Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Birth Story, Part Four

Oh my, oh my! Looks like those other two babies either have beaten me (I’m guessing, here) or are poised to do so! Squeeee!

Where were we? Ah, yes. Monday afternoon. We were on the subway. Of course. Where the hell else would we be, with me 4 cm dilated, completely effaced, having been contracting regularly for twelve hours or so? Surely not NEAR THE DAMN DOCTOR’S OFFICE WE HAD JUST LEFT, WHICH IS FOUR DAMN BLOCKS FROM THE MOTHERFUCKING HOSPITAL.

A to B
A to B: A Rational Person’s Route

A to B
A to B: My Route

It’s possible I’m not entirely over how incredibly boneheaded that decision was. All I can say is that denial is a powerful thing. (For more on how I got into this mess, see parts 1, 2, and 3.)

To make sure you understand how stupid this was, please note that not only is it 45 minutes to an hour to get home from the doctor (actually a bit faster than driving, which was part of the attraction), but also: we don’t live on that train line. Or the train line we transfer to next. So that’s three trains home, and one of the transfers is up stairs. But I wanted to be at home. I didn’t feel good. I didn’t want to eat any of the food I could think of getting in Midtown, and I certainly didn’t want to walk around there in the cold drizzle. And cabs are expensive and nerve-wracking, and the subway is familiar and cheap. So off we went.

The story would be more exciting if my water had broken on the train, it’s true, but if that had happened even I might have had the sense to get off and hop a cab back uptown. In fact, the ride was okay. I had a few contractions; they didn’t really pick up until we were under the East River, leading me to believe that the Bean just wanted to be born in Brooklyn. And a little while later, I thought he might get his wish.

My sense of time gets pretty shaky from here on out. I think we must get home around 3:30. I am ravenous. I’d tried to eat the bland food they tell you to have in labor in the morning, but my bowl of grits was left to congeal. (Grits are my go-to bland comfort food, which I mentioned in our birthclass brainstorm only to have the teacher say that although oatmeal was a good labor food, grits might be okay in very early labor. Yankees! ) Bland food made me feel gross in the first trimester, and it seems gross now. So I eat the spicy beef leftovers. And they are awesome. And I am glad I was so shameless about asking for them.

Then everything starts to happen at once. Nature, as they say, calls. Insistently and for quite a while. I discover just how very, very, very much I hate having contractions on the toilet. I know some of you were into laboring there or in that position, and I am here to say that you are out of your tiny minds. Once my body has, erm, cleared the decks, the contractions go wild. Sixty to 90 seconds long, every three to four minutes. Instead of counting and groaning, I am counting and yelling and clawing the bed. I bend over the couch, I slow-dance with Sugar; nothing helps. At one point, I accidentally bite Sugar’s leg (which doesn’t help that much either).

Even before the tooth marks can fade, Sugar calls the OB office to say we’d like to go to the hospital. (For me, not her leg. I didn’t even break the skin, okay?) While she’s talking to that dumb bitch of a nurse you remember from the Vasospasm Chronicles, I have a contraction. And Nurse Helpful says, “You have to get her to calm down.” Because you know, being quiet while in bone-crunching pain is really, really important. There goes my Good Girl Gold Star for Laboring Like A Lady, I guess. (Sugar, who is wise beyond comprehension, doesn’t tell me about that comment until much, much later. I PROBABLY wouldn’t have insisted we stop by the office on the way to the hospital and throttle her anyway.) However, the nurse agrees that if I want an epidural, we should head in. So we call a car again.

Only now it’s rush-hour.

While we’re waiting for the elevator, I feel a little excited. Mostly afraid I’ll have another contraction and fall down in the hall, but a little excited. I am in labor! This is happening! Who’d have thought it would happen today? (You know, besides anyone who’d thought rationally about the events of the previous 36 hours.) By the time we get to the stoop, I am back to petrified. I get walloped with more contractions; when the car arrives, Sugar has to run tell it to wait until I can walk again. I curse my decision to deliver at Kips Bay Mega Hospital rather than one in Brooklyn. Sure, I had my reasons, but LICH is so close.

In birth class, there was a lot of talk about how giving birth in real life isn’t at all like giving birth in the movies. In some respects I guess that’s true: my water didn’t burst out all over the stage while I gave a speech for my entire company and Dr. Baby Factory didn’t just happen to poke his head into the room during the pushing so that I could grab him by the neck and scream, YOU DID THIS TO ME!!!! But this part of the story, from when Sugar trundled me into the cab until the epidural was in? This part was exactly like the movies.

Cab driver, I wish I knew your name, because you deserve a medal for patience, fortitude, and grace under fire. You could give a seminar in how to treat a laboring woman, and several of the medical professionals we dealt with ought to be required to attend. You did your job without comment and you did it well. I cannot have been your favorite fare that day, but I trust you at least got a good story out of the deal.

What he didn’t get was much peace and quiet. For the whole ride in — at rush hour, remember — I am doing my level best to cope like they said at birth class. So Sugar and I are counting out my contractions, in eights, the whole way in. And I by God keep up the counting, even though my yelling progresses rapidly to screaming.

About five blocks into the trip, I begin to wonder if I could be in transition. I can’t make any other sense of what was happening. My autonomic nervous system has gone completely haywire; I am roasting to death and convulsed with chills. The contractions get longer and longer and closer and closer together; at times there are no breaks at all. The advantage to counting through contractions is that it gives me a sense of when one might end (at about 14-2-3-4-5-6-7-8); the disadvantage is how terrifying it is to be still counting in the twenties and thirties. (Sugar says she remembers being in the forties at one point, which I have blessedly forgotten.) I am out of my mind with pain. At one point, between contractions, somewhere still deep in Brooklyn, I look up at the brick tower alongside us and it occurs to me that there will be a time in my life when I no longer feel like this. The idea is so strange that it transfixes me for a moment, until I feel a gush and yell out that my water is breaking.

(What an unwelcome thing that must be to hear as a cab driver. Luckily, we have a towel.)

At around this time, I start to feel a strong urge to push. Oh, God, the baby is going to be born in this cab and I’m never going to get my epidural. I stick a hand in my pants, but I don’t feel a head, so I try not to push. Or at least not hard.

At some point, it occurs to me that this back labor thing really is happening. To me. I’ve long ago stopped feeling anything in my belly, nor do I feel anything there for the rest of the labor. What I feel in the car is that someone has decided to replace the bones in my back and my thighs with iron rods. The rods are set on the ends of my bones, and at each contraction, they are slammed into the bones over and over like jam-hammers, reducing me into rubble. Absolutely nothing about this feels “natural” or “productive” or any of those other reassuring things. At one point, alongside the ruined houses of Admiral’s Row, I wonder if I will die.

I know I am given to hyperbole in my writing, but in life, believe it or not, I don’t go in for hysterics. (My preference to be left alone and not bother anyone when I’m sick or in pain is what leads me to do dumb things like this.) Part of why it’s taken me so very long to write this story is that I spent a terrifically long time crippled by shame over how I behaved at the points of labor when the pain was at its worst. I didn’t hurt anyone or endanger the baby or say anything rude (that I regret), it’s just that I didn’t expect to be so out of control. After everything was over, I felt so embarrassed about it (no thanks to some of what was said at the hospital), and I felt that I hadn’t lived up to the example of your stories, that I hadn’t been strong or powerful or amazing but rather weak and overwhelmed and whiny and over-dramatic. When they said in birth class that being in labor meant letting go of your “social self” I thought that meant I would shut down the way I do during the GI/endo bouts, that I would not want to talk or be talked to and that I would do some moaning. I didn’t expect to be screaming — scream-counting, but still — or making these terrible dry-sobbing noises.

But there I am, making them. When I am able to think, I am beset by a series of fears:

  • What if the baby is born in this car?
  • Or, oh, God, what if the baby isn’t born in this car and I just have to keep doing this?
  • What if I get to the hospital and the baby isn’t born yet but they say it’s too late for an epidural (never mind that the “it’s never too early or too late” policy was part of the appeal of Kips Bay) and they make me just keep going even though I’ve made it in?
  • Oh, God. They’re going to make me be on an IV for an hour, like the books say, and I’ll have to be in the hospital knowing they could give me an epidural but that they won’t.
  • Oh, God! Before they’ll even do that, I’ll have to go to triage. Triage! I cannot handle triage! They’ll make me move from room to room and I will die. Or kill someone.

I interrupt my anxiety spiral to notice that we are SO not on the way to the hospital. Car service drivers tend to have their own opinions about how best to get to the bridges and it doesn’t do to tell them their business, but it has been forever and we are still in fucking Brooklyn. Traffic is heavy, and we really do hit every light. I am bent over sideways in the backseat, looking up at the world as I did on long car trips as a child stretched out across the backseat. At some point, I lift my head up and see that we are at the Navy Yards. Does this guy think we’re going to Queens? What if he’s taking us to the wrong hospital? WHY ARE WE STILL IN BROOKLYN?????

So calmly, so beautifully calmly, he answers, because it is rush hour and I am avoiding the traffic jam downtown approaching the bridge. Cab driver, I mentally send you flowers every time I think of your gentle tone and your impressive withholding of epithets at that moment. God bless you. Later, when I screamed at you that you were driving past the hospital, it was kind of you only to say that the hospital I was seeing was Bellevue and withhold any suggestion that perhaps I belonged there.

I had a few moments of clarity before arriving at the hospital. I remember thinking that because each of our cabs had chosen different bridges, we would be able to tell the baby about going over both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge while he was coming. That seemed really cool for some reason. Later, as we crawled up First Avenue (thank you, cabbie, for not taking the FDR), there was this strange break from everything and it seemed perfectly normal to remark to Sugar on the unexpected presence of a European restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. ( “Look, they sell Swedish food.” ) Sugar reports finding that a bit surreal.

Another thing I had imagined was at least kind of being able to walk when we arrives at the hospital. Instead, I only have eyes for the lone wheelchair mercifully abandoned by the entrance and scream until the driver backs up, switches lanes, and brings me to it. Sugar runs around trying to figure out how to push me and deal with the luggage. Some presumed neurologist (bow-tie) leans over and asks if my “erm, companion” has gotten help. This all seems to take forever, but then Sugar is back, rushing me to the elevator. Which is absolutely packed, naturally, so I try to scream quietly while the neurologist and others chat about their weekends.

Our arrival in L&D is also cinematic: I am sprawled across the careering wheelchair, wailing. I hope I wasn’t screaming “give me my damn epidural,” but the possibility exists. However, one fear is instantly assuaged: turns out that if you arrive at Kips Bay L&D having clearly lost your tiny mind, you do not have to go to triage.

In the room, off go my rather soggy corduroys and everything else. As the nurse starts my IV, I whine at her, “Am I going to have to wait a really long time for my epidural?” She says no. “Are you lying to me??”

I am sure she is lying to me. Hell, I would lie to me. But she isn’t. The anesthesiologist comes in right away. He is a short man with comically tall hair and a horrible, sing-song, chipper-camp-counselor voice. He introduces himself and commences cheerfully upbraiding me for yelling.

I know how this works. I know that I will need to sit up, bend over, hold still. I am trying to move between contractions, only there isn’t any “between” anymore, so it’s hard. And his stupid monologue about how I need to stop carrying on is not helping.

This is when Sugar and I learn something about what is and isn’t part of that social self that disappeared on the ride in. Apparently preferring silence while in pain, which I would have bet was pretty deeply part of me, is surface stuff. But the Teacher Voice is primal.

So here I am, screaming, moaning, trying to turn to sit, wishing there weren’t so many people touching me and talking all at once. And then Dr. Jerkwad comes out with his most enraging and unhelpful line thus far, a merrily hostile, “You’ve got to get some self-discipline.”

And, reports Sugar, I go suddenly silent, to everyone’s surprise. And out it comes, low and loud and firm and clear, the Teacher Voice. And it says, heedless of the fact that this is maybe not the brightest remark to make to someone poised to put a needle in my spine,

“Sean.

Don’t be an asshole.”


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Birth Story, Part Three

Well, it’s happened. One of those overdue babies has gone and gotten herself born! Congratulations, Ms. Debbie G! And your lovely wusband, too! Biggest congratulations of all to that lucky, lucky baby girl, who is going to grow up in a super-awesome family.

In other news, while I was spacing out again, another due date I told myself I’d beat has gone and passed. I’d better get on this, eh?

(Parts 1 and 2, in case you’re just joining us.)

Sunday night: Home from dinner, cranky and crampy. Am starting to wonder just how normal it can be to still be bleeding so very, very much. And why hasn’t there been any mucous? All the books and websites say that bloody show is maybe “tinged” with blood. I start googling pictures and find nothing that looks like what I’m seeing. I figure better to call the doctor at 9:30 than wait until the middle of the night and wake her up. So I do.

The answering service takes my message and, as always, says to call back if I haven’t heard anything within 15 minutes. I wait 45, then try again. A while later, Dr. Skinny calls, sounding pissed. Which is weird, because hello, it’s not late by OB time, and anyway, I’m bleeding here. She couldn’t call sooner because she was delivering a baby (which I should have known via the Pregnant Lady Alert Network, I guess) and says she doesn’t understand why I’m calling. Um, because I’ve been bleeding like a stuck pig for nigh on 13 hours? (And must have been for quite a while before getting out of bed in the morning, to judge by the enormous clots. Which she had said weren’t big, but you know what? They were.) And all this “is it heavier than a period” business is confusing since A) I haven’t had a period in a while, actually; B) Heavier at any given moment? Or greater volume of blood overall? Because: no and yes; C) this blood is nothing like period blood; and D) WTF does that have to do with the price of milk? I’m not so much supposed to be having a period, right? And where’s that mucous I ordered?

For the record, I am not hysterical (bad pun; enjoy!) on the phone. [That came later, with the vasospasms. Apparently nipple pain trumps fear of bleeding to death.] I am calm and polite, express my hope that the birth went well, all that. Southern as all get.

Eventually, Dr. Skinny says — as if I should have known this — that I will be like this until I give birth. Pro tip: mentioning that in the morning would have saved you this phone call, Dr. Skinny. Also, how about you take a look some time at pregnancy books your patients are likely to have. You might be surprised how little information is in there. But they all say in no uncertain terms that heavy bleeding means time to pick up the phone.

She agrees with me that waiting until my next appointment on Thursday is not a good idea and says I should call in the morning for an appointment.

At nearly 38 weeks’ wide, I am a difficult party to share a bed with, so after a little while tossing and turning, Sugar goes to sleep on the chaise in the other room. I have no choice but to sleep with myself, which isn’t going well. I drift off but wake up every half an hour or so in bad pain. Still only in my back and legs. I start to wonder at all the advice I’ve heard about trying to sleep through early labor. How the hell do people do that? I try more alcohol, which just makes me feel gross.

Monday: By 4 a.m., even pretending to sleep is ridiculous. The contractions are coming about every ten minutes and lasting a minute or more each time. The pain is worst in my back but now seems to wrap around to my belly some of the time before shooting down my legs, right on the bone. I still don’t think it’s likely that I’ll be in real labor any time soon, but just in case, I decide not to wake up Sugar; I’ll want her rested for labor more than I need her help now. I spend some time in the tub until that starts to make things worse. I try to read a book. I bend over the couch, like they said in birth class. That is the only thing that feels even a little better, but I’m too tired to keep it up. Mostly, I lie on my side in bed and squeeze the cat, who is an absolute prince about the whole thing. I do some groaning and a whole lot of counting.

The pain is worse in the morning. Sugar gets up and complains about how lousy she feels, that she didn’t sleep well. I proceed to have a contraction, and she doesn’t complain anymore. Heh. We do some counting and breathing and all that jazz. The contractions hurt more, and I’m glad she’s there to help me through them. Counter-pressure on my back helps some; the birth ball seems like the worst idea ever. I get an OB appointment for 1:15 that afternoon. We decide to pack a hospital bag, just in case, even though I don’t have half of the things I meant to get. Between contractions, we write — and I mean “write, on yellow lined paper;” remember that the printer has croaked — a very minimal birth plan. (“Epidural, yes. You get to come to the OR for a section. You wanna cut the cord? Put something in there about circumcision.”) At some point I write to the doulas.

Things go on in this vein until it is time to leave for the doctor. We really do take a cab this time. As is the way of these things, my contractions, which have been steady on all this time, all but stop on the drive in. I think I had three in the hour it took to get there. We feel a little foolish dragging our luggage into the waiting room, I tell you.

I pee in a cup (like you do) and some blood drips in; I’m still bleeding, though less than on Sunday. The nurse seems a bit horrified, all the same. I ask Dr. Russian whether she thinks they’ll manage to find protein in that sample. She laughs [See! This is why I liked her!], hooks me up to contraction and fetal heart rate monitors, and leaves for twenty minutes.

While she’s gone, I have only one contraction, but Lordy, it hurts. I’m sure people in the hall can hear me, as my counting is getting a little…emphatic. It’s over by the time Dr. Russian returns, though. She declares the Bean’s heart rate perfect and says there’s no evidence of a contraction on the tape. I about hit the ceiling. I had a contraction, dammit. I believe you, she says, it just didn’t show up here. As long as you’re here, let’s check your cervix.

This time, I do start to crabwalk off the back of the exam table. There has got to be a less painful way to do that. Dr. Russian is visibly shocked as she reports that I am 4 cm dilated and completely effaced.

What do you want to do, she asks.

What? Aren’t you supposed to tell me?

Well, she says, you can go to the hospital if you want, but you aren’t contracting, so they’re going to give you pitocin. I know you want to avoid that, so why don’t you go have lunch, walk around, and I’ll probably hear from you tonight.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that Dr. Russian is on call. I don’t like the other OBs at all. [And even after everything that came later, I’m still glad it was her. I didn’t rate my chances of a vaginal birth with Dr. Skinny too highly, and Dr. Sympathetic Noises said when I first met her that I’d likely need a c-section. Only Dr. Russian ever seemed to think things might work on their own.]

For some reason, I interpret Dr. Russian’s words, which now seem to pretty obviously suggest that she thinks I am in labor, as, “Go home. Maybe you’ll have the baby later this week. Like Thursday, say.”

So here it is, the hands-down dumbest thing I did in the whole pregnancy. The one thing I can definitively look back on about labor and say, I sure as hell won’t do THAT again.

We go home.

On the subway.


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Birth Story, Part Two

(For backstory, disclaimers, and jokes about the Crimean War, see Part One.)

In a comment on the last post, Bunny asked whether my granny cart broke because of the hundred-ish pounds of groceries I had piled in it in my attempt to keep the cats from eating us alive. The answer is no. A superficial analysis would suggest that it broke because I was lazy the last time I fixed it (the linchpins on the axle are just wire, crappy wire at that, so the wheels fly off from time to time when the wire wears through) and didn’t neaten up the ends of the new wire, which then got bent out of shape when the cart was repeatedly folded and unfolded over the course of a month or so and, thus weakened, sheared off at a bad moment.. (And by “new wire” I mean cheap key ring, which I am telling you because I still think my discovery that those were the right gauge of wire was brilliant, not least because it means I can keep a “repair kit” of several of them jingling from the cart at all times.) But that’s not the real reason it broke, any more than the washer broke because its belt stretched out. (And while we’re on the subject of my enormous pride over trivial mechanical competence, yes, I was pretty damn pleased with myself when I thought of that and therefore saved us hauling the sucker to a handyman, thank you very. Sure, Sugar actually fixed it, but I did the intellectual heavy-lifting, okay?)

No, the washer and the granny cart and also our printer and Sugar’s Wacom tablet and a half dozen other household mainstays broke that week because of a little-known fuse built into all mechanical and electric items, known as the Critical Detector. The Critical Detector, says my father, who imbued me with most of my obviously enormous understanding of the gadget world [No, I still can’t get the damn blog to import to WordPress; why do you ask?], is that widget that, sensitive to the relative importance of a given device at a particular moment, chooses the optimal moment for said device to fail. It is the Critical Detector that causes catastrophic copier failure ten minutes before the FedEx deadline of a grant you’ve spent a year writing, that makes your car die on the way to your sister’s graduation, that killed the digital camera the day of our courthouse wedding. Naturally, with my due date approaching, every CD in the house was on alert. We’re lucky the place didn’t explode.

Back to our story, already in progress:

Saturday: You know those dreamy, drapey pregnancy photo shoots that people do? The ones that are sort of romantic and beautiful and sort of too reminiscent of douche ads? I have mixed feelings about them — who’s ever going to want to look at them anyway? And isn’t it all a bit self-indulgent? But what if I regret being too cool for them later, when it’s my stomach flesh that’s drapey and white and I realize that I Will Never Be Beautiful Again??? Better safe than sorry. Also, I always wanted to be pregnant in the summer so that I could go to the beach and for once in my life know for certain that no one was allowed to even think boo about what my stomach looks like in a two-piece, but here it is cold weather and yes, I was pregnant at the beach last year but only enough to look chunky except for the time I didn’t know I was pregnant yet but I looked 5 months gone because of the OHSS, and so maybe we should just cover the bedroom in white cloth and get out the camera and give it a shot? Or is that cheesy and hypocritical?

Oddly, Sugar prefers draping the bedroom in white and spending a few hours with her camera to listening to me deliberate. Can’t imagine why.

While she digs the wedding tablecloths out of the depths of the “nursery” closet, my body does what our bodies do when we prepare to drape them in white cotton: start bleeding from the hooha.

It’s not a lot of blood, but it is blood, so I call in. Dr. Skinny is on call assures me that an abruption would hurt, that this is probably just the Return of The Irritable Cervices. She asks if I’m having contractions, and though I am plenty achey, I say no, because I’m not having any rhythmic belly business, and I’d know if I were having contractions, right?

The bleeding stops after a couple of hours, and the photo shoot goes on. I figure the light is too good to put it off and anyway, this way we’ll have time to reshoot if it doesn’t go well.

37 weeks 5 days

[Sugar only ever got around to fixing up one of those pictures, and it is sad but true that no one really cares how pregnant you looked once the baby is out. Someday, when I get WordPress working, I will get her to spruce up some of the others for a password-protected post and I will g-d FORCE you all to look at them and say something nice. Because in fact, I am not 100% overjoyed with the current state of the ol’ bod, and while I’ll probably one day go back to aggressively wearing a two-piece bathing suit despite never having had a “bikini body,” it ain’t going to be this summer.]

We go to a friends’ house for dinner, and realizing that I’ve invited guests for brunch and accepted another dinner invitation for Sunday, I make some joke to Sugar about how typical it would be for me to use all my nesting energy on socializing, leaving the house a disaster when the baby comes. Ha.

Sunday: God, I felt good Sunday morning. I slept pretty well — I understand that may happen again in 18 or 20 years — and even in a bit. Then my BFF calls and Sugar brings me the phone in bed and I lie there and talk to her while Sugar runs around making quiche and getting the house ready for our brunch guests. BFF talks to me about her labor; the only thing I remember is how much she hated laboring on the ball, but the conversation leaves me feeling relaxed about the prospect of labor, since after all, I have a few weeks before anything is going to happen. [You may find all this foreshadowing heavy-handed, but the idea that I had another 3 weeks really was in my mind constantly.] Eventually, Sugar says it’s time to get going if I want to be wearing clothes when our guests arrive in 20 minutes — and that seems like a nice idea, since I’ve only met one of them and her only once — so I get off the phone and head towards the bathroom, thinking things feel a little mucous-ier even than usual in the pants department.

But I am wrong about that: there’s no mucous at all.

Just lots and lots and lots of blood.

I stay put on the toilet while I call the doctor again. Sugar ruins the pie crust, which I have never, ever seen her do. Dr. Skinny calls back and says again that I don’t have an abruption, that of course I’m worried by blood but it is really okay. Am I having any contractions?

Funny thing about that, I say. Last night in bed I was thinking about it, and the only thing that comes and goes in a wave-like pattern is my backache. Is that a contraction?

Turns out it is. Dr. Skinny suggests that rocking on my hands and knees and doing some walking might ward off back labor, but I’m not all that worried because that’s not going to happen to me.

We debate canceling brunch, but the thing about city life is that no one has cars. They’ll be on the subway already, and even if we can reach them (possible, since most of the line they’re on is above ground), turning around will be a giant pain. Plus, we don’t really know them and it’s rude to uninvite people. Exsanguination before awkwardness!

I clean myself up, Sugar makes a new crust, and we all have a nice time at brunch. In fact, those guests are the perfect ones to have, since not only are they charming but one of them had a severe postpartum hemorrhage and is hence able to assure me that bleeding too much in an obstetric context is not something I’m likely to be in doubt about: I will know for sure that something is not right. I spend a while gawping at their baby, who is objectively fantastic but at that moment seems huge and terrifying and given to unfathomable moods and sudden noises.

After brunch, Sugar and I go for a walk in the Botanic Garden. We both remark on how much farther I’m able to walk than last time we went, not up to my normal standard, certainly, but over a mile. In fact, I’d been very sad after our last trip, because I’d imagined spending early labor walking here, but it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to manage it. Wouldn’t it be funny if this were the famous burst of energy that precedes labor? It’s not, of course. This would be a ridiculous way to use that. Just let me sit here for a minute until my back stops hurting again.

By dinner time, it is hard to ignore that I’m having some contractions, maybe two or three an hour. Obviously these are Toni Braxtons because I’m not having this baby for weeks yet. We take a car to our dinner friends’ anyway, though. Wait, I just remembered that we actually took the subway and then walked! Hilarious! I thought we had taken a car because only an insane person would have been too cheap to do so. Ahem. It occurs to us that even though these friends are usually good for some very nice wine, there might not be any because the wife and I are both pregnant. We promise each other that if GOD FORBID that happens, we will BY GOD get some wine on the way home. And yes, we are feeling strongly enough to use that many GODs.

Decency prevails! There is wine! I have two honkin’ glasses of it and remark that while I find the idea one of the women in birth class had of waiting until the night she went into labor to have a glass of wine (to slow the contractions) very sweet, I need a drink, dammit. The Oscars are on. We eat some very spicy beef that seems like the best thing in the whole word; I all but demand to be sent home with leftovers. The contractions — which still just feel like wretched back pain — keep coming. I can talk through them, but I’d rather not. Still bleeding like crazy. We really do take a cab home.


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Resolve

Update: 1-minute contractions every 10 minutes from 4am on. They start in my back, then come around to belly and shoot down legs. Maybe a bit more frequent now.

Talked to Dr. Skinny late last night, because I didn’t understand that this blood business was just going to go on and on (intermittently). Frankly, she was kind of a bitch about it. Poop on her. (Actually, if she ends up at the delivery, perhaps the opportunity to do just that will be the silver lining….)

So, FYI, since all the books and stuff just talk about “blood-tinged mucous”: apparently if your bloody show looks like a heavy period and the doctor says that’s okay, you should not expect it to stop.

I don’t know if this is early labor or pre-labor or what, but I do know that whatever it is, it is not shaking my resolve vis-a-vis that epidural. Just for the record.


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Lady Parts Pop Quiz

Okay, class; clear your desks.

Q: You have arranged to cover or otherwise surround yourself in white fabric — wearing white pants, a white dress, a white bathing suit, or, in my case, the many white draperies Sugar has thrown around our bedroom in preparation for one of those slightly cheesy pregnancy photo shoots. What happens next?

˙ǝsɹnoɔ ɟo `ƃuıpǝǝlq ʇɹɐʇs noʎ :ɐ

(Don’t worry — not very much. I already talked to Dr. Skinny, who agrees with me that it’s likely the Return of The Irritable Cervices, nothing more. It’s just amazing to know that my body, which I so often doubt, still responds to primal cues like white cotton.)


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Reports of My DOOM Greatly Exaggerated

Good things happened today:

I took another look at those stretch marks. They haven’t disappeared, but they aren’t as bad as I’d remembered, either. As no one has ever thought my stomach was my best feature, perhaps I can Build A Bridge And Get Over It.

Following another 45 minutes listening to the same “song” on hold (I like synth glockenspiel and rhythmic static as much as the next lass, but I do wonder how much my tax bill would have to rise in order for buy them more than a 4-minute loop), today’s phone agent says, no, my insurance isn’t canceled, everything is as it should be, why would you think otherwise? I guess yesterday’s report to the contrary was just a stress test of my cardiac function.

Cervix check was not super-fun but not really that bad either. And did you catch the use of the singular there? Dr. Skinny only checked one. I tried to figure out if she knew there were two without actually accusing her of not reading my chart. She said the Bean is pushing mostly on one — as in my fondest hopes, as that is the way it needs to go for a vaginal birth to work. I’m a little skeptical that she could tell without checking both (they are *very* close together, unless pregnancy has changed the geography of my ute a great deal), but not nearly doubtful enough to have insisted she dive back in. It did hurt a bit, and I spotted quite a lot afterwards and am still a bit crampy (though that is likely partly because of wandering aimlessly through our mostly-useless Target while on hold), but on the whole it was much better than I’d feared.

Dr. Skinny says I am 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. I know that can last for weeks, but I feel hopeful that my body is doing things on its own. I figure if 1 cm took 37 weeks, I should only be pregnant for another six and a half years.

The fruit stand lady on my way to acupuncture let me choose my own banana. That never happens. This is totally a pregnancy perk, as was the lady at the post office being nice to me. (Note: this was not my local post office, where I’ve had an employee threaten me physically; this is in a much nicer neighborhood. If it had been my post office, I would just assume I had slipped into a coma or was otherwise living in a dream world.)

The White House seems to have located their collective gonads. (Just as the legislative branch loses its mind — Keiko has done such a fine job on this one; you should just read her post. I do not have her knack for explaining why this matters without insulting or enraging those who disagree with me.)

Finally, I have decided that I am having my own glass of wine tonight, dang it. Down with quests for perfection, up with rationality. Aside: I don’t really mind not drinking per se, but I find it enraging to know that no number of studies showing that doing so is okay this late in the game will ever change the medical recommendation that the preggos OMG STOP KILLING UR BAYBEES WITH TEH DRINKKIN. ’cause if you give those ladies an inch…well, it’s just Exhibit Z in Women Cannot Be Trusted With Their Bodies (see above). Whither science, I’d like to know.

Thank you for your hand-holding and other comments on yesterday’s post. Much food for thought. As soon as I locate my brain, I will have to get on thinking about it all more.


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Tales from the Front

Hi, folks.

So much has been going on, and I haven’t managed to tell you any of it. Mea culpa. Today’s update post comes to you from the couch, where I am staring over the horizon of an empty ice cream container and into space (such as it is in an NYC apartment), worn out from a 12-hour weep-fest. (We’ll get to that, but please don’t worry — everyone is healthy if not happy.)

Here are some updates and stories for you, in this so helpful style I have shamelessly plagiarized from our* May:

Item: Christmas, New Years, and the Great Middle Western Odyssey in general went fairly well. We met the famous TA, as sweet as they say, and her happy mother. I threw caution to the wind and ate my annual bratwurst at the Christkindlmarket. We went swimming at Sugar’s mother’s health club; after looking forward for months to the experience of grace and support I keep hearing about in re: gravid paddling, my attempts to avoid further rib injury lead to a kind of aquatic lumbering down the lane with a kickboard, a foam noodle under my ribs, and a foundering midsection intermittently covered by an old exercise top with shot elastic. Sadly, the ribs got angry anyway, possibly because of the indignity of being seen with me.

Swimming, 28 weeks
All the Grace of a Foundering Tugboat

I steered clear of Sugar’s dumbest cousin on Christmas Day — though I still managed to hear her dumb husband (whose last name is a synonym for “detumesces,” which gives me great delight, even if detumesce isn’t a real word, which it probably isn’t) threaten to spank their child for…oh, I forget. Something dumb that all 10 (10!) kids in the house that day were doing, like being loud. So no stories for any of us there.

To celebrate arriving at my parents’ house, I got a rip-roaring cold. After a day of utterly failing to breathe, accidentally overdosing on my inhaler, and subsequently freaking out about killing/brain-injuring the Bean, I was saved by Sugar’s suggestion that codeine is a fine anti-tussive. My parents’ house could easily be mistaken for a well-stocked pharmacy, and codeine not only stopped the coughing but also made me stop wheezing/turning blue. Mama made Dada listen to my lungs with the chimney of an oil lamp, since he had left his stethoscope at the office. I tried to teach Mama to cut and paste, so she’ll stop sending me emails with instructions on how to google something she’s found (“put X in. now go to the 4th result. in the corner, there’s a drawing of a fish. under that, there are some words you can click on….”) and instead caused a fight over dinner. We (98% Sugar) made a play-quilt. I was given (not “gifted,” dammit) replacements for the water bottle and good gloves I’ve recently lost on my commute; I promptly lost my best wool shawl on the trip home.

Item: We returned home to a house empty of food and full of cats very pleased with the success of their efforts to drive away our vacationing guests (the Baking Dane’s in-laws) by pooping all over their and our belongings. I walk the mile to the grocery store (over mostly-cleared sidewalks), discovering on the way that all that lying around in the midwest while steadily increasing in size has left me woefully out of shape for our car-less life. When I arrive at the hippie coop, I have a stupid exchange with the pregnant idiot working the front desk (this is the kind of coop where you work a shift to secure your right to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi) over her refusal to ask those working with her to rearrange the heavy carts (used to walk home shoppers who live closer than I do) so that those of us who schlep our own organic flax milk can hang our granny carts on the appointed hooks. Another woman sweetly takes my cart from me and says she’ll fix it. While I am recovering myself (read: weeping in the corner by the signs about how evil Coca-cola is), Pregnant Idiot calls over to tell me it’s done. I say thank you and think humiliated thoughts. On the way home, I get stuck in a pile of slush in the middle of a busy street at rush hour, oncoming traffic surging at me. Good times.

Item: We begin birth classes with the lesbian CNM and her somewhat dippy co-teacher, who keeps saying “dilatition.” We are pleased at the first meeting to see that we know one of the 7 couples there: an extremely chipper lesbian and her partner, who has a very charming lack of filter between her brain and her facial expressions. I enjoy watching my own horror reflected on her gaping face all evening.

The class begins with introductions. We are all (partners/husbands/friends, too) to say our names, when the baby is due, etc., and tell a story about our birth knowledge/experience — a birth we’ve been to, the story of our own, what have you. When the talking beanbag (not kidding) comes to us, Sugar goes first.

SUGAR: “Hi, I’m Sugar and this is my wife, Bionic. Our baby is due in March and we’re delivering at Kips Bay Mega-Hospital. The story of my birth is that my mother gave birth in 45 minutes and is still mad that all she got for dinner was a ham sandwich.”

DIPPY: “Wow! That’s amazing! How lucky!”

SUGAR: “Yeah. Too bad I’m not related genetically to our child.”

DIPPY: “But you’re related to your mother!”

BIONIC: Yes, but not to our baby.

DIPPY: “But your hips! You’ll have her genes! This is great!”

BIONIC: “BUT SHE’S NOT PREGNANT.”

[Awkward pause, in which DIPPY flusters about how she couldn’t really see us where we were sitting. Lesbian Teacher looks long-suffering.]

BIONIC: “Hi, I’m Bionic. My mother did not give birth in 45 minutes.”

I then proceed to talk about my (not un-traumatic) birth, touching briefly on a few major anxieties. I do not cry, but I don’t look calm either. Before I have collected myself, The door opens and the late couple walks in. If you’ve already guessed that the late couple was Pregnant Idiot and her identical twit of a husband, full marks.

Watch this space for further reports on the Happy Couple, who remind one nauseatingly of high school. Highlight of the first night came during one of the activity portions, when we were all draped on one another practicing slow-dancing to loosen back, etc. Sugar is admirably taller than I am, so my face was nicely snuggled against her chest, my eyes closed. I hear a *SMACK* on the Happy ass next to me, followed by “THAT’S a BOOTY!” Gorge rises.

Item: I begin to worry more seriously about this whole birth thing. I spend much of birth class freaking out (internally — at least I think I didn’t look as horrified as the Other Pregnant Lesbian, since the Lesbian Teacher never stopped what she was saying to ask me, “Do you have a question? Or is that just the face?”). It’s all very well learning about what the cervix does, what the birth canal will do, and so on, but while I don’t really wish to share the idiosyncrasies of my lady bits with the class as a whole — Lesbian Teacher knows already — it’s frustrating that no one has a clue what my body might or might not decide to do when the moment arrives. I have found 3 anecdotal reports of cervices like mine: one reassuring, one cautionary, one horrifying. (There’s much more out there on UD, but officially, single utes with double-doors do not exist, as we contravene the prevailing theories of fetal genital development.) I’m increasingly despairing that a vaginal birth will even be possible, which makes this all seem like something for other people. I know there are good reasons for us to take the class anyway, but it’s still a bit hard to sit there and look like I believe this stuff will apply to me.

Item: Dr. Robot has quit the practice and returned to Canada, according to Dr. Sympathetic Noises (But No Answers To Your Questions), whom I saw last week. I was quite nauseated and asked Dr. Noises whether it could have to do with the Zantac I’ve been taking for reflux, given that it seemed to have coincided. No, she said sympathetically. Later, I asked Dr. Google, who reported nausea as the most common side effect. Back to pepcid, and it’s a more acidic but less queasy life for me. Nice work, Dr. Noises. Thanks also for refusing to answer my questions about your practice’s labor policies until week 36.

Item: We finally have our belated hospital tour, led by a horrible, scolding bitch. We chose this hospital largely because of how uncommonly NICE every staff member we’ve encountered, orderlies on up, have been over the course of several radiology jaunts, Sugar’s surgery, and my BFF’s terrifying 27-week bleeding incident while visiting us a few years ago. So we weren’t expecting one of those bitter, angry people who loudly pretends to be cheerful while referring to all non-pregnant parties as “Dad,” kvetching endlessly about why her department deserves more space than another, and generally yelling at anyone who asked a question. I also liked the part where — apropos of nothing except a quiet moan from one of the rooms — she snapped at us, “labor is PAINFUL!” Part of my reason for going on the tour at all was to see the space at a time when I wasn’t feeling actively upset. FAIL. I was calmer when in the company of my bleeding friend.

The actual L&D facilities are nice, though it’s a bit annoying that the much-vaunted TV/DVD/CD players are only allowed to be used with headphones — bit of a reach from the bed. Post-partum, like everywhere in the city, is another matter. The rooms are clean and tiny. There are four, un-reservable private rooms that cost a fortune; the semi-private rooms are exactly big enough for bed-chair-crib, bed-chair-crib. There’s no nursery anymore — theoretically great; actually somewhat terrifying — so they allow partners to sleep over…in the hard chairs, which do not recline. It’s not at all clear to me how I’ll get through this (especially with no nursery to give me a break) if I send Sugar home to sleep, but it’s plenty obvious that she won’t get any sleep in that wretched chair. Mostly, that horrid woman made me afraid the PP nurses will be like her. As far as I can tell, she’s a lactation consultant. So help me, if she comes near my nipples, I will not be responsible for my actions. And I do think it would be nice to wait until we’re home before beginning the Bean’s profanity lessons.

It all seems so trivial when I write it, but the aftermath of the tour has had me up weeping since 4:30 this morning. Okay, it’s possible hormones are playing a role here. The basic issues, as I see them: terrible fear of being left alone; much greater comfort taking care of people than being taken care of (read: vulnerable); fear that I won’t be able to take care of the Bean and Sugar and that no one will be taking care of me in that strange place.

Item: Sugar had to talk to the Stupid Cow at HR today, who deliberately refuses to understand that our relationship (our legally recognized, accorded benefits by the employer relationship) exists and tells Sugar she’s single all the time. But that is Sugar’s story to tell.

Item: I wish there were some useful guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy, short of ZOMG POISON. I know plenty of people drink in the third trimester; so far I haven’t, beyond pilfered sips of Sugar’s wine now and then. But boy, I could use a drink tonight.

*Brits: I have no idea if the “our ____” usage has some meaning that’s inappropriate to this situation; I just love how it sounds. I am a dumb ‘merican. Feel free to attempt to (gently) correct my heathen ways.


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Heavy Lifting

Hey there, internets. How are you?

Things are basically fine around here. We’ve gotten several chances lately to spy on the bean, who seems to have arms and legs and a steady heartbeat. It even *moved* while we were watching last Monday — a kind of quick sit-up, prompting my mother to observe that it obviously has genes not from our family.
The reason we’ve been getting so much screen time is more nerve-wracking. I keep bleeding. First was the two weeks of brown spotting leading up to the wedding. Once I’d gotten used to that, it turned pink, starting just before the sit-up look-see. A few days of pink, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for learning not to panic at every trip to the bathroom, so my body upped the ante: bright red blood, and plenty of it, in the middle of the night.
PANIC.
After the long wait until the OB office opened the next morning — I didn’t see much point in waking up whoever was on call, since there isn’t much they could do about it if I was miscarrying and at least one of us ought to get some sleep — another scan. Less cute time looking at the bean, more v.e.r.y. slow examination of the ute, after which Sweet Sonographer said she didn’t think there was any blood flow from in there, so it is probably my sensitive-soul cervices. (Why no one has cranked open a speculum or two and taken a look, I don’t know.)
More brown spotting, plus a new, sandpapered sensation in my upper hoo-ha regions; a period of self-imposed, er, pelvic rest. Things seemed to be settling down. And then I cut the cheese.
Sugar and I belong to a hippie food coop (*the* hippie food coop, really) of the sort where all members work. (Well, almost all members — as the underemployed member of the household, I do both of our shifts.) When we toured the place and entered the food prep area, our guide said, “this is where we cut the cheese. If you join the coop your job might be cutting the cheese.” Naturally, I signed up at once.
It’s not all fun and games. Besides cutting the cheese, I wrap it, weigh and label it, and carry it upstairs in grocery baskets. Because of summer school and the wedding, I am behind several shifts, which jeopardizes our access to Waldorf-educated kohlrabi, so I made one up yesterday. I was careful not to fill the baskets the way I normally would, but instead to go up when I had ten pounds or so ready. I had them ready at waist-height, and carried them held against my body, for minimal strain, as my back has been unreasonably testy these past few weeks.
After my 3-hour shift, I found a huge streak of red in my underpants. Slightly more controlled panic. Hovered in the public but uncrowded hallway, left a message with the nurse, did some speedy, highly disorganized shopping (extra shallots? Yes. Trash bags? No.), took a cab home. Nice Nurse called back and said that since the bleeding stopped quickly, I should just rest and stop lifting “heavy” things.
Relief, of course. Followed by a nap. Followed by some feelings of pathetic worthlessness.
I like being pregnant. I like how it feels, for the most part. But while I am hardly a tower of physical might, I am used to thinking of myself as strong enough to manage things. I don’t like not carrying things, not being able to open the stubborn window. For that matter, I don’t like being so easily exhausted that I had to stop gardening after an hour the other day, when I had planned at least two.
I can live with being lazy, but I hate being weak.
Bah.


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Lying Down All Over Town

Today we did the embryo transfer!

I took the day off work to be able to go with Baby to all her various appointments – acupuncture, transfer, acupuncture, home – and in order to do so I told my office that she was having ‘surgery.’ Now they are all worried about her, and probably think she has cancer, since I was so unspecific. On Saturday she actually had surgery (egg retrieval) and I was all worried about her, but didn’t manage to talk to anyone about that, since it was Saturday. Between Sunday and this morning she has been quite sick – in pain, vomiting, the works. But now this evening she seems a lot better, thank goodness.

So here was our day:

6 a.m.
vomiting (Baby)

8:30 We take the train to midtown and go to Baby’s acupuncturist’s office there. Baby goes to lie down. I wander around in search of breakfast, saltines, and a seasickness bracelet for Baby. It is ridiculously hot outside.

10:30 We take a cab to the Kips Bay Baby Factory, where everyone is surprised that we are early. The nurse clearly thinks Baby has already had some Valium at home because she is moving so slowly and acting spacey, but we convince her that no, it’s just the puking and the lack of sleep. The nurse gives Baby some Valium.

10:45 We are seated in front of this sign. I had not previously realized that the doctors here think of themselves as ganstas.

gansta-doc

yo yo YO!

10:50 Dr. Thursday comes to talk to us. He is disorientingly jovial. Also he has tiny feet, which I find myself staring at. However, all the news he gives us is great. 26 of Baby’s eggs fertilized, and 20 of those are still growing. There is a good looking blastocyst to transfer and there will be some to freeze, somewhere between 4 and 10. We won’t find out how many they actually froze until tomorrow afternoon.

11:00 Baby and Dr. Thursday go into a Laurel and Hardy routine about left and right cervices. Dr. Thursday says Dr. Baby Factory told him to go in through the right cervix, but Baby says he must have meant Dr. Thursday’s right, i.e. Baby’s left, etc., etc. After a while Dr. Thursday agrees to poke around and not jab anything too hard until he figures it out.

11:35 Dr. Thursday breezes by me in the waiting room and says I can go back to the recovery room. He waves his arm around saying ‘it’s to the left.’ I try the door he came out of, which is locked. I sneak through a different door and stick my head past the gansta sign into a completely empty hallway and shout. Eventually a nurse wanders by and directs me through two totally other doors to where Baby is lying down. She seems calm and happy and has this picture printed out and lying on her chest.

blastocyst001

our first blastocyst

12:30 IT IS SO HOT OUTSIDE, WHY IS IT SO HOT?

1:00 We sweatily arrive at another office near the Baby Factory where Baby’s acupuncturist also works. Baby goes to lie down and have needles stuck in her again. I read a trashy vampire novel.

2:00 Back on the train to Brooklyn.

3:00 Baby lies down in our blessedly air-conditioned apartment. Because there is no food in the house, I prepare for the trek through the blazing heat to the Food Coop.

4:00 (presumably Baby is still lying down) I search for popsicle molds (no dice) and stuff to make miso soup, which Baby has requested.

6:00 I make miso soup.

7:00 Baby and I eat the soup. Nobody vomits. Score!