Notes on a hospitalized pregnant woman Pt. 37

Dakota is 35 weeks and two days old, by fetus years. She’s weighing in at almost 6 pounds (according to the books) and the size of a Crenshaw melon, which is a cross of a Persian melon and Casaba melon.

I was hooked up to the NST twice today because supposedly there was only one 15 by 15 acceleration in my first session. I think it was a conspiracy to make me stagnate in bed longer until my bones rot. I wouldn’t mind too much if they’d stop coming right when I get my meals. Then again I’m lucky to have all this medical attention and should stop griping.

I think Dakota has hiccups. The monitor sounds like a galloping horse that’s regularly slamming into the side of the track. Those are the hiccups. Then there’s this issue of a tight cramping in my belly. I’m contracting more. Two contractions were literally off the charts.

Maybe it’s the weather? Nurses like to talk about this all the time. “Is it busy?” I ask the nurses every day. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Every day when it’s a little stormy and grey? It’s busy as fuck.

Barometric pressure is the weight of the air and gases in the atmosphere pressing down on us. It’s easy to assume that air particles are weightless, but they’re not, and some days more air is above us than others. Storms bring pressure to the air and the womb.

Many nurses believe that an increase in barometric pressure late in a pregnancy pushes women into labor. The pressure causes an “initiating event” where the membrane ruptures, and labor begins.

Maybe it’s the moon? The full moon has been linked to menstrual cycles and periodic insanity. Why not childbirth? Today is merely a waning last quarter moon, resembling the end of my toenail. 

“Stand in the direction of the moon and rub your belly clockwise,” says one believer. This is only advice for a full moon, though. Nurses, obstetricians, doulas and midwives talk a lot about how busy labor & delivery gets during these times. I’m not a meteorologist, and I’m usually not superstitious, but I do trust the medical staff on the floor keeping track of these things.

Maybe I’m just impatient for this to be over with or maybe I’m getting a little paranoid but I feel like I’m having regular contractions. Nurse Sherry says that my stomach would be rock hard and they’d be about every ten minutes if they were something to be worried about.

There are three kinds of contractions: Braxton Hicks, false labor and labor. Braxton Hicks are known as “practice contractions” and can occur at any time after the middle of your pregnancy. They might be helpful to ripen the cervix but they don’t cause any of the actual cervical dilation that would happen during labor. False labor contractions are irregular and usually stop when you change positions. And true labor contractions can start a few weeks before labor. They intensify with activity, become progressively more frequent, may include cramps and diarrhea, and can produce a pinkish “bloody show”. Eventually they’ll be accompanied by the water breaking, (aka. a rupture of your membranes).

Real labor contractions are caused by hormone changes- prostaglandins and oxytocin in overdrive. They are caused by the baby saying, “dude, let me out of here already” and mom being like “no shit, Sherlock”. They feel like gastrointestinal upset and menstrual cramps. I think I’m most likely experiencing Braxton Hicks because my belly isn’t hard as a rock yet, but with each tightening of my abdomen, my whole body gets a warm, butterfly sensation and I’m still anxious.

Blood pressure medicine doesn’t qualm the anxiety. My current worries include:  

  • What if my water breaks?
  • What if my water breaks in the middle of a good movie?
  • What if my water breaks while I’m sleeping?
  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I don’t think Google can solve all my problems.

Charley calls from his mom’s house. He just got off work and he’s heading out to pick up Adam who doesn’t have a car. I stop myself from saying the things that worry me.

“I love you. I miss you.”

“Everything will be better when you’re back.”

I talk to Tracy for a minute; tell her about my contractions. It feels weird talking about myself as a pregnant person. Who knew my body would be capable of creating a baby? And there she is, kicking and punching the shit out of me like a miniature Bruce Lee.

PBS is playing something about two people marrying and they say something about soul mates and now I’m earnestly missing Charley. I’ve had trouble watching anything romantic since I’ve been in the hospital because it just makes me miss him.

And I miss being outside in nature; the courtyard with the flowers and man-made fountain have lost their novel charms. I’d like to go on another adventure around the block or to goodwill but I don’t have the energy to do it. Even as I miss being out in nature, and stare longingly at the blushing mountains on the edge of the city, I’m too tired to go anywhere that could present a problem. 

It reminds me of when I was little and when the garage door would open my heart would leap in some ridiculous fear that I was going to get caught for some reason. If it were a summer day and no one was home to watch me, I could escape and walk through the woods and tennis courts and by the lake near my house, but most of the time I would just watch tv marathons, eat chips, dance in the living room to sixties music and daydream. Again, I am daydreaming. Meanwhile everyone around me is busy. Everyone is running around with a list of responsibilities and they’re too busy to notice the biometric pressure or the moon. 

A newborn is crying. Voices surround it but nothing compares to the volume and persistence of the baby’s howling cry. It’s embarked on a journey that’s new and foreboding. It’s left a charming little room inside a woman, to meet a cold and barren wasteland.

“Jesus that’s loud,” I tell Sherry the RN.

“You’re going to be having one really soon,” she says.

They all sound different though. Some are cute and some are annoying. On a scale of Julie Andrews to Fran Drescher, this baby was a Fran, and I could only hope that I would have more luck. With parents who could sing, and a mother-in-law with a sweet phone voice, I was pretty certain that my baby’s cries would be more adorable than a dormouse, but if I were to judge from my own pregnancy-induced croak, I could end up with a donkey.

Babies cry primarily because they’re hungry, sleepy, gassy, frightened, overstimulated, or they just want to be held.  They also cry because they’ve pooped, they’re hot, they’re cold, or they’re teething. Infants need to cry. Enjoyable or irritating, their cries are their sole form of communication. 

There is a basic cry followed by silence, an anger cry with more volume (which reminds me of a baby Red Queen ready to behead you for not pampering her quickly enough), and a pain cry, which is loud followed by periods of breath holding. 

Facial expression is a big deal too. One mom said, “When my daughter cried I just laugh, because I know nothing is wrong it’s just so cute. Her lip puckers. And she’s just so so upset.” 

Some people (usually not moms but sometimes moms) find baby cries to be maddeningly shrill or ear-splitting. Some people (usually moms) hear it as an art form, not too far removed from a welp or coo. Parents have described their baby’s cries as resembling foxes, screeching bobcats, dying rabbits and even peacocks. Some of the more bothersome cries sound like Siamese cats fighting or opossums mating. Some babies sound like a cat- “cri du chat” or cry of the cat- but in reality any baby with a true cat sound is very rare (1 in 20,000 to 50,000), and due to an abnormal larynx from a missing chromosome.

Researchers have begun analyzing  off-key cries in premature newborns with developmental problems. “Acoustic analysis” could help diagnose brain disorders and central nervous system disorders.

Intimacy and strong communication are essential to creating a wise and enlightened Buddha baby. People say to talk to your baby in an adult fashion. Read to your baby. Say many interesting things to your baby. Have a conversation like you’re talking to Woody Allen or Nora Ephron or Obama. Maybe still a coo here and a boop there to balance it out.

And while Dakota is still in my belly I can (attempt to) sing to her, to read and talk with her and to stroke my belly as a way of saying “I know we just met, but I love you very much.”