2. Passed out*
3. Gone home with a boy I’d never met before
It sounds like I’ve been having wild and salacious times, but in reality, that’s a misleading lead-in to a labor-and-delivery anecdote.
On June 28, I was heading down to KU Med for a routine pre-natal appointment, wherein I expected to be weighed, have my blood-pressure checked, and get to hear the baby’s heartbeat on their little amplified stethoscope gizmo and told, “yep, everything’s great; come back in two weeks.”
Up until 6-28-13, this had been The World’s Easiest Pregnancy. No morning sickness, no stretch marks, minimal fatigue. Really the only complaint I had was swollen feet, but when you are pregnant as hell during the summer, it’s to be expected. Things had been going well. Too well. The superstitious side of me was vaguely uneasy, but the practical, matter-of=fact side mostly told the superstitious side to shut the hell up and enjoy this unwarranted good fortune.
So, that Friday morning bright and early, on Rainbow Boulevard, just across from Bank Midwest, there’s no delicate way to put it: my water broke. I recognised this as Not Good, In Fact Bad, Very Not Good At All. I knew I hadn’t wet my pants for a variety of reasons, mostly boiling down to not being incontinent. So, I pulled into the parking lot, called Joel, and told him that he probably should meet me at the hospital, because I was pretty sure my water had broken.
I checked in for my 9:00 appointment, so that I wouldn’t get a nastygram from scheduling, but I clued them in on the salient fact that my shoes were full of amniotic fluid and that I had Concerns. I tell you what, showing up to ObGyn in a state like that gets you triaged almost faster than immediately. Joel had just enough time to meet me in the hallway before they whisked us off to Labor & Delivery where it rapidly unfolded that the baby we’d assumed we were expecting to arrive in August would be arriving within the forthcoming 48 hours. The plan became “keep Michelle out of active labor long enough to fill her with antibiotics and steroids so that the little fellow’s lungs would get a bit of a jump start before he had to start using them.” This led in to two days laid out flat on a hospital bed, mostly banned from eating, anxious, bored stupid, and kind of freaking out because I had So Much Shit I’d been planning to get done before the baby was to be born.
For the first 24 hours I was in the hospital, I was not allowed to eat, in case I spontaneously went into labor and might require some sort of anesthetic. When I made it through that period of time, they told me to go ahead and carbo-load because I was going to have a hell of a workout ahead of me. Joel brought me a Chipotle burrito, which since by that point I hadn’t eaten in something like 30 hours, was the Most Delicious Food In The World, Ever.
After the Great Burrito of Succour, I was once again banned from food in anticipation of an induction. Now Induction – let’s just say I’d been fed a shitton of horror stories about it and was feeling a whole damn lot of trepidation. Like Pitocin is the Devil and so on. Well, as it turns out, my body was already in the mood to go into labor, and therefore I never needed the Pitocin. Just the whatever-it-was they used to dilate the cervix was enough. Once that got started, the rest of my reproductive system was like, “Okay, I’ll handle it from here.”
As to labor, I’ve got to say, it kind of sucked, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe. Of course, I reckon I’m lucky ’cause I was only in active labor for about three hours, so it didn’t physically wring me out like one of those marathon 52-hour-sessions would have done. It was short and fairly wretched. There’s a reason it’s called “labor” rather than “Happy, Goodtimes Cooter Party,” and that’s because it is some seriously hard work. The pains were nothing at all like what I’d been expecting. I was expecting something akin to turbo-charged period pains, but the reality was that it was a series of extreme, violent, rhythmic muscle spasms coming from different directions throughout my lower abdomen.
Also, I could never have known that the pain would make me hallucinate.
I suppose I should make a disclaimer that I’ve never taken any hallucinogenic drugs before. No acid, no mushrooms, no peyote, no X. I’ve lived a singularly plain and chemically un-enhanced life. I have, however, experienced auditory hallucinations after prolonged periods of sleep deprivation. Those, however, consisted of nothing beyond hearing music that didn’t exist (mostly annoying drum-n-bass).
While I was hallucinating my way through labor, I wasn’t really aware that I was hallucinating. Nonetheless, with each contraction, I was seeing tessellated patterns of colored geometric shapes which would form, then rotate, flip, or slide into other configurations, Kaleidoscope-fashion. As they formed and re-formed, they would sprout eyeballs at the corners of shapes with corners, and fangs in random gaps in the pattern. As the contraction neared an end, the pattern would dissipate, like the scattered colored sands of a Tibetan mandala.
Now might be pertinent to note that I had an unmedicated labor. I’d originally went in determined that I wouldn’t have an epidural and all that, that I wanted to be aware of everything that was going on. The irony of it is that because my body freaked out so spectacularly from the pain alone, that I was probably more out-of-it than I might have been if I’d had some pain relief. At a point, I reckoned I couldn’t take it anymore and asked after an epidural or, you know, sweet merciful death, but they inspected me and said, “nope, that ship has sailed – it’s actually time to start pushing.”
So I did, and shortly thereafter, I had a baby, and that was frankly pretty awesome. The actual delivery was less unpleasant (from my perspective) than the labor leading up to it. Granted, because Joseph was so tiny (4lb 14 oz.) he didn’t cause me nearly as much grief as he probably would have done had he waited until he was supposed to get here.
Joseph jumped the starting pistol by about six weeks. We ended up spending a solid two weeks in the NICU while he learned such vital life skills as “how-to-suckle” and “breathing: it’s best if you continue to do so regularly.” Also “Body Heat 101.” Fortunately, he graduated these core courses and they let me take him home on 7-13-13. Since then, he’s been a really great baby; fairly laid back, very into feeding, quite snuggly, and frankly pretty cute, if you ask me. You will have to take my word for it so, far, though because my photographic abilities don’t extend very far into portraiture. Also, I fear my young son has inherited my diabolical inability to retain a pleasing facial expression when confronted with a camera. Nearly every photo I’ve taken of him involves an awkward facial expression. I’m not deliberately taking silly pictures of him, either. Somehow or another, just as I snap the picture, he goes from looking sweet and cute and tranquil to looking like Curly from the Three Stooges. I hope sooner or later both my photographic skills catch up and that he gets over this weird-facial-expression phase.
If you’re so inclined, here are more examples of my infant-based portrait-photography incompetence. You will have to take my word for it at this stage that he actually is really a cute little guy.
*I couldn’t find a good place within the narrative to tell the “passing out” part of the story, so I shall finish it out as a footnote. At a point just before the whole too-late-for-an-epidural episode, I’d been having a contraction and feeling like hell. When the contraction passed, I felt really gross, like I was about to be sick. I asked the nurse who was in the room if there was a bag or bowl or something I could throw up into. She fetched a plastic basin and handed it over to me. I leaned over it, in anticipation of being violently sick, when, well, I blacked out. I remember thinking, “deep breaths, you’ll feel better after you puke,” then feeling better. Briefly.
I came to with about a half dozen people clustered around me looking extremely worried. I was seeing little sparks flying all around my field of vision, like looking through a 4th of July sparkler.
No-one knows exactly why I fainted. At first, the nurse thought it was some kind of seizure. It may have been from hyperventilating, it may have been a response to the pains, or it may have just been freakishness. It’s the first time I’ve ever fallen unconscious, so I don’t have a lot of frame of reference for that one.