Monday, November 15, 2010

On The Anniversary of my Son's Birth

Nineteen years ago right this minute, I was in Fairfax Hospital, three days more than nine months pregnant, and repeatedly begging the nurse for drugs.  The nurse told me for 12 hours straight, "Honey, you're only three centimeters dilated.  You need to relax."  Um, relax?  Seriously?  Yeah, that Lamaze crap really helps when it feels like your middle is being encircled by a python with the serious intention of squeezing you until you can no longer breathe and the pain is so bad you are willing to have a surgeon amputate everything below your neck.

I had woken up with my first real contraction from a dead sleep, sometime right after Justin had just gotten to sleep about an hour after his arrival home from working his regular day job and then moonlighting as a bartender at a local hotel for the holidays.  Yep, one contraction and I was on the phone to the doctor screaming, "I'm in LABOR!  I'm going to the hospital!"  Can you say first time mom?  The baby was three days late and I was tired of being on maternity leave, after six weeks of sitting on my ass because my precious little one was pressing on the nerves in my hips and causing me atrocious pain when I walked.  My doctor, being a kind and caring soul, had given me a "doctor's note" saying I needed to be on bed rest.  Technically I was more on "recliner rest," since I had spent the time I was off from work in the recliner on my increasingly large butt watching soap operas and commiserating with a friend, who was also pregnant and on bed rest.  I was actually mad at her when she had her baby before I did, even though she wasn't due until after me.  That pissed me off.  I can vividly remember standing by the counter at the kitchen sink, holding my ever larger belly, which seemed to be growing by the day, and saying into the phone "What???  But you're not even DUE yet!!!"

It had taken three years for me to do what most people do by accident - get pregnant.  There were specialists involved and embarrassing tests and hormones.  I couldn't understand why teenagers were getting pregnant in the back seats of their cars and I'd been married for three years and it just wasn't happening.  I didn't want to adopt - I wanted to grow my own baby.  The unfortunate fact was that apparently, my body simply couldn't lay an egg.

I was one of the very lucky women who happened to have infertility problems after they figured out how to fix irregular ovulation and three months of mild hormonal therapy found me happily, ecstatically pregnant.  I had been starting to believe I wasn't meant to actually carry a baby and I didn't believe the woman when I called for the results of my pregnancy test.  I was at work, after having the blood test done at lunchtime, and I stood up and screamed "POSITIVE?" so loudly that everyone within earshot knew my good news before my husband did.

My elation was soon met with consternation as I spent the next five months yarking up my socks several times a day and turning green when food was put in front of me.  I took little comfort in the much touted wisdom that the sicker the mother, the healthier the baby.  I think I was probably one of the few women in history who actually lost weight when I was supposed to be gaining, but I more than made up for it when the "morning" sickness finally went away and Ben started to make his presence known in more tangible ways, like kicking.  I was convinced I was growing a future Redskins field goal star inside of me.  As he got bigger, my excitement at his moving around and the incredible feeling that life was growing inside me gave way to irritation, as he continuously jammed his tiny little feet under the right side of my rib cage and pushed with everything he had.  I would push back and tell him to "get your damned feet out of there!"  There just wasn't room for both of us.

It took eight and a half months to come up with a name for our little bundle of joy.  I would toss out boy names (after the sonogram revealed that that extra part was not a third leg) and Justin would promptly veto my suggestions.  I particularly liked the name Chase, but Justin kept insisting that Chase was a verb and our boy would regularly have the snot beaten out of him if I insisted on it.  My better half repeatedly made the point that he did not want a boy's name that ended in "n," because he had spent his whole life having trouble putting "Justin" together with "Newton" and that the two "n's" back to back made pronunciation difficult.  Coming up with boys' names that did not end in "n" became a new challenge.  So I hadn't brought up "Benjamin" until about eight and a half months into the pregnancy when, in desperation, I surprised everyone by saying I loved the name Benjamin and our child surely wouldn't have trouble with "Ben Newton," would he?  To my surprise, Justin actually liked the name and I was finally able to relax knowing my son would not go through life being called "Baby Boy Newton."

I spent the six weeks before Ben was born insisting I was having contractions, knowing that I was actually never going to really go into labor and a baby could not possibly come out of where I knew (in my rational mind) that he was going to come out.  I kept having visions of passing a watermelon through my nether regions and recoiling from the thought of what labor and delivery actually entailed.  There are a lot of women who insist that "natural" childbirth is the only way to go if you don't want a baby coming out all drugged up, but I was firmly in the camp that said there is nothing unnatural about being completely numb from the waist down when you are being split into two trying to bring this little being into the world.

So twelve hours into regular contractions and no progress later, the doctor was finally convinced that I was never going to relax to the point that anything was going to happen and, in fact, the contractions were becoming less regular and labor was stopping.  Finally, finally an epidural was ordered, along with Pitocin to get things moving.  And that's where I was nineteen years ago at this very moment.  Finally numb from the waist down and thanking God I wasn't a cave woman, before the advent of hospitals and IV's that delivered whatever that cocktail was that made sure I wasn't going to feel whatever was going on "down there."

It took about three hours to get to that coveted 10 centimeters and then about 45 minutes of pushing before I felt an immense pop! and heard that precious cry.  Many stitches later, I was informed that I had not only had a dreaded episiotomy, but also had torn all the way down to, well, you know...I think I was able to sit down comfortably about a year later.  My goal in both of my subsequent pregnancies was to not need that episiotomy, because that is just not a medical procedure you really want to have.

Ben was born back in the days before insurance companies thought new mothers needed more than 24 hours in the hospital to recuperate and also before the new mother/baby wing at our hospital was built, so I was "lucky" enough to have a roommate who had also just given birth.  I was wheeled into this tiny little hole with two beds, a flimsy curtain for privacy, and two chairs for visitors.  Justin disappeared for approximately four hours (I think it was four hours) and I was getting extremely concerned that something must be wrong with my son.  I finally sent my mother looking for him and was told that (a) there had been a mix up with the nurse's station and they had forgotten (forgotten???) to bring Ben to my room and (b) Justin was in the nursery with him for a lot of daddy/baby bonding time.  Great for daddy and baby, but mommy wanted her turn.  Not to mention that the drugs were wearing off and I was starting to feel as though I had been run over by a truck.  Six weeks of sitting on my ass had done nothing to prepare me for the rigors of childbirth.

My roommate, who happened to be of Hispanic origin and not originally from this country, had approximately 900 relatives, all of whom chose to visit at the same time, holding multiple, simultaneous conversations in very loud Spanish.  By the time my 24 hours was up and the insurance company was insisting that they would not pay for even one more tylenol, I was entirely ready to take my little one home.  Where, I admit, I missed the ability to send my newborn to the nursery at night so I could get at least one good night's sleep before the inevitable every two hour wake up calls that were about to come my way after what I felt was a reasonable bed time.

The happy ending to this story:

Ben was a wonderful, happy baby, brought into the world at 5:04 p.m. on November 15, 1991.  He has brought me so much joy in his 19 years on this planet and I cannot imagine my life without him.  I have days when I wonder what I was thinking having three children, but today is not one of them.

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