The Girl Who Cried Water
Late Sunday morning, I rose from my chair and I felt a dribble down my leg. I was about to chalk it up to the very sexy pregnancy incontinence I was experiencing when I realized that it wasn’t stopping. I rushed to the bathroom, changed my underwear (or as Mike calls it, my “big girl panties”) and then went into the bedroom. I didn’t want to tell my mom because I wasn’t really sure if this was it and I had already played a bad joke which involved me dropping a bottled water in front of her and saying, “My water (bottle) broke!” Mike was still sleeping so I shook him and bleated into his ear, “I think my water just broke!”
“Don’t even joke like that,” He mumbled.
“I’m serious! I’m going to call the hospital now.”
There was no flood, no gushing fluid and I was slightly disappointed. I had been imagining that when I said, “My water broke,” there would be that Lifetime Movie intensity where there is much clamor and fanfare concerning my imminent delivery.
But there were no contractions, no drama, and no raving crowds rushing to my side to airlift me to the hospital. It was just me in my big girl panties with a growing realization that it would be over soon.
I called the hospital, grateful that it was Sunday and at least my doctor would be on call. After having my doctor paged, the nurse called me back and told me to head on over.
We didn’t leave until 1:30 because shortly after I woke Mike up, he entered a panic where he suddenly had the entire car washed and vacuumed while my mom gathered the bags. On the drive over, no one said anything. I suggested we forget about the whole thing. “Who wants to go to brunch?” I asked. The two of them laughed because when the woman about to give birth is exhibiting signs justifying an exorcism, you should do that.
When we arrived at the triage, I told the nurse that my water was breaking.
“Your water is breaking or it’s broken?”
“I don’t really know. That’s why I’m here.”
They set me up in the triage. I am checked out by a nurse and a doctor who both tell me that yes, my water had broken but since I wasn’t having any contractions I should walk. I get into some very chic hospital garb with some even sexier mesh panties. If Mike thought my maternity underwear was “big girl grade,” well then this put me in graduate school.
I walked mainly around the cafeteria and Mike and my mom had their lunch. After circling one of the tables, a woman came up to me and said, “Oh we’ve just had the greatest conversation about how we had to walk to give birth. I don’t think I made it to the cafeteria, though.”
About two hours later, I was admitted into the birthing suite where I would deliver. We unpacked and waited.
Epidural is love
Because my contractions weren’t coming naturally, I was given Pitocin. At first there was cramping. I decided to distract myself by watching Desperate Housewives, but then I remembered that I fucking hate Desperate Housewives, so that didn’t work. (And don’t think I’ve forgotten about your Radio Shack commercials, Teri Hatcher. Like the star power of you and Howie Long combined would be enough to boost sales.) The cramping worsened despite my attempts at pain-easing breathing. At about 10 p.m., the roundhouse contractions began. I started shaking from the searing pain jabbing at my uterus. The nurse was really sweet and kept telling me to relax, become zenlike and release all tension from my legs. When she asked, “Do you want an epidural,” I thought, “Do I want an epidural? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I want an epidural!”
The nurse instructed me to slump my body over and to hold onto her tightly because I had to be very still. It was the only time I wanted to swear and say, “Just get it the fuck over with, will you,” but the pain rendered me speechless. The anesthesiologist worked his magic and within minutes, I was lifted from my pained body and onto a hammock on an ocean liner. It was beautiful. This is why people do drugs. I was on the fence about epidurals but once the sweet liquid poured through my body, I knew I had made the right decision. I turned to Mike and my mom and announced, “I love everybody!”
I lost all sensation in my legs but it was okay. Remember that scene in Forest Gump when Lt. Dan says, “Forest, I can’t feel my legs!” and Forest says, “That’s cause you ain’t got no legs, Lt. Dan.” It was just like that, but without the war in Nam.
I was also glad to have received the epidural because I could then sleep. I could only sleep for about twenty minutes or so but I was still so happy from the epidural that I asked the nurse when we would get the show on the road. She said maybe at 6:30 A.M. There was more waiting to do.
The show ain’t for free, folks
The one aspect of labor and delivery I wasn’t exactly prepared for was the significant lack of privacy and by significant, I mean, there was anywhere from one to six nurses and doctors checking out my downtown bonanza. It didn’t help that there were shift changes, so the nurse who eased me into the epidural switched with another nurse who watched my contractions and then switched with two other nurses when it was time to really push. At one point, a nurse was called into check how dilated I was and she didn’t even introduce herself. Just did the finger-dinger dance, announced to the others that I was eight centimeters and left. When they conversed in their medical speak, there was a lot of third-person references to me, my uterus and my “great pushing.”
They don’t tell you this on that show A Baby Story. How deceptive you are, TLC, with your clever editing and cheerful end music.
“Get ready, they’re gowning up…”
There is pain and then there is the Holy Hecker pain of having to rock a Butterball turkey-sized child under the pelvic bone and out the chute. Mike held up one leg and a nurse held up the other. We started at around 6:30 with pushing in three ten-second increments. The nurse began to count to ten and then my mom chimed in with her out-of-sync rendition of the numbers. Yes, my mother was OUT OF SYNC. The nurse said, “One, two, three…” and then my mom entered in the chorus, repeating the numbers! It was like hearing an echo. How in the holy hell was I supposed to focus on pushing when I was hearing two voices? I knew she was just being helpful but I had to tell my mother in a polite but firm way that I needed to hear just one voice and it wasn’t hers.
Because I was given an epidural, I was limited to ice chips. It was about as thirst-quenching as licking rocks in the desert.
By the time my son was ready to luge his way out of my womb, there were two doctors and three nurses in the room. And maybe a tour bus and a traveling circus, I’m not sure. Everyone was staring at my vagina as if it was one of those weird Thai sex-shows and they were expecting ping-pong balls or cigar smoke to emerge instead of a baby.
Everything they say about labor is true. My epidural had worn off significantly and the horrible pre-epidural shots to the groin returned. I was breathing and pushing and pushing and pushing and I wondered where I was going to get all the energy for this and then I panicked because I didn’t want a C-section, a suction cup or jaws of life ripping him out.
I knew I could have punched my husband or blamed him for all this and it would have been totally accepted. But when I looked at Mike, I was so grateful that he was there. I needed a sober perspective of all that was happening. I had declined a mirror because I already have a great imagination and hello, this was at the other end of me. Mike kept saying I was doing great and joined in with the others telling me to push because I was so close.
Suddenly, Mike said, “He’s out! He’s out!” and there plopped a wet, warm baby on my chest. He blinked and stared around. There was no crying from him and I was too shocked and worn out to cry. The doctors were still working on me which was okay because after pushing that big head and almost two feet of baby out, I could deal with the afterbirth and stitches.
“Oh my God, you’re beautiful!” is what I think I said or at least thought when I looked at my newborn son. I kissed him and he looked up at me and that’s when I lost it.
Hello, I am a mother.