It was 2:30 in the morning and my husband and I were driving over D.C.’s silenced streets, bound for the hospital. The only sound from outside my open window was the truck’s engine and the ambient noise of the humid summer night. Inside it was just Wolfmother’s “Vagabond” coming from the stereo because we were both quiet, processing what was unfolding. As we drove past the monuments they glowed under the moon.
It had been a dyslexic version of the classic scene that night. Instead of waking with a start and calling the hospital, we were awoken by the hospital calling us at 1 in the morning to tell us we could come in. With the baby deciding to hang out for an extra week, I was supposed to be induced on a Wednesday. With every baby in the D.C. metro area deciding to be born on that particular Wednesday I was delayed until Thursday morning. “We’ll call you when a delivery room frees up,” the nurse had said Wednesday evening as the wait dragged on.
Finally, at 3 a.m. on Thursday we settled into our delivery room. It was dim and cozy and we reveled, albeit sleepily, in what we knew now were the waning hours of quiet in our lives. The last of You and I.
As it turns out, there would be more of those hours than we expected. An early induction drug did nothing, necessitating the high-octane juice later that morning. With that came an epidural. (Gotta love a process that makes you actually ask a doctor to stick a needle in your spinal cord.) And then came…nothing. Over the next 16+ hours things progressed only so far and that wasn’t far enough.
Around 8:30 that night the baby played her high card. Through the epidural that kept me from feeling contractions so strong the monitor printout read like the screen of a treadmill set to “Alpine Adventure”, I felt her kicking. Like crazy. “That was odd,” I thought. A minute later the doctor and a nurse came hustling in the room and asked if I’d felt the baby moving. Shayeah. The baby’s heart rate was dropping at the same time that her sudden activity indicated some sort of distress, the doctor said. It was time to consider that a c-section was likely necessary.
Up until this point the best word to describe labor would be boring. Too drugged by the epidural to get out of bed. Too overwhelmed by the experience to read or do a crossword puzzle. Clockwatching becomes the pastime. When the doctor starts talking emergency c-section it becomes un-boring. It becomes terrifying. When she asked what my feelings were about having the procedure I said, “I do not care about the type of birth. Just get the baby out now.”
The minutes that followed were the cliched blur: husband getting into scrubs, me telling him to follow the baby and not me after she came out, me telling him to save the baby and not me if something went wrong, me telling him not to remarry or I’d haunt him if something went wrong, anesthesiologist asking questions, residents who looked like they were 18 introducing themselves, wheeling to the operating room, staring up at the glaring lights, arms strapped out on both sides, “Can you feel this?” and through it all, uncontrollable shaking due to the nerves or the anesthesia or both. “Stop shaking or you’ll screw them up,” I told myself. Also through it all: my husband’s head right next to me, eyes locked on mine, whispering to me through his mask.
At 9:42, our baby came into the world. You and I became The Three of Us.
Because of something hinky that had happened when my water broke earlier that day I’d expected there would be problems at her birth. I didn’t expect to hear her cry. I’d spent the afternoon preparing myself for the likelihood that there would be initial respiratory problems and that silence would likely mark her arrival. But at 9:42, through my anesthetized haze, I heard her cry. Loudly. Sustained. This baby was peeved.
With good reason as it turns out. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Because of her ample carriage she’d been jammed in with little to no chance of moving. One side of her face initially showed the signs of being smushed. Her check-out of the Hotel Tummyington had not gone smoothly. A stern letter to the management was in order.
Luckily, in the days that followed she agreed to forgive us. Because she is perfectly lovely.