By June, it just felt as if I could not expand anymore. My body was swelling to gigantic proportions. I couldn't move much or far anymore. I spent a lot of time reclined in the recliner watching "A Baby Story" and panicking silently about giving birth. There was a deep terror that I couldn't name that this baby had to come out. For 9 months, I had been lost to the reality of pushing a baby out but each episode of A Baby Story was chipping away at the hard coat of denial. When I wasn't reclined I slept. A lot. The waiting was rough, and I had nothing to do in these final weeks. We had moved but everything was unpacked. I had no classes. I felt too restless to read.
One day I woke up with renewed energy, and I insisted that we pull down every blind in the big house we were renting. I carried them outside with a bucket of soapy water and scrubbed them down. H stood helpless, worried as I scrubbed for hours. It was such a useless task but it had to be done. I knew this with a compulsion that I could not explain. The next day I was sore and exhausted. I could barely get out of bed to go the bathroom.
A few days later we brought cake and pizza to my mom to celebrate her birthday a day late. We laughed and ate. All of us on the cusp of waiting for this baby to come into world. I felt his presence strongly as I had ever since we made a beach trip a week earlier. I alternated between being impatient and being fearful content to let him gestate longer. Tonight I was just relaxed enjoying good food with my mom and my friends. I was not thinking about babies or birth. And then it felt like I peed myself but I was pretty sure I hadn't. I went to the bathroom and a trickle of water dripped out of me. When I came out everyone was quiet, looking at me. I had thought I had made an inconspicuous exit.
I think my water is breaking.
Everyone exploded into talk and activity. Plans were made while I just stood there terrified.
Of course nothing was ready. I hadn't planned on even giving birth until July and here it was early June. We went back to our house where I packed my suitcase. My mom made a list of things I would need: nursing bras, robe, food for them. I was excited and tentatively waiting for excruciating pain to suddenly hit and leave me prostrate on the floor. But there was nothing. We loaded ourselves into my roommate's car and we started the drive to the hospital which was 45 minutes away in another town.
After a side stop to Walmart, we arrived at the hospital which was quiet on this sleepy Saturday evening. It was too early for the drunken ER visits. The nurse checked me and said that my water had not broken and that I was not showing any signs of labor. Disappointed we squeezed back into the car and headed home.
We returned to my mom's house to finish off her birthday cake. I was embarrassed but secretly a little relieved. And then while munching down on cake in my mom's kitchen, my water did break in a wave that left no doubt about what was happening. At this point, I started to cry and shake. I was terrified. H held me while I sobbed in terror. We got everyone back in the car and once again made the journey back to the hospital. This time I felt crampy and my back hurt but I didn't realize at the time that this was contractions. I shook most of the journey and attributed that to sheer terror. I kept asking my mom "Is this going to hurt worst than the burns?"
At the hospital it was determined that my water had broken but the nurse told us to get some sleep as we wouldn't likely see any action until the morning (it was about 11:00). They settled H and I in a room, and put my mom and my friends in the nurse's lounge. I was initially much to excited to sleep although I tried. How was I supposed to sleep when a baby was about to come out of my body? Seriously? But I did sleep. A fretful sleep that did not close of my senses to the room around me. I woke up a little than an hour later in pain. I shook H awake and told him I was hurting pretty bad. He went to get a nurse who came in already annoyed.
"This is just the beginning!" she snapped when I asked for medication to help with the pain.
Even with the awful pain that radiated up and down my spine and around my stomach couldn't help the shame I felt at her words. Obviously I was supposed to be much tougher than this.
"You should be trying to sleep." she lectured annoyed at having to deal with me.
"I can't." I whispered.
"Fine. I'll set you up in the delivery room and we'll go from there."
H helped me walk to another room. We meet my friend in the hall and he trooped along with us. The nurse got me into the bed, checked me (3.5 cent) and hooked up to an i.v. She asked me if I'd like to try to the tub and I said yes so she started to fill that up while she left to do something. I chatted with H and A when the pain wasn't too bad. After about ten minutes, I started to shake uncontrollably and needed to throw up. I refused to do it in a plastic bowl, and H helped me to the bath room where I threw up pizza and birth cake. My back felt like it was breaking in two and I was hot and cold. As I laid back down on the bed, I thought "If this is what labor is like with drugs, I can't even imagine what it's like without drugs."
The nurse returned, stopped the water and then checked me again. She looked up surprised and asked how I was feeling.
"If I could just get my back comfortable, I'd be okay." I answered.
"If that's your worst complaint at 9.5 cents then you're doing good." she smiled. "I'm going to get the Dr. you'll be ready to push soon."
H, A and I all looked at each sort of astonished. I had gone from 3.5 cent. to 9.5 in about 20 minutes.
"I'll go get your mom and K. "A said. I nodded and grabbed H who helped to the bath room where I threw up again. I was shaking hard at this point. The Dr. came in and encouraged me to get comfortable. This meant getting on the bed with about five pillows bracing me from behind. The nurse took my blood pressure and looked over at the Dr. I didn't know it at the time but it was high. They kept me hooked to a blood pressure machine. My mom arrived along with K . They both looked sleepy. I smiled tentatively at my mom as I shook.
H stood beside me, moping my face with a wet wash cloth. My fear was reflected there, and occasionally I would grab his hand and smile to reassure him. Then the urge to push came and it hurt. I went from teasing A about being there to moaning through contractions. Every time I pushed I could feel water pouring out of my body. The nurse no longer critical but kind was beside me, holding one hand, H holding the other. I pushed and pushed. Breathing through each horrible contractions. My back felt like it was spasming with each contraction. It felt unbearable. And then after an two hours of pushing, the contractions started to fade.
Panicking I said to the Dr. "They're stopping."
"I know, " she said. "I want you to push as hard as you can with each one now. I can see the baby's head." She had been saying this for awhile now so I didn't really believe her.
"Shit." I yelled as another contraction hit, and then I whispered "Sorry mom." who looked worried in the corner. And then I knew I just had to do it. I had to buckle down and work this baby out, and that is when I started to roar. Deep throaty roars that came from some place that I had not known existed with in me. I was part of something old and ancient as I roared Umberto into the world. A connection to every female before me and after me. Someday I would watch as my daughter's roared life into the world. All this passed through me, and I pushed Umberto into the world as the birds began to call up the sun outside the window. And then he was there, still and bluish. Slimy. And beautiful. H was crying quietly beside me. My best friends and my mom joined as they handed me my baby.
"Good morning baby boy." I whispered into his ear.