Thirty years ago I went through a very difficult, high-risk pregnancy. Unexpectedly, at 23 1/2 weeks into it (normal gestation lasts 40 weeks) I was put on forced bedrest. We endured alarming consultations with a neonatologist concerning the odds of having a living/normal baby, and I tried mightily to stay calm despite being so frightened at times I couldn't catch my breath. Family and friends rallied and helped us through many of the rough patches during the very long, tedious and scary weeks. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, eight weeks later and still nine weeks before he was due, I gave birth to a premature baby boy. He was alive...he had ten fingers and ten toes...but it was a really scary time. He spent weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) but thankfully had very few setbacks.In retrospect, his positive, upbeat personality and temperament were evident from the get-go. My son is now 30 and a successful, happy man. He has a fiance he loves, a career which fulfills him, a new home of their own, an adorable puppy, many hobbies and passions, and...well...in sum, a very fine, happy life.
So, Why Do I Care what people think of his birth story?
Well, you see, I discovered about six months after he was born that if I was asked about the circumstances surrounding his birth, people didn't believe what I said!! At first I was dumbfounded. What do you mean, you don't believe me? The circumstances were unique, I'll give you that, but you don't believe me?? I carefully explained what had happened. I made sure to use all the proper medical terms. I began to feel a bit desperate, like I wanted to get my doctor on the phone to talk to the person, to convince them...to prove I wasn't lying. How crazy is that? Why would I lie? Of course, all the people who mattered--our families and good friends--had all lived through the scary times with us and knew what had happened.
Over the years I came to expect this reaction if the subject came up, and I chose deliberately who to tell the story to. I got tired of questions that started with "Are you sure....?" It was easy to choose not to tell strangers, but with new friends--especially after we moved two states away--it made me nuts when people looked at me patronizingly as I said, "Yes, I am sure!!" It even happened with new doctors but thankfully, I had our medical records. They were always surprised that it happened just the way I said it did.
It hasn't come up much in the past decade, or so. I don't think I've told the story in quite a while, actually. But this year...when my son turned THIRTY, I was thinking about it a lot. On his birthday, I got out some of my diaries and was sort of reliving it all, remembering...when I got a series of texts from my sister. She was marveling, as was I, that he was THIRTY (because that makes ME really ancient, you know) and then she asked me some questions about the details of the pregnancy and his birth because she had been telling someone about it all and they didn't believe her!!!!
The frustration started all over again. I wanted to drive over to that friend of hers (over 1,000 miles away) and shake my sheaf of medical records at her.
But as I said at the beginning...WHY DO I CARE?
I don't know, but I do.
The other part of this week's musings was the realization that maybe this isn't my story to tell. Maybe it's his. At what point in our children's lives does what's happening to them become their story to tell and not ours?
I notice all the parenting blogs on the web with cute stories and accompanying pictures and it makes me think. The moms are just writing about their kids...those cute kids walking around with fingerpaint all over their face, or a droopy diaper filled with marbles, or streaking down the hallway, naked-with-only-a-smile. These moms are just writing about the joys of being a mom.
But now, because my kids are grown, if I put a picture of one of them up on Facebook, I think long and hard about it first. Will they be upset by it? If it's a picture I know they don't like, I won't post it, even if it's one of my favorites (and I have many of those).
I don't know when this shift of emphasis happened, but at some unknown point, they took ownership to the rights of their story.
So....is this my story? Or his?