When I left in a rush that morning, I did not hug JR nor did I kiss her goodbye. I was so preoccupied with my condition and so wrapped up in making phone calls and looking online that I gave her little to no attention. I darted out the door as soon as Jeff walked in without looking back. Of course I told her where I was going, and I did say goodbye, but had I known that this would be the last time she saw me for five days, I would have exited differently. I would have sat her down, hugged her tight, and bid farewell to what remained of being an only child. I would have explained to her the reason I was leaving and told her about the day I would come back home. But instead I left her with Teta with nothing more than “Goodbye Jannah-Rae, I am going to the doctor. See you soon habibti.”
The OB gave us one order of business three minutes after we walked into the examination room: check into Labor and Delivery immediately. Do not go home, do not pack, do not take care of unfinished business. Go straight to the hospital and do not leave. I had severe preeclampsia and there was only one way to resolve it: birth my baby.
At 10:00am we took up one of the “mother in labor” parking spots. At 10:05 I was checked in, banded and escorted to a monitoring room. I was strapped down, hooked up and put on show. Decisions were made for me and I was a spectator in what started as another day but turned into the longest 18 hours of my life.
For the next few hours, nurses rotated in and out. My OB dropped by. I was told repeatedly that things were “under control”. But they were far from it. My blood pressure was all but falling, and I was at risk of a seizure. I needed to lay low, stay calm and be patient. I also needed a lot more medical interventions.
I was hence moved to another room and strapped down even further. IV drip, fetal monitor, contractions monitor, catheter. I was a living disaster. I was so bloated that it took the nurse three tries to find a vein for the IV drip. It also took her two tries to properly insert the catheter. The pain of delivering a baby had thus commenced and I was not even in labor. Minutes later, my water broke. I thought the worse. I thought the end was a doomed beginning. But at the time there was nothing we could do to haste the conclusion. We had to wait. I had to be on magnesium, to be monitored, to be pumped up with liquids. I puffed up even further and cried even more. I needed an end in sight and I watched the clock. But the end was still further away.
The minutes clicked away. Five thirty came and went. The OB was ready but the operating room was not. I was getting cranky and nasty. I was miserable. I was sick beyond my, or anyone’s, control. And yet I had to wait. I was hungry, thirsty and anxious. I could not contain myself any longer.
Finally a glimmer of hope walked into the room. It was the anesthesiologist. Not only that, but he was the same doctor who was present at JR’s delivery. What luck! I got wheeled away. A cold room never felt so good. It was my turn and I was finally going to get better. The magic wand had been waved and I was going to be myself again. The nightmare that started with bed rest and ended with severe preeclampsia was soon to be over. Little did I know, though, that these thoughts were merely wishful.
When Jeff and the OB walked in together, it was time to get things moving. A little cut, a little suction, a little blood and the baby was out. “Here is your son!” announced the surgeon. A good set of lungs, but “a son?!” “A boy?!” Did I hear correctly? Were they talking about my baby? The baby I had been carrying for 36 weeks and 3 days? I was not having a son. I was having a girl. The sonographer told us so. She confirmed it more than once. The maternal fetal medicine doctor wrote it down on that green piece of paper she handed to Jeff. That was the news Jeff has shared with his dying grandfather. We were having another girl. Jeff was going to be outnumbered. We were going to be a family of three ladies and one man.
What happened to Josie? Where is Josephine Ramez? JR’s sister? The little baby girl who was going to wear JR’s clothes again? For whom I had spent hours washing, drying, hanging, folding pinks and reds and whites and purples. The little girl who was going to be little. No. I did not hear correctly. I am drugged and sick. I could not have just birthed a son.
I was crying and laughing at the same time. I asked to see. I had to see for myself. I did not believe. I needed proof. I needed anatomy. But the doctor was right; it was a boy. The boy I had always wanted. The son I had dreamed of. The boy I had wanted to grow up with as a little girl. The male who would carry on the family’s name. Joseph Ramez Mike. 6 pounds 8 ounces and a head full of hair. My son.