As I entered my 36th week of pregnancy, I “got a feeling.” I just knew that the boy was coming soon. On Sunday, I started nesting. For those who don’t know, this is the human equivalent of when a bird starts building a nest: I had a sudden and severe urge to rearrange furniture, buy a bookcase and wash all of his clothes. I tried to tell people about my “feeling,” but everyone dismissed it, because I still had a month to go. What they didn’t realize was that my son had already inherited a trait from me- impatience.
At that time, my husband and I worked for the same company. We worked the same shift, but in separate buildings, connected by an indoor bridge. We could visit each other, but really had no reason to cross paths during the work day. We drove to work together in his car; he would drop me at my door in the morning and pick me up at night, always with a warning to “be careful!” because it was winter, and pregnant women love nothing more than to slip on ice, unless they are specifically told not to.
On Friday, just after lunch, my stomach started to feel tight. Like everything is pressing outwards. I thought back to my friends’ wedding seven months ago. It was three days before I found out that I was pregnant. Another friend of mine who attended the wedding was very pregnant, and her stomach had felt “tight” all day. After the after-party, she ended up going to the hospital and delivering. The “tight” feeling turned out to be contractions. She’d technically been in labor all day. Could it be? Nah, I’m just psyching myself into a tizzy. I’m not due for more than three weeks.
By late afternoon, the tightness has only gotten tighter. I’m still 90% sure this is psychosomatic. I have a homemade pull-off calendar in my cubicle showing the count-down to my due date (23 days); clearly I’m eager for the big day. I’ve read my pregnancy books and websites over and over, so I know that I should walk around. If it gets worse, it’s labor. If it gets better, it wasn’t. So I begin to pace.
I worked in a cubicle farm, doing phone and email customer support. Our shifts spanned 13 hours, so at that point, there were only two other people left in my row of seven cubicles. One was a guy a little younger than me, and the other a guy a little older than me… with two kids. They were both nervous when I started my pacing. I nonchalantly explained to them that I kinda sorta felt like I might be in labor, but I was almost positive it was just in my head. This did not put them at ease.
5:30 rolls around, and I wait outside for my husband to pick me up. Once we’re a couple miles from work, I try to tell him in the most casual way possible that I got this silly idea in my head today that I was in labor, but not to worry, I totally wasn’t. He is an excellent driver, and did not wreck in a ditch. He did order me to call the hospital immediately. I told him that was unnecessary; I knew what they would say. But just to make him feel better, I pulled up the number for Labor and Delivery that I’d programmed into my phone months ago. I told them my story. They instructed me that if it got worse, I should come in; if not, I was fine. Told you so!
We went home, ate, watched TV, and went to bed. I fell asleep around 10:00, and woke up again around 1:30 in the morning. Nothing strange about that; sleeping is next to impossible in the last trimester. I pulled up the new episode of “psych” on the DVR. At 2:00, I paused it to go pee. Totally normal; you pee every ten minutes when you’re pregnant. You have, like, 700% more fluid in your body than you normally do, and at the end, there’s a child sitting on your bladder.
***If you are a man, you may want to skip this next paragraph***
I peed, wiped, and saw blood. A lot of blood. Like, the heaviest day of your period, back when you were a kid and used pads instead of tampons. I never saw one drop of blood during my pregnancy. I know a lot of women have spotting. Not me. I’m pretty sure I screamed. I did manage to throw on a pantiliner, though. I’m so conscientious.
***Men, you can start reading again***
I woke my husband up and it was friggin’ GO TIME. My bag had been packed for weeks. We run to the car while calling my OB/GYN’s answering service to let them know that he needs to get his ass to the hospital three weeks earlier than we agreed upon. I’m just about to get in the car when my husband calls out, “Wait!” He grabs a Boston Bruins throw blanket that’s been sitting in his trunk, and carefully arranges it on the passenger seat. Really? ( I honestly have no right to complain; he once sliced his finger open in the kitchen so bad that I swear there was arterial spray, and I wiped down the cabinets before tending to him. Some people just can’t think rationally when faced with a crisis.)
The hospital is about 25 minutes away, but to this day, my husband insists he got us there in ten. We’ve been instructed by the Labor and Delivery staff that if we arrive late at night, we’re to go to the Emergency Room, as that’s the only door that’s unlocked. You’d think that by now, L&D would have their own 24-hour entrance. Have you ever heard of a baby that was born at a decent hour? I mean, really. We walk in, and there is some asshole at the window! How dare he? Absolutely nothing takes precedence over me and my boy right now. Nothing. I make a point of holding my belly and moaning to make him hurry up. He doesn’t.
When it’s finally my turn, before the triage nurse can even apply her fake smile, I’m at the window yelling, “Yeah hi I’m 37 weeks pregnant and I’m bleeding and my baby is dying help me!!!” or something to that effect. She is so very casual about taking my information and bringing me around back. I make a note of her name so I can sue her and put a gypsy curse on her later (note: I have no legal representation, nor am I a gypsy).
A nurse from L&D arrives with a wheelchair to take me to the magical wing where they give a shit about me and my kid. I swear, the trip from the ER to L&D is seven miles and three elevators long. During one elevator trip, the nurse finally notices that I’m sobbing. “What’s wrong, honey?” she asks me. Are you fucking serious? “I’m scared my baby’s dead!” I scream at her. I still, to this day, don’t know if the bleeding was really a cause for concern, but it’s not something that I was ever warned about, and I’m terrified that all our hopes and dreams for the past year and a half (I’m counting the 10 months we were “trying”) have been dashed to pieces, and to top it off, there’s a corpse inside me. She just smiles. Smiles!
Shortly after they get me into a labor room, they have a bunch of probes and wires on me (and in me) and they assure me that the baby is fine. They still can’t account for the blood. Some doctor guy will be here eventually. Soon after, I go into real live labor. As in, contractions. Here’s the thing: I never intended to deal with that. The whole concept of labor and delivery was a big turn-off for me. I decided, I think, before I even got pregnant, that I wanted a C-section. My doctor was against it, but ultimately supportive of my wishes. My husband, if he had an opinion, didn’t share it; it was my body and my choice, as far as he was concerned. My insurance company was even okay with it. I had an appointment and everything. Unfortunately, the kid inside me apparently didn’t agree.
My doctor insisted that we take the silly classes at the hospital months ago. They played Enya and made us bring a pillow on more than one occasion. They talked about breathing and visualization and crap. We blew off every single thing they tried to teach us. Any time the teacher would call on us, we’d tell her, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to us; we’re having a C-section.” They did devote about ten minutes of one class to C-sections; it was a video titled “Just in Case.” Thanks for all the info, birthing class!
So now, that thing that I didn’t bother learning about is happening. I tell the nurse that I am in labor, and she needs to have my doctor come and take this kid out, please. She tells me that they don’t like to do C-sections early, so they must make absolutely sure that the baby is coming before they do anything. I don’t know what kind of sign she was waiting for, maybe a little arm coming out and giving her the thumbs-up? They gave me no drugs or any other kind of help. They just watched me scream for hours. Hours. If you’re wondering what contractions feel like, think of the worst cramps you’ve ever had. Now imagine they’re about four or five times worse, and it’s not just your lady organs hurting, but everything from your sternum to your knees. I invented new swears. At one point, I tried to climb out of my own body. I was literally clawing at the air, trying to escape the pain (it didn’t work).
At about five, they finally agreed that the baby was coming. That’s when the nurses start in with their campaign to talk me into vaginal delivery. While I’m in the worst pain of my life, and scared out of my mind. That’s when they think it’s a good idea to talk me out of a decision I made almost a year ago. Their reasoning was, “You’ve already gone through all this, why not?” Are you insane, lady? “Hey, you’re suffering through the worst pain a human can endure, why not just do it for another day or so? And also work really hard while you’re at it? Why not!”
I tried out some of my new swears on them and they finally agreed to let me be in charge of my own body. My doctor was not on call that day, so some random stranger would be summoned to perform surgery on me. Awesome. Let’s do this! They waited until I was right in the middle of a contraction to hand me a consent form. I crumpled into a ball so tight, it was no longer paper. I think it would technically be classified as a diamond. My husband explained to them that it was not the best time to make me read and write, so they took him out of the room to sign a new one on my behalf.
When the next contraction came, that’s when they chose to insert my catheter. Yeah. Because their answer to pain was once again, “Fuck it! More pain! All the pain!” While Nurse Evil was ripping me a new urethra, a new nurse walked in. This lady was great. She took one look at what was going on, and just stepped up and silently held my hand. Didn’t even bother introducing herself, just gave me something to squeeze while her colleague tortured me. When the contraction and, um, procedure were over, she did eventually tell me her name, which of course I forget.
Stay tuned for Part 2!