It’s 4:15 in the morning and Alex made the tiniest chink! sound while adjusting the fan. What better time to become conscious of my heartburn and quite awake with the memories of my daughter’s birth?
It’s true what they say about women forgetting. Apparently.
The pain, the emotional turmoil of childbirth. As I sit here just months away from going through it all again with our son it still feels but a distant memory. Part of me resists the urge to remember, thinks I ought to quash it lest I send myself into a frenzy of doubt and worry over the next labor story, while the other part of me knows I need to finally get it down in words. It’s been over a year and a half and all I have are some bulleted notes in a small pad in my bedside table. It doesn’t take much, however, to remember that while some of the details of the actual labor may be foggy, I know that my urge to have more children was not immediate. Not if it meant having to have them like that!
For several days after delivering Georgia, admittedly not the easiest days of my life when Alex and I were bumped around like silver pinballs buffeted into new parenthood—what’s worse—in the NICU, I can recall thinking, “Never again! I can never do that again.”
I mentioned it to my older sister one day while she was visiting us as we sat at the side of Georgia’s isolette, my ever-present water bottle full of that oh-so-delicious crushed hospital ice (do you think I could get one of those machines for my house?) on the hemorrhoid donut that had become my constant companion.
“I don’t think I am like those other women,” I said.
“What other women?”
“The ones who forget what giving birth was like and go out and have more babies.”
“Just wait,” she warned, “you’ll forget.”
So here I sit. As I mentioned. Knocked up, only months until childbirth, at somewhat after 4 in the morning. Heartburn. Belly fat. And worried. Because I can’t totally remember…and I can’t totally forget.
I admit some things may be embellished, others misremembered for lack of a clarity (and sanity), but from what I recall here goes:
It was a warm December day the morning we drove through the streets of Willimantic to have a baby. A Sunday. I was 37 weeks and 6 days pregnant and I had been up the entirety of the night before having somewhat regular contractions. Not wanting to be one of those women who got sent home from the hospital for “false labor” I waited until my dog broke my water in the wee hours of the morning, woke my husband, noticed there was meconium, called my midwife who told me to go in to the hospital, took a shower, waited for my husband to take a shower, ate breakfast, called my father, called my sister, took the dog out for a pee (ok, Alex most-likely did that, but who KNEW when we’d be back to look after him?), and climbed down the three stories from our tiny (HOT) attic apartment to head to the hospital.
Driving through the streets that warm December morning it was unthinkable.
This was it.
Was this it?
Are we having a baby?
I can still remember driving past those old Victorian houses, past the middle school. Thinking, “I was wondering what this drive would be like. I was wondering if we would get stuck in school bus traffic. There’s no one on the road. It’s a warm morning for December. Remember this. Remember this so one day when she asks you, you can tell her.”
We discussed how odd it was that it was first thing in the morning. I had been convinced that giving birth was one of those things that happened suddenly, in the middle of the night. Alex agreed and, no late-night person he, made it clear he was relieved—little did he know how late we’d be staying up THAT night.
Alex and I were giddy. “Is this it? Do you think this is it?” We kept saying.
We made jokes. I was still having contractions regularly, but they were nothing compared to what they would become in time. In such a short amount of time.
I had been joking with Alex all night (when I wasn’t allowing him to sleep—I DID let him sleep through most of that evening sure that I would need him to be quite awake soon enough) that the contractions were like shadows. Little demons, just like the waves our birthing teacher told us about, who crept in under the door like a draft, darkened my world for a few moments and then slithered out just as suddenly as they came in without a backwards glance.
Alex parked far away after checking with me if it was ok. Wanting to progress this labor as much as possible I told him it was. We walked down the hill to the maternity ward, in through the automatic doors, to the phone which they had showed us how to use on our guided birth & delivery tour during childbirth classes. Alex picked up the receiver and nervously spoke into it, “Uh…my wife is in labor. We were told to come here.”
And we were buzzed in, met by Nurse Crachitt.
I don’t remember her actual name, only her short stern haircut and the way I could tell I was inconveniencing her when I mentioned the meconium and the reason we were at the hospital so soon during labor. I got the distinct feeling she didn’t believe me, that I was a nuisance, that she was off in 90 minutes and why did I have to walk into her labor & delivery ward NOW? Let’s not waste anymore time on her, let’s just say, I was happy when her shift ended and that I didn’t deliver my baby into her evil clutches. Just know that when we first walked in, in my pregnant panic, I thought, “Oh no! This isn’t the woman I wanted helping to deliver my child! This isn’t the way it’s supposed to go!”
Little did I know we would go through several shift changes (all of the nurses perfectly lovely) until the one (who tried to mask the cigarette smell with what had to be a case of something not unlike Eue du Overly Flowery Funk from CVS) “helped” and I use that term lightly, deliver my baby.
(This is getting long. And I am already losing my stamina. So I am now going to revert to bullets. I will elaborate on the “good” parts.)
* I had been deeply worried about Alex’s schedule when it became quite clear after about 35 weeks that we were, indeed, going to have a baby. A PhD candidate, luckily his schedule was rather flexible, and looking back on it, he was often home, but I was so worried that he would miss the birth (little did I know he would have PLENTY of time to get there), so the fact that this all got under way on the weekend was nice. That the start of his winter recess coincided with progress was even nicer, so when they told me I was not in active labor I was not too concerned. We had nothing but time. Or, at least 10 days before Alex had to start teaching his winter session course. A job I proposed he take because I was planning to be out of work for three months and we sorely needed the money. It paid well. When they told me I would have to stay in the hospital because of the meconium and that I had the option to induce or wait it out (it could take days), we discussed it briefly, but already feeling the course of excitement (and worried about that upcoming winter session which would have Alex out of the house everyday from 8am to noon (laughable that I was worried about that easy schedule now)), we opted for induction.
* I remembered clearly what my sister had said about induction. “If they induce you, get the drugs at the same time.” I had gone into this thinking “I’ll just take it as it comes.” I did not have a firm belief either way about an epidural and so far it was going ok. I had heard epis could slow a labor down, so I wasn’t about to ask for one so soon. I was just going to take it as it came. There was definitely a part of me that also just didn’t want to be a wimp. Part of me who wanted to just see how bad it could get. Part of me who wanted to EXPERIENCE labor. Boy did I!
* Alex called his sister, Nikki, who was already planning to come down that day from Boston to deliver Christmas presents since the baby was originally due January 1st and we weren’t planning on going anywhere for the holiday.
* They gave me the induction drugs (the kind they insert into your cervix, not the stuff they put into the IV).
* I would say it was about 7:30am.
* Nikki, who was out on a morning run when Alex spoke to her on the phone, made it to Connecticut in record time. She had to have been there by 9:30am.
* There was a little back and forth between the nurses, the midwife, Alex and I about the fact that I would have to stay in bed because of the induction (I would not be allowed to walk around because they had to monitor the baby) and Alex asked if I would be able to use the birthing tub. Someone went to check. There was an issue because of the meconium, but ultimately it was decided that I would be allowed to use the tub should the need arise. I would not have even asked, but Alex, aware of what I had been hoping made sure my questions were answered for me. Ultimately, I was also allowed to walk around within my room.
* When Nikki arrived I was having minor contractions, but still nothing major. We talked. Laughed. Took pictures. All of us still giddy. I was given some forms to sign, I set them aside thinking “No problem, I’ll fill them out shortly.” Eventually I sent Alex and Nikki out to round up food for themselves thinking it would probably be a long time before they got to grab food again.
* I was happy to be alone. So I could think. “This is it! This is it!”
* The hospital staff brought me the lunch I must have ordered. It was still early for lunch, but I kept thinking I had to keep up my energy. I ate some mashed potatoes. A bite of chicken. I started filling out the forms (which Nikki had to eventually finish for me). I drank some apple juice. All the while my contractions getting noticeably stronger.
* I noticed around me, in the hallways, babies crying. “This is it!” was replaced by, “Holy shit!”
* Where the heck are they? Replaced my desire to be alone. * Soon, a little after noon, Nikki and Alex returned with subs. I was well into active labor by this point, but I tried to play it off. I really wanted them to eat, I needed them and I needed them to be nourished.
* While they finished eating, I told them the contractions were getting noticeably worse. They were still giddy. I was getting nervous.
* Soon it was evident that I was in pain. Often. Like, every 2-3 minutes. They marveled at how fast the drugs worked. Nikki told me how they almost ate lunch out; Alex convinced that it would be a long time before I needed them. Before I was in active labor. Nikki convinced Alex that she didn’t think it would be a good idea. Thank goodness for that!