Scar Tissue

I saw it in his eyes – a brief glimpse of deep sorrow – before he began dictating to his nurse the clamps and implants he’d need to fix the encephalocele atop my daughter’s head. It was the same deep sorrow I saw in the eyes of every person in the waiting room at the neurosurgeon’s office realized that Amelia Harks was, in fact, not me, but a tiny baby in a carseat, no bigger than my arm.

In that brief moment, the neurosurgeon became human, not some arrogant doctor, about to saw into my daughter’s tiny head.

Now that tiny baby, no bigger than my arm, is a toddler with an attitude so reminiscent of my own that it’s hard for me to remember that they are one and the same.

As she grows, the scar does too. What once looked relatively small now encompasses much of head. Her curls, always in a halo, cover it, so I don’t receive the same sorrowful looks I once did. For that, I am grateful. For if I did, if I had to explain those turbulent first years of her life, I don’t know if I could stop the sobs.

People, well-meaning people, tell me the scar is “barely noticeable” that they can “hardly see it,” and I always thank them on her behalf. Inwardly, however, I wonder if they know how that hurts.

It would not matter to me if the scar somehow became invisible – although she might appreciate it some day – because it’s always there for me. The scar haunts me.

Most days, I am able to work through it, reminding myself that she, my warrior daughter, is here and that she is perfect – scars and all.

There are other days, though, that the limitless well of deep sorrow I once saw reflected in the neurosurgeon’s eyes, threatens to swallow me whole. The tears, hot and fast, course down my face and I am powerless.

I scoop that toddler, once a baby no bigger than my arm, up into my arms and I weep. Confused, she touches my tears with her tiny finger and asks, “Mama sad?”

“Yes, Baby,” I choke out. “Mama’s sad.”

And the three of them – flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood – climb atop me to squeeze the Sads out. It’s only then, with the pressure of three squirmy bodies on my chest, all elbows and knees now, that I finally feel whole again.

And I wonder, as they scamper down, screaming and chasing each other about the house, my tears drying to a hard crust on my face, the well of sorrow closing for the moment, how I got to be so lucky.

amelia-and-alex-greenhouse

Sweet Child O Mine (Who Will Not See The Light Of Day Until She Turns Sixteen)

I came to the End of The Internet on Friday. I was searching for a laptop bag, right? And it turns out that laptop bags are the fugliest thing on the planet. Well, at least, the ones I could find.

Hence, the End of The Internet.

But I get all kinds of pissed off when I can’t find something that should be so simple, so I spent most of the day flopping around indignantly, occasionally shaking my fists at The Internet Gods, who had, for the first time, failed me.

After my daughter came home from preschool, she climbed up onto my indignant lap and demanded to look at what I’d been looking at. Which happened to be the kate spade website.

She and I spent a good while perusing ridiculously expensive purses, which, apparently, she, like her mother, is enamored by.

Eventually, she slithered off my frustrated lap and stood on her head on the floor next to me. Seeing a perfect opportunity to teach her some gymnastics, I rolled her over, helping her perform her first somersault. Delighted, she stood up, clapped her hands, yelled, “YAY!” and then begged me to do it again. So I did. We probably did twenty somersaults together before it was time for bed.

And it was walking up the stairs that I noticed something. The scar on the back of her head was bright purple.

Now, she has a skull implant there, covered by a thin layer of imperfect scalp skin (thank YOU, neural tube defects), upon which no hair will ever grow. The scar is fairly visible, although it often looks like her part is just extra-long.

She’s also got a couple of birthmarks on her face, common for kids with midline skull abnormalities, all of which turn from mildly discolored to extremely red whenever she becomes Furious George (which, since she’s my kid, is fairly often).

But I’d never seen her skull turn that purplish shade before. Immediately, I thought of what a dumbass move it was to do somersaults with a kid who has a fucking skull implant.

I dragged her into the bathroom, where the light was a bit better, and took a closer look. It could be something…and it could be nothing. Either way, I was right back in that birthing room, delivering a sick baby again. Only this time, it really WAS my fault.

I called the doctor on call, snotting and crying all over the phone, as I kept her up well-past her bedtime, to assess her level of consciousness. When I realized that she seemed to be just fine, the purplishness had subsided, I decided to put her to bed.

Then I checked on her every forty-five minutes for the rest of the night.

The next morning, the on-call doctor finally called back. Apparently, the answering service sucks a fat one. “Keep an eye out,” she said, “for any other signs of head injury. Vomiting, loss of consciousness, swelling, bruising, irritability.”

Okay, this I could do.

The following evening, I put her in bed, where she promptly barfed everywhere.

Shit, I thought briefly, until I remembered that my own guts had been through hell that week. Okay, I told myself, it’s a flu-bug. She’ll probably be up half the night barfing her guts out.

But she wasn’t.

She got up late the following morning and ate a quick breakfast with her brother.

Then, on the way to the Computer Store, she yacked again. A full 14 hours after her initial vomiting episode. Which, to me, was a Very Bad Sign.

Off to the ER we went. After several very long hours, it seemed that was simply some very bad timing. A flu-bug was the most likely culprit for her illness.

She’s been grounded until her sixteenth birthday.

That is, after I buy her a pony and a Porsche.

————

I have a new column up every Thursday at CafeMom. It’s called (barely) Surviving Parenthood. It’s full of the awesome.

———–

Speaking of Full of the Awesome, I was thinking about using THAT for a shirt design. Is that lame?

Also: TODAY is Tax Day, not April 15, which, hi, why didn’t someone tell me it was changing? That’s bullshit.

Anyway, the winner of my shirt giveaway:

shut-your-whore-mouth-shirts

(P.S: if you’re interested, they’re giving away a couple of my shirts on Band Back Together, too.)

Wednesday’s Child is Full of Grace

There are a few occasions when I take time from my very busy schedule of creating pictures of my fake dead cat, Mr. Sprinkles, doing wacky things to respond to emails. Because, really, is there anything better than this?

Mommy Needs Vodka

That Mr. Sprinkles! He’s a WILY guy!

But on very, VERY rare occasion, I get an email that makes me stop and go, “You know what? Maybe I should stop working on pictures of myself with my fake dead cat Mr. Sprinkles and do something better with my time,” (the feeling never does last)

A year ago today, I got one of those emails.

My now-friend Nikki sent me an email about her 20-week old fetus, who had just been diagnosed prenatally with an encephalocele. Somehow, she’d managed to look past the grisly stories out there about other children with encephaloceles (the fatality rate for encephaloceles is exceptionally high) and had found her way to my mediocre blog.

More specifically, she’d found Amelia’s Grace, the stories about my daughter who, too, had been born with an encephalocele.

Amelia was born with the kind of encephalocele associated with the least favorable outcomes. A posterior encephalocele filled with brain matter. I’d had a standard vaginal delivery. There was no NICU team waiting for her. In fact, no one was waiting for her but a nurse, the doctor and a tech.

In short, everything about the situation surrounding Amelia’s story was bad.

When I wrote Amelia’s Grace, the story of my daughter, I’d never really thought that someone else might find my drivel while searching for something to cling to. Some hope in an otherwise grim situation. Because the statistics, those cold hard numbers about encephaloceles; those are grim:

An encephalocele reduces the likelihood of a live birth to 21%.

Only half of those 21% survive.

75% of those survivors have varying degrees of mental retardation, the severity of defects higher for those who have the brain herniation on the back of the skull.

She, however, she is not grim. She laughs in the face of statistics. She will tell that encephalocele to shut it’s whore mouth.

Amelia will also give her voice to those who have none.

Nikki has been a good friend of mine for a year now and she’s helped me as much as I’ve helped her. Proof that sometimes people come into your life at exactly the right time. I owe her a debt that I don’t think she understands.

Now, I will simply direct you to Lily’s Story, which I have strong-armed Nikki into writing for Band Back Together.

Today is the day that it turned upside down for Nikki and my sweet girl, Lily Grace.

What a difference one year makes.

Go Ask Aunt Becky

Dear Pranksters,

I will ask you more about this tomorrow, but if you know of anyone who has a child with a neural tube defect, especially an encephalocele, will you please holler at me? Email, comments, carrier pigeon* WHATEVER.

There is much advocacy and work to be done. It’s time. I’m starting with gathering stories and information over at Band Back Together, but that’s not enough. It’s simply not. So we’ll start there.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I recently received an e-mail from my aunt stating that her and her family would be visiting my area sometime in the near future to be able to visit my family. She sent a list of places that she might be staying at and asked me to check them out.

I haven’t seen this lady since 1999 and speak to her on the phone about once a year. This is the first time I have heard of this visit and it appears I have no say in it.  How can I get across that I have no desire for her to visit without seeming too ungrateful and bitchy?  Should I just let the visit happen and suffer through it?  Help!

Oh Prankster, I like unwanted guests like I like head lice, which is kind like of an unwanted guest if you think of it. So, my suggestion is this: get head lice. No one likes lice. Even lice don’t like lice.

And if you want to be a better person than Your Aunt Becky, you could simply send her a list of things in the area that she can hint, hint, hint, do while she’s visiting, hint, hint, hint. Perhaps a nice meat-packing plant. Or a tour of a morgue? I mean, certainly there must be some awful attractions in your area that no one in their right mind would want to visit. I’d be showcasing those right about now.

Good luck, Prankster.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I have an overzealous mother-in-law who absolutely cannot stay out of our business.

How do you politely tell your Christian mother-in-law with her Christian dog and Christian friends to jump off the soapbox and quit meddling? She’s a closet Negative Nelly and it’s fucking making me insane. My husband is excellent at telling her where to shove her intel but she’s smart now and waits until he’s no longer in earshot to spew her poison.

Topics vary from parenting, finances, religion, anything she can turn into a argument. I am all for being respectful and polite but it’s getting to be hell. She loves to say I take her advice/comments/bible thumping judgments out of context but I am positive I am in the right here.

Advice?

Well, I had to check the email address on this one, Prankster, to see if I had, perhaps, sent this to myself in a Blueberry Vodka-induced haze, but since I require no email to send me a question, I am not sure that I am not answering myself here.

So, Prankster-that-might-be-Aunt-Becky, this is how I handle the lovely passive-aggressive-you’re-doing-it-wrong jabs that are often winged in my direction: I fling them right back. I gave up being polite awhile ago when I realized that it was my motherfucking house and I don’t allow bullies to bully me in my motherfucking house. You want to tell me my business? Go for it. From the street. I can’t hear that far, especially when I’m inside with the door firmly locked.

That’s the trick for passive-aggressive poo-flingers.

Now, if your mother-in-law is an arguer, I would simply turn cheek and jump on the computer/iPhone/Blackberry and tune her out. People who are convinced of their right-ness aren’t going to be dissuaded by you, nor should you expect them to be. You won’t win at her game, so don’t play it. She wants to tell you your business? Ignore her. A couple of conversations when all you say is: Yeah, mmmm-hmmm, you’re right, I am doing it wrong. Always.

And don’t let her get you alone any more, Prankster-that-might-be-Aunt-Becky. Let your husband handle her.

Dear Aunt Becky,

I’ve been dating a really great guy for almost 8 months now. Everything was going great, up until a few months ago.

I royally fucked things up when I was texting with an old guy friend. Things in our text message conversation, taken out of context, were really inappropriate and my man who saw the conversation later wasn’t too happy about it. We hashed things out and I thought the ordeal was over, however, he keeps bringing the issue up.

He says he can’t trust me anymore and doesn’t believe me when I tell him I love him. I understand that I screwed up but it seems that nothing I say can reassure my boyfriend that this is never going to happen again. Everybody messes up sometimes and I believe in second chances. I didn’t physically cheat on him or even “text cheat”.

I honestly have no idea what to do anymore or if the relationship is even salvageable at this point (which I really hope it is). I just can’t stand feeling like shit every single day over something that happened months ago.

Man, Prankster, I want to come and smack your boyfriend for you, and then give you a big fat hug, because you don’t deserve to be put through the wringer for this.

Here’s the thing: he’s got to move on from this. I get that he was hurt. I get why. It happens. Miscommunications happen all the time in relationships.

But the insecurity he’s still feeling over a little miscommunication right now isn’t fair to you. You’ve explained the situation, you’ve apologized and he needs to move on. If he can’t move on from this, maybe it’s time for you to move on. The stress you’re under has got to be horrible and that’s just not fair to you.

Maybe it’s time to sit down and have another real heart-to-heart about this. Explain that he’s got to let go of his insecurities and trust you or this relationship just can’t work. Relationships are founded on trust. He cannot keep beating you up for something that happened so long ago. You deserve better.

I wish you luck, Prankster.

—————–

I’d intended to shout this out on Friday, but I got distracted by my microwave.

My friend Anna, who is a smart fucking blogger, has written a how-to guide for making money from your blog. And? It’s free. That’s a total win, Pranksters.

——————

As always, Pranksters, please pick up where I left off in the comments. And feel free to submit your burningest questions to Go Ask Aunt Becky on the top of the site.

*What the fuck is a carrier pigeon?

What Tender Days We Had No Secrets Hid Away, Now It Seems About 100 Years Ago

“Now my friends are wearing worried smiles, living out a dream of what they was.

Don’t you think it’s sometimes wise not to grow up?”

–Rolling Stones, 100 Years Ago

In terms of blogging years, I’m practically a geriatric and I often have to stop myself from being all “IN MY DAY, BLOGGERS WERE HONEST AND DIDN’T EXPECT…” so I can safely say things like, “normally in my New Years wrap-up posts I say something about how happy I am to kiss the year goodbye” because I’ve had enough of them to choose from.

This morning, I sat here trying to figure out what I wanted to do for my New Years post because it felt weird to not mention that today is the last day of 2009. Normally I do the only meme that I ever do, but today it just didn’t feel right. Then I thought about doing a year-in-review-through-posts and that didn’t sum it all up either because seriously? January and February alone could have each had 10 or so links to posts.

So instead, I’m going to be uncharacteristically honest about my year.

2009 was not the worst year of my life. I don’t know how a year that started by bringing my last child, my daughter Amelia Grace Sherrick Harks, into this world could possibly be a bad one. I was so proud to finally have a daughter and nearly a year later, I am still so proud to have a daughter that even as I type this, my eyes fill with tears.

She was born with an undiagnosed neural tube defect, yes, an encephalocele and I very much feared that I’d birthed her only to send her in for neurosurgery to sacrifice her on the operating table, but would I have traded those three weeks with her? No. Even if she’d passed, I wouldn’t have traded those minutes with her. She’s my daughter.

Amelia, all 8 pounds of her didn’t pass on the table and she’s gone on to beat all of the odds of her grim diagnosis and has proved to me that just because someone tells you that you shouldn’t be able to do something, doesn’t mean that you can’t. It’s a lesson we all could stand to remember now and again.

While Amelia has thrived and continued to place at or above level for every single test that she’s been given, I’ve sort of managed to tread water this year managing to keep my head mostly above water. Lately, I’ve been drinking gasoline to keep warm.

I’m not sure it’s working.

I was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from her traumatic birth and I don’t know if it’s that, or PPD or some other weird acronym, but I’m not sleeping well or eating well, and some nights I manage fight off the demons and others, I’m slain by them.

But I’m hopeful. I’ve been here before and I’ve always managed to claw my way back out of the hole and into the light again.

So I approach 2010 full of renewed hope for the future, because no matter how full of the darkness I feel, I can feel the light on my face and I know it’s all around me. Soon it will be within me.

I am hopeful.

I have hope.

Happy New Year.

Amelia-xmas2009

Preamble. (Part I)

What follows is not a birth story. What follows is what came after that.

And my warning to you, o! Internet, my Internet is this: what follows will probably be kind of boring. It may be self-indulgent and whiny. At times it may make no sense to you why I felt a certain way or why I still feel this way. What follows is probably never going to win me any blog awards or any new friends and I am okay with this.

Like anything else I’ve ever written–even the most banal of blog posts–I am writing it because I can’t not.

It must be told.

————–

My pregnancy with Amelia was not exactly a planned one. It wasn’t unplanned though, it just was. I hadn’t been back on birth control since Alex was born in March of 2007 and by May of 2008 I was pregnant for the third month in a row. The previous months had been marked by the hormonal roller coaster of back-to-back miscarriages, so when that pink line popped up for the third month in a row, it was almost by rote that I called Dave at work, told him the news and warned him not to get too excited.

Instead of immediately miscarrying, the pregnancy seemed to stick. Until about Week 6, when I began to spot. Having never seen a drop of blood with either of the boys, I immediately assumed the worst and prepared for the next miscarriage by calling the OB for another shot of Rho-gam.

(let me whine pointlessly for a moment and say this: I am pretty certain that they inject Rho-gam with a straw from McDonald’s. I have had 3 babies–one sans working epidural–and I swear, that stupid shot is always the worst part)

My heart was pretty heavy as we made our way to the OB’s the following morning and to add insult to injury, I was still nauseous as hell and bawling like an annoying small child. I’m sure the entire waiting room appreciated my sniffling and hiccuping. Alas, it was my turn to go back, and after giving about 4 gallons of blood (rough estimate) and determining that the bleeding had stopped and my cervix was tightly shut, I was sent for an ultrasound at another office.

The minute the tech inserted the camera up my pooter–after insisting The Daver stay in the waiting room, which, hello awkward–I saw it. She cast her pixilated, gummy bear heart on me and I was in love. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, went home and gorged on some Flavor-Ice. The following morning, the OB grimly called to inform me that my progesterone was somewhere in the single digits. This is, apparently, very bad.

So for the next twelve weeks, I was instructed to unceremoniously shove bullet shaped suppositories up the old lady bits twice a day, which trust me, as they melt, is like sitting in a pile of waxy spooge all day long. What I’m trying to say is that it was very, very pleasant.

But whatever, a little leaky vagina I could handle. The spotting continued on and off until I realized that perhaps I didn’t need to scratch the surface of my poor cervix with the suppository, and then it stopped for good. Everything was calm. Well, as calm as living with a monkey wearing a toddler suit can be, while your spouse is off fighting financial battles all day (and night) long during a huge crash in the markets.

(Lengthy boring aside #1: did I mention that The Daver is in finance? And that he had just accepted a position to become a manager when I fell knocked-up? Because yeah. The timing was awesome.)

(Lengthy boring aside #2: I feel I also must add here to give some additional information to those who haven’t been anxiously reading and rereading my (boring) archives and committing every one of my trite posts to memory. I don’t do pregnancy well. I get awful, crippling anxiety and mind-numbing depression while I cook my babies. It’s called prepartum depression. It’s very serious and it’s very real.)

But life trucked on for us all, the markets slowly sinking and Nat (my eldest’s biological father) coming by to predict the end of days every week or two. He’d take some time off in between to chastise my choice of, well, anything: car, house, lawnmower, you name it, he’d judge it loudly. Is it any wonder my trolls don’t bug me much?)

Anyhow. Moving along.

My 18 week ultrasound revealed not much at all. Baby looked like it might maybe kind of have a vagina of her own, but I was chastised by pretty much the entire office staff for “coming in too early.” I had a repeat US at 22 weeks which revealed that my daughter indeed had a vagina, a perfect heart and a perfect brain.

Obviously. She is my daughter after all.

Internet, I am telling you that when the tech told me that I was having a daughter of my own, I shed real tears. Despite my rocky relationship with my mother, I’d wanted a daughter so badly that I could taste it, but I just knew I was destined to be a mother of boys. Forever The Queen of the Sausages. I never thought I could possibly be lucky enough to have a daughter.

And yet, there she was, a blobby mess that I could ascertain very little from, although I was quickly pointed out the 3 lines (a.k.a. “the cheeseburger”) which signified that she was without penis. I couldn’t have been happier.

My very own daughter.

I was lucky enough to have a daughter.

Amelia.

My daughter.

Words cannot possibly describe the joy I still feel when I say that.

I have a daughter.

mimi-us

Wednesday’s Child Is Full Of Woe

Part I.

The rest of my pregnancy went as smoothly as a pregnancy can for me. I reveled in my daughter rolling this way and that, I shopped for any number of teeny frilly dresses–while trying desperately to avoid the hootchie momma stuff–and began to stimulate the economy one pink thing at a time. I was as happy as I can be during pregnancy, my appointments showed me gaining my standard metric fuck-ton of weight.

Somewhere around week 37, I noticed after we’d come home from a lovely day of shopping–sans small children (this is what made it extra special)–that my entire lower half had ballooned into Michelin Man territory. My upper-half remained as fat as it was beforehand, but my lower half was bordering on ridiculous. It was Sunday and I was marginally alarmed by the sudden gain of at least 20 lbs, so I called my OB. They were shockingly unconcerned.

I looked like I was wearing exactly one half of a fat suit.

The following day, I noticed that the swelling was now bordering on Stay-Puft marshmallow status (replete with pasty whiteness. This was January in the Midwest), and the OB was now concerned. Off to the hospital, we trudged, for a NST and unnamed other tests.

What followed was a brilliant comedy of errors which involved busy doctors, dropping platelets, consults with specialists, living in a broom closet for three days and eventually an amniocentesis. I’m saving you from the most tedious story ever, but let me tell you that this was fucking Providence if I’ve seen it.

After our awful experience there we vowed to have our daughter at the OTHER local hospital. Where we’d had Alex, but not where we’d planned to expel Amelia. An excellent move we never could have expected.

Providence, Serendipity (wait, wasn’t that some shit-balls movie?), Fate, whatever you call it had a hand in things right there.

A week or so after I ripped the IV tubing from my arm and waddled indignantly through the L & D lobby on my way home, I had to go back to the doctor. The swelling–even in January–was so bad that I could only fit into this absurdly large pair of Daver’s slippers I’d been meaning to toss. I’d been meaning to toss them, you see Internet, because they reeked. They were also crusty and awful, but it’s all I could stuff my poor feet into, so off we went.

Two days later, on Wednesday January 28, my daughter was scheduled to make her debut with the aide of some a long hook and an IV drip of Pitocin. All of my babies have been induced, and while I’d been sort of looking forward to going into labor naturally, with the other two kids at home and the fact that I now felt like death AND was spilling some proteins, I figured safety for both of us was paramount. I could always watch a romantic comedy if I wanted to relive what “going into labor” was like.

You know they never lie in the movies, right? Or on The Internet? EVERYTHING on The Internet is true.

We had one full day to prepare all that we needed to bring another baby home, because somehow when you’ve reached number three and have run out of bedrooms with which to put said child, nursery preparation is pretty minimal. Besides, Alex had just grown out of most of what I really needed and so it wasn’t a stretch to pull it all back out.

My daughter would sleep in our bedroom with us until the boys could move in together, so there was no shopping for coordinated basket covers for the nursery, nor were we trying to match the knobs from the dresser we didn’t have to the light switch cover. It was sort of anti-climactic, but after having done it twice before, I was pretty pleased to just wash the scads of tiny pink clothes.

(Pointless aside #1: I keep mixing up my underwear with Amelia’s clothes in the wash. That feels kind of wrong, although not because I dress her in leather, lace crotchless panties, but because my own undies are–for the moment–large, pink and could probably double as a sail for a boat in a pinch)

Wednesday January 28th, we awoke at some ungodly hour (like 5:00 AM! Which is a time I should never, ever be awake because I am 100% allergic to mornings) and it was still dark out. Inky dark. And snowing. I remember waddling to the car after blowing kisses sadly to Alex’s door–he was still asleep–and finding the thick flakes of snow swirling about to be a Good Omen. I’d heard somewhere that rain on the day of something important was supposedly a good thing, and it being nearly February in Chicago, rain was more apt to be snow.

We drove to the hospital in silence just as we had before. While having #3 isn’t nearly as scary as having #1 or even #2, I’m not sure what pleasant conversation is when you’re both acutely aware that once you leave the hospital, nothing is ever going to be the same again. In the face of this, what is there to say?

Really.

Each of us were lost in our thoughts as we stopped for gas–and breakfast for Daver as I was too afraid I’d never eat at Dunkin’ Donuts should I see it coming back out a little later in a slightly *ahem* different form–the snow and the blackness and the wind seemed to make it a magical, magical morning. I can’t describe it well enough to do it justice. The radio was, for once, playing perfect music, the big fat flakes would make a satisfying splat against the windows, and in the dark then, it looked as though we were flying through that old screen saver.

Certainly if I know what that screen saver is, you must too. (no, not the flying toaster one).

After managing to hit not one but two trains, my stomach clenching and unclenching in knots as I tried to remember just what labor feels like and how scared I should be about the pain. I’m not hugely averse to pain (don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t turn me on or anything) (unless maybe it’s to someone I hate) (and that’s just a maybe) but even within 20 months, I had completely forgotten how it felt.

I barely remember pulling up the valet and handing off the keys as I was too busy peeling myself off the car seat and waddling into the hospital. We were checked into a room immediately and met one of the most cheerful nurses on the planet, which was a huge bonus as Dave and I were both terrified. And when we are both nervous or scared, our initial reaction is to open our mouths and talk. We flappity-flap-flap-jaw about nothing, anything, everything.

I guess it’s better than crapping your pants or explosively farting. That would make other people MUCH more uncomfortable, because how can you ignore THAT white elephant?

Soon I was instructed to change into a gown and nothing else as the nurse clucked over my poor legs which burned and ached from the addition of all those extra pounds of water. The tissues within screamed and cried as I tried to pull off my socks in vain. Dave eventually had to pull them off for me.

I settled into the bed, ate a couple crackers and then we were off. The IV ran slowly, dripping saline into that chamber, the line patent and waiting for the doctor to order the bags of Pitocin from the pharmacy. I considered Twittering, maybe I actually did, just to do something that felt normal and took my mind off of what was about to happen.

Dave flitted about the room, nervous as a bird, putting away this or that, arranging and rearranging the various things we’d brought while I lay there in bed, nervously watching the minutes tick past one after an ever-loving other. The doctor ambled in, broke my bag of waters–which, I have to say, is a REALLY discomfiting feeling–and pronounced it beautiful and clear. No meconium. The baby wasn’t in distress. The pit was added to the IV and we were off!

I had hoped to actually move about the room before the contractions got too terrible so that I could urge the baby out and use gravity on my side, rather than lay flat on one side of my back. But Amelia wasn’t really ready to be hatched, her head still pretty high in my body and not engaged into my pelvis. The risk of cord prolapse was great enough (broken bag of waters + floating baby) that I opted to lay there, willing my daughter out with my will of steel.

Labor? Hurts. It hurts a lot. I lasted a couple of hours, breathing through them, tears coursing down my face, although I wasn’t actually crying them. They were just plopping out of my eyes, and I only noticed because Dave occasionally wiped them away. I’d planned to Twitter, if for no other reason than I wanted to feel like I was connected to something outside of that room, but I was petrified. Even through the pain, I was so, so scared.

Maybe 4 hours into my labor, I got my epidural. It’s just like any other one I’ve gotten (I got a bonus 3! different! ones! with Ben, so I can handle it.), feels weird, not entirely pleasant, like your body knows something is going where it’s not supposed to, and then, WHOMP! Your legs are gone. Lifeless and tingly at the same time. It’s not a pleasant feeling by any means.

For an hour or so, I laid there, trying to watch TV but completely unable to focus on what was playing, so afraid. Just overcome with fear. I’m not one to talk about “my feelings” very often, and I don’t even know that Dave knew that I was so full of fear and dread that I could barely breathe.

And wait, what was THAT? It was…a contraction? Okay, yeah, the monitor says I’m having one OUCH! *pant, pant, pant* WEIRD. And wait, ANOTHER ONE? *pant, pant, pant* okay, wait, I thought I had an epidural.

I did have an epidural, I knew, because my legs were like two life-sized facsimiles of legs, as dead as tree-stumps, and yet still there, warm and heavy. I couldn’t shift easily from side to side as my hips were similarly numb, but that was it. It hadn’t taken past my hips.

I know I always like to use the “make God laugh; tell him your plans” quote when I talk about kids, especially when talking to parents-to-be, not because I’m being unkind in any way (I know. A shock), but because for all the planning, all the carefully executed plans, things just never go that way. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic or unnecessarily cruel, just honest.

I’d planned for as many narcotics as possible as soon as possible and here I was, 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced, half numb, a sort of centaur of pain. So be it. I could have had them replace the epidural, but I just didn’t care. I could handle it. I’d done it before.

(Pointless rambly aside: when laboring with Ben, the doctor turned off the epidural completely when I had to push. It was like going from 0 to 11 in a couple minutes. He was a nice man, eh?)

The transition from 5 cm to 10 took about 15 minutes, and after demonstrating my excellent ability to push for the nurse, she turned white and called the doctor immediately. Oh yeah, I’m a rock-tastic pusher.

I staved off the urge to push, and the fear I’d been feeling before amplified just like I was an ant in the sun who had wandered into the path of a large magnifying glass. I was petrified to the core, my cells screaming in fear. I cried and I cried and I cried like a little bitch to poor The Daver, “I’m so scared. I’m so scared. What if there’s something wrong with the baby? I’m so scared.”

Over and over and over, like an awful broken record. I couldn’t stop myself. Couldn’t be rational. I’d say it was the effects of being in transitional labor (the last time, I’d tried to order Dave to go home as he’d spent my labor on the couch in the room, sleeping off a migraine and I.was.pissed.) and maybe that’s all it was, but I was a wreck going into this phase of labor.

The doctor came scurrying in, gowned up quickly, and raised the bed up so far off the ground I felt like a circus performer with my crotch as the main attraction in the spotlight. Normally, I’d have cracked a joke, but I was shaking with fear, cowering and weeping openly.

On the doctor’s orders, I began to push. I knew the baby was positioned badly–for the life of me I cannot recall how–and as I pushed, the doctor wrangled my poor crotch everywhichway. I was thankful the epidural was on as I saw my hips shimmying and shaking with each push. Ben had been a forceps baby, Alex slid out with a couple pushes, and it looked like my last was as stuck as my first.

I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, as they had me pushing every time I caught a breath. I always hear those ladies on A Baby Story screaming as they give birth, and I don’t get it. I’ve never screamed. And trust me, I’m a loud-ass bitch, so I’d imagine that if anyone would scream, it’d be me.

I opened my eyes from squinching them tightly shut through my pushing and what I saw alarmed me, my normally pasty husband was ashen, the doctor looked concerned and the nurse looked alarmed. Not exactly encouraging.

“Becky,” my doctor said, her voice squeaking with either effort or emotion, “there’s something wrong with your baby’s head.”

mimi-born