Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A major rustle in the straw

**Note: If you don't want to know what it's really like to have a baby, don't read :) This was written a few hours after I gave birth to Ber, and is more for my own memory than anything else.

"I wonder what would happen if you went into labor at 3am?!" "I don't know; I guess I would be in labor at 3 am."

This should have been a knock-on-wood moment. Instead, we slept.


"schnaufiiii" at 3 am: Pat's reminder that I was breathing like a train--far too regularly and heavily to let him sleep. He always said it just loud and often enough that I would join him in wakefulness. How thoughtful. "schnaufiiiii..." He rubbed my shoulder. I decided to move to the couch--I slept better there anyway.

A half-hour later, I started cramping (these were cramps, not contractions--right??). I timed them just to reassure myself that this was false labor. 4:09. 4:18. 4:27. 4:36. 4:48--aha! That one was definitely off, allowing me to write everything off as overreaction. This couldn't be labor; it was hardly painful. I fell asleep until 6:30 and took a shower.

More cramps. They had intensified. I began to hope that this was real labor so that I wouldn't have to go through these again. The water was hot and the tiles were cold. A strong cramp charged my pelvis, knocking the wind out of me. I left two wet handprints on the tile.

Pat came in. I told him what was going on. He just grinned. I heard him singing in the shower as I bumbled around between pains: getting dressed, packing, worrying about the dishes in the sink.

I called my doctor. No response. Hmm. Well, I'll just wait until he calls back--to see if this is even real labor or not. I mean, these are cramps, not contractions (obviously I've never been in labor before...).

They started coming 5 minutes apart around 7:20. Pat and I decided to go to the hospital. I started to try to control my breathing, and started groaning to ease the pain. We got to the hospital and stood at the front desk for several minutes. A lady in the back of the office ignored our "hello?'s" and glass-tapping.

Finally, I was checked in. I waited in the triage room until my cervix could be examined. At around 9:20, I was 4cm dilated and 100% effaced (I still don't know what that means). They broke my water at 9:45 to speed things up.

Things certainly sped up.

The nurse started to go over paperwork with Pat and me. Why now? The last thing I wanted to do was make decisions. Plus, Pat was listening to her instead of to me. "Hey, Schwein! Ich brauch dich, Mann!!!" I grabbed his hand as the contractions (cramps, in my head, no longer) reached the then-unbearable point. This shocked him, which is what I wanted. We changed rooms again, because I wanted to labor in a bathtub.

Pat supported me down the short hall--we stopped twice for my contractions, about 20 seconds apart. I got into the bathtub and squatted, leaning horizontally against the tub's edge. Pat massaged my shoulders and supported my head. "och... danke... ach!!! hilf mir du schwein!!! du hilfst mir gar nicht!" I will always love and admire Pat for putting up with this abuse.

The nurse came in to check on me. 5cm. Both nurses left.

I was getting really hot. "I have to get out, Pat!! Help me up!" I ran around the room, IV on wheels rolling behind me, with Pat frantically cautioning "slow down, honey!" I went from toilet to chair to floor to toilet in about 2 minutes, then hopped back into the tub.

I started pushing. "I have to poop!!!!!!" I yelled. By the time baby came, I had let everyone know this two or three times. "Don't touch my head!!" I commanded (I was a real devil. :( Sorry, Pat.)

The nurses came back and helped me from the tub to the bed. They checked me. 10 cm. The nurse pressed a red button on the telephone: "Emergency--we need Dr. Weibell here stat! We're delivering a baby!" It was 11 am.

I realized that what I thought was the urge to poop was (duh) the urge to push the baby out. "I need you to stop pushing, Angela."

I didn't push (for the most part) until the doctor was there, 10 minutes later. It was the most painful part of the experience. I vacillated between screaming and breathing calmly, depending on the intensity of the urge. Pat stroked my head and held my hands--this helped me to remain focused and to relax.

I had been lying on my side when the doctor arrived. Finally! I could push! When I did, it didn't feel right. I had to get off of my side immediately. I moved up to all fours, animal style. I pushed, grunted.

"Don't exhale when you push, Angela. You can do it--you're doing so good!" Pat was stroking my head. "Okay, another contraction is coming up. PUSH! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8..." They were counting, but I wasn't pushing. I didn't feel the urge, and didn't want to waste any energy if I wasn't in sync with the baby. Someone wiped me with a cold tissue. I squeezed Pat's hand and held my breath. I pushed and pushed until I thought I would faint, "Take a quick breath, Angela!", took a breath, and pushed again.

"There's a head! He has dark hair. Dad, you wanna come see?" I squeezed Pat's hand. He stayed (xoxoxo).

I moaned and pushed again. It didn't feel like anything was happening. I couldn't imagine that a head was down there. "Op, we've got an eyebrow! The hardest part is almost over!"

I took a deep breath and held it, pushing pushing pushing pushing.... exhaling with a scream and doing it over again. "He's out to the shoulders! We just need one more push, Angela. Give me one more big push!" I held my breath "PUSH! 1, 2, 3, 4, ..." This time, I was pushing....

"...We've got to flip her. Angela, we need you to turn to your back." I stopped pushing got off of my hands and knees, landing on my back and preparing to push again. I felt something squirming down there (WEIRD!) and realized that I was one push away from a BABY. I didn't know if I wanted to push anymore! I was commandeered by nature, however, and pushed pushed pushed again--baby popped out with a helpful pound from a nurse. Kind of like toothpaste squirting out of the tube all at once, she pushed down on my stomach and he slipped out.

I closed my eyes for a minute... elated and exhausted. It was 11:32. I looked down at the stunned, meconium-slathered thing in between my legs. I felt a decided kinship then. I wasn't doing much better: completely stunned that it was already over, slick with sweat and blood and amniotic fluid. The baby started crying, the afterbirth plopped out, and it was basically over.

And it's just begun.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to Spell a Baby Cry

Essentially, words are symbols: our primeval grunts and rumbles molded to an abstract linguistic construct. Those that are onomatopoeic perhaps are the least symbolic, the most literal and honest. At least, this is what my mother tells me when I ask her why she named me Wouaaa. Then she protests that she didn't name me at all. I named myself with that first wail out of the womb.

She complains that her spelling is the closest she could get to that wail, sighing about the limits of language. Nothing could capture that mottle-cheeked, tongue-curled waaah or wanhh or wu-wu-wouaaahhh. Nothing, apparently, but Wouaaa (Wou for short).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'll teach my boy the sweetest things;/
I'll teach him how the owlet sings.

--Wordsworth (from The Mad Mother)