And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

This is my second time returning from Africa to the United States. People have asked me what I think will strike me in my return. Before they ask they regale me with their stories of crying in grocery stores and being shocked by the huge disparity in wealth. I respond in my best jaded voice that I’ve already done that. It’s true, I have; I remember the grocery store, the Vons right next to my mom’s house. I have seen the poverty deferential already, I have seen our penchant for stuff that we don’t need, i think I can navigate that with some wisdom. A warming box for baby wipes, specially shaped pillows (ones for your neck on the plane, some for the pregnant belly, others for supporting the baby so he won’t roll over, others with built in speakers, etc.), all the different lotions and potions we have for our faces, hands, bodies, and hair. I could go on for hours.
I think what has caught my attention this time around is the orderliness of our environs. Our traffic patterns are orderly and calm. Our lawns are manicured and in neat little squares, they are lined with trees, and shrubs cut to the same size and shape. Our houses are filled with organizational devices, boxes, drawers, baskets, etc.
We worship time and coddle it like it is the most precious commodity. My mother in law has subscriptions to almost every women’s magazine there is that pertains to making your house a home. I usually eschew these and dodge them like a werewolf would a silver bullet. More accurately, I read them, and then I hate myself and I hate them afterwards. Often they are only full of articles that make me feel guilty, lazy, fat, out of style, and incredibly unorganized. My house is not decorated in the latest colors, I have several drawers of crap that I have not opened in months and could not tell you the contents of, I only own three kitchen knives because that’s all I need, and I will probably not decorate my home for Christmas in only shades of green, or take an entire day making apple danishes from scratch.
One was full of ‘time saving tips,’ such as re-organizing your grocery list so that it is organized in order of how you will walk through the store. You start in the produce aisle, put all the produce first and on and on. I think that would take more time than it will for me to run back and grab the item that I always invariably forget. Actually I would probably organize the list and still have to run back and grab something. Another was to create zones in your kitchen for everyday tasks, such as a baking zone or a lunch making zone. Who has that much space or stuff? Can’t I just pull the knife our of the drawer, doesn’t that take as much time? I remember seeing one tip where you placed boxes in your fridge of all the stuff you needed to make lunches. Can’t I just remember the mustard is in the door? I think we are trying too hard to come up with handy time-saving tips. There was one article with 25 clutter reducing tips, my mind got cluttered reading all of them. Which room am I supposed to use clear glass containers? Which room am I supposed to use lined baskets? How many file folders should I have? Where do I keep them? Who has this much crap?
I know that I am only in my late twenties but I have noticed that these magazines seem to have the same articles over and over again. You can tell what audience they are shooting for by adding ten years to the models featured, and they are wearing versions of the same eye-poppingly priced clothes that no one with a normal life will ever wear. There is the article with the star who talks about how her life is great, usually subscribing to whatever Oprah-ism is of the moment, or talks about rising above her checkered past, still espousing Oprah-isms. There are the articles about how to take care of your hair and skin in whatever season we are in, usually tagged ending in a litany of products that will solve your dry winter skin or your frizzy humidity ravaged summer hair.
This winter they seem to all have ‘helpful’ articles on ‘how not to get sick.’ One lists helpful tips such as: don’t shake hands, we’re all socially isolated as it is, let's not make it worse. I am honestly a little floored at how sanitized we strive to be, we are a nation of germaphobes. There are antibacterial wipes in the front of grocery stores to wipe down your cart handle, my mother-in-law saw a woman wiping down her whole cart. To which we both thought, ‘what are you gonna do, lick it?’ There are warnings on newscasts of what can make you sick, and apparently everything can. Your ‘green’ grocery tote bags will make you sick, because the meat you put in them might leak and get on your other groceries. Apparently there is bacteria everywhere, in your makeup, on the bottom of your purse, in your sheets, in the mints at restaurants, etc. Some of this bacteria means you should replace these items constantly. Like your makeup, every three months it should be replaced. I have had the same bottle of foundation since college (tells you often I wear it), it has never made me sick or given me a zit once. I am also not in the practice of eating off of any of these items, when was the last time you licked your mascara wand? So when I see all these warnings about what can make you sick I think what are really the consequences here? So you get sick? You get the flu, you get a cold, what happens when that happens to you? You miss a few days of work, someone else has to drive the kids to school, you lay about on the couch for a few days. You will probably get rest that no American seems able to afford themselves, we are too busy organizing our crap and re-decorating our homes in the latest colors.
I have also allowed myself to gorge myself on our media while I am here, as evidenced by the magazine reading, and I’ve been allowing myself to watch TV with almost wanton abandon. I haven’t watched TV or read magazines in almost a year and a half and it keeps me occupied while breastfeeding, an activity I find myself doing about two hours a day. I know, shouldn’t I be lovingly gazing at my baby? I do, but that can only keep you occupied so long. I am struck that we are a people obsessed with being ‘cool.’ And what we think is ‘cool’ is ridiculously off the mark. Our sports heroes do ‘cool’ dances when they score in the endzone, we have scads of commercials for new ‘cool’ technology, we have pop stars dancing across the screen in tight leather outfits doing advertisements for these technologies. Here I sit in my shabby clothes that don’t fit anymore, with my newborn child experiencing cross-cultural shock watching all this and feeling remarkably un-‘cool.’ But why? Shouldn’t I feel cool; I just brought life into the world, the one thing that the survival of the species rests on. I live in Africa, how many Americans can say that? We base our standards in people and things that are incredibly shallow and superficial, and maybe even not too smart. Technology is ephemeral and ever-changing, what’s in-style is also ephemeral and ever-changing, not too mention something that is deigned by designers and we are expected to follow and change every year. Kinda makes me feel like a tool.
Of course you can find programs about life changing events like birth, but they are overshadowed by things like ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’ A program focused on the most frivolous part of a life-changing ceremony. We seem to know that our homes are important, yet our media focuses on the walls and closets rather than the people that truly make the house a home. We know that weddings are important, a ceremony that marks the passage of two becoming one, yet we focus on the outfit rather than the two who are making the union. I guess appearances are more entertaining than really examining our lives….

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It is strange to have a newborn baby right around the time of Christmas. Talk about a very real object lesson. We hear from the pulpit about the preciousness of the gift of Jesus and his humbling himself to come down to earth as a person to walk with us and give himself up for us. We hear songs of an infant born to the Virgin Mary, a swaddled babe sleeping peacefully in a manger. We see nativities with a serene bundle in a trough and smiling parents beaming down upon this blessed child, usually with hands prayerfully clasped. It makes you wonder though, I look at my precious baby whom I have just spent hours pacing our apartment to put to sleep, who can go from innocent and angelic to a screaming red faced imp in a moment, what was He like as a baby? I don’t know about original sin, I do think we come into this world with a sinful nature and I think we come with a drive to survive. Babies are the epitome of ‘survival mode,’ all they know is there own needs. They need to sleep, eat, be held, and poop and if any of these things hurts or isn’t happening they let you know, loud and clear. Crying is their form of communication and while it hurts our ears and causes psychological pain for mothers in the beginning it is an innocent deploring for help. They can’t feed themselves, they can’t clothe themselves, they need human contact and love and the only way to let you know is to wail.
Later on in life crying can become manipulative a wailing to make you do what I want, rather than an honest display of need. Hungry, tired, cold, I need love expands to I don’t want to share my toy, I don’t want to nap right now, and I don’t want to eat peas. Was Jesus never tempted to do these things? Did he not cry as a baby? I’m too realistic to believe that Jesus didn’t cry in Mary’s arms. In fact he may even have had a massive case of colic, where he screamed for hours on end. Did she want to flick him when he bit or squirmed during nursing? Did she cry and get frustrated? Mary may have even been so exhausted that she had irrational thoughts like all mothers. She may have even had post-partum depression. She would certainly be a prime candidate, think of her circumstances; knocked up by heavenly forces at fourteen, engaged to a man who was doubtful of her fidelity (can you imagine trying to explain that, ‘no really I swear, there was an angel and everything’), gave birth after a huge trip on a donkey fleeing for their life, in a barn! No doula, no midwife, no doctor, not even an annoying mother or sister, no women present. Can you picture a modern sterilized birth in those circumstances? Maybe the peaceful nativity scene should actually depict a tear-streaked Mary passed out on a bale of hay and a fumbling Joseph holding a squalling Jesus. Even more was it a hard birth? First births usually are, especially considering that she was a virgin, had no female help, and probably was exhausted emotionally and physically from her journey.
Maybe that’s the beauty of it, that it happened as it did. Jesus was born in a barn, he didn’t need a c-section, which in those days probably would have meant Mary’s death and Jesus’. That even if she was depressed she survived, she did it she brought Jesus into the world healthy, she raised him without the kind of support that we have today. Maybe that is the miracle that a baby was born with all manner of circumstances against him.
While holding my little child in church the other day I thought about this, the miracle of a baby. That this perfect little child is brought into the world. That through the blessing of modern science I and my baby are alive and well. I think we miss the point when we make Mary the perfect mother and the perfect baby. That this gritty, earthy event happened and everyone lived. I think that truly it is a miracle that my husband have made this baby and she is so truly perfect, when so much could’ve gone wrong that everything went so right.
It is humbling to think of my babies very dependence on me and my husband’s fumbling hands, and that Jesus entrusted himself to parent’s younger than us and a birth less medically protected than ours. He willingly acquiesced to the dangerous and delicate life of a human, just to make sure that we didn’t perish. Is this love or insanity?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Body Beautiful

Pregnancy and childbirth are the greatest physical experiences you can go through as a woman. They are these strange automatic processes that start without your knowledge and sometimes without even your desire. With my first pregnancy I knew that I was pregnant within days of conception. With my second I had a nagging suspicion that my period was not going to make it’s appearance.
From conception your body starts changing and doing these odd things that they have never done before, everything you have ever known about your body changes and you are dealing with this whole new creature. First my skin broke out, which it hasn’t done since high school, and then it was clearer than it ever has been. Then my breasts got huge. Then I got sick as a dog, but at the same time was so hungry and knew the only way to stop the hunger was to eat, driving me back to the fridge three times a night, after dinner. Then there was the heartburn, nine months straight of heartburn. All the while your belling is growing like something out of a science fiction movie. For all the strain that your body goes through it’s really quite amazing that you can come out looking basically the same. I didn’t get stretch marks, which I raise my glass to good genetics for that stroke of luck, at the end of my pregnancy I marveled at my still smooth skin because how could it go through all that stretching and not get destroyed?
And then you go through childbirth, which is this amazing automatic journey that your body goes down without your say, opinions, or desires taken into account. All these automatic processes begin, things are contracting and dilating as fast or as slow as they will. If all goes well you end up with a healthy baby.
Then, oh and then, your milk comes in. After having my breasts poked and prodded in the hospital, with this strange fluid coming out and attempting to suckle a child that continually falls asleep, my milk actually came in. Picture this: the power goes out in our little apartment, a friend is over holding my new baby, and I feel like someone has replaced my breasts with boulders. The first advice they give you when your milk comes in is to take a hot shower, because I had a non-waterproof dressing I could not take a hot shower. So the next option was a hot compress. So I am standing in my dark bathroom with Scott’s headlamp balanced on a shelf, a towel across my belly to protect my incision, boiled water in a bowl in the sink and two hot washcloths held against myself, I am dripping everywhere, and my breasts look like those fake bagel boobs that you see on bimbos on Dr. 90210. I think when I see this, ‘why would anyone do this to themselves on purpose?’ My head is tilted back in sobs, my poor husband keeps coming in and asking me what I need, to which I wail in reply,
“I don’t know!” Because truly I didn’t.
There you are: where your flat stomach used to be you have a flaccid gut, where your perky chest was you have these large unpredictable breasts. The strangest thing about all this is that at this point you are at the culmination of your womanhood. This is the thing that our bodies were made to do, men can’t do this. When I see women who haven’t had children yet I think,
“You don’t even know what you’re capable of, you don’t even know what your body can do.” I don’t tell them this, because understanding doesn’t occur until you have a baby. In our politically correct times it isn’t okay to tell women that child birth is a part of who we are and of what we are supposed to do. We tiptoe around the infertile and those that have chosen not to have children. In these times when we are thinking about overpopulation we have forgotten that we have an urge to propagate, that we are animals that need to further our race. With readily available birth control and in a do what you want culture we have forgotten that sex is for making babies.
As I was walking around Heathrow airport with my new baby in a sling across my achey torso, I saw all these posters of models and actresses advertising perfumes and makeup. There was Kate Moss in a black bustier promising me beauty if I bought this makeup. There was Scarlett Johansen popping the cork on a champagne bottle promising me elegance and fun if I wore this perfume. Never mind that that particular ad was ridiculous because nobody looks like that when they are popping a cork, largely all eyes are squeezed shut and faces ducked down away from the bottle because I think whenever a cork gets popped everyone in the room is a little afraid that it’s going to shoot them in the eye. Looking at all these promises and ideals of femininity I found them ridiculous and felt that I had absolutely nothing in common with these women. I felt my distended belly, my aching back, and swollen chest and thought that there was nothing more foolish than these overdone pictures. The advertising was completely lost on me, knowing that no matter what kind of perfume I put on I would still have a belly to contend with and a baby to feed.
Why is it that these women are our ideal? They don’t look like women that would be interested in child bearing, much less even physically capable of it. They don’t even look like they eat. Why is it that we have made body fat, the very thing that allows us to get pregnant and then support the baby the enemy of beauty? Here I am all belly, boobs, at the height of my womanhood, my body has done the very thing that women’s bodies are capable of doing and I am so far from what we consider beautiful in our culture that I have been avoiding mirrors that show anything below my shoulders (unless I want to check if my stomach has shrunk).
Our cultural ideals have so far removed us from what is feminine by touting images that are too thin to be healthy and denying that childbirth is a part of us so ingrained in who we are that every woman I have seen struggle with infertility has gone almost mad. I say we take the power back, the ultimate act feminism is to say that who we are and what we can do as women is so precious and so important that we are proud of it. No matter how thin models get or how many toes we try not to step on feminism is being proud of who we are as women, we are not made as men and quite frankly my big behind is never going to be anything less than that. So get pregnant, get big, we are mothers and no one else can do that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Childbirth Education II

…..I am being wheeled into my labor room. I can see Scott and he’s holding a bundle of blankets in his arms,
“Is that my baby?”
“Yes, want to hold her?”
I just nod. He hands me this little creature wrapped in hospital issue baby blankets. She is sleeping, and she’s beautiful. Her face has perfect little eyes, a perfect little nose, and a perfect little rosebud mouth. And she’s mine. She has an indentation on the top of her head where her poor little skull was mashed against my body for hours and hours. Scott snaps pictures of us. He tells me that he didn’t stay in the operating theatre during our operation, watching his wife get cut open wasn’t his idea of fun. Turns out Emma had her back against mine through labor, which explains my back pain. She was also crooked and her head was cranked back, which makes sense because when I would contract my belly had odd an shaped lump at an angle, rather than a smooth oval of a back. The cord was wrapped around her neck three times. We didn’t know this because it had happened in between my last ultrasound and the birth. She was never going to descend. Dr. Rachel probably wouldn’t have called a c-section as early as I did, because she was being very respectful of my birth plans. When she came to see us later that day she walked in the room held out her hands and said,
“God’s providence.” We would have ended up in the theatre anyway, and probably under much more dire circumstances. This way I took the brunt of the trauma, and although our little girl was purple when she came out, she came out yelling. I would rather be the one with the healing to do.
I spent the rest of the morning in and out of sleep with my baby on my chest. The rest of our time in the hospital was a comedy of errors in communicating with the nurses and trying to figure out what our new little creature needed. Apparently she just needed to sleep, and that she did. I tried to feed her, and I think that I successfully did in those first few days, against my own anxiety and nervousness at ‘doing it right.’ Periodically nurses would come in throughout our stay and ask if I was breastfeeding, but would not offer advice. When one finally did I was so annoyed I just turned her down. Nurses and doctors would tell me to feed her every two hours, my friends who were parents all confirmed that children don’t really eat at all in the first few days. This seems to be a constant, the medical profession tells you what science says, while your friends and family tell you what really happens.
We spent our time ducking nurses with pans of medication, that they never explained unless I asked, trying to get them to leave our baby with us, they kept wanting to ‘warm her up’ (put her under a heating lamp, my child is not a greasy hamburger), bathe her, and ‘top her up’ with formula. We let them top her up once, she spit it all up, that’s my girl. The desire to give the baby formula so early in her life really doesn’t make sense to me at all, I’m not even producing milk yet. If the baby is only eating colostrum why does she need fake milk?
The nurses never seemed to show up when you needed them and always when you didn’t. So our new little baby kept us up all night, as new little babies are wont to do, and we are finally sleeping at 6am, this is when they choose to take my blood pressure or bring me hot chocolate. I would pretend to sleep and Scott would scare them off. On the first day in the hospital a few hours after I was out of surgery I was by myself, I think the nurses were bathing Emma while Scott watched and I realized that I needed to pee. I want to remind you here of my propensity to read everything during pregnancy, this comes from a deep vein of anxiety within my being, a desire to know absolutely everything so that I am not caught with my proverbial pants down. I didn’t read the section on c-sections, because I wasn’t going to have one of those. I may have given it a cursory glance, but did I commit it to memory? No. I don’t even think there was a part about c-sections in a few of my books. They make you believe that c-sections only happen to women who aren’t in control of their labors, to women who have not read their books, to women who will just let the medical establishment just do whatever they will to you. I am not one of those women, but I ended up with a c-section. So now what am I supposed to think? I hadn’t read the part in ‘What to Expect’ when it tells you to get a nurse to help you get out of the bed after your c-section. So I sat up, swung my feet over the side of bed, stood, swooned, and immediately sat back down on the couch across from my bed. Now in this hospital when you have gynecological surgery they give you a thick pad that looks like it was made in the fifties for women in the military, tell you place it between your legs with no underwear or anything to secure it to your body, and then ask you to perform feats of acrobatics such as hefting yourself from a wheelchair into a bed. Trying doing this without separating your knees, I dare you. So at this point I had removed said 1950s military issue pad, because I was going to the bathroom, and would take care of myself. Upon realizing that wooziness would not allow me and that I was firmly attached to an IV, I sat and thought about what to do. I managed to hit the nurse button, a nurse arrived, I pointed out that I was attached to an IV and needed to go the bathroom and that I would need a new change of sheets and robe because the aforementioned pad was no longer doing it’s job. She told me I could wheel the IV into the bathroom and hurriedly left and I continued to sit on the couch in this state of woozy frustration for the next twenty minutes or so. I grew tired of waiting and wheeled the IV into the bathroom and fixed myself. Apparently all of this you are not supposed to do right after a c-section. I seem to have recovered okay and am doing ever progressively better despite my ignorance and sometimes direct defiance of medical advice. Maybe ignorance isn’t terrible?
Ah well despite all these hiccups we got out of jail free and early. Took our baby home and spent the next few weeks in our sweltering apartment juggling our child, having friends visit, and taking small quick excursions outside the home. Until we took the ultimate excursion and traveled the 24 hours (two eight hour flights, and one six hour layover) from Nairobi to Chicago. Some parents we talked to were shocked that we were going to do that with our baby at such an early age, others were excited for us stating that will the perfect time to travel because all they do is sleep. Again another place where ignorance is bliss, we booked the tickets before Emma was born and were going to go whether I had stitches or not.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Childbirth Education

I read all the pregnancy books and birth books that I could get my hands on here in Nairobi. All of them ones that I knew to be reputable and written by responsible sources, and then I re-read them. I committed the stages of labor to memory, I knew all the terms, I wrote out an all natural birth plan, I acquiesced to a few interventions ‘in case of emergency.’ I was prepared to let my body do what it needed to do as women have been doing for centuries. I was ready to have an all natural beautiful vaginal birth that would be a culminating experience in my understanding of my womanhood. A beautiful rite of passage into motherhood, I would nurse my healthy baby instantly and instinctually right in the delivery room and walk back to my labor room, just like Dr. Bradley and Dr. Sears promise. (Why are there birth books written by men?)
By the end of my pregnancy I was so big and so tired that I am not sure that I even cared anymore. As a good friend said to me, ‘they can pull it out of my nose.’ Now the actual anatomical possibility of that makes one cringe it does send the message, by the end your back has never hurt so much, your ankles have never been so big, and you’re so large that you’re sure you’re being tracked by satellite. I still wanted that natural birth experience and was determined not to become a victim of overly controlling obstetricians and nurses.
After a few weeks of on again off again prelabor contractions on Saturday November 1st at 2:30pm they became fairly regular. About every five to six minutes I would have a contraction and they would speed up when we walked. I thought I felt a dribble of amniotic fluid that morning, in retrospect I am pretty sure it was sweat. We tracked these contractions for about fours hours and at the urging of my doula, Jane, we went in to the hospital at 6:30pm.
We gleefully leapt out of the car and bounded up the steps into the maternity ward of Aga Khan hospital. I entered the waiting room carrying my birthing ball jauntily under one arm like a beach ball, Jane looked at me and said,
“You’re still smiling.” A wave of doubt washed up my back and tensed up my neck. Did I come in too soon? Did I not follow the advice of everyone and come in to the hospital too soon? Was I destined to be watched too carefully and become a downward spiral of unnecessary medical interventions that leads to a false failure to progress and a c-section?
“Should we go home?”
“No, you’re here and you may have leaked amniotic fluid, we should get you checked out.”
Nurses usher into a series of labor rooms, starting with a meager one, giving us a deluxe suite (which we determine our insurance won’t pay for) and then back into one that is more normal. Eventually a nurse comes to check my dilation, Scott, Jane, and my friend Jessie leave the room, it is at this moment that I realize that some doctors and nurses are better at their job than others. After violating me and declaring me only 2cm dilated she leaves. My ‘team’ comes back in the room, the wave of doubt keeps crashing at the back of my neck and I feel that this is going to take a long time. We decide to stay a few hours until the doctor gets here and talk to her about whether or not I should stay.
Dr. Rachel arrives at 9:30pm checks my dilation, she is better at her job, and I have not progressed. We decide it’s best to send me home to rest for the night and see where we are tomorrow morning. Scott and I sleep as best we can, with me waking at each contraction and him in a more heightened state of nervousness than normal.
In the morning my contractions are still 5-6 minutes apart and increase to 3-4 when we walk, the same loop around our neighborhood that we have been walking for days. They are getting stronger and by late afternoon I have to stop what I am doing and focus on relaxing through the contraction. If I relax and hang my belly out and breathe the pain lessens and almost disapears. On our walks this, of course, bring stares as I lean against Scott. I close my eyes and ignore it, because I might just pop someone in the face if I catch them staring at me.
After a few conversations with Jane we go into the hospital at 4:30pm. Another internal exam shows that I have progressed to 3cm, this nurse decides to leave her hand in there to feel for a contraction and to see if my bag of waters is bulging. I rest in knowing that one day she will have to answer to someone for her masochistic health practices.
The next few hours are spent chatting, walking around the hospital with Scott, and me sitting on a birth ball. During this time we experience three twenty minute power outages, I am blithely not bothered by them, because I can push a baby out in the dark. Why would that affect me? At around 9:30 a different nurse checks my dilation, I have achieved 5cm. This is the night nurse, and she does not check for a contraction or my bag of waters breaking. I like this nurse. After this exam I elect to lie down to get some rest, because it still looks like it’s going to be a long time. I adopt the side lying position and pray for rest, which is hard to come by.
At 12:30 the same nurse checks me again, and announces,
“She’s at nine centimeters!” In a flurry of excitement Scott and Jane flank either side of me as I pull on a white hospital robe and hurriedly walk me down the hall to the delivery room. I haul myself up on the delivery room bed, the is a rush of nurses around us, and new doctors and personnel show up in the room. The nurse tells me if I feel like I have to take a ‘long call’ (go poop) I should let them know, because that means I am ready to push. Dr. Rachel arrives, she breaks my water (at this point I am so out of it I don’t even care and since I had not really formed any opinions about AROM I just let it happen), and gives me another internal exam, there is no announcement and whispering in the room. Now, with each exam I am gripping on tight to both Jane and Scott’s hands and trying not to squirm. My threshold for pain has gotten lower as my body has gotten more and more tired. I have started ‘sounding’ with each contraction because it releases all the pressure of each contraction. I do feel like I have to take a long call, but know that I can’t yet so I am no longer trying to relax with each contraction and feel as if I am almost fighting my body. I have to ask,
“How far along am I?”
“Five centimeters,” I can no longer put on a brave face, I cry out and tears roll down my face as I grip Scott’s hands. He leans in and whispers to me on each contraction. I don’t even know what he is saying but I know he loves me. Disembodied torsos and heads of nurses move around me, someone asks if I want painkillers, I shout yes, twice just to make sure they hear me. They give me a shot of Demerol and an IV of some kind of muscle relaxant, in the hopes that I can sleep. After this I am so groggy that I am falling asleep between each contraction, when I look up during the contraction I can see that Scott’s head is down as well. After awhile I try a bath to see if that will help, I give up when I feel it is not. Jane gets me up on the birthing ball again, I am so groggy I am falling off it. Back to the bed.
At 4:30 Dr. Rachel comes back, I have progressed to 7cm. I see a dark shadow of her face floating above the IV, she suggests Pitocin to speed up and help my contractions, I ask how much longer, she estimates two hours. I have read so much about it and heard so many horror stories about Pitocin that I know I can’t do two hours of stronger harder unnatural contractions.
“Let’s just do a C-section,” I announce.
“Wait, wait, wait, that was one of the last things you wanted to do. Why didn’t you want to do a c-section?” Scott won’t let me make a rash decision.
“I didn’t want them to cut through my abs and I don’t want a scar.” I left out the whole unconscious for the first hours of my baby’s life, but right now that seems like a fair trade off for more immediate gratification. I hear Jane from behind me,
“They don’t cut through your abs, and you will hardly even see the scar.”
“Let’s do a c-section, can we do a c-section?” I beg.
In a matter of moments Dr. Rachel is putting a form in front of me that consents to the surgery I thought I never would have and I eagerly sign. Disappointment follows the nurses and doctors around, a black shadow in the background, but I am too exhausted to really give him the time of day.
I get lifted onto a gurney, I am wheeled into the hall, past my friend Jessie, she waves as if I am getting on a cruise ship (later she tells me I was so non-responsive that I scared her). Powerlessly I am wheeled about, soon a perky woman with a hindi accent appears at my head and puts a mask on my face and tells me to breathe in, it will stop the pain, it does. At this point I am writhing with each contraction, trying to hold my baby back. The perky woman (later I will meet her in a conscious state and will know that this is the anesthesiologist), asks me if I want a spinal or if I want to sleep. I choose sleep, sleep sounds good right now. She turns around and announces very loudly to someone that I want to sleep; this strikes me as strangely comical at the moment. I feel wiping and tugging down on my lower abdomen and it occurs to me that I am being shaved. I call out for the mask again, the perky woman plants it over my mouth, God bless her. Someone takes my hand I turn my head. My mind takes a few moments to register that this man in a medical mask is my husband. At this moment I can’t help but think how handsome he is….