22 hours of labor
I woke up at three o’clock this morning with the strangest sensation. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I was left wondering…does the body remember as much as the mind? Because while I was rolling over, trying to find a more comfortable position, it occurred to me that at that exact moment twenty years, ago I went into labor.
It was February 5, 1990 in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and there was a snowstorm raging outside. I was lying in my bed, on top of the covers, with the windows open—curtains blowing madly in the wind—and a small drift of snow was building on the sill. At three am I still hadn’t fallen asleep. Despite the snowflakes falling around me, I was hot. Pregnant women have messed up internal temperature regulators, and mine was on full blast. I continued to search for a more comfortable position but with a midsection that extended at least two feet in every direction, I wasn’t having much luck. My then husband was burrowed down under several layers of blankets and a down parka trying to stay warm. He had given up trying to negotiate for closed windows and heat weeks prior. You don’t argue with a hormonally challenged woman in her final days of pregnancy.
My due date had passed three days earlier, and I was beyond ready to have my baby. My bag was packed, an entire box of popsicles was at the ready in the freezer, and the names were finally picked out. And I had insomnia.
And there was a blizzard in my bedroom.
Flash forward to twenty years later, and my water breaking is just barely a memory. I do remember the harrowing two mile drive to the hospital in the near whiteout. But I’m not sure if it was the weather or my ex-husband's bad driving that was the scariest. I don’t remember checking in at the desk, but I do remember everything about the birthing room, including the wallpaper, the beeping monitors and what was showing on the TV. I know David Bowie was on Joan Rivers that day, because when I told my ex-husband that a contraction was coming he informed me that he was busy watching said program, and could I manage my contractions on my own for a while.
Important qualities to have in a Lamaze coach:
1. Coach should attend all Lamaze classes and remain awake all the way through class.
2. Coach should not treat contractions as first down and ten to go during the final quarter of a closely played championship game. (absolutely no shouting “push harder…you’re not trying!”)
3. Coach should not complain about how much sleep they are missing and how uncomfortable the hospital recliner in the birthing room is.
4. Coach should not remind you of how long it has been since you were able to shave your legs or comment on how swollen certain body parts have become.
5. Coach should not disappear for long periods of time and reappear with crumbs on their shirt and breath that smells of fried foods.
Thank god for my mother! I can’t recommend highly enough having a mother who is trained in obstetrics. Lucky for me, my mother was a head nurse in the same hospital. When your mother is head nurse, they can’t throw her out! She actually paid attention in Lamaze classes, and she wasn’t grossed out when I needed help in the bathroom.
After several failed epidurals, one smashed IV, puking on the anesthesiologist, the father of my child being kicked out of the delivery room by my mother, and generally being naked in a room full of strangers, (although after twenty two hours in labor, I would have flashed the janitor if it would have moved things along faster) I made it through labor relatively unscathed. I finally had a baby boy!
My ex husband took one look at his son’s impressive little package and exclaimed, “That’s my boy!” To which my mother quickly burst his bubble by telling him it was just swelling from the hormones.
As I watched the clock inch towards midnight, and my son’s birthday was just minutes away, I looked back at the crazy day I brought him into the world and smiled. I would do it all over again to be lucky enough to get a baby half as wonderful as my grown up boy has become.
Just maybe not today!
Until the next time…I’ll be keeping my legs crossed!