Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Arrival Pt. 1: Labor Strike!

I was going to write here about our nesting adventures, and how I gave up my comic book collection, and sold my much-hated bedroom set. But nature had other plans.

For that reason I thought I would tell you about the birth of our child, instead.

First of all, the baby was late. The original due date was April 3, but that came and went with little to show for it other than some false labor pains, and mounting frustration. We tried every old wive’s tale, and home remedy in the book to induce labor, but, amazingly, none of them worked. Randi spent several hours making a famed eggplant parm recipe that is supposed to induce labor in every waddling pregnant woman who samples it. We ended up with about 30 lbs. of delicious dinners for the next week, but no baby. Randi took various herbal teas that were supposed to help with birth, three times a day, every day. Nothing. Randi danced, every day. We drove on a bumpy road. Nothing. After being terrified of missing the birth of my child because I couldn’t get home quick enough from work now I wondered when this kid was going to come out.

We still didn’t know the sex, so in keeping with the spirit of how it felt then, I will have to refer to our baby—now very much alive, and very much a girl—as “it.” It just didn’t seem to want to get born. Things must’ve been going too well in the womb.

In the last visit we had with our midwives, they monitored the baby’s heartbeat in utero. We lived and died as the little graph fell below 120—what’s wrong?—but there was nothing else to do. Finally the verdict came in; the baby was to be induced on Monday, April 14.

Our hearts sank. We had invested a lot in the idea of a “natural” childbirth, that is a birth free of drugs, free of the hated caesarian section if we could at all avoid it. Now it looked like not only would we not avoid drugs, but that the C-section looked more and more likely. (Why the fear? Because when you get an epidural it can lengthen labor, which can endanger the baby, which leads to C-sections. Which leads to scaring, which leads to possible complications further on, etc.) But there was nothing else we could do.

Randi’s mother, Judy, showed up on Sunday, April 13. Her original plan had been for her to visit right before April 3, the first due date. But a senior person at her job, in a fit of pettiness, denied her that precious vacation slot, so this was the first chance she would get to be here. We welcomed her in, and all walked around Park Slope during a fairly gloomy spring day. It was an in-between period. Waiting for an induction is not quite a totally joyous experience; it’s more nerve-wracking and filled with feelings of listlessness, hope and anxiety.

That night for dinner we went to La Villa Roma, and had their fantastic “grandma” pie, and then we went home. The induction was scheduled for 6:00 a.m., Monday, April 14. There was nothing to do so at 10:30 p.m., nervous or not, we decided to try and catch some shut eye.

The contractions started almost exactly at 10:30 p.m., even before we turned off the light for bed. We started to time then, for how long they lasted and how far apart they were. By 11:30 p.m. we knew something was up.

After so many false labor pains, and cramps, I often wondered how, when the moment came, we would know it was real? Randi herself had also wondered the same thing. We needn’t have worried.

“We’re going to the hospital,” she said, as she doubled over in pain more intense, way, way more intense than any she had experienced before. I looked at my watch, carefully loaded up all my things, including a note pad to time the labor pains, and, leaving our apartment with an unmade bed, we drove, so carefully, to New York Methodist Hospital, ten minutes away.

I dropped Randi and her mother off at the hospital and parked the car. This being Brooklyn there was no street parking, even though it was late on a Sunday. So I used the pay parking structure the hospital provided, and for once in my life felt like I had a genuine, legitimate reason to do so. Damn the expense, my kid was being born. And didn’t they have vouchers for new parents? I had heard something like that.

Randi was upstairs on the fourth floor, already in an ill-fitting hospital gown, sitting in a skinny room with an examination table, and one chair. I took the chair, and my wife took the table, but sitting was too uncomfortable. Instead she took to the hallway, and paced. The highlight of this little section of the evening was when I went into the hallway to ask if there was anything I could do. Her reaction was that I could not, putting it mildly.

“Please, honey, just stay out of my line of sight,” she said. In a huff I walked back to the room, careful to not cross her beloved line of sight. Then she added: “You can’t be angry with me right now.” Swallowing my pride I realized she was right. My child is being born—even if it’s only the earliest stages of labor—my wife’s insides are being turned into spaghetti, and sooner or later she will pass a football through a pea-shooter. I could toughen up a little.

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