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Cover_HoldingSilvanFirst off, let me say I think it’s fabulous that you’re publishing a memoir about your son.  Even though it’s a sad topic and, given a choice, you probably would have given up your writing life altogether for Silvan to be healthy,  I’m glad this book is in the world. Holding Silvan is a great title, by the way.

Thanks.  I needed to hear that. In fact, this is something I literally repeat inside my head: “It‘s good that I’m publishing this book.” Otherwise, I feel nothing but anxiety.

 

Anxiety? I didn’t know you suffered from that.

I didn’t either. But it must be pretty common before the publication of any book, let alone a first book like this.

Paula Bomer’s debut novel Nine Months (Soho Press, 2012) has had a long gestation period. On and off for the past 10 years, Bomer had sent Nine Months to agents and publishers, rewrote it, put it away for a long time, unwrote it, and then gave it one last shot, scoring with the rising Soho Press. Since its release in August, it’s has won accolades from The Atlantic, Library Journal, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When I caught up with Paula, she’d just finished the west coast part of her book tour, getting stuck in Los Angeles and then Chicago a few extra days to ride out Hurricane Sandy before heading back to her home in Brooklyn.

 

My dog’s ashes are currently in a small silver gift box on my bookshelf. I loved my dog, but I hate that ugly box and its stupid tassel.

When my husband and I decided to cremate Bernie, we thought we would scatter his ashes along one of his favorite hiking trails, but doing so is illegal where we live. I hated the idea of us furtively dumping a baggy of remains in the always-crowded park. It didn’t feel like an appropriately jubilant celebration of his life.

Dear Fetus

By Jeffrey Pillow

Letters

Dear Fetus,

At 22 weeks, your mother and I will learn whether you are a boy or a girl. My mom—your Gammie Pillow—has informed me the exact date is December 20. (I believe she has an internal countdown meter, which projects all of your life’s milestones) Just to forewarn you, I will probably make some uncalled for comment during this particular ultrasound.

Scenario A: Doctor says you are a boy
DOCTOR: And that right there is your baby’s—
ME: Oh my gosh, is that his penis? It is enormous.
DOCTOR: No, that is his leg.
ME: I’m pretty sure that is his penis.

Scenario B: Doctor says you are a girl
DOCTOR: And that right there is your baby’s—
ME: Oh my gosh. My daughter doesn’t have a penis, does she? That thing is enormous.
DOCTOR: No, that is her leg.
ME: Oh, thank God. I thought my daughter had a penis.

That is when your mother will give me the evil eye. Actually, your mother will probably lecture me prior to the visit not to make any penis comments. I will still make a penis comment.

Love,

Daddy

So here’s what happened.

I dropped Benjamin at camp up in Temescal Canyon.  Camp drop offs had been getting more and more difficult as he clung to me screaming that he didn’t want to go.  I would carry him in my arms, just able to get him around my 8 months pregnant belly.  I barely had the energy to hold him up.  Seeing him cry, knowing it was because he could probably feel his whole world about to change, left me utterly spent.

So I decided to treat myself to a little “me” time with a mani/pedi.

So off I went to the place I like on Main Street.  I had my eyebrows done, shaped my rather short nails and painted my toes pink, all as the chair massaged my whole body.  It was delightful.  And needed.

And then I stood up and my water broke.

I ran to the bathroom, unsure of what the gush was, then quickly ran out the door, still with the paper between my toes.

I called my husband.  I called my doctor.  I was panicked, but trying to remain calm.  I was only 34 weeks pregnant, not due for 6 more weeks.  At first my OB’s tests didn’t indicate it was my water breaking (perhaps the baby had punched my bladder she thought), but when it kept happening throughout the day, it was clear I would be admitted to the hospital that night.

This was supposed to be my easy pregnancy.  My easy delivery.  My completely different, nobody almost dies, birth.

When Benjamin was born, after I called my mother to tell her she’d had a grandson, I called her back and told her not to get too excited.  I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the night.  Well he did and he flourished with hard work and I finally felt strong enough to do it again.

I had planned and researched how I wanted this delivery to go, determined that it would be different.  I weighed my options for having a VBAC (a natural delivery) vs. another C-section.  I wanted to experience labor and what everyone talks about, but mostly I was considering a VBAC because I didn’t want anything too similar to the first one.  I didn’t want to look around and feel like it was four years earlier and become full of terror.  I wanted this birth to be normal.

So, that was Tuesday.

I received steroid shots to develop the baby’s lungs and bags full of antibiotics through an IV to help ward off infection.

By Friday the doctors decided to take the baby out.  It was one day before the ten year anniversary of my first date with my husband, which seemed like a lovely way to mark it.

And so, I headed into the operating room.  After months of consideration, I opted for another C-section after deciding with my doctor that the possibility of fetal distress during labor would prove too much for me emotionally.  Upon entering the OR, I announced immediately to the anesthesiologist what I’d been through before and that I was delicate.

Last time, with Benjamin, it all happened so fast, I didn’t really know to be scared.  This time, though I was scared, though I knew that things go wrong, this time, somehow, I knew everything would be alright.  I just did.  Jay said the first thing out of my mouth was, “that was a piece of cake.”

And so on August 20th, 2010, Eli Isaiah Zients Schinderman was born.  And though they took him to the NICU because he was having some respiratory distress, I knew in my gut, he would be fine.  Just as I knew when I discovered I was pregnant with him, after having three miscarriages, that this pregnancy was going to take.  Mother’s intuition.

The next morning, Eli ripped out his intubation tube, announcing to the world that all 6 pounds 9 ounces of him was strong and totally fine.  Just as his mother knew he would be.

He stayed in the NICU for 4 days, but was able to leave with me when I was discharged, which was huge.  We’d had to leave Benjamin in the hospital.  Going home without your child is not a feeling I can even describe.  It is as if a piece of your life is on hold, living elsewhere, outside of you, leaving you leaking.

At first, the fallout from Benjamin’s trauma began to chip away at me.  Though it may not have been clear, I became completely depleted, filled only by worry.  But in the four years since I learned that, even though it is never quite as you imagined, that I can handle this motherhood thing.

We posed for a picture with the NICU nurses and doctors who cared for Eli and headed towards the exit.

I began to weep.

It took me completely by surprise.  It quieted the little voice I carry around that whispers reminders of that terrible day.  I was just so happy as I held Eli, healthy, and headed towards the sun outside, ready to bring him home, bring him to his brother, who himself had come so far from his own NICU stay.  Pure joy bubbled up and washed over the worry and fear, completely disarming me.

And so I wept, proud of my boys.

First 100 Days

By Ted McCagg

The Feed