Tuesday, February 23rd is my due date. On Saturday the 27th, we go to a party. "What are YOU doing here?" someone says.
"It's a first baby," I point out. "Those don't exactly go from zero to sixty all at once." And certainly I do not have a baby that night, or the next night either.
On Monday, I have a doctor's appointment. A little in-office sonogramming determines that the baby looks wonderfully healthy and lined up for action. Unfortunately she is also posterior.
The big Wrong Way position, as you probably know, is breech, when the head is not lined up to be the first bit out the door. Posterior presentation is just the little Wrong Way -- nothing dangerous about it, only a recipe for some extra painful back labor, as the back of a skull grinds up against your spine.
I feel that this sounds like a bad idea and resolve to spend a lot of time on my hands and knees to encourage things to change.
"I wonder how I will know when it is really truly labor," I say to Steve on the way home. "Oh well, I suppose you might be confused right at the beginning, but there comes a point when you cannot possibly wonder anymore."
Then I go off to work. I get some paperwork done and teach my Monday evening class, which is a delightful two-and-a-half hour graduate workshop. The students talk about research methods, and give one another advice on how to schedule their work for the rest of the semester. It is productive and pleasant. I lend them some books and tell them that since next week is spring break, I certainly won't still be pregnant by their next class meeting, and they can look forward to nice guest appearances by my colleagues. Have a nice break, everyone!
Steve gives me a lift home and I prepare some nice soup for our late evening supper. I am halfway through my bowl when I feel a combination of a massive Braxton-Hicks contraction and an extremely solid baby kick, accompanied by a sort of POP! sensation. "That's... strange," I say, standing up.
"I think maybe my water is breaking?"
"I'm going to go upstairs and see." [pause] "Oh YES my water is definitely breaking."
We call the doctor. I've had a contraction or two, I tell her, not too bad. "Well, it will get worse," she assures me brightly, but not unkindly. "I can promise you that."
Oh! OH. It immediately does get worse. I spend some time on my hands and knees on the living room floor. I send a few text messages. I crawl around a bit. "That's another contraction."
"Really? But that was only three minutes."
"Well, it was. Oh! That's another one."
Somehow I get upstairs and into a warm bath. I never want to get out of the bath. Lovely bath. Contraction contraction contraction contraction.
Steve (who has been timing things): I really think we need to go to the hospital now.
Me (firmly): I never want to get out of this bath.
Steve (correctly): Well, I think you really should. NOW.
By some magical process he gets me into clothes and into the car. Contraction contraction. I grip the little handle over the door and hang from it, panting. Whatever those are actually supposed to be for, they are ideal for clutching while contracting. Steve gives a beautiful impression of someone who is calm and relaxed as he drives.
We arrive at the hospital. "I am not getting out of this car until the contraction is over," I report. Steve goes inside to sort out the parking -- they have a valet service for labor and delivery! -- while I cling and pant. Steve fills out the form and exchanges a few words with the valet guy, who asks if I need a wheelchair. I do not! I am fierce. Ow.
Everything is undergoing construction. I have another contraction. We have to take the elevator! I am not waiting. We take the stairs. More construction, more contractions. Labor and delivery explain that they don't have a room just yet, so they're going to have me wait in the waiting room across the hall. We skitter over and I try sitting down. There is a tv on and I have Steve turn it off.
A woman comes in to have a quiet upset cell phone conversation with someone. I am sorry to intrude, until very quickly I cease to give the smallest bit of a damn. I can't sit any more and stand up and face the wall, gripping a chair.
"I can't possibly stay in here anymore. Tell them!" Steve goes off and tells them. A delivery room and lovely nurse named Sarah appear.
To the extent that I had a birth plan, beyond trying to do things as naturally as possible, because I am a big hippie, it went about like this:
1. I really don't want to go to the hospital too soon. They don't even let you go to the hospital until your contractions have been coming every four minutes for a whole hour, and the part before that goes on for hours. We'll play cribbage in between contractions and I'll walk around the house mooing.
2. When we do get to the hospital, I want to move around as much as possible.
It turns out, therefore, naturally, that I decide that in practice actually I am very very uninterested in moving ever. I want to lie ABSOLUTELY STILL. There are lovely chairs and birthing balls and a shower and all kinds of things. I remain firmly attached to the table in my awkward half-splayed position.
There are many contractions. People ask me admissions questions and I answer in a distracted little voice, frequently losing the thread altogether. I keep my eyes closed and stay very still and HURT.
"Here, hold my hand. You can squeeze it as hard as you want," Steve offers.
That is far too much moving to contemplate. "No hand, thank you," I gasp.
I do not scream or cry or moo. However, I do say "Shit" and "Fuck" and "I really do not like this" and "This is awful" and "Fuck" some more. Once I move by mistake and it makes everything MUCH WORSE, very much worse. I yelp and say "I am never doing that again."
Time passes in this vein. The doctor from my own practice hasn't arrived yet. Periodically, a resident checks in and suggests that I would like an epidural.
Since it does hurt very much, I say, "Maybe? No? Yes? But it's already so far along..."
The delivery nurse, Sarah, talks me down. She has a genius way of putting her face right in my line of sight and making sure she has my attention first. She is by far the realest, most comprehensible figure in the room.
"You could take some Nubain. You're just about at the end of the time when you can do that, because you're almost at eight centimeters. You could get an epidural, if you can sit up for twenty minutes."
I root around in my tiny, panting brain and remember that my doctor has advised me not to take the IV painkiller unless I am sure I am going to get an epidural too, because one has a way of leading to the other. Sitting up for any time at all sounds impossible. I express these thoughts as follows: "Ah... uh..."
"My advice to you," says Sarah, a marvel of clarity, "is an epidural or nothing."
I do not get an epidural.
"This is really horrible," I remark. It is, too.
"Deep breaths," says Steve. "Deep breaths," says Sarah.
The baby's heartbeat is slowish, so I get some oxygen. This gives Steve something to do, holding the mask over my nose and mouth in between contractions. He does a lovely job, modulo some fumbling with my nose, which I hardly notice.
I enter a newly horrible stage of contractions: I feel I want to push, but also I can tell perfectly well that it's not time yet. I develop a hazy, addled strategy that involves directing the contraction downward in some inchoate way, because resisting is a bad idea but so is pushing. This works OK, but I can't say that I like it.
The doctor from my own practice finally arrives.
It's time to push! On the one hand, the contractions aren't as bad now, and the baby has turned the right way down -- on the other, I am suddenly acutely aware of the implausibility of getting a baby from one side of this opening to the other. I grasp behind my knees, and somehow manage to push.
Argh! I make bearing down grunting noises and am advised that as good as it feels to say GRRRRRGH, I should be holding my breath instead. I do my best, imperfectly. Oh God there is no way nnnnnNNNNNGGG gasp gasp.
After a number of unproductive rounds of this, Steve cleverly remembers that my doctor recommended looking in the mirror, as a useful tool for pushing more effectively. At first this seems to have been the opposite of helpful, because now I can see all too clearly just how unlikely the whole procedure really is. I quail. Also I cannot help but notice, in the midst of everything, that my bikini line is all rashy.
But, in fact, the mirror is a great help.
"Okay," says the doctor eventually. "One more big push, go go go go GO!" I look my nethers right in the eye, as it were, and
It works, there is an explosion of blood and mess, I have a baby!
"Thank you, you were wonderful," I say to Sarah. No doubt it is exactly in the tones of an extremely drunken person at a party who wants to makes sure you know just how much he loves you, man.
"I never have to do that again!" I say to the doctor. "Not if you don't want to," she agrees.