Birth Story, Part IV: Oh, you guys know each other? WELL I’M HAVING A F*CKING BABY.
Continued from these posts…
The shitty thing about the whole birth experience is that you truly do forget. I could give you a minute-by-minute narrative a few weeks after Henry’s birth, but now? Did I really go through that? You could tell me that I just watched an episode of “A Baby Story” and Henry was delivered by a stork, and I just might believe you. The whole experience seems so foggy. Faraway. Like a childhood memory you have discovered is less an actual memory and more a cobbled-together-narrative based on a parent or sibling’s account.
All that said, I’m sure I will overload the rest of the story with details and analyses and digressions and whatnot and you will want to call bullshit on everything I just said about not remembering so well. I suppose I remember but at this point I almost don’t believe it really happened.
A short recap, since the last installment of this story was posted in July (JULY?).
Preamble: What’s the deal with “birth stories,” huh? Part I: I eat jerk tofu. I lose…things. I pee myself…maybe. Part II: I get a contraction…”a”…as in one. Part III: But the contraction does not break, confusion. Hospital? HOSPITAL.
The timeline so far:
8pm: Pants peeing? Water breaking?
9pm: Into the shower. CONTRACTION begins.
10pm: Baby Daddy gets home.
10:30pm: I call midwife. She says bath. I say HOSPITAL. We leave for the birthing center.
We get to the hospital around 11 p.m after the most harrowing of car rides. I’d been okay-ish standing in the shower, and pacing the house, but I hadn’t actually tried to sit or lie down since the CONTRACTION! hit. When I tried to get into the car, my body revolted. For a moment I couldn’t figure out how to sit down, as if I had forgotten how to get my body into that position. When my mind and body figured the whole sitting and seat-buckling (oh, insult to injury!) thing out, and we got on the road, all clichés applied: willing lights to turn green and cars to go faster, wincing at every crack in the pavement, etc. Baby Daddy was too excited/focused to ask questions, which is good, because I didn’t say much. I couldn’t. I was too uncomfortable.
And that’s how I’d describe labor–uncomfortable. Unpleasant. I guess I should say, extremely uncomfortable, extremely unpleasant. Because though it was mightily intense, it’s not what I’d call “pain” so much as discomfort. But that’s not to diminish how truly difficult it is. In my experience, the difficulty of labor was how hard the work was, not how painful. If the notion of pain does apply, and I suppose it does, being such an ill-defined term, I’d reference the kind of pain you get when pushing your body to the limit (runners? athletes? help me out here?) rather than forms of sharp, acute, pain.
After labor I feel like I have more sympathy for those who suffer from chronic pain, rather than say someone who has had one painful experience. Like, for instance, labor. Which is to say, the two–suffering from chronic pain, and the one painful experience of labor (however long or short) are alike conceptually. During labor time slows down, and the “pain” is all-encompassing; it’s hard to believe that you will ever not feel the way you feel. You can’t do anything but pay attention to it. No matter how much you tell yourself or understand that you labor is a finite process, that the baby will come out and you will not be in labor anymore, it’s kind of impossible to believe.
While trying to keep it together in the passenger seat of the car, I honestly worried I would never feel normal again.
We parked in the hospital’s garage, on the third or fourth floor, not even close to the elevator. Because as much as my body was telling me “IT’S ON! THIS IS SERIOUS” I was strangely focused on remaining calm, acting like everything wasn’t a big deal, and not calling attention to myself. Because, you know, that makes a lot of sense when you’re IN LABOR. So it didn’t occur to me that I should be dropped off at the entrance, or that we should try to find a parking spot closer to the elevator at the very least. And it didn’t occur to Baby Daddy, partially because I didn’t communicate well. I wasn’t very honest, because I wasn’t very confident about what I was feeling (especially as the midwife on the phone had implied I was in very early labor or not at all). It wasn’t until we were walking across the parking garage that I thought, geez, this is really tough. I wonder if there is a better approach…
Then of course we take an elevator down a few flights, only to realize that we can’t get into the hospital by its main entrance because it’s 11pm on a Saturday night and you have to go in through the ER. Which is around on the other side of the building.
I guess we made it there somehow. I don’t remember the walking so much as how hard it was to breathe, in general, since the contraction really never, ever broke.
The attendant at the desk of the ER’s entrance looked familiar, but my brain couldn’t focus on anything but the CONTRACTION!. It wasn’t until I realized that she and Baby Daddy were just happily chatting away, while I struggled to breathe, about things UNRELATED TO MY CURRENT CONDITION, that the seriousness of the situation hit me. I was really in labor, things were happening quickly, but nobody was moving quickly.
I said nothing. My solution to not having the possession of self or energy for social graces but also not wanting to be rude, was to say nothing and instead just keep walking even though I had no idea what direction the maternity ward was relative to this entrance. I didn’t make eye contact with Old Friendly Mc-Not-Alarmed-Enough-that-I was-in-Labor nor Baby Daddy, but just walked off.
When everyone at the desk caught on to the fact that I was just wandering aimlessly, Baby Daddy and the nurse whose job it was to escort us to the 5th floor came shuffling after me with a wheelchair.
…I wish I could say this was just some funny one-off anecdote, but, you see, Baby Daddy is a townie.
I say that in the best way. He grew up here, in this small college town, and not obscurely. He knows everybody. Like, everybody. From simply having lived here for 34 years (with some small gaps for schooling and such). From having worked in a bevy of service industry establishments. From having participated in a variety of subcultures, from bombing trains as a graffiti kid to managing a head shop as a Dead fan. But, more recently, by being the chef of a well-respected and fashionable downtown restaurant. While this could be mildly thrilling when we first started dating, and has all kinds of side perks in the day-to-day, I could give a shit, on this particular occasion, that he knew:
1) The ER nurse, wife of a current good friend of his
2) The triage nurse, kid sister of an old high school friend of his
3) Our first attending mom-and-baby nurse, post-delivery, whose husband just happened to have done the tile in the kitchen of Baby Daddy’s restaurant
Because your partner knowing the support staff via a myriad of connections does not help the baby come out of you any easier.
I’d say “faster,” but that wasn’t really our problem. To be continued…