Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Sister Is Having My Baby

Last fall when we found out my youngest daughter was pregnant, Margret seemed sad, and her mood turned gloomy. Talking about why with her, we covered territory we've covered many many times before.

"I can't have any children because of my health issues," she said, and moped. "I want to have my own baby."

"Look at it this way," I replied, "your sister is having enough children for both of you. "

"Oh, she's having this baby for ME!" chirped Margret, and smiled.

She's had some issues with depression at least partly because her heart defect and pulmonary hypertension would make any pregnancy a disaster. She loves children. She has wanted a baby of her own for decades, but she's had to settle for being Auntie Margret. She's done really well at being Auntie, *sigh* but she wanted to be Mom.

Over the years, her various doctors discussed with her the dangers of trying to support a second life with her damaged lungs. One of the earliest of them leafed through his notes after her interview and exam, reviewing her chronic cyanosis and her other problems. He made eye contact and told her gently if she did become pregnant the baby would not survive. "You don't have enough enough oxygen for two," he said, "you barely have enough for one," and continued by saying she had only a fifty per cent chance of surviving the pregnancy herself. Margret looked seriously unhappy.

This conversation occurred before Margret's other doctors prescribed supplementary oxygen, and before she started taking the medications that made her life so much easier. She and I sat there with this doctor, and I asked him if he had any guesses about how long she might live.
He said she could continue as she was for years as long as she remained stable, but he honestly didn't know how long that might be. He recommended she see the transplant surgeon for an evaluation, "for completeness sake," and asked if we had any further questions. That was when Margret told him she wanted to have a baby.

Margret and I discussed the issue on the ride back home. I told her I would much rather continue to have the company of the daughter I have than to lose her in an attempt at a baby we didn't know yet. She told me it would be OK if she died having the baby, as long as the baby lived. The doctor had been very clear: there was nearly zero chance of a happy outcome of any attempt at pregnancy, so no living baby. I explained it all again, in the same words, and then in different words. She pouted, she argued, then folded her arms across her chest in morose silence.

The next time she broached the subject of babies, she suggested that I could adopt a baby for her to raise.

Nope, I said, I'm done with raising babies.

Well, then, she said, SHE would adopt a baby, and I could help her take care of him. (him? she wanted a boy?)

I was not very keen on that idea either, so she put it aside for a time.

The next time she asked about adopting a baby, I had come up with a new thought. This was not long after we'd been talking about her desire to have an apartment of her own, or to live in a group home, so I said, "After you move into your own place, you can look into adoption."

Another time, another baby discussion: (approximate rendition)
Me: You know that new babies have to eat every two to four hours around the clock, and have their diaper changed, and be bathed.
Margret: You can move in with me, Mom, and help care for my baby.

So you see this was an important issue for Margret, and at intervals occasioned her much disappointment.

Back to her sister -
"Oh, she's having this baby for ME!" chirped Margret, and smiled.

I backtracked, and tried to explain more clearly what I meant, but Margret had seized this concept and she was not letting go.

The next time we talked to her sister on the telephone, I sighed, explained and apologized. When her sister heard how much happiness this idea brought to Margret, she went along.

Margret did get to see "her" baby, and to hold him close to her before she died.

Her sister bustled in at 1 am, fresh from her flight, and handed Baby to me. Margret lay quietly in bed, eyes closed, having recently received sedation.

I held Baby on the bed, and put Margret's hand on his tiny feet without saying anything. He wiggled his feet, and she moved her hand off. I said, "Those are the baby's feet. Aren't they tiny?" and she put her hand back. "What little feet!" I talked to Margret about Baby, and she kept her hand on those precious feet.

Sister took Baby and leaned him across Margret's tummy, putting Margret's hand on his back. "That's the baby you're holding, Margret, keep your hand there so he doesn't fall," she said. She chatted to Margret, and Margret kept her hand there, holding Baby.

While Sister chattered away, she moved Baby, tucking him against Margret's side, and positioned Margret's arm to cuddle him securely. Baby looked all around, quiet and content in his Auntie's embrace.

1 comment:

Anissa Mayhew said...

Oh Ann,

This story holds a little piece of my heart. Margaret's love of babies and her sister's ability to share that baby with her..."their" baby. I am just sorry that Margaret never got the chance to see that baby grow up here, but I have no doubt she's watching over him from Heaven.

Would you be interested in letting me interview you for 5minutesforspecial needs? Let me know if you think that's something you think you'd be interested in, or even open to. If not now, maybe a time in the future.

Love and hugs and prayers