Fri 19 Nov 2010
A year ago, at around 8:15pm, November 14, 2009, I was all laid up having a baby. The doctor had arrived, on the late side, having come from an emergency c-section. She was terribly hip looking with neat little glasses and a scarf wound around her neck (which the doula reminded her of, “Oh dear!” The doctor exclaimed, removing it, “I can’t believe I wore it during that last c-section”). I had been holding off having the baby for two inexplicable hours. When I say “holding off” I mean half-ass pushing for an hour and then more seriously pushing for a second hour. Two hours of pushing doesn’t really bode well in the world of labor and delivery. Things were starting to get a little tense and I could tell the good folks at Swedish were wondering, ah, what was keeping me back.
I had tons of excuses: I hated pushing (it felt, correctly described by my doula, like a reverse punch to the gut), I needed to wait for the actual doctor instead of my assigned nurse, I wasn’t really ‘into’ becoming a parent and had changed my mind, etc. etc. At one point my doula said something like, “It’s time to meet your son” or something referring to a ’son’ and I tripped out on that.
Up until then, we had been referring to the baby as Baby Schlag, Wolfgang, or simply The Baby. We knew he was a boy. We knew he had all the normal parts thanks to the grainy black and white ultrasound pictures. I personally knew that he had enormous feet, the kind that surfaced up near my ribs and were visible through my skin at certain points throughout the day. (At times, I would push on his little heel and it would disappear, lost inside my body). I had read a ton of books, folded and washed all his impossibly little tiny clothes, and watched TLC’s Birth Story religiously while I wound down every afternoon on the couch. I was as prepared as I could have been, but up until the moments leading up to his actual birth I was in heavy denial.
Having a baby was a nice idea, a theory, a thought I had always had. We would joke about how he would be really tall, like 5′5 when he came out. But actually having him was another matter entirely. (Yes, I went entirely unmedicated. And yes, it was really painful…but it wasn’t unmanageable). Up until my water broke at 2am, (10 days prior to the due date), having a baby was still off in the distance. We didn’t know what to name him, we hadn’t even packed a hospital bag, and I forgot to bring card stock for his baby foot prints. A sense of dread had been building up during my labor. Oh, sure I had mastered the terrible contractions and had come out on top roaring like a bear in triumphant glory: YES! 10 centimeters, let’s GO. But then I learned that my back labor was due to the baby being turned slightly and in order to get him back into position I would have to do the unthinkable and lie on my back with one leg crossed over my other leg. This felt so terrible I can’t even describe it to you. But it worked and pretty soon I was feeling as if the wind was knocked out of me…only down and out. ‘This isn’t at all what I expected,’ I thought for the millionth time. I did everything I could to escape the ‘pushing urge.’ Suddenly, I was a gymnast, all over my special hospital bed with the knobs, levers, cranks, rising the bed up and then down, turning the bed into some sort of dentist chair that could tip way back. I believed that, somehow, I would find the perfect pushing position and I could escape. I successfully slowed the pushing urge down to a gentle grunt. After an hour and half or so, the doula said, “You looked so powerful when you were up on that squat bar…let’s get you up on that again.” Damn.
And so the work continued, the sweating, almost puking, eyes closed the whole time, work of labor and delivery. But don’t get me wrong, I didn’t even look at it that way. It’s not like I was feeling sorry for myself or sad or pathetic the way you do when you’re, say, sick or dropped a garbage can on your toe or something. I wasn’t really thinking about anything, really, just focused in this really intense way. I would fall madly asleep in between these pushing bouts putting Josh into a state of amazement: “One minute you would be hanging off the squat bar fast asleep and then you would slowly rise out of it, huffing and puffing, roaring like crazy and then it would go away and back to sleep you would go.” Yes…that was me.
And so, when the doula said, “It’s time to meet your son” I was…I was…well, I was. A whole team of people had gathered around me, a towel was prepared for catching, machines and plastic implements and all these little beeps were ticking away the minutes. The baby was THERE, I mean, he was almost out, one more push and he would be out! But I made everyone wait.
I insisted that I HAD to feel a contraction in order to push him out and since I didn’t feel one, well, everyone would just have to wait. The nurse seemed flabbergasted: “But the baby is RIGHT THERE, one more little push and out he comes!” I shook my head violently, no, no…not until I feel a contraction coming on, I’m by the book like that. The nurse looked at my monitor, a series of arcs and flows charting my each and every move. “Well, I can see one is coming up,” She said assuringly. And sure enough, it came on and I finally surrendered to the inevitable: I would have a son. We would name him Isaac. He would come out with his arm wrapped around his neck. There would be nothing comparable in the world then when they plopped his screaming, crying, body on to my chest. I would become a parent in the crash landing, Oh My God, sort of way that everyone experiences during the first few weeks, months, (years?). He would be challenging, snuffly, tiny, cute, insistent, and ever changing.
When they say ‘it goes by fast’, they’re not talking like a Time Machine, or Warp Speed, or the Theory of Relativity. (Although, It is a bit odd to see someone triple their body weight in one year while you remain largely the same). They’re talking about how suddenly, it catches up with you, while you’re sitting on the floor of the kitchen sharing Cheerios out of a pie tin: your baby looks like a little kid now. There’s more hair and a clarity in their eyes and a depth to their expression. It was so subtle, so gradual, that you didn’t even notice. And then, there’s a subtle feeling of loss…because it was only a year ago that you made everyone wait…wait while you freaked out about having a son. And now, now, you have a son and it’s the most normal thing in the world.