Plugged into The Matrix
Scheduling the birth of your child is a weird thing to have to do. And catching a cab to get to your “appointment” is weirder. Part of me was a little disappointed that there was no element of surprise the way it’s always depicted in movies. There was no gush of my water breaking at an inopportune moment (i.e at the grocery store, in my cubicle, in a broken elevator with only a pimply-faced teenage boy to deliver the baby). There was no look of incomprehension on Dan’s face as I told him “It’s time.” And there was no frantic packing of hospital bags and speeding off to the hospital.
Instead, we went out for steak. It was our last meal as a two-person unit and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much other than chicken broth and Jello in the next twenty-four hours or so. We double-checked that our bags were equipped with all the crap half-a-dozen baby websites told me we needed (but didn’t). And we hailed a cab as if we were heading off to the airport for a vacation.
That was, by far, the scariest and most exciting cab ride I’ve ever taken (and I once took a sketchy Russian van from Brighton Beach to the Upper East Side that sounded like the whole thing would fall apart every time it drove over a pebble like some cartoon car). There were no contractions to distract me from the huge thing that was about to happen to me and my lady bits. That time tomorrow I was going to be a mom (and very, very uncomfortable) whether I was ready or not.
At the hospital, they plugged me into a bunch of monitors and I changed into a robe that, at the start of the night, I modestly held closed where it gaped open in the back. It only took a couple of hours for me to throw caution (and my hooha) to the wind. If there’s anything in life that reminds you that we’re all just animals that ridiculously insist on wearing clothes, it’s giving birth. They conveniently leave this out, but when you have a baby, you need to get comfortable with your own nudity and bodily functions. Quickly. By the time you leave the hospital every staff member from the doctors down to the janitorial staff has seen more parts of your anatomy than your significant other and you just have to be ok with that. Really. There was a steady stream of people poking around under my gown—doctors, nurses, residents, foreign tourists, etc.—and I just grinned and—pun intended—bared it.
Other than the nudie show, most of that first night was waiting. And trying to sleep between nurses checking my blood pressure (which was annoyingly high), doctors checking on my cervix (open enough yet?), contractions that ached just enough to wake me, and women in nearby rooms making horrible sounds. There were two of these women and they both made me wish NYU had invested in soundproofing the walls. The first was just next door and at first I thought “Is there someone having sex in the next room? I mean, I know it’s supposed to get the ball rolling, but this is a hospital!” And then I listened more closely and realized her breathy moans were actually deep, guttural “Ows”. Later in the night, I heard what sounded like a feral cat being slaughtered down the hall. Needless to say, listening to these sounds of torture as I waited for my turn was not comforting.
I made it through the night without an epidural. Not to brag or anything, but the contractions really weren’t that bad. The nurses kept asking if I wanted the drugs and every time I turned it down, they were surprised. And I was surprised that they were surprised. And that I was really ok with the pain. I was a little proud of myself. Epidural, schmep-idural. I could handle anything. No big deal.
Of course the thing that was really killing me was—can you guess?—my f*cking acid reflux. It was in full force. All. Night. Long. They gave me a horrible tasting shot of some medicine to deal with it, but it didn’t help. At one point it was so bad I threw up all over myself. Dan, who was passed out face down on the small fold-out couch in the corner, was awakened by me calling out for him to pass me a bucket as I sat there with a pool of partially digested strawberry Jello in my lap.
The next morning my doctor came in and told me she wanted to put me on Pitocin to get things moving since they’d stalled a bit. And she warned me she was going to break my water, which meant the contractions were going to get serious. If I was going to go the epidural route, that was the time to do it. I took her word for it. Bring me drugs! Dan likes to say that I enjoy suffering unnecessarily. As scary as having two people put a needle in your spine is, I think Dan must be right, because that epidural was awesome and I should have gotten it earlier. Contractions? What contractions?
Some hours later, my doctor checked in and announced “You’re ten centimeters dilated.” Bagel time! Great! Until she explained that they needed to reduce the epidural so I could push. “You mean you want me to feel something?! But, drugs are nice.” And I was right. Feeling contractions is not fun. Of course weening me off the epidural wasn’t an exact science it seemed and I started feeling pain only on one side. And it was excruciating. And I threw up, again. To the ladies who go natural, I salute you.
Once things started hurting, everything sort of became a blur. One minute my legs were up in the air and there was just Dan, my doctor, and a couple of nurses. The next moment it was like I was in the middle of the Filene’s wedding dress sale if it was only shopped at by medical professionals. There were women in scrubs scurrying all over the place. I’m not sure they were all actually doing anything useful. I think some were just extras there to make things seem chaotic.
And then? Then I was pushing with every bit of energy I had in me. Almost fourteen days late and I wanted that baby out of me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I didn’t scream. Or moan. Or cry like a dying cat. I didn’t even curse Dan. Hell, Dan could have left the room to go grab a drink and I don’t think I would have noticed. I was incredibly focused on the task at hand—eyes closed, teeth clenched. And when I felt what I imagined was Babganoush’s big head pushing its way out, I tried my best to help. The downside of the epidural was that I couldn’t feel any progress. I just had to take their word for it when they said my pushing was working.
Having a chorus of women and your husband surrounding you telling you that you’re doing a great job is surreal. I’m not used to having cheerleaders. Part of me wished they’d given me more details though. “What do you mean I’m doing great? Can you see her forehead? Eyes? Nose? What?” I thought maybe they were exaggerating. That was until my doctor asked if I wanted to feel the head. “What?! No, I do NOT want to feel the head! Are you kidding? Not until everything attached to that head is out of my body!” Now, I didn’t say that out loud, but I think I might have snapped at her in that moment. I hope not (she’s a very nice woman), but I was in no mood for distractions. It was all or nothing.
Now, I could not (and would not) look at what was going on down there at the foot of the bed, let alone touch it. But Dan, who had vowed he would not either, let his curiosity get the better of him. In his recollection, he saw a hairy egg emerging from my body and couldn’t fathom what part of her head it was until they turned it around to reveal a face. A quiet face that he was sure should have been wailing its head off considering the predicament it was in (i.e. neck deep in another person’s vajayjay). Dan witnessed a few other things that he will never be able to un-see, but I will spare you the details because, well, you can’t handle the truth. Hell, I don’t think I could have handled it.
And then, after just forty minutes of pushing, it was over.
I'm not going to lie, the baby sort of looked like this when they first held her up. Minus the tentacles of course.
I will tell you, proudly, that I didn’t poop myself. However, that was remedied by my daughter (Holy sh*t, I have a DAUGHTER) who, as her first eff you to us all, proceeded to take a big dump as she entered the world. And then once more on my arm as they placed her on my chest. If the fact that human excrement on me didn’t faze me in the slightest as I stared in awe at my daughter lying there doesn’t give you some idea of how much love I had for this tiny human, I don’t know what would. Even I—as jaded and cynical as I am—was amazed by how incredible she was. She was swollen and mushy… and she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I’m not going to lie—Dan started crying. And so did I.
Nothing in the world is as perfect as something you squeeze out of your own vagina.