“A doctor once told me, when I was pregnant with my first, that pregnancy brought out your body’s weak spots,” Becky the RN says. So in that respect, I get a foreshadowing of what’s to come. And what’s to come? High blood pressure, potential diabetes. We look at our parents and grandparents too.
My body isn’t as happy about walking as it used to be. My feet ache and it feels like Dakota is going to slide right out of me at any moment. I walk to the courtyard, paint my nails silver and read a book about Lady Jane Grey (who was beheaded after serving only nine days as Queen of England in 1574).
I’m reading about the injustices to these women treated like political pawns in a network of throne-thirsty sharks, meanwhile Charley is belittling me for not being able to work and basically take care of him. I can’t handle it. I want to scream or throw rocks at someone.
Instead I waddle around checking out my reflection in the tinted windows: a stick with a giant protruding belly. I look like a cartoon- a slow, waddling cartoon. Stop looking at me everybody, I will murder you.
Dr. Lukenaar has a new patient whose water just broke and two other patients are on magnesium IVs in Labor&Delivery because their waters broke and I didn’t even know you could remain pregnant when your water breaks!
So what does it mean exactly when your water breaks? It means the house your baby is living in has been flattened by a tornado. In other words, while my little Dakota is currently cushioned and protected by a bag full of amniotic fluid while she gestates in my uterus, if my water “breaks”, my “bag” will rupture open and a gush of clear fluid will flow out of my cervix and vagina, followed by continuous leaking.
What would Dakota do then? If Dr. Lukenaar decided it was still too early to have Dakota and wanted to keep me pregnant a little longer, she would do what she’s doing with her new patient in the room next to me: prolong delivery. And how would she do that? Like my new patient, I’d be placed on bedrest (so same as now without my daily walks and independent trips to the bathroom).
This condition is known as PROM (premature rupture of the membranes) and occurs in about 3% of pregnancies. If someone’s water breaks after 34 weeks they could go into labor on their own or the doctor might decide to induce them. It turns out 34 weeks is a huge milestone, (one I will hopefully reach in only six days).
However, if an expectant mom’s water breaks before 34 weeks, she will usually get IV Magnesium, antibiotics to stave off infections, and a steroid to help baby’s lungs mature. I got this steroid before I was helicoptered into Salt Lake- two betamethasone injections into my right buttcheek that hurt worse than hell. Turned out I didn’t have to have Dakota right away. Turned out I would be at the hospital for a lot longer than any doctor believed, with a well developed baby.
It makes me feel good knowing Dakota was a little ahead of the game with extra strong lungs, and I wanted to keep it that way (by staying pregnant). By the way she kicks the shit out of me I can tell she’s a fighter.
September 10th, 10pm: Sherry is my nurse again tonight. She’s the same nurse I had when I googled bump on my butthole and found out I had a hemorrhoid. Nurses are amazing because they refill your ice water and take your dinner tray and give you pills and they seem like friendly maids and then all of a sudden you need help going to the bathroom or you have to have a bump on your butthole checked, and they do it quickly and thoroughly like it’s just no big deal. At least, those are the good nurses, and Sherry is one of the good ones.
“Alright, dear, bend on over.” It’s like they are your temporary mothers and everything will be perfectly alright in their hands.
My mom was a nurse- a Captain in the United States Air Force and a very good nurse too from what I always heard. But when she came home my whines about absolutely anything were mostly an annoyance. I guess after working 12-hour shifts the last thing she wanted to do was continue nursing.
So I was an only child. From a huge family of cousins and aunts and uncles, I was this one unexpected entity all my own. I think this incredible nurse forgot that nursing was a form of mothering and that mothering was probably even more important seeing as it was something that you do for your own child. And the one thing that mothers tend to have going for them that nurses don’t (and usually shouldn’t) is emotion.
So I did think about what it would be like to be a nurse, but I would never be a nurse. I wanted to be there for my family the most. And when I was 13, I went to a Take Your Daughter To Work Day and had to clean up an old man’s poop and thought, “nope, this is not for me.” Instead, I chose to study whatever would let me read, write, create things and have emotions.
Nancy the RN grabbed my vitals around 8 pm, and was describing a story about her son. Nancy kind of strays from the nursing norm and shares a few emotions. She talked about the NICU, where the preemies wriggle around, cry, expand into a normal weight and learn to breathe and survive on their own. Nancy helps the nurses in the NICU, and wants to save the little ones that are going through withdrawal.
“What do you mean withdrawal? From their mother’s wombs?”
“No from drugs.” Because there are a lot of young moms hooked on opiates, like methadone and heroin, that end up with preemies. I thought about the one night I had toured the NICU with Jeanine, and I thought about the little babies the size of my forearm under red ventilator lights. I thought about what it would be like for any of the babies that were going through withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS) to be given this chance for survival and then to be returned to an addict’s household. And I thought about people I knew who couldn’t have babies or struggled with their pregnancies (like myself) and how unfair as fuck it was that young drug-addicted women could just go and get pregnant and keep the babies and raise them horribly. These women were the sharks, their children were the pawns, and their addictions were the biggest sharks of all.
During the 19th Century, expectant moms were regularly given morphine and scopolamine to relieve and erase the memory of labor. However, the side effects often led to more complications with delivery and the baby, and outweighed the temporary numbing of sensory experience.
In the 1820s, 30% of American women were having 10 or more kids. Abortion and birth control were rare, meanwhile only 3 out of 4 babies would survive and life expectancy was lower for women than men.
In 1920, my Nana, Eunice Lloyd Norris (at the time Eunice Hodge), was born in Tennessee. She was the 7th of 17 children. One child was mentally handicap, two of the children died before they were three, and one died in childbirth along with my great-grandmother Belle.
Belle was 14 when she got married and pregnant. She was pregnant for the rest of her short life. And when she did die, my great-grandfather remarried and had two more kids. I guess he was the shark and she was the pawn.
So how did Belle do that? And why? I’d like to think that, if not for a deep love for her children, she would have taken off and had her own adventures. Maybe she would have gone West and met a progressive man and studied literature and “found” herself. Maybe if she had lived in 2016 she would have finished school and married at 30 instead of 14. Maybe she’d have been like me and gone to Asia for a year to blow her mind. She probably would have had doctors and nurses who could have helped her live and she would have lived five more decades. I don’t know. Maybe not.
I just wonder why we give some people a chance. Oh you’re a heroin addict? Let me help you have this baby you’re going to fuck up again when you get your hands on it in a month. Here is an opportunity to cheat death and yet it is taken for granted.
I didn’t want to take my Get Out of Jail card for granted. I was given the treatment needed to do something my great-grandmother could never do, and only on my first go-around. I wanted to be grateful, and to be grateful I would have to be such a good mom other moms secretly hated me for being so good. That’s how good I wanted to be.
I would be my own shark- as soon as my puffy face was back to normal and my blood pressures were back to normal, and I could walk without feeling like my bag was about to break.
Holy shit, how did you do it Belle?
*To read “Notes On a Hospitalized Pregnant Woman”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521096910/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_awdb_x_Dcg-yb990NBWB