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?
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.”