I started writing the new baby’s birth story 10 days ago in the last fading lasers of post-birth euphoria (people, that shit is better than drugs) and then went back to finish and post but I have been in a different mood every day, not unlike “My Many Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss, (then comes a mixed up day and WHAM! I don’t know who or what I am!) so it hasn’t really gelled. I wrote a funny one. I wrote a sentimental one. I wrote a scathing review of the nursing staff at the hospital the morning I was there. None of it seemed appropriate.
The day we met #2 son (who, obviously, still needs a new internet nickname) was a Sunday. You know what that means – he’s bonny and blithe and good and gay. I first had an inkling we’d be meeting him soon when I started having regular contractions on the Saturday evening. Regular, your-sweet-pet-boa-constrictor-loves-you contractions from 6 pm till 2 am. It was a delightful few hours, truly. Saint Aardvark deep fried a chicken (as you do) and went to bed but I stayed up, reading the Internet in its entirety, listening to music, bouncing on my purple yoga ball and drinking lots of water.
I was so excited. Here it came, my normal labour. No inducing, no cajoling, no castor oil, no terrible awkward sex. Just a bit of bitching and a membrane sweep and my body was doing its thing.
At 2 am I realized my classic rookie mistake. I’d spent so much time being excited through early labour that I was exhausted and the hard part hadn’t started yet. So I stretched out on the couch and slept for half an hour and when I woke up, the hard part had started. Like, you know when your sweet pet boa constrictor gets all up in your business about being captive? And decides screw this, I’m killing this woman and getting out of the suburbs? Yeah. I believe they are referred to as “productive contractions.”
We gathered ourselves and Trombone, whose commentary consisted of, “Dark. Soooooo dark. Moon anna stars anna moon. Car? Sooooo dark.” He was gently deposited at my parents’ place and we were on our way to the hospital.
We arrived at 4 am. The waiting room at the hospital was empty, despite the full moon. The doctor on call – sadly, not my awesome doctor, but the next best thing – was at the hospital so checked me right away.
“Four…maybe five? centimetres,” he reported, “it’s pretty stretchy…” as he yanked my cervix around like silly putty.
“Yow,” I said, “stretchy, you say.”
“She could probably go up to the Swanky Room,” said the nurse, “I’m sure they have space up there.”
Bestilled was my heart. The single room maternity care, with the hotel bed, the wood panelling, the equipment that popped out of the walls and then went back in again. Of the Future!
A few minutes after SA left for coffee and snacks, (this labour, delivery and first 24 hours post-partum brought to you in large part by Snyders of Hanover Honey Mustard Pretzels) the nurse placed my IV for the antibiotics and assured me someone would be down to fetch me to my delivery suite shortly.
But it was not to be.
As the antibiotics poured into me, cold and steady, I heard a woman behind another curtain begin to low like a cow. After a few minutes, the lowing escalated to a steady, quite beautiful contralto. I wasn’t timing her contractions, but it seemed like only a few short minutes later she began to pant, hee hee hee, at great volume.
“Hmm,” said my nurse to no one in particular, “she sounds ‘pushy’. Hey Linda? Are you keeping track of number 6 over there?”
Linda wandered back and sure enough, the woman across the hall was pretty ready to have her baby. She was quickly wheeled away to the room that should have been mine.
“I guess you heard that,” said my nurse to me.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“Enh…” I said.
“We’ll get you a room really soon,” she said, “I’m sure there’s another one free up there.”
Saint Aardvark returned to find me still behind curtain three, leaning against the bed and shifting from foot to foot. The contractions were starting to demand my full attention. I began to want to get in the magnificent hospital shower, where I spent three blissful hours during my labour with Trombone.
At 6:15, my nurse poked her head in my cubicle again.
“Can you hold on till 7?” she said, “Because if you can, we can get you upstairs. But they’re really busy right now, they had a bunch of people go into surgery and they’re short some nurses.”
“Or?” I said.
“Or, you could go to a room on this floor, right now.”
“You know,” I said, “I would really like to get in the shower.”
And so we shuffled off to labour and delivery room #6, just down the hall, a room identical to the one in which Trombone was born.
“Sorry,” said the nurse who accompanied me, “I guess you got bumped from upstairs.”
“Doesn’t….matter,” I gasped, because now that I was walking the contractions were all like HEY WOW GREAT THANKS!
“How are you handling the pain?” she said.
“What?” I said, “well – I am breathing?” Or trying to, because it is hard to concentrate on your breath when people are talking to you.
“Have you given any thought to pain medication?”
“I might like an epidural,” I said through gritted teeth and despite my best intentions. By then she was trying to settle me on the bed, the flat bed, me and my giant seizing body on a flat bed above the ground by several feet. “AND THE SHOWER,” I added.
“Well,” she hemmed, “you don’t have an order in your chart for an epidural. So we’ll have to page the doctor and we’ll have to get him to give the order over the phone and then I have to get these monitors on you, here, can you roll over just a little bit?”
“NO I CANNOT,” I said, “BECAUSE. I. AM. OW.”
She bound me with a fetal heart monitor and a contraction monitor (because gee I wonder when the next one is coming – I know, I know, it’s just procedure but it’s DUMB procedure) bound me tightly, far too tightly considering my body was closing in on itself just fine without her help. Then I was offered gas but oh ho! there was no mouthpiece on the gas hose, gee, they’re supposed to check the rooms several times a day and I guess they missed this one, say, do you know what you’re having?
“HIPPO,” I said.
“No,” said Saint Aardvark.
“And how big was your other baby?”
“NINE POINT TWO POUNDS,” I said.
“Well how big do you think this one will be?”
“EIGHT POINT TWO POUNDS,” I said. (note: I was right. Afterwards, when they weighed the baby I was all, hey, where’s my beer? I was totally RIGHT. But they just ignored me.)
What I did not add: why are you making small talk with me when my body is obviously requiring my full attention? Are you trying to distract me from this pain? Because this pain cannot be distracted from. I need to focus on the pain. I need to embrace the pain. I need to work with the pain and I cannot do that if you are making stupid office water cooler chatter and I do not want to be having this conversation lying flat on my back bound by two unnecessary monitors while I am in this much pain and also
“I have to pee,” I said between contractions, “and how about that shower?”
“Well…” she said, “you might not want to get in the shower now. It might make you progress too quickly and then you won’t be able to get the epidural. Oh which I was going to page your doctor about…but do you think you could pee in a bedpan?”
“I have no idea.” But I seriously doubt it. Look at me, woman. I am WRITHING.
Ah, but then my water broke instead.
And then she checked my cervix and I had progressed from 7 cms to 10 cms within about 15 minutes. I was not very surprised to learn this. I was, however, delighted to note that it was now 7 am, and instead of still being behind curtain 3 waiting for that elusive ride to Swankyroomville, I was instead going to have a baby real quick-like.
“Oh and also I have to push,” I announced.
“Oh not yet!” she said, “the doctor is on his way! Hold on!”
Let us take a moment to consider “holding on” to a full term baby when your uterus says “expel.” Does that sound likely to you?
Congratulations! You are all smarter than my delivery room nurse!
“Don’t worry,” said a new nurse, because of course it was time for a shift change. “I worked for 10 years as a midwife in China. I can catch the baby if I have to.”
Let us take another moment to consider my excellent good fortune.
Dr. Almost As Awesome breezed in at that moment, smelling of soap and aftershave.
“Did I make it?” he said, peeling on some gloves and scooting up to my posterior on his rolling stool.
“HMMMMMMMMMMMM,” I said, “HEEE HEEE HEEE.”
“Deep breaths,” said nurse A.
“I AM PANTING,” I panted, “SO I DON’T PUSH.” And also I would stay clear of my right fist. It just might hit you by accident.
“Good girl,” said midwife nurse, “that’s exactly right.”
“You can push with the next one,” said Dr. AAA.
So I did. For 17 minutes.
I would like to add re: pushing out a baby that
1. you people who have pushed for longer than 17 minutes or 3 pushes (whichever takes longer) are my goddamn heroes because if there hadn’t been a baby at the end of those 3 pushes I was going home. I am perfectly serious.
And also 2. the most blissful thing about finally being able to dig in and dive through the pain was the blur that the room around me became. People’s heads became circles of white light. I could focus on working with my body and my breath to control the wee one’s descent. And I could also focus on making a lot of noise. Which leads us to
3. Dear lady who had a baby when I birthed Trombone and I said you had to be giving birth to a pony because you made so much noise? Sorry. I get it now.
“It’s a boy,” called Saint Aardvark from miles away. Swiftly, our boy was brought to my chest and I was suddenly back in the room, all of me, every inch of me alive and pulsing.
A boy. He panted a bit but didn’t make a sound. A head of dark curly hair was plastered to his tiny head and those dark, otherworldly newborn eyes stared up at me.
What just happened?
What does that mean?
It means you get food and cuddles and love from me and your dad and your big brother and your grandparents. Don’t worry, they’re all good people.
Trust me. It’s a good day to be born.
Welcome, sweet Eli. We are so glad you’re here.