The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh
More than weather had changed that day. It was a shift of my world axis. A Freaky Friday moment without the earthquake but certainly with a test of G forces.
It was the summer of 1995 and Chicago had suffered through the worst heat wave on record. For more than two weeks the temperatures had soared to 100ºF or more. People were dying and rumor had it they were using the refrigerator trucks from the “Taste of Chicago” festival as temporary morgues.
And I thought I was suffering having to wear pantyhose in that heat and being 39 weeks pregnant.
I had a very uneventful pregnancy. A tram ride on a sunny day. I will spare you the details. I laugh at pictures now of celebrities on magazine covers baring all including bellies swollen with child. It's TMZ in a carnival mirror. It's about the only thing we haven't seen with Lindsay Lohan too. They look outwardly beautiful (with lots of Photoshop) but yet they are distorted. Perhaps beauty the way Mother Nature intended it, irregular yet real. Personally, I felt swollen yet full, ripe yet satisfied. Mentally I always felt like I had a purpose, yet now physically I did too. It’s an odd sensation, although it’s one that I gladly paid the admission fee three times.
In last few weeks of the pregnancy, I mirrored that triple H weather. I was hot, bothered, swollen, and sweaty. I, like most Chicagoans, couldn’t get comfortable. The occasional breaks to put up my feet were quite temporary, like a small thunderstorm that just makes the humidity even worse and doesn't alleviate the pressure with any permanence. I was still working, seeing patients, although I was often tempted to say, especially to the younger patients, “If you feel bad with your hangnail, I will trade you my ankles.”
That Monday was like any other. Seeing patients, writing notes, hospital rounds, and phone calls. But that night, I couldn’t sleep. It was an innate restlessness; a disquiet in the night. A child awaiting the flight to Disney the next morning. An edginess that you just can’t shake nor escape. Nature intended this purpose and your psyche just had to go along for the ride.
I thought it best not to go to the office that day. I called in, rightly saying that I think the baby might come soon, due date be damned. Never content to just sit down for more than five seconds, I went shopping. I had an primal need to keep moving, maybe to buy things, maybe to make things- fabric - food - although the real thing I had made was yet to be revealed. I remember driving around, stop and go, to the South side, North side and even to the West side, in the near bumper car driving in the city. It was a sub-manic episode with me going to stores but not really buying anything. We had take-out that night. I don’t think I ate a thing.
Sleep was a distant possibility. I felt the need to walk although difficult when you live in a townhouse with steep stairs, cluttered with baby things and it was now dark. Clearly a Fun House near Fullerton.
So I watched TV. Did laundry. Folded. Put away. Cleaned the kitchen- no floors for fear bending down and not getting up. Played with the cats. Read. Played with the cats some more. Tried to lie down. Got up again. Walked around. Finally at 4am I couldn’t take it the pinball game anymore and was driven to the hospital in a teeming thunderstorm.
I was in the giving part of this receiving line although I really wanted to bark orders at non- existent subordinates. It's hard not to be your own obstetrician, if you were ever one to begin with. The roller coaster started now and the epidural made damn sure I was belted in tightly. I surrendered to the laws of nature.
The baby came with her unexpected shock of blond hair. It was Freaky Friday.
No actually Freaky Wednesday.
Suddenly I was the mother.
I remember the obstetrician saying “Well that was easy, will we see you next year?”
Did the buy-one-get-one-free coupon at this amusement park have a one year expiration date?
It was closing time and I had to go home. Outside the weather had suddenly become cold. The storm brought a much needed cold front. The next morning when discharged, I was freezing in my summer maternity clothes and worried that the new baby didn’t have enough blankets.
Fall had come that September 20th and the change of weather ushered in a new season, a new baby and a new mother.
I repeated the ride in a snowy November just 13 months later.
(True Story. Who knew the obstetrician ran a fortune telling booth?)
And again in a brisk but colorful October years later.
And the thrill, in all sorts of weather, has never stopped.