There are times to keep one’s stories close, and there comes a time to share them with the innocent involved because it is also his history. Timing, boundaries, the effect the information may generate with other parties is tricky business. As a mother, I believe my children deserve to know their complete history. You have to gauge your child’s maturity. Too soon, and they may not have perspective. And then there is understanding that waiting too long can create resentment. They want the truth, and they deserve it.
My timing in these matters can and has missed the mark, but when giving a young adult child bits of their story previously hidden, especially those factual parts steeped in my own deep emotion, when is there ever a right time? Tricky also because in some cases, my perspective is biased to a point where there is only one point.
Recently prompted by a reference to a possible future road trip involving side trips and scenic routes, something long suppressed surfaced. I told my child one of his stories. I started with a disclaimer that he would learn some facts, and some bias, and I would be honest about when the lines crossed.
I was heavily pregnant, just six weeks to go. The idea of going for a ride up the coast to a nice spot seemed a good idea. But the trip was long, and I always had to pee. We made frequent stops, but I had to concentrate on holding it. After an hour or so, I wanted to go home. This trip had become exhausting. But no, the driver, the father of this child, decided I would feel better when we got to this specific land’s end, so he kept going, and my resentment increased.
Soon we were travelling in our old Jeep down a pot-holed, rocky road, full of dust on a hot day in mid September. My discomfort grew to abject misery. I felt every bump and shake, and my Braxton-Hicks contractions became increasingly painful.
I begged him to slow down. I told him this was not good for me or the baby. He seemed most focused on his own enjoyment. He kept saying, “Buck up. We’re almost there.” Which of course we were not. I’ve never reviewed a map to be certain, but I believe the dirt road was about twenty miles.
We got to the destination, and yes, it was lovely. But I was not feeling well. I was nauseous. I went to the loo at the visitor center and threw up my lunch. All the while the pre-labor contractions came and went. After a short nap on the sand, and lots of water they stopped.
The ride home was better, but by this time I was angry and in tears. He drove more slowly, but spewed a litany of reasons as to why I was such a wimp: I didn’t exercise enough; I didn’t get out enough; I was too consumed with being pregnant; and why were we even having this baby when we were having so much trouble with our relationship. (That last one came up again on the walk between parking the car and a two block waddle to the hospital.) I’ve since learned that this is the language of a bully.
As the story goes, we made it home. There was tension, which was usual, and I went to sleep without supper.
Next day, I had a doctor’s appointment. I got into the shower, and in the course of washing up, I felt my amniotic fluid leaking.
How could this be? I was just entering the thirty-fifth week of pregnancy. I used a piece of Nitrazine tape I had on hand, and it was blue, which was positive for amniotic fluid. Oh shit. This baby is coming too early.
Off to the doctor. I told her about the previous days outing, and she asked me “What was he thinking?” As she examined me, my little leak turned into a gush all over her table and floor. The membranes had ruptured, and I was going to have this baby. I went home to get some things, and tried to track down my husband, who was two hours away in a business meeting. When he got home, we headed to the hospital during which his insensitive and absurd comment, still burned into my brain, was uttered. I understand his statement was the expression of a compilation of fears unfiltered at an emotional time. But really, his inability to filter is part of what doomed my respect for him.
I was set up with an IV of antibiotics, and the plan was to give me 24 hours to go into labor naturally. The odds of the baby having respiratory issues was about 50/50, his gender making him more vulnerable, as neonate boys produce less surfactant, a substance which allows the lungs to work smoothly. If he weighed in over six pounds, he would just be “pre-term.” Babies under six pounds are premature. I had to get my head together, put my fears aside and birth this baby.
His was an easy birth. He weighed six and a half pounds, and but a for a transitory episode of struggling to get his lungs going, he was plump and pink with blond hair.
When I started this essay, I brought up the ethical question of how much and when to tell an almost adult child. This is the hard part. This fabulous boy, though within normal ranges, was developmentally on the far side. He later had challenges with fine motor skills, and minor learning issues which he has learned to manage and for the most part outgrown. He is a solid student, a creative thinker, and one of the kindest people I know. He is tall and gorgeous.
But I told him of the long road trip, and my belief that his birth was early due to it, and my bitterness over knowing that a few weeks longer in the oven may have made his school days less harrowing. I blame his father, but it’s pathetic because his father discounted my knowledge, went against medical advice and forced us on that drive. I don’t want him to resent his father over this. How can I be objective in this situation? I don’t think it possible. My son will make up his own mind.