There are certain moments in life that strip away all one’s pretenses and self-delusions and leave behind the primal essence of the Self. Childbirth is certainly one of them. And, as it turns out, my primal essence Self is a Screamer. Spousal Unit’s is a Fainter. But, I’m giving away the ending before I start. So, let me start at the beginning.
Roughly 10 months ago, Spousal Unit and I got busy one great night and I woke up pregnant. Of course I didn’t know it yet, but there it was. A little thingey working away at dividing and making itself into a human. A few weeks later, I peed on a little white stick and two pink lines appeared, informing me of this state of things. Immediately, I had to go and have my blood drawn at 24 hour intervals to determine if everything was all good in there with the little thingey. (A previous ectopic pregnancy made this stage critical.) On New Year’s Eve 2007, the doctor called and told us that the blood work was great. The Gadlet was a very successful little embryo. It was pretty much the best way to start a year ever.
And then came the pregnancy. I was sick. Sick, sick, sick. A lot. All of the time, in fact. For about 2/3rds of the pregnancy I could pretty much eat only one thing at a time. One week it was Goldfish crackers. One week it was Wheat Thins. Then I did a couple of weeks of Red Jello (I didn’t care about the flavor as long as it was red.) Soon after that came the two or three weeks of green apples. Add to this all of the puking, and I was pretty much growing increasingly angry with the little parasite that was colonizing my body and making it very very unhappy. Then the nice doctors gave me drugs to make the puking go away and things got much better. (I would joke with Spousal Unit that the Gadlet’s middle name should be “Zofran” after this wonderful miracle pill that got me through the end of the pregnancy.)
All in all, by the time the official due date rolled around on Friday, September 7, I was feeling pretty good, if increasingly tired and unwieldy. Oh, yeah, and scared shitless. But, there was no easy way out by that point, so I was working on getting away from scared and toward resigned. This project was not helped by the fact that at this point in the pregnancy, people started asking me “What kind of birth do you want?” Well, hell if I know! I’ve never done it before, how can I know what I want? I think that what I wanted, was, um, a birth. Beyond that, I just wanted to survive. I was pretty sure I would not make it through the whole thing alive, because, I mean, how could you? How could you extrude a whole human being and survive the process? Didn’t seem very likely to me, global statistics be damned. So, my answer to this question was usually, “a healthy baby.” I’m sure what they wanted to know was did I want a natural home childbirth complete with hairy armpits and crunchy granola for breakfast, or a water birth where the Gadlet and I engaged in an elaborate dance of synchronized swimming as soon as she was born, or a hospital sanitized medical birth where I was tranked to the gills and strapped to a table and sliced open lengthwise. Since none of those choices sounded good to me, I decided that I didn’t care exactly how it happened, so long as it happened and that the Gadlet and I both walked out of the hospital alive and (mostly) intact. (Although, as it turns out, we got driven in a wheelchair so neither of us actually walked.) OK, so I lie a little. The one thing I didn’t want was to go into labor, spend 48 hours in labor and then have a C-section. That would be the suckiest kind of birth, I think, because you have all of the pain and misery of labor and none of the convenience of a scheduled C-section. But, really, I just tried to be open to whatever had to happen and to try to appreciate the end of the pregnancy without having expectations or panic attacks.
Toward that end, when I got up the morning of my due date, I thought, “Hey, I should take a picture of my belly so that I have a record of what I looked like pregnant on my due date.” In the back of my mind I was thinking that I had another couple of weeks to go so that I should be able to compare this pictures to how huge I would ultimately become. So, I took one photo and it was blurry. So, I took another. Black screen. “Hm. That’s odd,” said I. I took a few more pictures. All black. I flipped over to the photo view. Black, black, and more black. I replaced the batteries. Took out the memory card, replaced it. Still, black screen, totally black photos. Bad news for the digital camera. I looked it up on the internet, and it turned out to be a known problem with the model camera we have. Canon would fix it, but we’d have to send it to them. “Oh well,” I thought, “tomorrow is Saturday and Spousal Unit and I can go to Best Buy and get another camera tomorrow so that we’ll have one for the birth.”
By the time I had finished battle with the camera, it was time to go to the doctor. (See this post for the details.) Then, I hung out with a new pregnant friend for a while at her house because she had central air and it was about 900 degrees out. We had met at the Co-op and bought lunch. I got spicy peanut noodles and a bar of Dagoba chocolate with chili pepper. I thought it was a little odd that I was craving spicy food since I hadn’t been interested in it for the whole pregnancy, but I didn’t really give it that much thought. Then, that night Spousal Unit and our two best friends took me out to our favorite Tapas place for dinner to celebrate the due date. I had spicy chipotle potatoes and drank some of SU’s red wine, because, heck, it was my due date. Our waiter (a longtime familiar guy) comped us our bar bill, I think because I told him it was my due date and he was terrified that I’d drop the baby right there in the restaurant so he wanted to hurry us out of there!
When we got home, I hugged Spousal Unit good night and asked him if he would cut my toenails the next day because I couldn’t bend over enough to reach them and I was getting desperate. The good man promised he would and kissed me good night. When I got into bed, I got out my iPod and tried to listen to my Hypnobirthing playlist. It was to help me practice relaxing, and then in the birth, I’d listen to the same playlist and remember how relaxed I was at home in bed and therefore not be in pain during labor. Yes, this was a little bit of a pipe dream, but it was part of my “accept the inevitable” plan of childbirth. Practice relaxing while thinking about childbirth was definitely a good thing for me at that stage. Anyway, so I got out my trusty old iPod, tapped the menu button, the thing jumped halfway between one menu and another and then froze. I tried everything I could think of doing to the thing (that didn’t involve getting out of bed) to no avail. Dead iPod. “Oh well,” I thought, “Tomorrow is Saturday, I’ll reboot and reinitialize the thing tomorrow.”
It did strike me as a little disturbing and more than a little ironic that both of the major bits of electronica that I knew I would need during labor crapped out on my due date, but by this point in the evening, I was so tired, I didn’t really stress about it. I figured I had plenty of time to remedy both the digital camera and the iPod situation. I was wrong.
At about 12:30 I woke up having some cramps, fairly well contained in my lower belly. I thought, “Aha! False labor.” All of the books said that false labor felt like menstrual cramps and that “real” contractions would involve your back and upper belly. Yeah, ok. So, I got up, went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while. (Where else do you sit when you hang out in the bathroom?) After about an hour, I realized that these “false” contractions were increasing in intensity (read pain) and were getting (quite) a bit closer together. Thinking maybe I should have some company in this process, I went back to the bedroom and woke up Spousal Unit. “Honey,” I said, “I think I’m in labor. I think we need to start timing contractions.” He said groggily that he’d find his watch and be right there. So, I went back to the bathroom.
A few moments later, SU barges through the door, and says “Get off the toilet! Get off! I’m going to barf!!!” So, I sprung up and hightailed it out of the bathroom and went back to the bedroom. After a few minutes and hearing nothing from him, not even giant heaving sounds (SU is not a quiet, dainty puker. But then, who is, really?) I thought maybe I should check and see how he was doing. Not well, it turned out. I opened the door to the bathroom, and there was SU, splayed out in an ever so slight bit of a faint, as green as that gunk they used to pour on people on Nickelodeon back in the early days of cable. He was actually still conscious, but just barely. I’ve never seen him looking so completely awful.
So there I was, standing there in our bathroom, legs splayed, leaning over the sink for support, pretty sure I was in Actual Labor, rather than False Labor, wondering how in the hell I was going to get Spousal Unit out of his pajamas, into some clothes, into the car, and to the hospital without actually giving birth in the Subaru as I drove us both there. It was a Daunting Prospect. Particularly considering the fact that I couldn’t actually bend over, so picking him up off of the floor to start with was pretty much an impossible task.
Thankfully, we avoided this disturbing eventuality and fairly soon, Spousal Unit managed to murmur a bit and to regain some of his normal flesh-colored color as well as a degree of consciousness. A few minutes later he was timing contractions and phoning the doctor like an old pro, completely back to normal. [As he puts it when he tells folk the story, “At the greatest moment of my whole life, I looked fear in the eye and … crumpled like a leaf.” He then strongly suggests to the listener that the next time they have a crisis, they’d do well to call me instead of him.]
(To Be Continued in the Next Post…)
And to keep you engaged here’s a photo I like to call, “Ode to Stripes.”