A Baby Story, Part III

I ask Regina what’s wrong.  Something is wrong, or there wouldn’t be an oxygen mask, right?  She tells me to stay calm, that they aren’t worried yet (YET?), but that the baby is having some distress.  We’re all wide awake now, and there’s a new kind of crackle in the air.  Shit is about to go down.  The doctor comes in to check out the scene (as it were) and talk to me about what’s going on.  The hard truth is this: for some reason, my body is not doing this on its own.  The Pitocin is causing contractions, but every time I have one, the baby’s heart rate drops dramatically.  As soon as they try taking me off it, the contractions stop and I don’t progress.  Bear in mind, I am already two weeks past my due date.  There isn’t a lot more time.  Going in, I hadn’t wanted a c-section, and they know this.  The doctor says there are a couple of things we can try if we monitor him really carefully, but at this point I don’t care anymore.  I used to joke that my birth plan was “everyone makes it out alive.” So I look at C, look at my mom, and decide.  Let’s DO this thing–cut me open and give me my baby.

For the past day and a half, I’ve been in a warm, quiet, mellow room, nurses floating in and out and machines whirring softly.  As soon as the phrase “c-section” is out there, it’s a full-on Broadway musical, like they’ve all been waiting behind the door with canes and straw hats.  Suddenly there are at least five (and what feels like 50) additional people in the room; lights are bright, people are talking over each other at me, and everything is moving really fast. There will be more medicine; I can only have one other person in the room with me.  My mom goes out to call the family and tell them what’s happening, and C gets suited up.  I am hoisted up onto a gurney (no small task, given the size of me at this point) and wheeled into an operating room.  I remember thinking that it looks just like they look on tv, with the big bright lights and everything shiny and gray-blue.

The sheet goes up, the drugs go in, and I start shaking like a motherfucker (motherfuckers shake. Like, a lot). I am scared, I am drugged, I am unprepared, and I do NOT take it well.  The doctor tells C that I am shaking too hard for them to cut, and I have to calm down somehow. Turns out I DO get to use that Lamaze breathing after all! C talks me through it, his head right next to mine, and we manage to turn it down enough for them to start.  I’m told that I will “feel some tugging,” but what I feel is A HUMAN PERSON BEING PULLED OUT OF MY BODY.  I am positive it isn’t as bad as natural delivery, but I bet it’s just as surreal.  I learn later that they actually take your organs out, pile them on top of your body, take out the baby, and layer everything back in. Holy sci-fi.

After that it’s like the movies again.  They hold him up, bloody and wet and curly-headed.  He screams, they bring him right up to my face to kiss. I think I remember it; I hope I do.  Then they ask C if he wants to stay with me while they sew me up or go with N, clean and swaddled and no doubt wondering what fresh hell this is.  I imagine this was one of the harder decisions of C’s life, but at my urging, he goes with the baby through the double doors and into the arms of our waiting family.

This was the most terrifying half hour of my life, but it was just that.  Half an hour.  And in the end, thank my lucky stars, we all got out alive.

A Baby Story, Part II

So we’re all checked in. We’re hanging out in our room, doot-de-doo, while we wait for the nurse to come in and get this show on the road.  She arrives and informs me that the IV she’s about to put in my hand is “the worst part.”  A) Awesome. B) I’m a first-time child-bearer and a needle-phobe, but I’m pretty sure that the IV is not the WORST PART OF GIVING BIRTH.  The hits keep on coming with this nurse, who later informs me that the woman in labor a few rooms down “sounds like she’s dying.”

They hook me up to the IV and the monitoring dealies, and they have a look with the ultrasound to make sure he’s not in a weird position.  They are as convinced as I am that there must be some REASON he hasn’t even attempted to get out.  But his head is down and in position.  My body, it seems, is just being a bitch. They give me a pill that’s supposed to make me efface and tell me the process will take eight hours, so I should sleep.  Right.  Because I’m feeling nice and relaxed and not at all nervous on the eve of bringing a human out of my body and into the world, and then having to take him home and raise him.  My mom sleeps, C sleeps, and I try not to puke from nerves and restlessness.

In the morning two things happen.  First, the nurse shift changes and Regina comes into our lives.  Regina, whose name and awesomeness I will never forget, and to whom I will someday dedicate an entire post.  Second, the doctor checks my progress and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.  We’re on to plan b, which involves a drug-on-a-string (really) that is supposed to go in there and tell my cervix to get its shit together.  This will also take eight hours.  Sigh.   A few hours in, this one seems to be working.  Here’s how I know:  BECAUSE OW.  Cramps.  Big, bad, cramps.  They get worse as time goes on, just like they are supposed to, and it hurts–but in a recognizable way. They are the worst period cramps I can imagine, but it’s a pain for which I have some frame of reference. I’m ok.

Nighttime again, and the doctor comes back.  Hallelujah!   It’s go time.  Time to start Pitocin.  This is the big one, the one I’ve been warned about, and I’m scared. Particularly since the pain has already been, you know, painful, and I haven’t even started the real part yet.  In an effort to plan ahead, I declare it epidural time. Given that I am more scared of that goddamn needle than I am of squeezing out a baby, I am surprised by how not a big deal it is. There is a moment when I feel the catheter wiggle around, and I remember thinking that stuff should NOT be squirming around in my spine, but whatever.  The effects, however, I do not like. My legs feel like they are covered in Saran wrap, and I have some MAJOR shakes. Unpleasant for sure, and since I haven’t been in unbearable pain, it’s not like it’s this HUGE relief. I’m sure if I had been in full-on labor when I got it, I would have been too relieved to notice some pesky tremors.

The shaking wears off a bit, and they start the Pitocin. Regina comes in after a while to tell me I’m having some solid, bad-ass contractions (which I cannot feel AT ALL), and we might be on our way.  She says we should try to sleep, since I’ve been at this for 24 hours now and I’m going to need my strength.  We turn the lights out; my mom is on the plastic couch, C is in the hospital rocking chair, and I am propped onto my side, waiting in the dark.  I listen to the machines beep, watch C slip in and out sleep, try to stay calm.  But when Regina comes in a couple of hours later and puts an oxygen mask over my face, I know the plan is about to change again.

A Baby Story, Part 1

Not me. Not C. Not how it went.

Not me. Not C. Not how it went.

I’ve never been particularly hardcore about natural childbirth vs. chemical interventions.  This issue can be insanely divisive, but I kind of feel like, it’s your day, lady.  Do what feels right.  Initially, my philosophy for my own birth experience was similar to Kristen Bell’s recent statement which I swear I did not read in Us Magazine:

“When I arrive at the hospital, I want a glass of whiskey, I want the epidural in my back, and I want to be hit in the face with a baseball bat.  And just wake me up when it’s over.”  

A girl after my own heart.  I make jokes about 1950’s morphine-induced “twilight sleep” and how I want to wake up to a fluffy clean baby, Betty Draper-style.  After some reading and some (really) excellent lamaze classes, I start to think, why the hell not?  Let’s take this body out for a SPIN and see what it can do!  I can be a warrior woman!  I mean, I can TRY, anyway.  I settle on laboring as long as I can without drugs (just to see), and when I can’t stand it anymore, I’ll take the needle in the back, no hard feelings.

Little do I know it will be needles, chemicals, and scalpels from beginning to end, and nothing natural about it.

As I’ve mentioned, this little boy does NOT want to exit my uterus. I go to the doctor a few days before my due date, all ready for her to tell me that I have to stay because it’s HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.  Instead, I’m told there’s been no dropping, no effacing, no dilating. I cry when they make me schedule an induction.  I think surely something will happen before then.  At 3, 7, and 12 days late, still nothing.  FML.  Chemicals it is.

Interventions are becoming more common, and a lot of people blame doctors who are in a hurry to play golf, pharmaceutical companies that are in a hurry to make money, and the dismal state of our healthcare system. Each of which may be the right entity to blame.  I decide to trust, because it seems like the best option.  Trust the doctors, trust the nurses, trust everyone.  I mean, in my case at least, they have a point.

I always picture it going the way it does in the movies– an extremely public water-breaking (elevator, coffee shop, the Improv) while wearing an adorable dress and smiling sheepishly, or reaching over in the night, calmly squeezing C’s arm and saying, “it’s time.”  My packed bag will be all ready to go, but my adorable husband will stumble around all nervous and wound up, speeding us to the hospital while I glow maternally and do some deep breathing exercises.  I know it doesn’t REALLY happen like that, but when it’s all said and done, I do feel like I missed out on that moment. We know it’s time because, well, it’s the appointed  time. Scheduled.

We leave the house at 12:30 a.m., since inductions are scheduled to start overnight.  We’re all packed, we’ve eaten, we’ve mostly slept. We drive slowly, no traffic, no ticket we have to use the baby to talk our way out of.  I’m still secretly hoping that we’ll hit a pothole or something and I’ll go into labor.  I have a very clear memory of  pulling into the hospital parking lot and thinking,”this is where we parked the car when we came for our having-a-baby appointment.”  We go to the desk, no pain, no doubling over.  I fill out paperwork, get a bracelet, am shown to my room.  It all seems terribly anti-climactic; I am a non-event.  By the time it’s over and N is finally here, I can’t believe I ever lamented the lack of drama.

Can’t win ’em all!

Mother of the year

Mother of the Year!

Before I get pregnant, I know exactly what kind of pregnant person I’m going to be.  I’ll lose weight at first (from the nausea. Oh, and the not drinking), and I’ll stay active, going to the gym or to yoga or whatever.  I am not going to let pregnancy turn me into a super lazy fat person.  As it turns out, I LOVE being pregnant, largely because it turns me into a super lazy fat person.  I go to the gym exactly once and yoga three times. I eat whatever idiotic thing pops into my head (three words: Totinos. Party. Pizza.), and take a lot of naps.  I do walk, mostly out of boredom and restlessness, and I eat a metric shit ton of citrus fruit, because that’s what I crave.  Still, in the end I gain 45 pounds.  And I would do it again in a HOT second.

Another way I spend my pregnancy, since I’m clearly awesome at predicting the future, is deciding what kind of mother I’ll be.  Piece of cake.  Here’s what I will and will not do, what I will be fiercely committed to (no tv!) and what I don’t care that much about (germs. meh.)

In a SHOCKING twist, I turn out to be wrong about some of these things.  In spite of my best intentions, my most militant based-on-nothing opinions, there are things I cannot stick to.  It’s hard to be rigid about stuff while covered in spit-up, trying to identify cry-sounds and hunger cues, and running on adrenaline and fumes.  In no particular order:

I will never, ever let my baby “cry it out.” This concept terrifies me from early on.  I cannot, will not allow my poor little nursling to scream in his crib, abandoned and alone in the dark. I stick to this for a long time.  Don’t get me wrong, when we finally cave and do it, I hate every second.  But at some point I realize, dude, my poor little nursling is totally screwing with me.  When I’m getting up with him every two hours and he starts laughing the second I walk in the room, it’s time.

I will never, ever let my baby eat junk food. So ambitious.  I do pretty well at this– he eats mostly organic, but not being a billionaire, I can’t make this happen all the time.  Sometimes I envy how clean his system must be– no Taco Bell!  No cheap champagne! No Halloween candy from 2007!  On the other hand: restaurants, airplanes, crowded rooms, screaming baby?  Here kid, have some french fries.

I will avoid toys that have batteries. Babies are entertained by tupperware and uncooked pasta.  Pulling kleenex out of a box is like the height of amusement.  Why do I need things that light up and sing songs? All wooden toys for me, thanks.  Not being a billionaire, however, means Melissa & Doug gets miiiiighty pricey after a while. Also, one look at my child’s face when he discovered the Fisher Price Baby Grand Piano, and it was all over.  For that kind of smile, I can almost forgive that horrible woman for singing “Can you hear the RHYTHM? Can you hear the BEAT?” to the tune of the fucking itsy bitsy spider.  I’m lying. I hate her.

My baby will never, ever see TV.  We are still doing a solid job with this.  I hate the idea of him just staring at effing Dora and effing Boots (I can’t even believe I know that Boots is a thing), when he could be interacting with a living human.  This is not to say, however, that I don’t understand the urge.  Whereas before I thought my baby’s brain would remain unpolluted because I am a shining example of motherhood, now I have to fight the impulse several times a day to plop him down in front of the Real Housewives of Miami and make myself a martini.

I will use cloth diapers.  Sigh.  I’m bummed out about this.  I really, really wanted to do this one.  I did a ton of research, hounded my mommy friends who do it for reassurance that it was easy, and cheap, and totally doable.  All of which it is.  And I am SICK thinking about those awful diapers taking 500 years to biodegrade.  It kind of fills me with self-loathing.  Next kid, maybe.

I will do my best not to swear in front of the baby.  Yeah. Pretty sure we can all guess how well that’s going.  20 bucks says N is the first kid in his pre-school class to drop the f-bomb.

How about you?  What did you swear you’d never do that you totally went back on?

Beat it.

OH MY GOD GET OUT

For reasons that never really become clear, N is almost two full weeks late exiting my body.  Kid does NOT want to give up the 24-7 placenta buffet.

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Anyway, right. The squatter in my uterus. I stop working a week or so before my due date, to have some time to get my shit together around the house.  Little do I know that week will become THREE WEEKS of doing nothing.  You can only take so many naps and watch so much Hulu and bake so many cobblers and take so many waddly walks before you start to lose it.  I even paid money to rent the movie Loverboy, which I’m certain is a chapter of Kyra Sedgwick’s career that she’d like to forget.  I certainly would.

Throughout those weeks, I get emails and calls asking if anything’s happened.  And then I get more emails and more calls.  And every day that goes by, I get facebook posts: “did it happen yet?” “what’s happening?” “any news?” “baby?”  Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate everyone’s interest and love and concern.  But you get to a point when you’re as big as a house and it’s still SO humid in this swamp and you feel cooped up but you don’t have the energy to un-coop yourself, and you just can’t. take it. anymore.

It gets to the point where if I call anyone, they think I’m in labor, and if I DON’T call, they also think I’m in labor.

So: in what I hope will be a service to the many, many women who will go long past their due dates, here’s my list of the top five things NOT to say to a woman who finds herself pregnant at 42 weeks:

5) “Are you STILL pregnant?” No, asshole.  Seriously?

4) “Sleep while you can!” SHUT UP.  Sleep is not cumulative.  You cannot store it up like a fucking camel. (But that would be awesome. Let’s get on that, science).

3) “Have you tried spicy food/sex/walking/yoga ball bouncing/stairs/pineapple/prayer/hypnosis/talking to your unborn baby/raspberry leaf tea/evening primrose oil/?” None of those are real, none of them work, they are all old wives’ tales.  And yes, I have tried them all.

2) “My baby was…a) early b) right on time, or c) way later than yours.” Regardless, I hate you.

1) “Enjoy this time! Everything is about to change!”  Really?? This is BRAND NEW INFORMATION. Thanks. Now go away before I punch you in the throat.

The ONLY right thing to say:

“I am sending you a lasagna and a magnum of wine. In the mail.”