While the midwife was giving me the green light on the waffles, my mother was making her way to the hospital. Traffic and timing demanded that I wait, so I headed to the lobby. I took a seat in the waiting area, trying to look like I wasn’t in rapidly escalating labor. A woman wrangling three kids noticed immediately. She seemed alarmed that I was 12 days overdue. You should have them cut it out of you, she suggested helpfully. What are you having? I told her I was having a girl. Oh, she said. You should have them cut her out of you.
My mother called to rescue me.
I made my way out to the car. I was starting to feel a little bit angry. Angry that I was rounding 0:40-3-8 and leaving the hospital. Angry that I had to walk to the car. Angry that I could walk to the car, because if I couldn’t, they would let me stay. Angry that I had to wait for my waffle, because I was so clearly in labor and women in labor deserve an immediate waffle. Angry that I couldn’t even finish my waffle- I always finish my waffle, and my bacon, and then some eggs. Angry that I had to wait to use the restroom.
When I finally made it to the restroom, I was trapped by long contractions sandwiching my actual goals. Contraction, pull myself together and pee. Contraction, pull myself together and wash my hands. Contraction, pull myself together and dry them. If you haven’t noticed, labor- and, you know, all of pregnancy and the first few weeks postpartum- is rather undignified.
I decided that perhaps home would be a better place to continue laboring. At the very least, I wouldn’t have to wait to use the restroom. My mother dropped me off and walked to the store to pick up some stomach-settling pretzels, and I got in the shower. I had heard that showers are a girl’s best friend during labor.
I heard wrong. I knew it was a mistake the moment I stepped in, but I had turned the shower on and stepped in and that seemed like too much effort for nothing, so I stayed. I swayed back and forth and made figure eights with my hips and tried all of the tactics I remembered my midwife telling me about, but I couldn’t stop thinking that something was terribly wrong. Something finally twinged in the back of my mouth and I thought to myself, huh, I haven’t felt that since the last time I threw up. And then I realized what was happening. My ¼ waffle was making its reprise, along with the strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. 9I threw up right there in the shower, because the toilet two steps away was two too many steps away and shower-vomit seemed easier to deal with than floor-vomit. I surveyed the damage and wondered if maybe the strawberries had multiplied in my stomach. I didn’t remember eating that many strawberries.
My poor mother arrived to find me curled up on my bed- I would have been in my bed, but maneuvering blankets was well beyond my capabilities- and mumbling something about the shower. She probably thought she had cleaned up my vomit for the last time sometime around middle school, but alas. That’s what you get for trying to support your grown daughter as she makes you a granddaughter, I suppose.
I heaved myself out of bed to throw up again, this time in the toilet. I’m really getting the hang of this, I thought proudly, and then I threw up again. When I had emptied myself of waffles and strawberries and bananas and whipped cream and bacon and felt somewhat better, I tried to replace my meal with Gatorade. I succeeded in downing perhaps a third of a bottle, which seemed like adequate nutrition for the whole birth thing.
I lumbered around the living room, pausing to lean on the table or the couch whenever a contraction came along. The midwife who send me home to labor had given me some last-minute pain management techniques, and my mother gamely followed my orders. First we tried the smoosh-the-hips-together tactic. That made things much worse almost immediately. The sock-full-of-tennis-balls trick was similarly counterproductive, and hanging off a doorknob in a deep squat was simply not happening, given the absence of prerequisite arm strength.
In the end, I only needed two things: absolute silence, and absolutely no one touching me in any way. So my mother sat in silence while I waddled around the room, and when my father arrived he sat in silence too. I initiated whispered conversations in between contractions and became agitated when my parents, not feeling the contractions themselves, didn’t stop talking mid-sentence- mid-word, ideally- when each began. At some point I became convinced that our piano-playing neighbors, who had long since vacated the apartment upstairs, had bequeathed their piano to our new neighbors. Our new neighbors were playing it for the first time. Now. While I was having a baby. Must they ruin everything? “The old neighbors left their piano for the new neighbors,” I said, but I used a lot more expletives. My parents didn’t hear any piano, because our old neighbors didn’t actually leave their piano for the new neighbors, but they had grown accustomed to my angry outbursts and didn’t question me.
So I waddled in agitated silence and my parents sat in excited silence and finally, around 0:40-3-18, I gave up. The midwife had explained when I should only come in after an hour of unwalkable, untalkable contractions. Or if my water broke. Or, she had added as an afterthought, if I got tired. Some women just get tired faster, she said, and that’s ok.
I could still walk and talk through contractions- I didn’t, for the most part, but I could– and my water was still irritatingly intact, but I was done. I was just one of those women who get tired faster. I swallowed my pride and called the midwife.
Wait, no. I swallowed my pride and my mother called the midwife from the another room, which satisfied my desire for absolute silence and humored my entirely rational fear of using the phone for such basic tasks as “ordering a pizza” and “asking the hospital if I could please come have a baby now.”
So my ever-obliging mother called the hospital. The midwife who sent me home invited us back, even though I met precisely none of her criteria. My mother, verging on late for her evening shift, left for work. I can only assume she was completely focused on her patients and not at all distracted by the imminent arrival of her granddaughter.
My father followed his GPS to the hospital and pretended to listen as I aggressively and intermittently growled directions between contractions. He delivered me to the midwife, who was waiting at the curb with a wheelchair. She was surprised to see that I was still walking and talking through contractions. I silently dared her to throw a hundred dollar bill on the ground and watch me pick it up, but alas. She did not. We walked up to labor and delivery, and my father headed off to find parking and something to eat. I had requested moral support until things got real, and it was clearly going to be a while.
My amazing live-in husband arrived- from right down the hall, where he had been working all day- as I was checking in. Someone asked if I was still planning on a drug-free birth, and I almost laughed. That was never my plan. My plan was to see whether the pain grew more intense than my long-cultivated fear of long needles to the spine, or, more simply put, my plan was to wing it.
At 0:40-3-18.5, a long needle to the spine sounded reasonable. I was obviously not progressing, since I could still walk and talk and I would have picked up a hundred dollar bill. I might even have picked up a single dollar bill. The tiny human was taking her time. Might as well get comfy, right? Bring on the epidural.
Before they placed the epidural, though, they had to go through such formalities as “making sure the tiny human isn’t in distress” and “making sure the tiny human isn’t coming out, like, right now.” The tiny human wasn’t in distress, but I was further along than they had expected. More than 9 centimeters. Nurse Tiffany looked at me in alarm. “Why are you so calm?” she asked. “How are you OK?” I wasn’t OK, exactly- I was just dealing with pain how I usually deal with pain. You know, by continuing to walk and talk and pretend like nothing is happening in hopes that maybe it will go away.
The long needle to the spine was back in question. There was still time to do it, Tiffany explained, but in her experience the epidural usually slowed things down. I had made it so far on my own, and I was so close, she reminded me, and I would probably have a tiny human in my arms in an hour or two if I opted out. Then again, she argued with herself, the pain. There’s that.
I opted out. I had made it so far on my own, and I was so close, and I would probably have a tiny human in my arms in an hour. Two hours, max. How much worse could it get?
So I sent the anesthesiologist away and began part three of my birth story: Never Trust Tiffany.
Spoiler alert: if that part where I said “9 centimeters” made you feel uncomfortable, you probably shouldn’t read the next post.