

And suddenly, I realized, I had become a Mom.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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