The Four Days

I wrote these items, obviously, prior to going into labor. I’d knew I’d want them. At 5:30 a.m. on February 27, I lost my mucous plug – Seriously, are there two sexier words ever? I feel like every teenager in America should be handed a picture of a mucous plug as soon as they hit puberty. – and an hour after that, contractions started. I’m told that my active labor didn’t begin until 9 p.m. that night, but the hours leading up to that point felt pretty damn real to me. I believe my official time of active labor is 20 hours, rather than 30. And, upon reflection, also known as sleep, it was only 16 hours of unmedicated labor. I received an epidural at the 16th hour.

Anyway, more on that later. Here is a quick recount on the activity leading up to the whole birth story.


February 23: I woke up as usual, earlier than pre-pregnant me, but later than the pre-TempurPedic me. My brain has already conditioned itself to understand that five hours of sleep a night is a luxury. The day before I worked about 13 hours, and as a result I decided that I didn’t have the constitution to keep working until the bitter end and after peeing, it was the other thing on my mind.

But then the cramping started. And my back ached. And it occurred to me – oh, wait. This might actually be something. I’m quick like that.

I went back to bed and woke up Scott. I rocked back and forth and tried to just remain calm. It wasn’t hard. At only 20-minute intervals, and with my husband and my dog both in bed with me, it was a happy little family scene and easy to manage.When we first learned we were pregnant, we had two solid weeks before telling anyone. It was wonderful. It was our secret, just our little family of three – me, him and the dog. We could have gone longer, but we’re too close to our families to not share that kind of news. So on the 23rd, for the few hours we spent in our bedroom, drinking tea, talking, me breathing through contractions, were sweet and pleasant.

We decided that if they kept up, we’d let people know, at least the ones who really, really needed to know. Work, our doula, my sister. What if this wasn’t it? I just couldn’t handle all of that attention. Too many people, too many eyes, too many questions I can’t answer, and really don’t want to answer. No one really believes I’m this kind of person. At a work-sponsored retreat day last Fall, I tried desperately to explain how much I hate getting up in front of people to talk and present myself or really just do anything for a crowd. Those in the room who knew me nodded and smiled, though two people who met me that day said they had hard time understanding it, to the point where they openly questioned it and I stood there red-faced and had to admit the core: Oh, the self-involvement that comes from being so afraid of failure that you simultaneously run toward as much opportunity as you can muster, all the while wanting to puke from the anxiety that comes from believing someone like you had any business whatsoever dreaming that big in the first place.

When I say I  hope my daughter does not turn out like me, this is generally what I mean. I hope she knows she is exactly the very person to dream that big and to believe she is worthy of every drop.

I signed off on work projects, wrapping up a few outstanding items, and then exhaled a little and slept. The contractions began getting closer together, but they never really crossed the 15-minute mark. I watched a lot of The Cosby Show, I snacked and drank a lot of water. Eventually, though, after another nap, one during which I could safely and without disturbance from the contractions sleep, it was pretty clear we weren’t looking at the real thing. By bedtime, it was certain.

I was sad, not because I wanted so desperately to stop being pregnant. Mostly because now I’d have to tell people we were wrong. I almost felt like I’d failed, but then got over it quickly, what with a massage waiting for me the next morning.

February 24: We are officially late. All of the insipid, ludicrous pregnancy emails are either congratulating me on my newborn or are full of woe because it’s a day after my due date. Despite my own personal sadness from yesterday, I eat some toast and get ready to figure out if I should officially sign off from work. It’s  decided that, Oh God, yes, go on maternity leave and let us know how everything goes.

I am at a loss as to what the heck I’m supposed to do with my brain if it’s not worrying about work. I decided that I maybe better not pass up the chance I’m given to just rest and enjoy my final hours of solace. I go to my massage, take a long, long hot shower at the spa and then I walk around the fancy Whole Foods next door. I buy too many Rice Dream “ice cream” sandwiches. I have cucumber and sesame buckwheat noodles for lunch, topped off with a cupcake.

Thus begins Baby Watch 2011: The Cupcakening. I’ve decided that if she’s not showing up, I’m eating bakery goods.

I also decided that I need to stay the fuck out of Whole Foods, or at least not be in there alone, until I’ve had this kid. When I get home and unpack the random food goods I bought, I acknowledge that I have a problem, and that problem is boredom. Or at least an addiction for rice-based frozen sweets.

There are really no contractions today, and I’m stir crazy. Still so many questions, emails and comments from people. I really wish I was less of an asshole, though I’ve been assured by many that this turning inward is normal. I watch as my Web site traffic doubles. I field no less than 20 Facebook requests by people I’ve never heard of or know. I get progressively freaked out by all of the attention.

February 25: I wake up around 5 a.m. and lie in bed moaning. The cramping begins once again. I get up to use the bathroom and then crawl back into bed to chat with Scott. I’m heading to the midwives later in the morning for my regular appointment, and he’s heading back into work and will meet me later if anything comes from the stress test.

Oh I want some peanut butter toast.

I walk back in the bathroom a half-hour later to take my thyroid medicine when suddenly I’ve got fluid running down my legs and I can’t do a damn thing about it.

“Scott,” I say, exactly how you think someone would say this, tone, pitch, emphasis, all of it. “I think my water just broke.”

I am pretty sure he broke land speed records to get from the bedroom to the bathroom.

The dog followed suit, and I just stood there feeling rather hapless about it all. Was it my water breaking? Was that happening? Instinctively I sat down on the toilet, and Scott tried to scuttle out but I demanded he stay. We’re not the type to share the bathroom at all instances, but there was no way I was investigating this on my own. We see a speck or two of blood, and no other signs that something is amiss, and since there was a substantial amount of fluid to make its way out, we decide that it’s entirely possible that that just happened but decided to ride it out and wait.

“It’s not like movies,” Scott reminded me. “We don’t have to rush anywhere.”

I consulted our Hypnobirthing book, which reminded me of the same fact. Just the same, I opt to straighten up the house, take a shower and, once again, do my hair. I ask Scott to inflate the balance ball, I make my toast and tea, and decided I just want to watch Anchorman. By 6:30 a.m., I start experiencing the sort of cramping and surges that send me straight back to the bedroom because screwing around on the Internet and watching Anchorman seem like an improbability faced with these contractions and hell if I’m letting all of my practice and hard work go to waste. I switch directly into hypnobirthing mode.

It’s two of the most wonderful, calming, lovely hours I’ve ever spent in my life. The sunlight is busting through our white curtains and bouncing off of all the white bedding in our room. My husband is right there next to me, talking me through each surge, brushing my hair off of my face. He’s wearing the Beatles t-shirt he wore on our first date, the night I told him that, yes, I know we’re both divorced but he needed to know right then and there that I wanted to get married again and I wanted to have a kid, because I am that awesome of a first date.

Almost five years later, I watched as he made me more tea and rubbed my enormous belly and tell our daughter how excited he was to meet her and couldn’t believe we actually made it this far.

On our doula’s advice, we call the midwives to tell them we think my water broke, and that we have an appointment that day, and what should we do? “Are you sure your water broke,” one of the midwives asked, her tone intimating that I was probably wrong. Quite frankly, I wanted to respond with, “Well, fuck, I don’t know. I’ve never done this before. That’s why I’m calling you.” I wish instead of being greeted by patronizing skepticism, she would have just said what she eventually said, which was “Let’s keep the appointment and see how everything is moving along.”

I am touchy, I know, but making me feel silly and stupid doesn’t help.

There is a script in hypnobirthing that sets you into a trance of sorts, and helps you manage the surges and contractions. So that Scott could suit up, so to speak, and get us ready to head off to the midwives. I do this for about an hour and then we take off. It was a smart move, and I wonder again how anyone gets through these surges without coping tools in place.

At the midwives, we sit for an hour, hooked up to the non-stress test. The baby, the tell us, is doing beautifully. My blood pressure is a little high, but nothing alarmingly so. For another week, I haven’t gained a single pound. We eventually climb up on the exam table to figure out if in fact my water broke. Before this, we exchange a series of texts with our doula who helps us decide whether we find out how far along I’m dilated, if at all. Collectively we decide that we really don’t care since something is happening, and if my water hadn’t broken, I’m only increasing my risk of infection to find out something that really, at this stage, is of no use to us. Our midwife agrees with this decision.

I once again wonder how anyone does this without a doula, and we both are reminded of how happy we are that we switched providers when we did.

Two quick tests and…nothing. Whatever it was running down my legs with wild abandon was not amniotic fluid, and while I’m clearly having contractions, and much stronger ones than two days ago, we’re given the bad news that we’re probably just experiencing Braxton-Hicks. Our midwife leaves the room. I want to cry. I don’t. We head up to the desk to make our next appointment, for Tuesday, and we head out to have lunch.

I proceed to throw my hands up in disgust as a result of paying money for the worst corned beef ever. And then I experience more humiliating fluid problems, and I feel such a loss of control and dignity, and not even the satisfaction that should have come from a good sandwich, that all I want to do is go home. But first? Whole Foods for cupcakes. This time, I buy four.

By night’s end, we still have no baby. Scott fixes himself a couple of martinis, we order out and decide that there are much, much worse fates than waiting for our daughter to appear.

February 26: I slept all morning. And showered twice. And hung up pictures on the dining room wall. And watched Big Love. I think I’ve had a total of ten contractions today, all stronger than yesterday’s, still not going anywhere.

I don’t mind her being “late,” but holy smokes I didn’t think it could be like this, all start and stop, start and stop.

It’s just as well that I’ve got nothing to do – Cynthia said that resting should be my top priority. Even hanging the pictures felt like a lot. I’ve had massages and pedicures and manicures and baths and I’ve officially run out of options that don’t require me to leave the house but oh I’m going to lose my mind a little.

I hope Scott can find Trivial Pursuit for the Wii. Oh, and that we go into actual, real bona fide labor soon.