Don’t be nine months pregnant in July. Unless you live in Greenland. Then it’s okay.
It was hot. Stiflingly so. So hot that two days later, the air conditioning unit in our small apartment died from overexertion.
It had been hot. For the weeks leading up to that day, I was a beached whale, and I wandered around our (barely cooler) apartment wearing only flip-flops. If I ventured outside, I felt like God had immediately wrapped me in a Snuggie, then threw a quilt on top of me, and then told a fat man to go forth and sitteth on my chest. So it wasn’t just hot. It was a heavy heat, the kind that makes people move up north. And I was nine months pregnant.
So when my due date came around, and I went in for a routine you’re-getting-closer check-up, my doctor’s practice partner (not my doctor) said I could go ahead and be induced that evening if I wanted. Oh, I wanted. So we went ahead and scheduled it for the following evening, to give our out-of-town family time to get in-to-town, then went home, packed our bags, saw a terrible movie in the theaters for the last time, and fantasized about finally meeting our son. Well, I’m sure Hubs fantasized about meeting him, I fantasized about being able to unstrap the extra forty pounds that had attached itself to my midsection, place it in a basket beside me, and proceed to do a V-Stretch if I felt like it. We (I infinitely more so than he) were ready.
We checked into the hospital the next evening, a day past my due date, on the promise of a licensed medical professional that we would go home parents.
We didn’t go home parents.
We went home frustrated, exhausted, and very, very pregnant.
Our family scattered like the wind back to their homes empty-handed.
My doctor (my doctor) had come to see me the following morning, after a night of medically-induced labor, and told me the contractions my body was being tricked into having weren’t doing anything, because the baby in my belly didn’t get the memo. He hadn’t dropped low enough for the contractions to actually be pushing him toward the exit. No one told him it was time for Last Call.
So we packed our bags and went home, and I held it together long enough to burst into tears the second we walked through our front door. I proposed spicy food for dinner. I proposed another five-mile walk around the neighborhood. I probably did a lot of squatting.
The following week, I had another routine check-up, the ones that go every week until the baby finally makes his grand entrance, and my doctor told me we had to be induced by forty-two weeks. And if for some reason the drugs failed to do their job, she was gonna cut him out.
I went home and gave a good, long pep talk to the little ears inside my skin. I told him about all the fun stuff he was missing by staying in there. I told him how I had wanted to do this as naturally as possible, and how I didn’t want a scar across my stomach. I told him how I had written a page-long birthing plan, and a C-section wasn’t even on the bottom of the back of the page scrawled in the corner. I promised things. I bribed. I wept, maybe a little. And then, I called my doctor’s office and scheduled our second induction for the two-day-block Dr. Nincompoop (I just realized how much I love that word) would not be on-call.
We checked in again, on the afternoon of July 21st, with the guarantee, no matter how grisly, that we would go home parents, whether I pushed him out or my doctor lifted him out. This time, I left my over-packed bag at home and just brought the essentials. This time, I left my boom box and mixed CD at home, and we knew to bring extra pillows and blankets for Hubs. This time, we would meet him.
The team of nurses hooked me up to an IV after dinner, starting the induction process. They slipped me a strong dose of Ambien to help me fall asleep early, because I would need to be well-rested in the morning. I fell asleep trying to get comfortable around the monitors strapped to my body, the IV strung from my wrist, and the half-moon perched below my chest. A little before midnight, I woke up to a little bit of discomfort, but nothing exciting was yet happening on the labor front, so they gave me another whopper dose of Ambien. I really needed to get my sleep.
By two o’clock in the morning, no amount of Ambien was going to keep me knocked out. Hubs called the nurse to see if there was anything else I could take to help me sleep (and consequently, help him, since my restlessness was not noiseless), and after checking me out, the nurse declined. I was actually in labor. Real labor this time, and things were moving quickly.
Hubs made some phone calls, and our sleepy family slowly made their way to the hospital, certain that the pace of my pregnancy was a precedent for the pace of my delivery. Hubs called again, after no one showed up, saying something like, “You better hurry, she’s gonna blow.” (This is probably inaccurate. A lot of things about that day is inaccurate and hearsay, because I experienced it through a haze of sleeping pills and horse tranquilizers.)
I remember my in-laws walking in the room, and I panicked, telling (maybe screaming) for someone to (please) get them out. (I was, as promised, about to blow.)
I remember my mom’s floppy wrist when it was time to push, and I hollered at her to push back, Mom!
I remember my husband and my mother yelling at me to breathe, but I don’t remember holding my breath so long my lips had turned blue.
I remember the way he screamed, and screamed, and screamed, until they plopped him onto my chest and I saw Heaven for the first time, a minute or two after 5:49am on July 22nd, 2004.
I don’t remember saying, “That wasn’t as hard as people say it is.” But Hubs will sign an affidavit saying that’s the truth.
I remember wanting to sleep, and after all the cleaning up, nursing, and snuggling, the nurses wheeled my firstborn to the nursery and told me I could. I remember waking up to my obstetrician’s face, the sun already high in the sky, and her saying, “And I had a C-section scheduled for today and everything.” Congratulations, you’re a mother.
I remember the parade of people coming to visit us in the hospital. I remember having trouble nursing because he would fall asleep the second he was in my arms and the nurse warning me that he had to get enough of that early pre-milk stuff. I remember being overjoyed that the pediatrician on-call was the one we had wanted in the first place, the one we travel thirty minutes out-of-the-way to see for check-ups, the one who has known both my children from birth and is forbidden to retire until I’m done having kids and they have all gone through puberty. I remember that first night in the hospital as three, dozing with him against my chest until the nurse intervened and said I had to sleep if I was going to be any good, promising to bring him back in to eat. I remember waking up a few hours later as she wheeled him into the dark room, his blue-gray eyes wide open, taking it all in, how alert he was, how he had managed to free one small hand from the nurse’s expert swaddling and stick a tiny finger in his nose, his pink lips pursed and curious.
I remember wanting to swallow him whole, because pressing him against my chest and my cheek and my lips wasn’t close enough to express the sudden size of my heart. I remember wanting to be selfish with him, but knowing I needed to pass him around to the extended friends and family who had gathered to celebrate his existence.
I remember being confident with a team of nurses as my back-up, but being paralyzed with fear when we made the trip home. I remember that very first night in our quiet apartment, by ourselves, getting no sleep, alternating between nursing and rocking, trying different positions, different rooms in the house, because he was so hungry, and it was so hard to feed him, and finally settling in an armchair in the living room where I could nurse when he would wake up squalling and snooze when he would finally drift off, but before I knew it, it was eight o’clock in the morning and time to go to the pediatrician’s office for his first official check-up in the real world and not through the thin skin of my belly.
I remember our tiny apartment packed wall-to-wall with family, and our air conditioner finally giving out because it couldn’t keep up with the amount of body heat we were all generating. I remember the baked ziti my best friend’s mom had made to feed our gaggle of family, but being too exhausted to eat it until it was leftovers. I remember him losing too much of the 8-lbs-12.5-oz. in the first few days that we had to supplement with formula until my milk came in. I remember trying to clip his fingernails that had grown far too long in the womb, afraid I would accidentally lop off the entire top of his finger, before chickening out and resorting to filing them down and wrapping them in mitts so he wouldn’t scratch his eye out. I remember it being impossible to lay him down in his beautifully-decorated bassinet – the same one his father and grandfather had used as newborns – to sleep because he just wanted to be held and I just wanted to oblige.
I remember this: