“You’re lucky we were able to do a bikini cut,” my obstetrician said to me during my six-week checkup.
I sat across from this man who had come to know my body—well, certain parts like my vagina, cervix, and stretch marks—as well as any other human could.
I searched his eyes for some spark of recognition and watched his mouth form those words.
I heard the sounds, and though I clearly understood the language I couldn’t comprehend the meaning.
Don’t you remember me?
I’m the girl whose baby died.
And this man was talking to me as if I’d left my baby home with a nanny and a lactating body-double.
I was the mother whose first pregnancy progressed without so much as a Braxton-Hicks contraction until the day I delivered at thirty-nine weeks. Or maybe it was thirty-eight.
My friend, on the other hand, had nothing but complication during her pregnancy.
I remember how excited we were the day she asked me at work, “Can you keep a secret?”
I’d been married less than two months.
My egg and Warren’s sperm met just as we’d hoped, a few weeks after we returned from our honeymoon in the Thousand Islands.
We had no clue as we toured Boldt Castle that the legacy of our romance would include an unthinkable tragedy similar to that of the heart-shaped-island’s owner.
And none of us expected that our friends would produce a child years after an unknown Endometriosis caused a traumatic miscarriage, and just as they were in the middle of filling out adoption applications.
“Can you keep one, too?” I asked.
Then we giggled like love-struck teenagers at our good fortune to be pregnant at the same time.
We planned our futures and our babies’ futures with reckless abandon until complications cast shadows of doubt on her health. Our enthusiasm marred ever so slightly by her succession of troublesome reactions to everything from vitamins to medications.
I cheered her on before every test and fretted with her until each positive result returned.
And I cried tears of joy when her husband phoned with the good news.
Excitement welled in my veins the day I gazed upon her sleeping child, his tiny fists balled beside his head, his soft little mouth shaped into a sweet little pucker.
That exhilaration became electric when labor pains woke me at two a.m. that very next night.
The outcome was not to be as I expected, and a new story would take the place of the one I’d spent my lifetime crafting.
A freak tragedy left both my baby and me gasping for air, my child immediately after his birth via emergency cesarean, and me for many months to come.
Lucky, the doctor had called me…
Two miscarriages and four pregnancies later, I discovered that I had, indeed, been the beneficiary of a blessing, a random strand of luck.
The highly regarded perinatologist for our area happened to be in the hospital library and on the maternity floor when the code blue alarm sounded during that first delivery. He was also familiar and experienced with the newer, latitudinal incision—hence bikini cut—procedure.
This type of surgery reduces risk of complication and, unlike a vertical incision, allows the opportunity for a future vaginal delivery.
Thanks to the diligence of this high-risk specialist, not only did I go on to bear three more full-term children, I delivered the last two vaginally, despite having had a second cesarean birth and a host of other complications.
Years later, my first doctor’s seemingly shitty choice of words suddenly made sense.
I had been lucky the day my firstborn came into this world.
The same day my son died.
And that luck had to do with more than the type of physical scar my body would bear.
As directed, I waited three months before conceiving again.
When a faint spot appeared on my panties, my doctor performed an ultrasound.
“Great news,” he told Warren and me, “There’s a strong heartbeat. The chance of miscarriage when a heartbeat is seen at this gestation is less than four percent.”
As it turned out, in the first week of my second trimester, I became one of those three-point-nine-nine.
And, again, I followed orders and remained barren for about ninety days.
“They didn’t refer you to Dr. D?” my friend asked after my first prenatal visit of my next pregnancy. And then she all but demanded I call the specialist’s office.
I explained my history and asked if they would consider meeting with me.
Two days later, the receptionist phoned and said they would take me on as a patient. No referral necessary.
This is how that pregnancy went: Hypertension around the sixth month. Total bed rest by the eighth. Many overnight hospital stays and fetal stress tests. Final two weeks spent in the hospital with many more assessments. Labor induced at first signs of toxemia, two weeks before my due date. Three days on Pitocin. And finally a cesarean, where I threw up because I insisted I wanted to be awake during delivery.
If something happened to this baby, I wanted to know about it before it was all over.
But our newborn entered this world without complication and fifteen months later I was back in the waiting room after the stripe on the home pregnancy test turned pink.
In May, just as I entered the fourth month, I miscarried, again. I waited three more months as instructed, and then worried for three more that there was something seriously wrong.
“I don’t have a problem getting pregnant,” I used to say, “All Warren has to do is look at me and Presto! bun in the oven.”
Alas, though it felt like an eternity, an additional ninety days was all it took.
Mild hypertension didn’t set in until the eighth month and it never turned into toxemia. We entered labor. I managed to deliver naturally after about twenty-four hours.
And then everything went awry. A piece of placenta was stuck like concrete, and I bled, and bled, and bled.
There was talk of a hysterectomy.
“Are we going to tie your tubes,” my obstetrician asked after he managed to free the foreign object. “You really should consider it because your body has been through so much these past four years, both physically and emotionally.”
I chose birth control over a permanent solution because I was convinced I wanted another child.
I like to say that my youngest grew weary of waiting for me to make up my mind, and as Warren and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary, he became a reality.
With Warren carrying on a yet-un-admitted-to affair with my best friend, there were all kinds of problems in my marriage during this pregnancy, but I had not one health issue.
No bed rest.
Not one single concern until the moment I pushed the baby out and my doctor—the man who I believe is the reason I was able to have three successful births—discovered my newborn wasn’t breathing.
It felt like Gavin, all over again.
My youngest boy spent four, eternally long days in the NICU, oxygen hoses and a plethora of other tubes and gadgets stuck to his beautiful little body.
Lucky, we all were, for healthy as a horse that boy has been since the day we brought him home.
* * *
Now, I’ve always been a believer that we can make lemonade from lemons, but I also recognize that it takes time and patience and awareness. Awareness to ourselves and everything around us. Not that we need to accept everything we come in contact with, just simple awareness…discarding that which we don’t feel relevant…
I’ve also always been a believer that this thing called luck does exist. We just have to keep our eyes open to its presence when it flashes in front of our faces.
Last week, as I bent over to pick up palm-sized piles of poop that my hundred-pound dog dumps in my backyard, I spotted the four-leaf clover in the beginning of this piece.
As I reached down to pluck it from its roots, this is what I saw.
And in a space no bigger than the bottom of my pie dish, this is what I found.
That’s a whole lot of luck mixed in with a whole lot of shit.
And like this life, some of those petals were pristine while others were chewed on and hardly recognizable.
Nevertheless, the inspiration was there, waiting for me to pluck it from my path.