It is my sincere wish that when you are writing a story about having your baby, you don’t have to start it with DAY ONE. I was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, February 10, and didn’t have Maren until Friday night, February 12th. In that time period, I think there was a brief twenty minute period where I was completely comfortable as I lounged in the Jacuzzi tub. The rest of it wasn’t as agonizing as I’d like to make it out to be– although some of it was (ahem, most of Day 3, before I got the epidural and after Maren decided to get creative with her position in the birth canal). Even though my labor and delivery were 100% totally worth it– I am typing this as my daughter naps on my chest– I think that next time I will opt for an epidural at 30 weeks of pregnancy and just have them knock me out for the entire labor and delivery process. I’ve heard of women who come out of having a baby and decide they want to have another one right away. And to those women, I say, “Oh. My. God. Are you a crazy person? Which DEGREE of crazy are you? Is it ONLY in this central issue, or are there other things we should deal with? Are you trying to get into a reality show based on EXTREME BIRTHS?”
But I digress.
To give you some context, I must refer you to a time period in my life called the LONGEST JANUARY EVER. In the month of January, I was told on three different occasions by a medical professional: THIS IS IT. IT IS GO TIME. T MINUS ZERO MINUTES TO LABOR AND DELIVERY. I was sent to the labor and delivery floor of my hospital three times to prepare for the imminent birth. I was told to let go of my ‘dream’ of a Valentine’s Day baby (really, why they thought I had my heart set on having my daughter on a made-up holiday celebrated only by Hallmark executives, I have no idea…), because this baby was NOT going to wait until February 1st.
PLUS when I was diagnosed with diabetes in November, I was told that there was not just a possibility of being induced early; it was pretty much a sure-thing. Because, you know, diabetes babies get so big and unhealthy. And here is some guilt to go along with that cheese stick. And here is a side order of crazy while the dietitian and doctor argue about treatment. And here is also a little old-fashioned Fear Syrup to pour over all of that every time you eat, every time you forget to check your blood sugar, and every time your sugar is too high OR too low. And all of the other DANGER DANGER DANGER lingo that doctors throw at expecting moms and then tell us to go home and relax because it’s better for the baby. OH THANK YOU FOR THAT SHOT OF PANIC IN MY MORNING LATTE, I’LL JUST GO PUT SOME CUCUMBER SLICES ON MY EYES AND KICK BACK, NO PROBLEM.
So you can imagine my surprise when February 1st came and went with no incident. In fact, over a FULL WEEK of February came and went with nothing exciting to report. I kept hauling my planetary body into the doctor’s office twice a week, took all kinds of tests to let me know if my kid was battling the elements okay, and then I would inevitably go home and wake up the next morning pregnant.
Speaking of battling the elements: I don’t know anything about medical science, but from all that I’ve learned from this experience, I can only assume that the womb is a terrifying place. If I were ever going to write a science fiction novel, I think I would set it in the womb, just before delivery.
In week 38, the first week of February, I had to make an appointment for 41 weeks. For those not savvy with pregnancy math– that is OVERDUE. I almost couldn’t choke the words out as I made the appointment. It felt like forfeiting a game that you totally thought you were going to win, even though you had no idea how to play, what the rules were, or how to control the gameplay– just that the objective was that, at some point, I would be holding a smaller, less verbal version of myself.
And then in week 39, I went into my doctor and she measured me with the tape measure. I’m not kidding. That is modern obstetrics, folks. My bill for all this is going to be ASTRONOMICAL, and they couldn’t even spring for a fancy looking tape measure. Even though Skirty had been measuring right where she should have been for my entire pregnancy, at THIS appointment, she suddenly was measuring about a centimeter and a half too big. I know what you are thinking. A centimeter and a half? Did you have a big breakfast that morning? Were you a little constipated? Was it really that the BABY was a centimeter and a half too big? Can they tell that with a tape measure?
Well I don’t have a medical degree, folks. But here’s a spoiler for ya: Once Skirty was on the outside of the womb and they could take that same tape measure and wrap it around HER body and not her Mom’s belly, she was not even kind of a little bit too big. Besides her ginormous feet. But that’s a different story.
My blood pressure was slightly elevated. Now, this is a REAL bone of contention for me. For an overweight woman, I have never had bad blood pressure. Every year I have to go in and have a physical at work that deems me AT LEAST healthy enough to wrangle toddlers all day, and every year the same visiting nurse does the physicals, and EVERY year she is shocked at my blood pressure. So, I guess, to have my blood pressure a little elevated was a big deal, even though, to me, it seems that my body was just saying, “Dude. Cut me some slack here. I’ve got lots of balls in the air. I’m not a damn magician.”
So my doctor left while they hooked me up to the NST machine— ahhh….. the NST machine. I hardly knew ye.
When she came back twenty minutes later, here is how she opened negotiations.
“What does your schedule look like?”
She then explained to me that, in her opinion, it wasn’t doing anyone any good for me to stay pregnant. Based on the too-big measurement and the higher-than-normal blood pressure, she was recommending induction. Tonight. In six hours, actually. I don’t know about you, but usually when people ask me what my schedule looks like, they aren’t asking me to block off the next eighteen years of my life.
As soon as she left the room, I started frantically calling my husband, who was in a meeting with all the other managers for all the Panera Breads in town (which is a surprisingly large number, actually. Apparently Omaha has a penchant for huge bagels). He told me the meeting would be breaking up at 11, and it was now 11:15. And yet, inexplicably, he was not answering his phone. I love my husband, but if he chose today to forget his phone in his car, I was going to murder him. Kill him until he was dead.
I called my mom, and when we got off the phone I could all ready hear the wagons in my hometown starting to circle. I called my sister-in-law, who promised to inform my mother-in-law, who was also not answering her phone. I called Mitch again. As the minutes ticked by, the anxiety was ballooning inside me, threatening to push my belly all the way to TWO CENTIMETERS TOO BIG.
Finally I called the store where the meeting was being held. This is a big no-no, especially during the lunch rush. I let the phone ring at least twenty times, and would have let it ring forever, until someone finally answered.
“Um, hi.” I said, and asked if the manager’s meeting was still going on.
“Yes,” The lady said tersely. “It’s going until about 5 tonight.” She said it in a way that suggested that she was all ready on her way to hanging up the phone.
“Okay.” I said. “Um. Would it be too much trouble to pull my husband out for a minute? I’m about to have a baby.”
Bad choice of words, I guess. But I didn’t want to have to explain to her about the tape measure.
She pulled the phone away from her ear and shouted, “SOMEONE GET MITCH, HIS WIFE IS HAVING THE BABY! SHE’S ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW!”
And in one brief millisecond, there was my husband’s voice. “HELLO!?!”
My husband is a big man, a big man even as big men go. I’m sure that the official Panera Bread stance on this event in their corporate history is that hardly any Panera Bread employees were flattened while Mitch ran to the phone. I like to think that they had run a few drills when I got into my third trimester; as soon as THE phone call comes, everyone in the store was supposed to run to flatten themselves against the wall and stay as still as possible until Mitch started breathing again.
I explained to him what was up– that it wasn’t an emergency. But that, you know. Ready or not.
The rest of that afternoon is kind of a haze. You’d think that we would have spent it packing, prepping, scrubbing our toilet with a tooth brush and checking our hospital bag to make sure that we had, in fact, packed the kitchen sink. But I will tell you a little secret about me. When I get stressed, I counter act that stress with action. I make plans, I have ideas, I get very creative, and I push past the stress. But when I get scared? I completely shut down. And that’s what I did that afternoon, while Mitch tried to quietly pack a few things and make a few last minute decisions and call people that were important to call and gently pat my head whenever he passed me in the apartment. In the meantime, I sat cross legged in our big comfy chair and had myself a good cry.
Here is how inductions work.
They start you out by hooking you up to an NST machine and getting a good read on the baby’s heart rate, and your contractions. This is easy if you are not having any contractions, because if it were up to my cervix, I’d probably be pregnant for the rest of my life. Then you get a good half hour strip of waves and valleys and peaks and mountains, and then they send in Guy Smiley. And Guy Smiley introduces himself and lets you know that he is your doctor, which is a little shocking since he appears to be about 14 years old and extremely intimidated by both your vagina and your husband. The latter I can understand, but the former? Thanks for all the extra attention, Doc, but there’s really nothing all that special going on down there.
Then they tell you that they are going to place a small tablet next to your cervix. That small tablet is going to dissolve over the next hour or so, and cause your cervix to ‘ripen.’ That’s right. Basically the equivalent of putting bananas in a brown bag. They were going to put my cervix in a brown bag. Every four hours, Guy Smiley would be back to put another brown bag in, until the cervix was time to make banana bread. Okay. I may have killed that metaphor.
This is what I love about medical science-y talk. They say these things in this tone of voice like this is something they do everyday, something they could do in their sleep, something that they wouldn’t mind doing to their grandmother because it is so run-of-the-mill, and so comfortable for the patient, it’s really almost like they’ll be giving me a little massage.
And then they pull out the HUGE blue glove and the little tiny tablet and go to town on your cervix. And guess what? Not even one little bit of it is comfortable. In fact, at one point, you think that it is so uncomfortable that you might die. And then they come back in four hours to do it again.
At one point, while I panted and struggled and cringed, my husband said tersely, “Is it supposed to hurt this much?” And Guy Smiley replied,
“Well it’s a bit like digging for gold.”
And then at 5 AM on Thursday morning, they came in, checked me out, and decided that my cervix had failed to ripen. So they threaded me up with an IV and got ready to start Pitocin. And that was the start of Day 2.