Happy Last Official Day of Summer, everyone! What did you all do to celebrate? I just spent my evening enjoying the lone perk of a single babymama, which is One Night a Week Without Babies. Essentially, I sat out by the pool, putting the finishing touches on the tan that I got tromping around while grocery shopping on foot, followed by stuffing my face without having to simultaneously cut up someone else's food or keep it away from the cat. (Note: it helps to be wearing a spandex-reinforced swimsuit while eating potato chips and cheddar-bacon-tomato dip. I think I'll leave it on overnight, just in case.) I blew my diet like it was a horny sailor on shore leave, and now that I'm stuffed to the gills, I'll do what I do every single night that I don't have my girls with me...talk about them incessantly! It's Labor Day, so it's as good a day as any to write Arianna's birth story.
In fact, the last time I ate this much was the evening of December 31, 2009, right after giving birth to her. Sure, the hospital was rated by UNICEF as one of the top 50 hospitals to have a baby in. But what I was interested in was what I'd heard about their postpartum catering.
Not that I was malnourished when I checked in that day. One of the awesome things about having a baby right after Christmas is that when your belly jiggles like a bowl full of jelly, everyone assumes it's the baby kicking. Actually, Ari did do quite a job of treating my internal organs like her own personal pinata. I used to call it "Liverdance". I basically calmed her down the same way I do now when she kicked and screams...with a cookie! Her BBS ("Big BIG Sissy") had thoughtfully gifted me with a tin of peppermint bark from Williams Sonoma, which I obediently ingested, not wanting my future baby to develop a taste for inferior holiday treats. My middle brother, who we call Uncle Colonel around here, was staying with us for a week, and we had a blast cooking- and eating- together. *I* had a blast watching his normally calm countenance blanch a bit every time another set of Braxton-Hicks contractions hit. "Deb...it's like you're a ticking time bomb!", he'd cry, and then go back to working on the Thomas Kincaide puzzle that he and Cornell were working on. Mostly, I remember that week as one of the nicest holiday seasons I'd spent in a long time.
Then it was the 30th, and we drove my brother to the airport for his return flight home. My due date wasn't until 1/7, but I was disappointed all the same that he hadn't gotten to see his brand-new niece. He, on the other hand, was probably just relieved that he did not have to see my brand-new placenta.
On the way home, we stopped at the ob/gyn's office, and when my very awesome babydoc saw The Look on my face..you know, the one that says GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME NOW? she asked, "want me to strip your membranes now? It might get things moving.." For the experienced parents among my readership, you know this question is nothing like "want your windshield washed?". For the underinitiated, I'll spare you the details, since you have work in the morning and the buzz from that last holiday beer has probably already worn off. Suffice it to say that stripping of said membranes is kind of like scraping lint off the trap in your dryer, except that the lint has nerve endings and the trap is your GIRLFRIEND, girlfriend! YOWCH!
It worked, though, like..well, like a Charm. Within a couple of hours, Liverdance turned into a tarantella, and I turned to my family (Cornell, BBS and Sephie) and said, "Let's go out to eat!" Wednesday night is Free Pie Night at the restaurant with the orange roof (hint: it rhymes with Pillage Sin), and since I dragged us there every week and the waitresses all knew us, it was time to get one last meal in without having to pack a diaper bag first. Plus, even I'm not hard-core enough to cook while in labor.
Amazingly, unless you actually know me and my cast-iron stomach/hollow leg in person, I ate my entire dinner despite the discomfort, and then went home to try and get some sleep. That worked for about two or three hours. At around 4:30 a.m., I decided that I'd had enough (Cornell had probably decided he'd had enough for several hours by now, since I am not exactly silent about Killer Cramps from Mars), and he went downstairs to alert BBS that we'd be leaving for the hospital soon. My loyal and wonderful ex-SIL/BFF Lynn was slated to drive down to the house later that day, to pick Sephie up and drive her to preschool. As timing would have it, Dave was out of town for the holiday week, so we packed up and left a house with not three dogs, but four..Winston, Dave's and my former pug, who has appeared much earlier in these pages, and who we were petsitting.
What I will always remember as we drove out of the neighborhood on that silent, dark morning was the enormous, brilliant moon. My mother's cousin had commented to me weeks before that "maybe you'll give birth on the full moon- it worked for me!", and that's what I was thinking as I gazed up at December's "blue moon". (I still think of blue moonstone as Arianna's birthstone, for that reason.)
Despite my contractions, I hadn't dilated even a little bit, so they hooked me up to an IV and I shuffled painfully around the hallways for half an hour, willing my cervix to get with the program, already. I paused only a short while, at the nurses' station, to warn them that they might be hearing a loud thump coming from my room, and if they did, to please go in and rescue poor Cornell. He'd been feeling faint enough that I was actually holding him up at one point before starting my IV pole relay race. Had I had a contraction at that moment, we'd both have ended up in the ER instead, no doubt. It wasn't his blood sugar, so I assume that he was just suffering from sympathy pains- not from my poor uterus, but from my overtaxed party-hearty digestive system. As my contractions disappointingly faded, instead of growing stronger and more organized, I started to realize that I was, once again, HUNGRY. I'd eaten only a banana since 4 a.m., and that because I needed somethig soft and easy to throw up again during transition. (Can you tell I'd done this before?)
As "luck" would have it, the doc decided this was a "false alarm", and discharged me, and it was only through my protests that she agreed to have me checked in the office later that morning. So...time for a real breakfast! Rather than drive the 8 miles home, we decided to wait it out at Lynn's house in town, and stop at the local bagel store on the way there. I'd already requested (read: DEMANDED) that Cornell order me my usual: lox and bagel on sesame, not toasted, chive cream cheese, extra tomato, light onion, no capers. And a diet Coke, 'cause Mama is done being healthy at this very moment. By the time we arrived at the bagel shop, however, I was literally twisting myself into a knot, screaming, and couldn't get out of the car to go eat. A normal person would have skipped breakfast at this point, but not I! I waited in the car, gibbering like a hyena getting an unmedicated root canal, until my breakfast arrived and we continued on to Lynn's house.
((It bears mentioning at this point that I'd severely strained my back catching a falling armoire while moving a month earlier, which is my only explanation for how horrible the pain was, and the fact that the contractions spasmed from the small of my back to the nape of my neck. I went through natural childbirth with Seph, assisted by a doula, and it was great. A doula would have been nice this time, too, but honestly, I don't think even a djinn could've wished the pain away, it was so bad.))
I hesitated in Lynn's doorway, and in a lull between contractions frantically whispered, "I don't want to scare the girls!!" My nieces were 4 and 13 at that point, and I worried about scarring them for life. That's pretty much what their mother had in mind, though, because her reply was, "go ahead and scream! I don't want them having sex before they're married!". The next pain hit before I could point out that I wasn't exactly married, either. Lynn was the perfect labor coach- calm and authoritative by turns. When I tried to cross my legs in agony (which is not good for keeping the pelvis relaxed and open), she kneed them apart, yelling "get those legs open, girl!". Even in pain I have a smart mouth, and I yelled back "that's what got me into this mess in the first place!!" And of course, in the increasingly small spaces between contractions, I ate every bite of my lox and bagel. Hey, it's a $9 sandwich!
Eventually, it was time to drive back to the hospital to have them check me again, and I did my best impression of an ambulance siren all the way there. Cornell was remarkably calm, although he did stay well away from my reach. Apparently, there'd been an incident 14 years prior where he lost some hair due to his ex-wife yanking it out during labor, and all of my reassurances that there was that much less of a chance, through male pattern baldness, that he'd lose any more, fell on deaf ears. Come to think of it, "deaf ears" could have been how he survived the ruckus I was making in the passenger seat.
Fast-forward to the hospital room again, where I was now abjectly begging for drugs, DRUGS, get them in the pharmacy or the PARKING LOT, I don't really care, just give me the needle and I'll thunk it right into my own back! The anethesiologist wheeled cheerily into the room, declaring "I'm the Candy Man!", and luckily got me my meds before I could embarrass myself before offering him sexual liberties in exchange for pain relief. I *hate* needles, which should tell you just about how bad it was, and my sweet and patient Lynn held my legs in her lap while it was inserted into my back.
Then I had the most blessed respite from back pain I'd experienced since before Thanksgiving, when I'd hurt myself. I just lay there giggling and talking about DUDE, this is AWESOME, until my SIL and sleep-deprived fiance basically told me to shut up and get some rest. Which I did, while they played cards or something, until 2:45 when a starving Lynn said she was going to run downstairs for some take-out lunch.
That's when the nurse came in to check me, only to find that the baby had just about slid out from me relaxing. I yelled for Cornell to call Lynn back in, STAT. The doc came in (blessedly, she'd stayed late, so my favorite OB ever got to deliver), I gave two pushes, and BLAM! my beautiful princess Ari-boo was born! (Don't hate me, I'm a peasant, I pushed for barely 15 minutes the first time) 6 lbs, 2 0z, and 19" long, just 1 oz exactly over Seph's measurements, and a carbon copy of her middle sister. The only thing more beautiful than her tiny sweet face was the look on her dad's as he cut the cord, then got to hold her for the first time. The look on Auntie Lynn's face was pretty darn priceless, too, when she realized that she'd missed the whole thing during a ten-minute lunch break! "I hate you- it took me three days to have your niece!!", I believe she phrased it.
Sephie and BBS got to see her later that afternoon- the resulting photos will be posted here once I get my new computer, but they're just fabulous. Also fabulous, yet regrettably not photographed, was the huge post-partum dinner they served me. You know you're in the right maternity ward when you order fries AND cake with your entree, and they ask you if you're like a milkshake with that, too?
I toasted 2010 alone with my precious little one, since there were 4 dogs at home to care for and Cornell needed to sleep, anyway. I admit, I was disappointed and lonely and overwhelmed, especially when Arianna turned out to be a born party animal, and wanted to nurse all night and hang out with me instead of sleep. The next afternoon was wonderful, though, as I checked out exactly 24 hours after giving birth, and felt good enough to cook the lasagna dinner the hospital thoughtfully sent us home with. Winston the pug was excited, too- he loves babies, and the grateful look on his face was clearly to thank us for bringing home a "fresh" one. (He still loves her!) And honestly, I had one of the best times in my relationship with Cornell that week, staying up late at night watching the "House" marathon and snoogling with our baby.
I can't bring myself to watch "House" anymore. I don't have a home to babysit Winston in anymore, either. Worst of all, there are two nights a week where I don't get to snoogle my sweet littlest princess at all. But I did get to have her, and seeing her hug Sephie (when she's not yanking on her middle sister's long golden locks), hide inbetween BBS' long legs ("baby penguin-style!", she calls it), or hold her Papa's hand on their walks around the block...well, it's not the Everything I hoped it would be, but it's a very special Something.
"This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good." -Lilo and Stitch, 2002
Through all of love's labors, I am so very grateful all the members of my little, broken family, who are the reason I have all of my wonderful Mommy Mondays.
You know the drill...go hug your mommies!