The mucus plug, that bloody knob of indeterminate viscosity but certain significance, stared up at me from the toilet bowl. It’s been almost exactly six years and I still wish I’d made a movie of me bending down to take a closer look, straightening up with 10 months’ worth of stiffness, hands on my hard-to-see knees, and muttering, Holy shit. It seemed like a cinematic moment at the time.
A few days after delivery I realized those few seconds were the only ones with any clarity in the entire process, the only pause, the sole minute when I had any idea of what would come next.
Because my labor was furious. The plug fell before 2 a.m. and I called the doula. And we all expect it, to be told to stay home as long as possible, because the hospital doesn’t have enough room in it and labor takes for-fucking-ever. She gave me the line about killing time first.
We tried to collect data, timing the contractions. I’d say, START and he’d look at the clock, and then I’d say START again without getting a number. YOU IDIOT! How can you not be able to use a clock at a time like this? Didn’t you hear me say STOP? He hadn’t. It all FAIL and I was ready to kill him.
Although – that kind of rage is supposed to signal labor, isn’t it? We decided to go around 5 a.m.
There was some ice on the ground still. I was heavy and tippy, and dawn was breaking. We brought our holy bag, carefully researched, full of lotions, CDs, books, a trashy magazine or two.
I don’t know how we made it through parking and admissions. I was doubled over half the time. They wheeled me into a birthing room and requested a urine sample. I walked into the giant, white-tiled bathroom and immediately barfed.
It seemed I had to survive this, and hard. It wasn’t going to be easy. Things started to make more sense once I was hooked up to the monitor: my contractions were completely irregular. I’d puked because I was in transition already, and even with his poor number skills, Gavin wasn’t responsible for the problems we had timing the contractions. The line went up, and up again, and on up higher, with no breaks, only plateaus.
I don’t remember much after that. It seemed forever, and I yelled at the doula and at Gavin to get the FUCK OFF ME with their supportive touches and kind words. I was as close to insane as I hope I ever get. And the nurses kept saying I was only at 3 centimeters. I couldn’t get an epidural yet, although I was sure the pain would kill me. All I hoped was that the baby would survive.
At one point in the morass my water broke. It was tinged with dark green, meconium, the baby’s first poop, a sign of fetal distress as we’d learned at our childbirth class. I asked for a C-section because the baby’s health was all I could think about.
And it was changing, even without my knowing what was happening. Something serious was going on. It could be something really bad, or it could be nature’s turn. Hell, I was a newbie, how could I know?
One of the doctors from my OB/GYN practice, my favorite one, who’d been stuck in the snow upcounty, arrived at my right hand, smiling brightly in the morning. “You’re dressed pretty nicely for someone who’s about to deliver a baby,” I said. She mentioned something about having a lot of time. The doula went out for a cup of coffee on the same theory, walking slowly.
The nurse who’d been dutifully going back and forth from my bedside to the monitor and her computer stuck her hand back up me. “I don’t feel the cervix?” said the nurse. She asked for another opinion. And another. Hands were inside me and if I hadn’t been in hell I might have felt like it was pretty impersonal.
It had been maybe a half hour since the last check. Confirmed: I was like a fine sports car disguised as an 88 Toyota with bad paint: zero to sixty in ten seconds. Only, unpredictable, a total amateur who goes straight to the finish line. Three to ten centimeters in 30 minutes.
“You don’t need a C-section,” she said. “It’s time to push.”
I asked about drugs again, but I knew what they’d say: it was too late.
TO BE CONTINUED
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