May 8th this year is also Isobel’s 32nd birthday (to give her her full first name). And this year the two together prompt other memories, at first of my beloved father. Utterances. “Eyes awake” my mother said he would say when I was an infant, and as I woke from sleep would open my eyes. He said they looked so bright, alert, so full of happiness then. I can imagine him looking down at me smiling. He doted on my as a baby and my mother’s father would say I was a “Daddy’s girl.”
I remembered Isobel’s birth, how I went into labor at around 7 or so the evening of May 7th, and when we went to the hospital (we were told it was pre-cautionary before we arrived), we discovered there would be no going home. My contractions were too strong, but some time during the night, they reversed themselves, and I ended having a C-section, this time Jim in the room watching so that the physician, Dr Pillay, made the incision, pushed down hard, and sewed me up temporarily (not an student). Alas, I hemorrhaged, came near death (for a fourth time over bleeding).
I was told the night it was touch-and-go for me, Jim phoned my parents and my mother said, what can we do, pray? and my father, don’t be absurd, there is nothing we can do but wait.
Poor Laura was lost to us for a day or so. Jim was so distraught he had left her with a next-door neighbor and we had told her nothing. Bewildered, where had we gone, why was she not included? not a good start to moderate the inevitable sibling rivalry. I felt very bad about it, but could not reach her. She could not be allowed in. By the time the nurse found me I had lost over a third or so of my body’s blood, was in shock, and had to be completely transfused. Blood coming into your body feels like cold chocolate. They drained my body of all excess fluid too. Exhausting. All the while in the ICU there was a young blonde man who was there in case suddenly I began to die I suppose. I remembered how death in A Christmas Carol was presented as this creepy figure in black; but here he was in a t-shirt, jeans, white jacket, strong as a ox, daring me to do anything he didn’t like.
And then the baby then, Isobel (far off in another ICC), forgot to breathe, so the to me mysteriously isolated infant was given blood tests. Persistently on her feet. I protested, tried to stop them but was not listened to. I later discovered the reason was to discover if I had HIV, because I had some sort of cat antibodies in my blood stream that were a mark of this (so suspicion of the woman played a role). How helpless I felt in that hospital. I had to take Isobel home on an apnea monitor that plugged in as they would not give us a battery-operated one unless we paid them $1400 a month (yes).
Home, the machine would squeak and the baby wake up, and us three too. I took to tying a ribbon around her chest to enable me to watch her breathing; Laura got good at re-booting the machine. Izzy throve. Gained weight, was otherwise perfect baby. Even crowed. But four months later when she was declared out of danger, I had a hard time giving the machine up as if magically it were protecting her. My mother-in-law, Jim’s mother had come to visit us (from Leeds, where she, by then widowed for many years, lived near my sister-in-law, a vicar). She helped me by watching too when I was not in the same room as the baby, so I got used to it. She was 72 then; she died 10 years before Jim did. My parents visited too (from NYC), to meet Jim’s mother, see the baby.
Well, today, we had a good moment around 11. I had sent Izzy a lovely Ojolie card for her birthday; when she received it she came into my room and wished me a happy mother’s day. We hugged.
Then around 12:30 she and I headed out for the local Olive Garden where the three of us left — all the others gone — were to meet for lunch. We managed it: the staff was remarkably efficient and I was sitting at a table for 4 within 20 minutes with complimentary wine. Izzy waited for Laura outside; and when the car drove in, they had their meeting and then came in to me. We had a fine lunch. I tried chicken pot pie and had a new spicy kind of light red wine; Laura has shrimp and pasta, Izzy her spaghetti and meatballs. Laura told us about her new full-time job writing for Time-Life online as an entertainment blogger. What kinds of blogs fetch a million hits from women age 21 to 34, plus comments galore: inane commentary and pictures which pass for entertainment news. She’s part of The Rowling Show (Wizards and Whatnot — includes all Rowling’s writing, including mysteries and Casual Vacancy). Games of Thrones (Winter is Coming). Anibundel enjoys her work. I still like her unpaid blog best (and the original now obsolete title: I should have been a blogger), with its recaps of mini-series and fashion reviews. How comfortable it is to work from home, how much time to herself she now has flexibly. She was 6 years old 32 years ago, I 37. And Izzy told us about her doings at the Pentagon library: old microfiches and microfilms have to be catalogued, maybe digitalized. What a mess they are in. No one has looked at them for years and when they were used, the system was inconsistent. How some people walk all around the Pentagon for daily exercise. Izzy is comfortable and super-competent to do her work, and finds it not uninteresting. Sometimes at home she will talk of the texts she’s been looking into and what a librarian is asked to do.
We are home now, Izzy and I. The sun is now shining, it’s not too hot at all, a breeze, both cats in their catbeds near me. Morning I read Constance Fenimore Woolson’s astonishingly good Anne (later 19th century American novel), now I read about Scottish women’s poetry and landscape writing, and finish with Margaret Oliphant’s The Ladies Lindores.
Life is heart-breaking.