My feet look like potatoes. My nurse assures me she’s seen much worse but I tell her they’re usually very skinny so in comparison they’re potatoes.
Another nurse brings my copy of Vanity Fair. This issue features “Donald Trump: The Ugly American”, “The Big Obama Exit Interview”, and Benedict Cumberbatch. I can tell it’s going to be a good one.
Before Charley comes I want him to know where I’m coming from and to be understanding.
“I’m going to be tired too,” he says.
“Yes but this is different. I just want you to be supportive and not expect too much from me right away.”
“I don’t want you to expect too much from me either.”
“I don’t … Why do you have to bring you into this?”
And then it escalates and he hangs up. Staind comes on my playlist. It makes me feel extra sensitive.
“This is obviously an important time for you to be stress free,” he texts, “but dont expect shit from me either Im doing my god damned best I havent slept at all, just pissed.”
Okay. I’m going through shit and Charley’s going through shit, and my shit is very different from his shit. I have to deal with childbirth and he has to deal with being a man which is apparently a lot of work.
I think of Charley’s mom and how she said this was going to be karma for us and a hard marriage. Fuck you lady. I’m not going to let a damn mother-in-law doom my marriage with apprehensions.
“I love you Charley. I don’t want to argue with u don’t be on edge ok think of good things.”
He calls an hour later. He’s found the $450 he’d lost when he was drunk. “I think I was trying to stash it in a safe place.” It was in the spare bathroom. “I love you. Being sober and not sleeping. It’s been hard but I’ll try not to take it out on you.”
Sherry brings labetalol and ambien at midnight.
“Do you think Luikenaar would write me a prescription for ambien when I leave?”
“Oh no you don’t want take that, you’ll have to take care of the baby. You’ll be knocked out.”
“Oh shit, of course. I forgot about that.”
When Sherry had her second child she was working night shifts and her water broke at 36 weeks on shift. She had to come upstairs with a “big diaper” to write up patients.
I tell her about the lady I read about who was overdue by three months. The average pregnancy is 280 days. In 1945, Beulah Hunter had been pregnant for 375 days.
“Wow, was the baby okay?”
“Yes her name was Penny, and she came out perfectly normal.”
It’s Wednesday, October 12th. Nurse Stephanie says my feet will be swollen the first couple of weeks after childbirth because of the pitocin I’m using to induce the baby. And I can’t drive if I’m on any narcotics to ease pain which I might need if my perineum rips (that’s the skin between the vagina and butthole). On a brighter note, Labor&Delivery are going to help with the breastfeeding, which I want to start within the first two hours of birth to get the baby in the habit of sucking my breasts.
Dr. Luikenaar is in for the morning checkup. She was up all night delivering two babies and looks preoccupied. I ask about the GBS swab (to determine if I have strep in my vagina which apparently 1/3 of women have) and she says she’s just going to assume I do and give me the antibiotic.
“But why? the nurse last night said it had probably been long enough since I took the antibiotic for my ear.”
She said no, this was best, and yes now was the time for induction, and I shouldn’t fight her on everything. I felt like perhaps is offended her with my contention. “Oh,” I giggled, “um, I’m not fighting you of course I’ll just take the antibiotic”. Later Sherry and I tackled the issue and concluded that the high risk doctors upstairs wanted me out and Dr. Luikenaar wanted to perform the delivery after all this time hacking in on me daily, so the induction had to be now.
She said not to worry about breathing techniques and labor. I was worrying too much. It would just happen and everyone was different and I couldn’t prepare like I’m studying for a test.
But this is my last day to do nothing and studying is all I want to do. I google YouTube videos and articles about childbirth and other essential subjects such as “how accurate are ancestry DNA tests?” and “are the property brothers gay?”
Apparently the brothers aren’t gay, and you’re not allowed to eat during the labor period which, with my cervix probably not too soft, could be a long process of pitocin and contractions for 24-36 hours (after which time Dr. Luikenaar says I’d probably be asking for a C-section). There will still be a little pain, a lot of people are going to be looking between my legs, I’ll probably have to push a lot more than the one or two times portrayed in movies, I might poop-
What! I might poop?!
Yes I’ll probably poop. The structure of my vagina and perineum will change, and I’ll bleed all over the place, and yes, I’ll likely poop.
Iggy Azalea comes on Spotify and I feel like I’m going off to battle. Honestly, between miscarriages, vagina strep, upside-down babies, poop, hypertension, preeclampsia, premature labor, placenta previa, ectopic pregnancy, low amniotic fluid and other pregnancy complications it’s amazing anyone has ever been born at all, especially before the world of epidurals, forceps, ultrasounds, antibiotics, and know-it-all doctors.
A part of me is debating whether or not a c-section is actually a better option: to poop and fuck my vagina up, or to cut my stomach open. I don’t know! They both sound great!
And my doctor is just: Get it together. This isn’t a test. Please don’t let me stop you from being very important. I feel a little betrayed still. I should be here at least one more week watching bad tv and compliment about my cafeteria food and potato feet.
Still googling childbirth, I find a blog entry from a woman observing two other women chatting about their childbirth experiences at a beauty salon:
“They talked about the horrors, the pain, the drugs, and the weeks of bleeding during recovery. None of it was talk of empowerment, of amazement at what their bodies were made to do, or of the pride of coming through labor and birth triumphant and ecstatic. … wouldn’t even think about refusing an epidural … they are dangerous”
Huh. I’m getting an epidural for sure. Fuck that. No hovering on my hands and knees or hydrobirth for me.
Tika the Nepalese cleaning lady comes in, fiddles with the trash bags and stares at me. “You luke tyured tooday. … Yore face.”
“You’re always full of compliments.”
She smiles and keeps cleaning, so I try again. “You look tired too.”
“I am! I’m soo tired. I get up urly and keeds at home and coooking, cleaning … sooo tired!”
Marilyn comes in with little Taz, the perfectly groomed schnauzer. She is excited for me to experience childbirth. She says it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced or imagined. She has a big, shiny pink box with a white bow. Inside is a pink, old-fashioned piggy bank for Dakota. “You write on it with permanent marker: name, size, weight, place and date of birth, and whatever else. You’re an artist, I think you will make it beautiful.”
Marilyn says she’s having eye surgery this weekend to correct a shifted cornea, and Taz has some questionable spots on her underside that might be cancer and is going to the vet for a biopsy this afternoon. I can tell Marilyn is abnormally worried and a little down and I feel horrible. What can I do?
Taz lays on my lap and I pet her fuzzy chin. Marilyn takes my hand in her leathery old hand. “You’re very special to me. You know, in all my years of doing this, my heart has only gone out to two people- you and a 92-year-old man.”
“Oh? Where is he now?”
“He died last year.”
“Oh I’m sorry.”
“No, he had a long life. He was ready to go.”
His name was John, and he had lots of books and art on the walls. He’d been a marine and a newspaper editor. I was flattered to be placed in such high esteem with a person like 92-year-old John O’Connor.
Reiki is 45 minutes today but feels like ten. Chimes and faint chanting. I feel like I’m in a womb. The air is wet.
Marilee comes in with booklets and a crash course on childbirth. First there’s cytotec, 1/4 a pill stuck up my vagina to soften it. I’ll get that tomorrow night, and every four hours through the night. Friday morning I’ll get pitocin (an artificial version of oxytocin) to induce labor. Once I’m dilated to about four the nurses will break my water, and I’ll get an epidural in the form of a catheter in my lower spine. It’s my first so it could be anywhere from 1 to 48 hours. Who can tell. Marilee says she’d love to tell me exactly what will happen but she doesn’t have a crystal ball. She shakes my hand and leaves the booklets. She also says she’ll return with a video and check on me tomorrow and Friday.
Ahh, homework. So it isn’t “like a test” but reading material is very nice. Booklet one tells me to visualize calming scenes like my favorite place or an ocean wave slowly rolling in as I inhale, and rolling out as I exhale. “Breathe in energy, blow away pain”.
This all seems like a lot of work and chaos and I’m wondering how so many women who don’t seem able enough to clean their rooms somehow go through childbirth. I guess instinct probably kicks in and nurses do the rest.
I’m feeling annoyed about this 38-week induction again. The nurses are happy I made it this far- instead of 30! Or 32 weeks!- and the doctor says I’m lucky but I don’t feel that way. If my cervix isn’t ready and everything is looking good besides my pressures which can be controlled, then why the rush? What would a doctor have said somewhere else? Was my health really that much at stake? Obviously it’s too late to change the date now and I just sound like an anxious hormonal pregnant woman. But if I’m ever pregnant again I’m going to do my best to stay home and do things completely on my terms.
Mom calls. She wants “the plan”.
“They’ll first give me cytotec tomorrow night-”
“No I’ll get that Friday morning! First it’s cytotec! They stick it in my vagina! It’s to soften my cervix!”
Since Charley didn’t get his license she starts telling me all of the things that could go wrong. I tell her she’s not telling me anything I don’t know and wasting my time and stressing me out.
“Okay, I’m separating myself from this,” she says stiffly, “I’m not going to tell you-” but she continues to tell me anyway: what could happen driving without a license, how irresponsible and dangerous-
“FUCK.” I hang up.
I take a walk. My legs are weaker every day. Charley is in Moab for the night. He’s probably with his stupid friend John. Two old ladies try to talk to me in the elevator but I have my headphones on and pretend I can’t hear them. My head is pounding again. Back in my room, I call for Tylenol, and Stephanie brings Tylenol and a warm blanket. Dakota kicks.
“Dakota- uh, the baby’s kicking. She likes these blankets.”
“You named her?”
“Oh yes, Dakota Raine-” Dakota kicks.
The theme for Tarantino’s “True Romance” comes on my Dakota Spotify playlist. This song- “So Cool” by Hans Zimmer, it gets Dakota really going. I already feel like she’s going to be so cool.
“It’s a beautiful name,” Stephanie says. She says she hopes to meet Dakota. She might work an extra day just to meet her. I insist that she does. Dakota would love that. Stephanie smiles and then unexpectedly she gives me a big hug, and I feel good again.