This is dedicated to "Mama Bear"
I've sprinted between gates at many airports, rounded the corner to my daughter's school on two wheels, changed into a business suit in my car after parking in a remote corner of a parking garage and once, after running four blocks when I was nine months pregnant, almost leapt across the counter to kiss the clerk. I thanked him profusely, panting, "If I hadn't gotten this filed today, I would have had my baby, right here, right now." I sometimes slide into homeplate on my face, but I always make it.
My daughter, on the other hand, is much calmer. So calm, my friend from Alabama described her as "a stop and smell the roses child." I attribute her gentle, patient demeanor to her prenatal environment. She was so comfy and cozy, she didn't want to be born.
* * * *
She was 10 days late. I paced in the basement into the wee hours of the morning, until my husband came downstairs and told me I was "upsetting the dog." I seriously considered bouncing on my jogging trampoline until the force of gravity propelled the baby from my body.
The next day, the first of the obstetricians who would guide my child into the world decided to induce labor. I finished my hearing, packed my briefcase and drove to the hospital, where they strapped a monitor around my belly. "Are you sure you're not in labor?" He squinted hard at the paper tape that appeared to have been issued by a seismograph. "We'll induce you in the morning. Just to be sure, though, we'll admit you this afternoon." That was also when he told me the baby was backwards. Not upside down; backwards.
My employer assumed I'd have plenty of time on my hands, so his assistant called my hospital room and asked me to dictate a letter over the phone. Hooked up to a monitor, on my hands and knees, between "heeheehee hoo" breaths, I spoke rapidly to the assistant, who'd given birth four times. She repeated, "You're doing great," and waited calmly between contractions as I generated a few hundred dollars of revenue for my greedy boss. The second doc to stop by rolled his eyes and backed out of the room after my husband shook his head and waved goodbye, before sinking back down into the naugahyde side chair. After being assured by the assistant she'd run spell-check before signing my name, I surrendered the receiver.
The third of the obstetrical group, the humorless surgeon, returned to examine me. "Now, what?" I wondered, when I saw his facial expression. "I have some good news and some bad news," he said. "The baby's turned. It's no longer backwards. It's now sideways." I glanced at my husband who was squeezing the armrests of the chair so tightly his knuckles blanched white.
* * * *
I felt like I was stranded at the airport on Christmas Eve, watching happy families being reunited with loved ones, while I sat amidst the cast-off newspapers, sick of of the smell of soft pretzels. After trundling along the hospital corridor with an IV pole, I was now stuck in a bed with the probe from an internal fetal monitor screwed into my baby's head. I watched as new mothers in housecoats pushing tiny swaddled bundles, new grandparents carrying armloads of blooms, briskly walking nurses, tired interns and exhausted residents passed my door. I waved "hello" to the housekeeping staff who periodically came by to greet me and ask, "Are you still here?"
I wanted to go home. I wanted to be propped up on soft pillows in my own bed staring down at my cherubic faced, sleeping child.
My husband, after many hours of applying counter-pressure to my lower back as I wore a path in the linoleum, snored softly. Doctor Number Four arrived. "You've made great progress during the night," she said. "You can have an epidural now, if you'd like." Not wanting to admit to my fatigue, or to disturb my sleeping husband, I said, "I'll let you know if I change my mind." She shook my knee softly and said, "No need to be a hero." When he finally awoke, I whispered, "Get the anesthesiologist."
I had never seen him move that fast in my life. His feet didn't touch the floor between the end of the bed and the doorway. In less than 30 seconds, a guy in a green mask and scrubs was seated behind me on the bed. "That was quick," I said. I looked at my husband's face and saw the muscles in his jaw relax. He mouthed, "Thank you," over my shoulder to the masked man.
Within a few seconds after the needle was inserted, I fell asleep.
* * * *
The nurse was not smiling. My husband was standing. A plastic tube was placed in my nostrils. "We've lost the baby's heartbeat," the doctor said when he arrived. Seconds later, I was lying flat on my back in a crowded room with a pediatrician stationed at one shoulder, my husband at the other, an anesthesiologist next to my elbow, and over the blue drape covering my legs, which were being placed in stirrups for me, saw more gowned and masked people pouring through the door.
The baby's head was stuck. So stuck, when the cord attached to the suction cup on the crown of her head was pulled, my body was dragged the length of the table and the pediatrician and my husband were ordered to place their hands beneath my armpits and pull me back. It was a tug of war and we were the rope. Big beads of sweat erupted on the brows of those I could see above my knees.
I'd been given so much epidural anesthesia, I was paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't push or feel or do anything besides lie there. "Pick me up," I said to my husband as they pulled me back from the end of the table for the third or fourth time. His attention was directed towards the doctor/cockswain, so I turned my head to the pediatrician and said, "Pick me up, I'm going to vomit." After I dry-heaved, I made eye contact with the obstetrician, who looked like he was going to ask me what I would do if I were in his predicament.
I stared at him and said, "When I get on the bus, I don't tell the driver what route to take. Do what you need to do to get this baby out of me."
I don't know what he did or how long it took, because by that time, I was beginning to lose consciousness. I do remember, though, hearing a throaty cry and feeling warm tears cascade down my face as the doctor pronounced, "Here she is!"
They whisked her away and when they brought her back, the doctor beamed. "Hey Jane! Guess what? Your daughter got a perfect score on her first test."
Readers: Please see my earlier post dated November 18, 2012, entitled, "I Have NO Shame," which is a more light-hearted account of the day following my daughter's delivery.