After about ten minutes of this our midwife, Anne, entered the tiny room. Randi and I had chosen to use the Park Slope Midwives, instead of going the traditional doctor route, because we felt that they would be more attentive to Randi’s needs, and have a better understanding our want to have the birth without drugs. Doctors, we had started to feel, were mostly interested in getting home by dinner and/or golf.
Anne is a woman likely in her mid-50s, with short white hair, and an air of experience, which is something you’d like to see in a person who will help deliver your child.
She told Randi to get on her back, and then examined her cervix. Calmly she said that Randi was dilated, which was good, but only by two centimeters. Which wasn’t necessarily bad, but not near the 10 cm commonly needed to start the actual delivery of a child. This meant that it would be hours until we’d be close to the actual birth, or even the preparations for the birth.
Still, this was mostly good news, because it meant that Randi wouldn’t have to be induced. On the other hand, we weren’t exactly sure what to do with ourselves, and we were taking up a room that we didn’t really need.
“Relax, go home, drink a glass of wine,” Anne told us. “Do most of your laboring over there, and then you can come back in several hours and have the baby.” She also instructed us to keep timing the contractions until they got within two minutes of one another, and were almost two minutes long. At that point it would be go time. But our contractions were still three to four minutes apart.
Still, going home seemed like kind of a strange idea. Get dressed, drive away, go back upstairs to our apartment, walk around there, only to come back in five or six hours? I didn’t really want to, and I know Randi didn’t really want to either. Most importantly, at least for now, though, was that Judy also didn’t want to.
“The women in our family usually dilate really fast,” she told Anne, explaining that she herself went from being four cm dilated to ten within a handful of minutes. Meaning that when these Skaggs women are ready to go, they go!
Anne listened and nodded.
“Well then, you can stay here then and just come back up when the contractions are a lot more close,” she said.
Sounded like a fair solution to us. So Randi put her clothes back on, and we walked down to the lobby of the hospital. It was around 1:00 a.m. now, and we had a lot of time to pass before the baby would be ready to come out, but we were definitely on our way now.
Already exhausted despite the fact that we hadn’t even really even done anything yet we followed Randi down to where she would like to pace in the lobby. We found some small chairs and sofas in the middle of the polished floor, put our stuff down, and began to time the contractions. Randi was totally unwilling to sit, stand still, or do anything other than walk. Back and forth, in a small circle of about 15 feet across she walked, over and over again.
After not too long, however, she began to feel kind of sick. It was the pizza! Leaning over a garbage can, she then proceeded to vomit up her entire dinner; amazingly it smelled pretty much the same way it had when we’d all eaten it several hours before. I guess it hadn’t had much time to digest.
Following that she and her mother walked to the bathroom, while I sat in the lobby by myself, holding a notepad, and looking at our rapidly evolving table of contractions. They were getting down to being about two to three minutes apart, though they varied in length. It wasn’t time yet, but it was close.
When Randi returned from the bathroom I volunteered to get her something, anything, that would help her labor, but there was really nothing I could do. Periodically people would shuffle through the lobby, and I had to wonder how we looked to them. Some looked like they were simply killing time, like we were. Others looked like the kind of people you might see loitering at night court, or the lobbies of hotels. One man, a young hospital assistant of some kind ran within a few feet of Randi, and immediately earned her wrath. “Did you see that?!” she asked me, eyes flashing. “What the hell is wrong with these people?”
But mostly, though, she simply bore the brunt of increasingly strong and frequent contractions, often doubling over in pain, or leaning against a pillar or a sofa, when they got too powerful. To counter-act these, as best as she could she simply kept walking. Walking like I have seen few people walk before. Walking at a slow, steady pace, walking like a nomadic tribeswoman, walking like it was the only thing she could do. I got tired just watching her, although the fact that it was also almost 3:00 a.m. now probably also had something to do with it. The contractions now were just about on time, and the right length. We decided to go back up to the fifth floor, where babies are delivered.
Once back upstairs the check-in process was swift, and soon we were escorted to a private birthing room. It was surprisingly nice, with multiple chairs for folks to sit in, and a nice, comfortable bed for Randi to lie in. Except there was no way that this pregnant lady was going to lie anywhere if she could help it. Instead, now in yet another revealing hospital gown, she kept on walking.
I sat down in a reclining chair that wouldn’t stay reclined, and Judy sat in a fairly uncomfortable chair to my right. We put our things down on a rolling mini-table, and were quickly told by a nurse that we couldn’t do that. Why I still have no idea, but those were the rules, so we obeyed them.
The television was quickly turned off—it had been some kind of inane Entertainment Tonight styled program—and we mostly sat in silence while Randi worked on her pain. She settled pretty quickly into a zone, one that required near silence. I was happy to oblige, except for the fact that I kept falling asleep.