seventeen years ago today, calvin was brought into the world. a full moon triggered him into existence. six weeks early. several days before a planned c-section in boston. on the heels of an ice storm. that's just how he rolls.
one o'clock in the morning. waking on a sheet soaked with clear fluid. remember dropping the f-bomb. quickly donning sweat pants, favorite boots, puffy coat. grabbing toothbrush, hairbrush and wallet. michael kicking open the ice-encased mudroom door. icy-black night. eerily quiet. rooflines, trees and power lines dripping with frozen crystals and diamonds. otherworldly. cold and still and strange as mars. breaths making frost inside of the car. traffic lights flashing caution reflecting as snowy yellow pools. desolate streets. feeling desperate and alone, but not overcome.
medivac helicopters grounded due to the storm. boston no longer an option. local hospital unable to deliver a preemie like calvin, his brain malformed. having nanoscopic contractions. thirty-five-mile ambulance ride to portland. its jangling chains like some kind of omen. pre-dawn arrival at the hospital. reciting, for the umpteenth time, history of my uneventful pregnancy up until the shocking sonogram. recounting our day-trip to boston—the diagnostic tests and specialists, theories, plans and strategy. silently doubting the small-city hospital. no donor platelets in case calvin bled. extracting mine by pheresis in case he did. blood sucked from one arm, centrifuge-spun, then pumped back into the other. too few remaining platelets for a safe epidural. only option: general anesthesia. michael forbidden to be by my side meant neither would witness our child being born. remember holding his hand until we were torn. wheeled away on those waxed linoleum floors. wondering if i'd see him and calvin on the other side of anesthetic, c-section void.
operating room just as you'd imagine. sterile and cold. ample plastic tubing and chrome. aluminum tanks, bright lights, monitors and leads. sharp, shiny instruments, white cloths, blue sheets. naked and shivering under a gossamer gown. stainless steel table a shock to my body, like putting a tongue to a frozen pole. nurses shuffling about, lovingly touching my arms. doctors' voices attempting to calm. gas mask in place before passing out.
michael held calvin within minutes of delivery. whisked away quickly to the NICU. at my first glimpse he was twenty-one hours old. my morphine fog kept us apart. he slept in a plastic isolette like a dozen others. a giant among them, weighing just under five pounds. i couldn't yet hold him. tachycardia. trouble breathing. animal surfactant. ventilator. C-PAP. monitors. tape. leads. head no bigger than an apple. sweet, wrinkly brow. thin, pinkish skin. a nose so familiar. precious little bundle. he opened his eyes for the first time when i called out his name. he recognized my voice. that was his beginning. today he turned seventeen.