It’s Time

I hadn’t slept all night.  The insomnia thing, it was amazing to me.  I’d never had trouble sleeping, ever.  I was the kid who never fought to stay up late; I put myself to bed when I was tired.  I loved my sleep.

But nine days after my due date, with my belly riddled with stretch marks and protruding in ways that alternately fascinated and scared me, my discomfort was extreme.  I needed sleep.  I wanted sleep.  But it was two in the morning and I was going into the second night in a row of sleeplessness.

Contractions were waking me up.   I’d feel myself in the fuzzy haze of near sleep, only to feel my stomach tighten and press inward, pulling me up and out of the haze and into the sharp edges of pain.  I’d already been to the hospital once for false labor, and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.  I’d been mortified as my father raced over to meet my mother and I in labor and delivery.  Of course I didn’t know what labor was like.  I was eighteen, I didn’t know what anything was like yet.

But by eleven in the morning, with the contractions still regular and intensifying, I decided that this might be it after all.  My mother and sister had already begged off of work at the news that I was having regular contractions that weren’t stopping.  At nine days post due date, it seemed like finally a new life was about to begin, for all of us.

The day progressed slowly.  My father arrived, rolled up his sleeves, ready to be the best labor partner in the history of the world.  My doctor pronounced my cervix “still closed” at around 2pm, but told me to stay put and prescribed pitocin to make my contractions more productive.  At 4pm, during Oprah, I remember thinking that the contractions were indeed different, more stronger than they had been, and that I might actually be having my baby soon.

My mother came in and out, relieving my father so that he could get food and drink for himself.  She panicked early in the evening when I started asking for medication to relieve the pain, asking the doctor how long my labor would be allowed to go on before he would call for a C section.  I remember watching George Bush talking about the War on Drugs, wishing for some of them.   Nurses came in and out to check on my progress, and as the evening wore on, my baby slowly moved downward.

The pain was like nothing I could have imagined.  I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t concentrate on anything but the white hot fingers of pain that crushed me for a minute before easing.  My father would coach me on my breathing, watching the fetal monitor as the hill rose towards a peak and then dwindled as the contraction eased.  He asked the nurses for more medication to relieve my pain until finally, finally, they informed me that I was fully dilated and would be moved to the delivery room.

I’d never had an ultrasound during my pregnancy (it was not something routinely done unless you were high risk in those days), so I had no idea what to expect.  Was my baby healthy?   Was it a boy or a girl?  The doctor had estimated the child was at least seven pounds based on palpating my abdomen.  Every time I pushed, I thought that I was that much closer to meeting the child I’d shared my body with for nine months, wondered about, cried about, changed everything for.  I knew this pain, so different from the pain of the contractions, was the last of what I would have to endure before my child would be born.  My father reported on the progress, first telling me that my child had dark hair, then that it had my nose, and then telling me in an awed voice that I had a son.

I had a son.  A son.  As they handed all eight pounds, ten ounces of him to me afterwards, I whispered his name in his ear.  I hadn’t known it, hadn’t decided it, until the moment I laid eyes on him.



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