I’d never actually seen A Baby Story until this past Monday – I was flipping channels at lunchtime and caught two episodes. One featured perhaps the world’s most clueless husband (who kept asking his wife, over and over, if she was “okay” as she writhed in pain with each contraction; she kept looking around for something to throw at him). The other was a woman in a very large beachfront house who bossed her husband around and insisted that her best friend be present for her baby’s home birth. “I was so blessed to have Tracey there,” she said. Cut to Tracey, visibly blanching at the sight of her naked friend, prone in an inflatable plastic pool, delivering on all fours. Tracey clearly got more than she bargained for.
Just a few hours later, I was in the process of talking Eric into Chinese food for dinner when I felt something shift in my gut. When my water broke a few minutes later, I knew the lo mein was not meant to be.
At the hospital, they hooked me up to an IV and gave us a ridiculously thorough intake questionnaire that included questions about religious beliefs, musical preferences during labor (snare drums…we’d like lots of snare drums), and my eating habits during the pregnancy. “Any loss of appetite for 5 days or more?” the nurse asked. Eric had the grace to not openly laugh at this until I did. Eric was also asked if a) we were married, b) to each other, and c) if this was in fact his baby. “You’d be surprised,” the nurse said.
The doctor came and checked me, declaring that I was one centimeter dilated (right where I’d been for the past few weeks) and that nothing was going to happen until morning. “Try to get some sleep,” she said, and offered me an Ambien. I couldn’t remember if Ambien was the one that made people dream of groundhogs and Abraham Lincoln, so I declined.
I was not, however, too proud to accept some IV opiates after the nurse casually mentioned that my initial contractions, which blew me away and brought up my dinner (after nixing the Chinese food, I’d opted for a slice of leftover pizza – pepperoni, green pepper, and black olive; in hindsight, probably not the best option), were “just a small taste of what’s to come.”
Over the next 12 hours, the contractions came every 5 minutes but never got any closer together (I was relieved to discover that they never really got much worse, pain-wise, than those first few – then again, I was doped up on IV opiates, so my perceptions may be faulty). Eric managed to catch a few hours’ sleep – I wanted to be left alone during the contractions, so there wasn’t a lot for him to do other than untangle me from my IV pole a few times.
By morning, we’d spanned a shift change and had both a new nurse and a new doctor. Before taking off, the first doctor ordered me some Pitocin to get things rolling. She also told me to push “like you’ve been constipated for a month.” (Truly, the woman is a poet as well as a doctor.)
In any event, I did as she asked for nearly two hours, with Eric grabbing one leg and the delivery nurse grabbing the other as the new doctor, a tiny woman with a commanding presence, wheeled in a large tray of instruments. I could just barely see the top of her head and a whirling dervish of arms as she tugged, injected, stitched, and oversaw command central. Eric said she was like a female Napoleon in surgical scrubs. She and Eric deftly managed to dodge the tendrils of goo shooting out of me as the suction around the baby’s head was loosened.
Incidentally, it was right around this time that Eric realized he’d never changed out of his work clothes, including a brand-new pair of worn-only-once pants – as it turns out, nothing breaks in a new pair of pants like 14 hours in a labor-and-delivery room; maybe the Gap can launch a new “obstetrically distressed” line.
Lorelei finally emerged, squalling (even before her shoulders cleared, I might add – not an image I imagine Eric will soon forget) and perfect. Eric and I both cried. The nurse put her on my chest, and she immediately began bobbing her head up and down on my sternum like a barnyard chicken. “That’s her rooting reflex,” the nurse said. “She’ll eventually make her way over to nurse.” It didn’t take her long – the kid has the nose of a truffle pig.
Over the next 48 hours in the hospital, we had some wonderful visits from family and a wide spectrum of nurses checking in on us, ranging from the laid-back (the one who declared that “The Lorelei is an awesome bar in the Keys”), to the misguided (the one who tried to do a test on Lorelei 24 hours too early), to the clueless (the one who looked right at the “I’m a girl!” sign on Lorelei’s bassinet and promptly addressed her as “little fella”).
We also had a visit from a truly frightening lactation consultant – with apologies to the profession, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any other kind. She told us that it was imperative that I feed Lorelei promptly at all times – “Even if there is poop running down her leg, nursing should be your first priority. If you let her get too hungry, she will attack you like a ravenous bear.” She also insisted on coming back later to “check your latch.” I didn’t want her checking my latch or anything else. Fortunately, she was in high demand during the rest of our stay, and my latch and I were blessedly left to our own devices.