I learned the meaning of the word fear on May 31, 2012. My day actually began the prior morning when my daughter called to say it was time to go to the hospital. Ten family members raced to get there, each filled with love, anticipation, excitement, amazement and wonder. My granddaughter was about to be born.
We took turns visiting with my daughter and son-in-law in the delivery room. The number of centimeters, dilation, softness, epidurals— who knows what everyone was talking about. All I cared about was a pain-free delivery and good health for all.
After countless hours, the number of centimeters dilated seemed to stall, and Pitocin was administered. Unfortunately, the baby didn’t take kindly to the stimulus and her heart rate dropped. So did mine, especially as the day dragged on. The joking and frivolity that had helped to pass time took on an edge of nervousness.
Shortly after midnight on the 31st, anxiety morphed into fear. Out of nowhere, at least 10 doctors and nurses scrambled (some even ran) into my daughter’s delivery room. It was the start of her 16th hour of labor at NYU Hospital in Manhattan.
The mood in the waiting room became almost frantic as we waited for word about my daughter and the expected arrival of our newest family member.
Within minutes of the charge into the delivery room, out the doctors and nurses rushed, this time to the operating room. My daughter, laying flat in a stretcher, was quickly wheeled passed us. The ashen color of my son-in-law’s face spoke volumes as he walked alongside my daughter. Even when my daughter flashed a thumbs up sign from her stretcher, we knew something was very wrong.
Imagine, my daughter in serious trouble, giving us a thumbs up so we wouldn’t worry. My bottom lip quivered as tears filled my eyes and dripped down my face.
That’s when I realized the sour taste in my mouth was fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote came to mind: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I was having a tough time breathing, let alone keeping all the fear down.
Within seconds, our loved ones in the waiting room become consumed with comforting words and hugs. “We’re in a great hospital with an amazing staff,” became our mantra. But our nervous faces told the truth. We were trying to comfort each other, although each of us was gripped in fear and afraid for my daughter and her baby. We were scared of the unknown and traumatized by our lack of control.
Time seemed to stand still. The wait was endless. At one point, I found myself in the corner of the room thinking about my fear.
I remembered times I’ve been frightened.
I remember being afraid before my first date, my first kiss, the first time I was intimate with a girl. I remember being afraid, but I never tasted fear.
I remember being frightened before my first job interview, my first business presentation, quitting a great job to open my own company. But throughout these milestones, I never tasted fear.
On May 31 at 1am, I belched fear and I will never forget that taste.
At 1:45am, my son-in-law joined us in the waiting room and informed us that mommy and baby were perfect.
After 17 hours of labor, of trying for natural childbirth, of finally being ready to push her baby clear, there was a change of plan. At 1am, the baby’s heart rate plummeted when her little cheek pushed against the umbilical cord forcing the doctors to perform an emergency C-section.
My son-in-law led us to the emergency room to witness the result for ourselves.
Awestruck, I stepped back from the curtained area after taking a quick peek at my daughter holding her daughter, my granddaughter.
I lost my breath. The fear that sucked my breath away was causing me to stumble with emotion as it released hold on my body.
My son-in-law came to me and we embraced. Actually, we held each other upright and sobbed.
All were healthy. All was perfect.
Quick, somebody tell a joke.
(Yes, that is my granddaughter on this month’s cover.)