I emailed F today: "20 years ago I was in and out of labor, and wondering when I would see your little face."
20 years ago I had a baby due on April 23. I didn't have very many maternity outfits, and some of them were starting to get just a bit too tight. So on March 21, a Saturday, R and I went to the mall and I bought some pants, and maybe a shirt or two. We walked the entire length of the mall and back. Ha ha. I tell everyone who gets close to term and wishes their labor would start, "Go to the mall!"
Because I woke up in the wee hours with a funny little back pain that grabbed and held, and then crept around both sides to the front, squeezed, and let go. This continued the rest of the night. By morning the pains weren't any harder, or closer together, but they were undeniable. I was hungry and wanted my breakfast, but you aren't supposed to eat if you are in labor, so R and I decided to go to the hospital and let them tell me it was false labor so I could get some breakfast and get on with it. I remember having to pause a time or two on the way in from the parking lot because it was kind of hard to walk through those things.
Of course I had to put the gown on and get on the bed. The nurse hooked up the contraction-measuring belt and went about her business, then came back and looked at the printout and said to someone, "OK, call her doctor," and to my husband, "Go and get her admitted." I remember that being a bit of a shockeroo. That wasn't supposed to happen. They were supposed to send me home. I wasn't ready. Not yet. I had another month, didn't I?
But the doctor came in and took one look at my belly, and became very concerned. Even though as it turned out I was not dilating at all, she put me on terbutalin to stop the contractions. The OBGYN who did all of my prenatal care had sent me for a couple of ultrasounds because I didn't get big enough to suit her - only gained 23 pounds (from 108) and my stomach just didn't stick out very much. She ultimately decided that F and I were OK, but she was not on call when I went into labor.
One also has to remember that there have been tremendous strides in caring for preterm babies in the last 20 years. It's possible for babies born 4 weeks early to have lung problems that they can treat now, but couldn't then.
So the doctor on call told me that she just didn't think F was ready, she was afraid the due date was a mistake; left the room to make a phone call and came back and said, OK, maybe I was 8 months along, but she still didn't want to take the risk.
They kept me overnight and sent me home with that wretched medicine. I stopped it on Thursday, when yet another doctor in the group checked me out and told me I had a 6.5-pound baby and it would be OK to go on and have her. But we went to the hospital three more times, to be sent home with the cruel diagnosis of "false labor". For the uninitiated, labor is "false" if the cervix is not dilating. The term has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the intensity, pain, or frequency of contractions. That third time I knew I probably wasn't any closer to giving birth but I was absolutely frantic from lack of sleep. The contractions woke me up every 4 to 10 minutes. I thought I would die, I wanted to sleep so bad.
May I interject here that I love, LOVE, Dr. Lamaze. I do not know how I would have gotten through that week without him.
What finally happened was that on March 31, after we'd spent a good part of the night at the hospital not having F, and R was sleeping because he'd been up all night with me, I threw up. R helped me get settled back on the couch where I'd been reading the newspaper, and prepared to go back to bed. But he is the most solicitous person in the world so he didn't go back to bed right away, but stood in front of me saying, "Is there anything I can do for you? Can I get you anything? Can I do anything else for you?" and I ignored him, reading the comics and wishing he'd go back to bed.
While R was asking those questions he saw me take a cleansing breath and start the slow deep-chest breathing and said, "Are you having a contraction?" Nod. "Didn't you just have one?" Shrug. So he stood there timing my contractions by my breathing, while I ignored him and read the paper. At last he said, "These are coming every three minutes."
A wave of irritation swept over me and I threw the paper down. "Let's go back to the hospital. I'm tired of this crap. I'm through with this. Let's go back and tell them I can't do this anymore."
He helped me to my feet - WHOA. Everything shifted. I felt a tremendous weight, so that it was hard to even stand. Because I'd taken a bath earlier, I was wearing a really ratty old comfortable nightgown that I certainly didn't plan to be seen in public in. I looked pitifully at R and said, "I don't have to get dressed, do I?"
"Let me just get my shoes," he said.
So we went flying down Walnut Grove Road to the hospital ... got there around 3:00. I couldn't walk in from the parking lot this time. I could barely sit upright in the wheelchair. When they checked me, I was dilated 5 cm.
They had told us in childbirth classes that if we got to that point when we went in we could not have an epidural but I did get one. R says I was quite insistent. I was just so exhausted from lack of sleep and the unrelenting, UNRELENTING contractions that I couldn't control with Lamaze anymore.
With the epidural slowing things down, F was born at 4:52, not quite two hours after we got to the hospital. I suppose that if R hadn't stood there when I wished he would leave me alone, asking what else I needed, and therefore noticing that my contractions were close together, I would have had her at home.
So I got to wear those new maternity pants maybe a couple of times before I didn't need them anymore.
I do remember this: I wanted to make the crib bumper because I'd read that babies need strongly contrasting patterns to look at. All the bumpers I saw were pastel colors, and they were out of my price range anyway. I consulted my mom, who researched how to make crib bumpers, and bought a white sheet and some red, yellow, green, and blue taffeta. I set about appliqueing a row of primary-color tulips onto the sheet. I thought I'd have lots of time to get this done before my daughter was born, but during that last week it was pretty clear that things were going to go faster than we'd anticipated. My mom came up to see me on Wednesday of that week, and while we were visiting I finished those tulips. She took the sheet home with her and constructed the bumper, and brought it back the next week in time to put it in F's crib when we put F in it. I remember F staring at those tulips when she was a little newborn. Probably the first of many parenting issues I have given thought to over the last 20 years (and don't seem to be slowing down, though one doesn't usually think of parenting a grownup) and one of the ones that actually worked out.