Kurt is walking through our apartment describing the things on the walls to our son while I sit on an ice pack. "Here's the pots and pans. We use that one to cook bacon. You'll have bacon someday. It's awesome." In the one week since we got home, he has already become expert at calming the baby when he's fussing and we know he's full and has a clean diaper.
Sunday, May 12th
I'm sitting in the back seat of Kurt's truck with my sleeping newborn in his carseat. We're driving home from the hospital, a trip I was hoping we wouldn't have to take. Outside, all around us in Los Angeles families are having brunch, celebrating Mother's Day. Life goes on like normal for everyone else, while our lives have just been changed forever. Everyone sips mimosas like it's any other day. I am a different person than I was 48 hours earlier.
Thursday, May 9th
1:30pm: My midwife checks my cervix. I'm one centimeter dilated, which means nothing in terms of when I will go into labor. It could be hours or it could be days. I ask if I can get the induction points done in acupuncture. She says I can and reminds me that it won't make labor happen if the baby isn't ready. The most it will likely do, she says is head things in that general direction. That's good enough for me.
3pm: The acupuncturist warns me that I may feel some cramping during the session and again later in the day. At this point I'm used to cramping, so I don't pay too much attention to it.
7pm: I'm hungry and once again have a mean craving for roast chicken and mashed potatoes. We order in. I pull out my thank you cards and write a couple notes. The cramping starts. I ignore it.
"Dear Susan, Thank you so much for all the (cramp) baby gear! We are so touched by your (cramp) thoughtfulness. (cramp) I can't wait to start reading (cramp) the (cramp) breast feeding (cramp) book. (cramp)" I put the note down, run a bath and Kurt pours me a glass of wine.
7:30pm: Kurt is sitting next to me as I writhe in the tub. Kurt wants to call the midwife. I assure him the nice acupuncture lady told me I would have some cramping. "It'll pass. (cramp)" I say.
7:45pm: "I think we made a huge mistake," I tell Kurt. He calls the midwife. She tells us to call our doula right away. "Really?" I ask. "It's not just (cramp) cramping?" She stays on the phone with me through the next few cramps. "I'm on my way over," she says. This is when it hits me that I am actually in labor.
I lose track of time. Our doula arrives. I am flopping around on the bed trying to "stay on top" of the contractions. "Imagine riding out the contraction like you're on top of a wave," my doula says. But I'm not a strong swimmer and being in the ocean kind of scares me. It's not a good analogy, but I can think of no other, so I do what she says and imagine myself riding the top of a wave, trying to ignore the shark that inevitably makes an appearance. It doesn't help. I am bleating like a sheep. My midwife arrives. She checks me and I'm at 9 centimeters. "You're going to have a baby today," she says. "Oh, thank Christ," I bleat. She gently chides me about not tensing up when the contractions come. "Sink into the pillows," she tells me. I want to tell her to go fuck herself, but I remember that she's been through this thousands of time while I never have. It would be smart to do what she says.
But there is no sinking into anything. With each contraction I am tightening up my body. I'm still bleating like a sheep. My midwife wants me to use lower tones. "No screaming," she says quietly. "Moaning." Now I'm moaning like a cow. "MooooOOOOoooo! Moo! Moo! MOOOOOOOOO!" She tells Kurt to pour me more wine.
She calls her assistant and I remember from my child birth class that the assistant comes when it's time to start pushing. I vaguely think to call my parents but that thought flies out of my head as a sensation comes over me that I can only describe as throwing up backward. I have no control over my body and I begin to push without thinking.
Everyone keeps falling asleep and I don't understand why. It seems like I've only been at this for a couple hours. Why is everyone so tired? I feel bad every time I have another contraction and everyone has to spring back into action to rub my back and remind me not to bleat like a stuck sheep and to "drink more wine!"
I move to the toilet, hoping the sitting will make relaxing easier. The assistant is standing beside me and all I can think is, "She's going to get blood on her socks." My water breaks. Someone announces it's 4:30 in the morning. I am shocked. No wonder everyone is falling asleep.
Friday, May 10th
5am: I finally get in the birthing tub. Despite the immense pain I am overjoyed as I know that getting in the tub means I'll be having my baby any minute now. The contractions keep getting worse and the urge to push is so strong I feel like there's a bowling ball in my pelvis. My midwife tells me that I can labor in the tub but that I'll have to deliver "on dry land" because I took Wellbutrin through my pregnancy and it may cause breathing problems with the baby. It seems like it's time, so I climb out of the tub and waddle back to my bedroom. I was born on this bed and my child will be born on this bed.
My midwife checks me again. I have regressed. My cervix has swollen and I'm down to 7 centimeters. The baby is in the wrong position. He's sunny side up and he needs to turn 180 degrees if we want things to progress normally. Which, of course, we do. And this might explain the unmanageable pain that I can not "get on top of". She urges me to stop pushing as it's not helping my labor progress and it's most likely the cause of the swelling. But I can't help it. She orders up more wine, but I have already drunk the whole bottle and we don't have any more.
The sun has come up. I hear garbage trucks lumbering down the street. I get out of bed again and wander through my apartment. I wind up at the threshold of the kitchen in between the dogs' water bowls and the garbage can. Someone puts a chucks pad under me and I imagine someday telling my child, "You were born next to the garbage can." .... I see the midwife's assistant's feet and again worry that she'll get blood on her socks. Her socks are really nice. It would be a shame to ruin them.
My midwife wants to check me again. She rigs the couch with chucks pads and towels. The walk from the kitchen to the couch is maybe 15 feet and the distance seems impossible. I haven't progressed any farther. I'm still at 7 centimeters and my midwife again asks me to stop pushing. "No dice," I try to say, but it comes out like, "No diiiiiiiiiiiiUUUUUUUGHHHHMOOOOOOOOOOO!"
10am: My midwife says the thing I don't want to hear.
"The wise thing to do right now would be to go to the hospital." She says it without pity or apology. "You're exhausted and something is wrong."
"Is there something wrong with the baby?" I stammer.
"No. But you can't keep going like this. You're not progressing and you're exhausted. You should go to the hospital and get some relief. It's what I would do."
Everything I had worked so hard for. All the walking. The yoga. The eating right. The chanting. All the times I said these words to my unborn baby, "Head down. Chin to chest. Hands over your heart. Back to belly. Don't play with the cord. Crystal clear water. You can poop when you get out. And give me a nice big holler." All that hard work and good intention. The tiny t-shirt my father brought from Brooklyn that had been mine that says "Born at Home" across the front. The pictures I wanted of me holding my baby for the first time in our home. The not wanting the cord cut right away. The not wanting all the drugs pumped into my baby from my blood supply. The desperately not wanting my baby to born in a sterile, cold hospital room. In that moment it all felt like a waste of time.
I feel like a failure.
I consider crying, but honestly, I'm too exhausted and I don't see the point. Apparently I had been asking to go to the hospital for hours, but I think I was using the idea of going to the hospital and getting the epidural as a coping mechanism. I really didn't want to go to the hospital, I just wanted to know that I could. Kurt feeds me some yogurt. It's the first thing I've eaten since 4pm the day before. It's plain and unsweetened and disgusting, but I know once I get to the hospital there will be no eating until the baby is born and at the rate I'm going that could be some time next week.
I ride to the hospital in my midwife's car. Kurt and my doula follow in their cars. My midwife makes small talk with me as if we were on our way to breakfast. "I saw the picture on your wall of you with the Clintons!" She says. "Yeah." "That's pretty impressive!" "I was on Broadway as a kid. So, I got to sing at Clinton's inaugural ball. (Ugh ugh. Moo mooo mooooo.)"
She reminds me that the hospital staff is there to help me and that I should try to be nice to them. There's no need for the reminder. These people are going to give me pain relief. As far as I'm concerned they all have a special spot in heaven waiting for them.
Stay tuned for part 2 in which this baby finally makes his entrance.