Part 31: "She's the mother"
When Wendy and Nicole pull into the driveway, Nicole takes charge: Do not grab one bag, she tells her mother. Open the side door, she tells Rachel.
Inside the house, Nicole gets Wendy into pajamas and settles her on the couch with a fluffy pillow, then she brings in all of the luggage and flowers and shopping bags full of gifts, and puts everything away, and answers all of the phone calls.
Over the next few days, when Wendy does take calls from friends, she discovers that they can't resist asking one question: Do you want it?
You can tell me, they say, 'cause we're close.
Oh, here we go again, Wendy thinks, before explaining it all like this:
I want it for my sister. I think about it, the baby. But I want it for my sister. If you're asking me if I want a crib or a nursery in my house, no. I think about her. Of course, I think about her. But it's not a wanting, not a longing.
Three days after coming home from the hospital, Wendy smiles to remember an exchange she had with Andy the other day. She'd asked him, Do you miss her?
You don't miss her?
Do you think about her?
C'mon, already, with the questions.
Don't you think about her?
All right. I think about her because of you. Because of what you went through. You delivered. I think of her through you. I know what you're getting at, but no. I don't think like that. We're fine just the way we are.
Wendy recalls how, during the pregnancy, Andy rarely put his hand on her stomach to feel the kicks, though he'd done so all the time when she was pregnant with Rachel. He was being careful not to bond with this baby, and "I think he knew what he was doing," she says.
She felt a little depressed on Tuesday, the day after she came home from the hospital. But yesterday and today, she notes, she didn't cry at all. Each passing day will get easier, she's certain.
In the five days since the birth, she's been out with her mother to visit her grandmother Allaire, she's done some light yard work, and she and Andy have been out to dinner. (She finally had two of those margaritas she's been craving.)
"He's glad to have me back," she says of Andy. She feels their marriage is stronger now, because they've gone through this together. All the time, she tells him, Thank you.
For what? he says.
For getting me through the pregnancy. For just for the way you were. Thank you.
I know, Wen, he tells her.
Oh, she says.
It feels weird, she muses, to hug her husband again, "with nothing in the way" - though, actually, hugging is probably not the wisest thing right now.
Midwife Christine Pfeiffer warned her that her breasts would soon fill with milk, and that it would hurt. She said she should even turn her back to the shower spray.
Talking about this, Wendy's mind turns to her sister - "poor thing" - going through her own adjustment period.
"I think about you all the time, Wendy, and I'm crying, too," Wendy says Kathy told her on the phone the other day. "I think of you and how you're doing."
Wendy misses Kathy, too, but she's decided it's best to give her some space - to let her get into a rhythm and feel secure in her new role.
"Then I can start becoming an auntie," says Wendy. "I don't want to make her uncomfortable. She's the mother."
Kathy lifts Christiana Marie from her crib and holds her close against her, rocking in that natural, rhythmic way mothers have.
"I love her," she says. "I love her. I love her so much, I don't want to sleep! I've got feelings I never thought I would feel!"
Joe, too, feels something new.
He went for a ride in the truck with Mickey a few days ago, but before long, "the baby's face came to me, and I said, 'That's it, take me home, I miss my baby!' It's almost like she was calling me home."
Joe and Kathy have been parents for 10 days now, long enough to sense that they can handle this, that everything's going to be all right.
The emotions of the first few days after the birth, so powerful and confusing at the time, are already forming into something manageable, something they can talk about.
"As beautiful as it is," says Kathy, "that's as hard as it is."
The labor was wonderful, she says. So was the delivery. But the moment that the baby was handed to Kathy - "Oh, my God, I wish no one was there."
"I had the baby in my arms and I was glad that she was here. But my mind was on my sister: Is my sister okay? Does my sister have her baby - her Rachel - in her arms? Is my sister okay before I take this baby, this gift?"
It was only when she began sponge-bathing the baby that she was able to tear her focus away from Wendy.
But immediately, her mind returned to her. Over the next two days, in fact, as Kathy tended to the baby in a separate room of the hospital, all she could see was Wendy's face. Wendy had borne this beautiful child for her, but whenever Kathy thought about taking her home, she felt guilty. She knew that Wendy was hurting, and she couldn't bear that.
She'd cry and tell the nurses, "I need my sister here with me." But the nurses, two of whom had adopted children, explained why that was a bad idea: You have to bond with the baby. Your sister has to separate from her.
Kathy knew it was true. But she felt torn. She wanted to be with the baby, and with Wendy, too, and it was too soon for that.
Kathy cried uncontrollably, without even being able to comfort herself that it was postpartum blues. (Later, she'd read in a book that adoptive parents also endure such feelings.)
"What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?" she sobbed to her friend Trudy on the phone, the day after bringing Christiana home. Trudy rushed right over. It's all right, she told Kathy. It's normal to feel this way. And Kathy did feel comforted.
As she has so many times, she made up her mind she would find her way through this.
But Kathy still missed her sister.
Since the night Wendy's water broke, she had left her car parked in front of Wendy's house and refused to let Joe go get it; it was a symbol of their attachment, a sign to Wendy that "I'm still there."
Finally, Kathy couldn't stand being apart. She invited Wendy to come over on Halloween morning - the due date - and Wendy said yes. But both were nervous. They had no idea how this would go.
Go away for the day, Kathy instructed Joe in advance.
I can't be in my own house? he said.
No, said Kathy. This is something I have to do with my sister.
Wendy dropped Rachel off at school, then drove to Kathy's and greeted her with a long hug.
Wendy held Christiana, and rocked her, and fussed over her, as Kathy busied herself with housework, to give Wendy more time alone with her - "I wanted her to see, 'The baby's right here for you, whenever you want.' "
The sisters talked and laughed and smoked cigarettes in the backyard. At one point, Wendy ran to the store for Kathy, like Kathy used to do for Wendy when she was pregnant.
Then Kathy had a brainstorm: Let's dress the baby up and surprise Grandma for her birthday.
The baby! Grandma cried at the sight of the three of them. Oh, my God! The gift! My birthday! You brought her!
By the end of their visit, Kathy and Wendy had shared everything they'd been feeling for the last week.
Wendy had planned to spend only a few minutes at Kathy's, but by the time she left, it was 7 at night. (Joe would drive by, see the car still there, and keep driving.)
"It's the one day that I didn't cry," says Wendy, relieved at how well the visit went. To think she'd worried about how she'd fit into the picture with Kathy and the baby.
"She's constantly popping her into my arms! I don't have to ask or stand over her shoulder and stare."
"We were pregnant together," says Kathy. "We had her together. We're healing together, recovering together. And then, we enjoy the baby together. It's all the way around."