Today is I-gots’s third birthday. (I-gots is what my son called himself up until a few months ago.) Actually, his birthday probably should have been yesterday, on the third anniversary of my last prenatal checkup. When we went in for that appointment, I was already a few days overdue and my stomach was, well, shrinking. I told the doctor I felt smaller, so he measured my belly. The week before, I’d been a thirty-six; that day, I was a thirty-four.
So he fired up the ultrasound, slathered the cold jelly across my stomach. Jabbed the wand into my side and, for a whole minute, maybe two, just stared at the screen. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, “I’m trying to find the amniotic sac, to measure the amount of amniotic fluid. But there’s so little left I can’t even get a reading.”
I asked him what that meant. He said, “It means we’re going to have a baby.”
We discussed the possibility of both a vaginal and Caesarean birth. I really wanted to deliver vaginally, and he was willing to let me try. But he warned us it might not work--since there was so little fluid left, and that fluid is kind of like the shock absorber during labor, the baby might not tolerate it.
A nurse guided us through a labyrinth of stairs and hallways to Labor and Delivery. Honey Bear went out to get our bag. (We’d sort of had a feeling something like this would happen). They checked me in, hooked me up to all the monitors. Started the Pitocin drip.
Pitocin, which is manufactured oxytocin (the hormone that triggers contractions), must have been invented by a sadist. Within an hour, I was contracting every two or three minutes--EVERY two or three minutes--for about a minute at a time. After a few hours, a nurse checked my progress. I’d only dilated to about a two.
More Pitocin, more contractions. No more dilatation. The nurse convinced the doctor to turn down the Pitocin for the night, so I could get some sleep. She even brought me Ambien (which didn’t work). I passed the night in a strange place between asleep and awake. Between excited and terrified.
By five the next morning, I’d been laboring for more than twelve hours--and I was up to about a three. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And the doctor wanted to insert a more reliable fetal heart monitor, one that takes its reading directly from the baby’s scalp. I knew I couldn’t handle that without an epidural.
The needle went in; the pain came out. It was glorious. I was certain I could go another twelve or thirteen hours--and that’s precisely what I did.
By ten-thirty, I was a five, maybe a six. I felt hopeful. By two, I was a five, maybe a six. I felt less hopeful. By five, I was—you guessed it—still a five. (Nobody really bothered to call it a six anymore.) I’d been in labor for twenty-five hours. And I-gots’s heart rate was dropping.
The doctor was amazed he’d lasted as long as he had. Still, he strongly urged us to think about a C-section. We thought about it for all of two-point-three seconds. Of course we’d do the C-section. Of course we’d do whatever was best for the baby.
It’s a strange thing to sign on a dotted line that reads, in big, bold letters, “You know, what you’re about to do might kill you, but we really
hope think it won’t.” And it’s a strange thing to let yourself be wheeled to the OR, when you’ve never had so much as a broken pinky, and sliced open wide enough to let a whole person through. Still, it didn’t seem strange in that moment; it seemed like the only thing to do.
A few minutes later, at five-twenty-seven in the evening, little I-gots was born. (And he was little, or at least skinny--six pounds, six ounces, and twenty-one inches long.) And my whole world changed. I’d never been a baby person, but suddenly, I was. I’d never felt the need to protect anything before, but all at once, I did.
But of all the things I gave him, I-gots gave me something, too. He gave me naptime, three or four hours every day that were well and truly mine. He gave me a chance to write (again). He gave me back my words.
And for that I’ll be forever grateful.