(A Day in Three Acts)
A year ago today, we were pacing around our wee little apartment waiting for the clock to hit 9pm so we could leave for Cedars and still be an hour early.
We rode to the hospital in my wagon, empty carseat in the backseat, empty. Very empty. It was all I could look at. How could someone possibly sit there? Little seat full of person? How? I didn't believe it. All of this was just a dream. I rubbed my belly.
I was induced at 11:00 pm, after waiting and filling out paperwork and stripping down to robe and socks. They hooked me up to the pitocin and we were left alone to anticipate and small-talk and guess when baby would arrive.
I was induced because of the preeclampsia. I was also bedridden after gaining 43 pounds in three weeks and swelling beyond familiarity. I was bedridden my last month of pregnancy after being active, healthy and feeling amazing the previous eight months. I never experienced the horror stories of pregnancy. No morning sickness, no cliched cravings and backaches, no ankle swelling until the my final month and then twas hell. Heartburn and Braxton hicks and blood pressure that sent me to the hospital several times and kept me awake all night. Night after night after night. Rather than waiting to contract naturally, my doctor booked me an appointment for induction at 10pm on May 22nd, four days before my due date.
Huz read from John Stewart's 'America' as we waited. At first it was fun but slowly I stopped listening and started watching the clock. Watching. Watching. (cue Jeopardy! theme.) We waited hours for something to happen. Contractions were on top of each other but I did not feel a thing. The nurses held facial-expression charts up to me to see what my pain was and every single time I made the "normal face" as in "I FEEL NOTHING." A part of me thought my pain threshold was so superhuman, that I wouldn't feel a thing. I waited another couple hours, ate 675429 popsicles and asked Huz to find new ways to make me laugh. Boredom can be worse than agonizing pain and I was beginning to think the baby would never show his face. I started whining.
A med student, who couldn't have been older than me came in suddenly and introduced himself to us. He shook my hand and then the huz and then he stretched the latex glove over his finger.
"I am here to check your progress," he said, which was medical speak for "I'm hear to fist you for a good two minutes" which he did. Too bad dude didn't have one of those pain management sheets. I imagine I was making quite an inspired face.
"Two centimeters still. You have not changed since you arrived."
"Oh. Great news, thanks. Look forward to you fisting me again, soon. Next time please bring me a push-pop."
Somewhere between 4-6am shit started to hurt but instead of complaining I chose to buck up and take it like a cave person. If women of the Mesozoic period could take this shit then so could I. I forgot one small thing- that women of the Mesozoic period did not have Aleve for headaches and Midol for cramps and _____ for ____ and ____ for ______ (and also that there were no women during the Mesozoic period but that isn't my point.) Our threshold for pain is not what it used to be. Not anywhere in the western world, anyway.
As soon as I decided I was ready for the epidural, the doctor explained that it was a busy night and four or five people were ahead of me. (At the time Cedars Sinai was a Hollywood hot spot and there was a line out the door of pregnant starlets seeking pain-relief.) I would have to wait. "An hour, maybe more."
By this time I was in serious pain and I couldn't catch my breathe. Me and the huz refused lamaze classes because as far as we knew the couples that took lamaze classes included men with whistles around their necks and "#1 Coach" t-shirts and the women didn't see the humor in nursing plastic babies. Me and the huz would be kicked out on day one for accidentally making fun of everyone.
I was crying. Huz was cracking jokes and filming the wall and the nurses and interviewing the elevator like the film-maker he is. Once in a while he would try to make me laugh and I would fake-laugh and make the "excruciating pain face" and cry some more. The med-student came in to fist me again and when he told me that nothing was happening I started to freak the fuck out. All of this and still 2cm? Was he shitting me?
"Get your hands out of my vagoogoo, please. I hate your guts. You suck at this, Bring me someone who knows better! Ahhhhaksjalsklaoksieuyryuwq!"
My OB showed up and gave me a nice pat on the forehead. "Your epi is on its way, now I'm going to go perform a C-section next dooor. I'll BRB."
By the time the Epi-dude came in I was like that chick in The Excorcist. The nurses were having a hard time figuring out how to slow the pitocin. My contractions had become A contraction that had lasted for the most part, two hours without a cigarette break. Doctors held me down as epi-man shot me up. Minutes later, twitching and sub-zero temperatures aside, I was haaaaaaaaapppppy. Thhhhhhaaaaaaaank you kindly, man with neeeeeeeedle! (Note se self: Just get the epi asap next time to avoid mass hysteria.)
Finally I could watch "A birth story" on "The birth channel" in peace. For about an hour huz slept and I contracted and ate popsicles and felt fine. The cervix-checker said I was at 3cm so thinks were happening. Slow and steady and numb and "can I get a cherry, please? I don't like orange."
Suddenly my peace was destroyed by extreme pain. "My epi's worn off!"
My screams woke huz rather quickly and he ran screaming through the hospital for a nurse who rolled their eyes and came in to see how I was doing.
"It hasn't worn off. It's only been an hour and 18 minutes!"
Of course I was screaming and shaking and shivering and blubbering and speaking (pig) Latin so the nurse proceeded to fist me just in case and sure enough...
"Woopsie-daisy! I can feel the head! You're having this baby now!"
"WTF? Seriously, WTF? How is that possible. I was 3cm 20 minutes ago."
"I know! So exciting! Unfortunatley, your doc is doing a C-section so hang tight and just breathe and he'll be here ASAP!"
I waited for Doc to arrive in his scrubs and mask, pull his stool up to my spread-eagle self and say, "ready and puuuuuuush" before even saying hello.
"But wait!" I wasn't ready. This wasn't supposed to happen so fast!
I wasn't supposed to go from 3-12 in 20 minutes. Doc had no time to explain. He was stripping his scrubs and changing his gloves and telling me to breathe and that I was a good girl or something weird.
Huz was trying not to fall over from stress and I was dying, almost dead.
I started pushing before I was supposed to because I was confused and because our room suddenly erupted in chaos. Now this was what childbirth was supposed to be about! I started making all sorts of cool noises. Screams and shrieks and moans and groans. Cursing, lots of cursing. French cursing, and Spanish cursing and German cursing.
I pushed four times before the doctor cut my vagoogoo. "But you'll rip," he said. At the time "ripping" was not a risk I was willing to take.
I pushed four times and with the help of doc cutting my vagoo like a watermelon, Archer slipped into the world. There was blood everywhere and screaming and joy and all the violence of new life. There was "It's a boy!" and "Congratulations!" and "He's beautiful!" and all of the things doctors and nurses say. May, 23rd 2005. 7 pounds, 2 oz. 20 inches. 10:55 am.
Soon, the dust settled and the doctor sewed me up and Archer was clean and wrapped like a gyro and the nurses closed the doors to leave the three of us alone. I looked at huz and Archer in my arms. Yesterday I was the daughter of my parents, today I am the mother of my child. We were the three of us a family and days and years flashed like blank slides. I couldn't wait for them to materialize.
And for the next few days as I healed and spent the nights studying Archer's little face in the hospital and as flowers came and family members and friends and all the joy of Archer's arrival- first child, first grandchild, first great grandchild and trying to breastfeed and wrap him up like a cake and mark him with a B and all of the nurses trying to teach me and all of the advice and the overwhelmingness of it all and how I didn't even listen to anyone because I would figure it out my OWN way and how I'm sure I drove everyone nuts because I didn't want to hear them. All the women with their "leagues" and "support groups" and "thises" and "thats."
The only manual we ever read was for the carseat. The empty carseat in the back seat on our way to the hospital soon to be a carset full of human on our way home.
It took us an hour to make sure Archer was in safely and the carseat was secure and everything was perfect. We argued and fussed and I probably cried and made a scene until finally Archer was in snugly and we could go.
We drove home slowly, me sitting beside my new baby as the world sped by, rubbing my saggging sudenly-empty belly, in awe of life and how one person can become two, overnight.