Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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.


  1. i am loving this birth narrative - you tell a great story and im on the edge of my seat waiting to read more!

    beautiful belly shot :)

  2. Hey, I am so glad to be reading this. Sorry to be late on the commenting. Gdm work computer! But I love the blow-by-blow! Can't wait to see you & Nicole!

  3. I'm chewing my nails and I KNOW how it ended.

  4. I love have to finish!

  5. I just love the way you're writing this, heavy-handed foreshadowing, and shifts from present to past tense and all.

  6. Seriously riveting! I saw it pop up into my Reader and saved it for my pumping session reading material. (You're welcome for that visual.) Cannot wait for the next installment! xoxo

  7. Beautiful picture!

    Isn't it amazing how everything makes perfect sense in hindsight?

  8. Absolutely stunningly beautiful picture...and amazing story telling.

  9. okay, first of all, so jealous after reading schroe's coment that you 3 are meeting up. i plan to be there in spirit hanging out with you ladies and showering kisses on the Bean and the Boy, even if i'm actually going through labor at the time. nicole has instructions to orchestrate a group hug that i'm a part of. :)

    and i do love that picture. i remember the first time you posted it. we just did a super short and informal at-home photo shoot, but nothing so nice.

    but other than that, loving the pre-birth story. keep it coming! (wish i could say my current week is anywhere close to as interesting or dramatic.)

  10. Wow! That photo is gorgeous!

    Looking forward to the next installment. :-)

  11. Also on tenterhooks, despite knowing how it ended. More, please?

    (Had to smile at the insistence on public transport. It's similarly ingrained in me.)

  12. Oh man. Face Plant Crabby Baby Time has already been adopted as an expression in our house, and Critical Detector will be too. It explains why our boiler always craps out on Christmas. And I had a similar back and forth about maternity photos, finally making my husband take some in the back yard (er...mine were clothed) and then getting mad at him when he intimated he was kind of bored with the whole thing. Anyways, yours is lovely, and I hope to have the chance to see more. In the meantime, I'll just be quietly horrified by the thought of all that bleeding and hurting.