There Should Be 12-Step Programs for Stuff Like This
Dear Suzanne Collins,
If I’m fired, I’m blaming you.
I’m supposed to be a quiet, steady, productive little worker bee right now.
Instead, I’m squirming around in my chair like a heroin addict in the beginning stages of withdrawals, eyeballing the book that’s in my purse, and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT.
You and your stupid intriguing writing. You and your stinky memorable characters. I hate your new series, The Hunger Games. I hate it!
Stupidly, I bought the first book in the new series.
Stupidlier (don't be refudiating my new word. You're just jealous I thought of it first), I cracked it open while waiting in the doctor’s office for an ultrasound of the Squidgelet.
Instantly, I was GONE. While I may have physically been sitting in a dingy little doctor’s waiting room, I wasn’t really there.
By the time the cranky nurses got around to calling my name, I resented the intrusion.
I SHOULD have been staring in breathless awe at the sight of my unborn child dancing merrily around the grainy screen of the ultrasound machine.
No. You and your stupid Katniss and her STUPID desire to survive kept distracting me from the joy that was at hand.
“Hold on,” the technician said sweetly. “Your baby is playing hard to get, and I want to make sure you get a beautiful photo to take home and share with your husband.”
Normally, I’d be thrilled with a few extra minutes of watching The Squidgelet.
Thanks to YOU, Collins, my sweet little technician’s offer only irritated me.
“It’s fine. Just take a picture. Yeah, I know it’s just a leg. The Bean likes photos of grainy legs. He’ll be excited to see the femur up close. No, seriously. It’s fine. Just take a picture.” I glanced in the direction of my purse, sweating slightly. Katniss! Hold on, Katniss! I’ll be with you in a moment--- I’ll set you free from your literary prison!
Stupid Suzanne Collins. You and your stupid writing could have made me have an accident. It’s not MY fault I didn’t have the strength to put the book in the trunk of my car. I barely managed to keep myself from reading it while driving, and only picked it up at the red lights.
For the record, I’ve never hit so many stupid green lights in all my life.
When I pulled up in front of my house and noticed that the Bean had surprised me by coming home early, was I excited? Was I thrilled to spend a few extra hours with my wonderful husband before he left on a five-day business trip?
No. Instead of rejoicing and dashing in to be with my family, I sat half-tangled in my unbuckled seat belt, slowly edging out the door, promising myself I would put the book down after …just… one…
Twenty minutes later, I guiltily crept out of the car and walked through the front door.
“Hello, Bean!” I smiled brightly.
“DragonMonkey!” I picked him up, twirled him, and gave him a hug and a kiss.
Perfunctory duties accomplished, I immediately shoved my nose deep inside the book and completely ignored my wonderful family for the next hour, occasionally murmuring out “Just one more page…” in completely unconvincing tones.
Darn you, Collins. DARN YOU. I wanted a lovely evening with my family, and you stole that from me.
On a side note… all of you blog readers out there? Yeah. You may love the men in your life, but I have the world’s BEST HUSBAND EVER. After watching me ignore him for hours, not only did The Bean forgive me… He claimed he had “errands to run”, snuck out to Target, and bought me Book Two of the Trilogy.
The only problem is that now I am completely unable to focus on my work. I have a book at home… an unopened, unread, completely engrossing book. If I call out sick, is it really a lie? I mean, I’m dying to know what happens in the next book. Dying is like being sick, right?
I really need to learn how to monitor what comes out of my mouth.
In most people, it seems like the pathway between their brain and their mouth is a small, narrow tube with several filters and checkpoints along the way.
I was not born with a small, narrow tube.
I was not born with filters or checkpoints.
I have a gigantic, 8-lane highway with no speed limit. Thoughts zoom past each other at hundreds of miles per hour, all jostling and crowding each other in an attempt to come out of my mouth first.
I am known for many things.
Tact and delicacy are not among them.
The other day I was having dinner with a couple of friends.
Actually, since I might as well be honest, I called up my friends and basically begged them to invite me to dinner. Even though they already had dinner plans with several couples I’ve never met, they still invited me over.
How dumb of them. They ought to know better by now.
I managed to keep my foot out of my mouth for most of the evening. I made bland, polite conversation with people, and laughed in all the right places.
That is, until dinner.
As the table conversation ebbed and flowed, eventually the topic turned to the pets. After a few funny stories, the conversation took a more depressing turn. Apparently, one of the couples at the table have a beloved pet rabbit. Apparently, this rabbit is one o fthose house-trained bunnies that runs around and has the use of the entire house and does his business in a litter box. And apparently, their pet bunny is the rabbit version of Houdini.
Unfortunately, no matter how they tried to keep him in the house, Mr. Nibbles kept escaping. The couple would leave for work and every day,without fail, they come home to find their beloved pet rabbit grazing in their front yard. After a couple of weeks of sleuthing, they finally found the bunny’s escape route.
High-fiving each other, they plugged the hole up tightly, and all was well.
That is, until about a week later, when they came home to find the bunny, YET AGAIN, laying on their lawn. Unfortunately, Mr. Nibbles wasn’t doing so well. They’re not sure what happened (car? Cat? Jump from a high window?), but somehow the Mr. Nibbles had become partially paralyzed. Although he seemed to be in no discomfort, Mr. Nibbles’ back end no longer works. He drags himself around the house with his little bunny paws, back end trailing uselessly behind him.
At this point in the story, everyone grew very somber. How sad. Poor Mr. Nibbles.
Except for me.
“If he’s paralyzed, how is he using the bathroom?” I asked in a chipper, your-poor-paralyzed-bunny-doesn’t-bother-me tone of voice. “How is he able to make it into the litter box if he can only drag himself by his front legs?”
Mr. Owner answered sadly, “He can’t make it. Poor Mr. Nibbles tries, but he can’t make it over the edge. It’s sad. We have to bathe him daily now.”
The entire table made sad noises, murmuring sympathy. Poor, poor, poor Mr. Nibbles. Poor Mr. Nibbles owners.
Except for me.
“So he’s got no bladder control? He’s just going whenever he feels like it, all over your house now? You guys aren’t keeping him in a cage? Rabbit pee is really hard to get out.” I shook my head somberly, taking a big bite of food. Poor, poor Mr. Carpet.
Mr. Owner’s mouth tightened slightly. “He can’t help himself. He’s paralyzed. We have to carry him to food and water, or he’d die.” He heaved a big sigh, and pushed his food away. Obviously Mr. Nibbles’ predicament was ruining his appetite. He reached over and grabbed his wife’s hand in a show of support. “We did some research, and we’re thinking of building him a little cart.”
From around the table, there was a general murmuring of positive support.
“We think it’s really going to help. We’ve done the research, and all we would need to do is build a tiny little sling for his back end. With the wheels, Mr. Nibbles could pull himself around the house, just like the old days.” He and his wife shared a quavering smile.
The murmuring around the table grew in volume. Oh, yes. Yes. What a wonderful idea. How heartwarming. You know, someone had even seen a documentary about a poor, paralyzed Chihuahua who had lived many, happy years with a wheelchair sling of his very own. How sweet. How caring. What a lovely idea. What a lucky rabbit, Mr. Nibbles was.
And somewhere, in the middle of all that positive affirmation, my brain vomited out another random thought. Obediently, my mouth began to flap.
“You know, if you did that, you could probably find him a home on Craigslist. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would want a paralyzed rabbit with a cart. It’s got that whole tug-at-the-heartstrings aspect to it. Just take some cute photos of him wheeling himself around and you’d have tons of people calling. Heck, you could even sell him for a decent chunk of money, recoup the cart costs and get yourselves a healthy rabbit.”
From around the table there was a stunned silence, which gave me a disastrous few seconds to think up the real clincher:
“Heh. Just make sure you don’t sell him to any homes that have cats. Heh-heh. Meals on Wheels. Heh. Heh.”
I looked up from the steak I’d been cutting to find myself on the receiving end of 8 identical stares of disgust.
Oh. Hmmm. Maybe I should have kept that last part to myself?
Stupid brain. Stupid mouth. Stupid lack of tact. This is why I don’t leave the house anymore. I can’t be trusted in polite society.
And for those that don't want to read Part Two (BEAN, THIS DOESN'T INCLUDE YOU!):
Once you agree to what is called an “emergency” c-section, things become a little hectic. Apparently, once the wheels are set in motion, the medical team has a limited amount of time to remove that baby from your belly.
What have you eaten? Are you allergic to any medications? Who is your emergency contact? Have you had anything to drink? How much do you weigh? Do you have any known reactions to morphine?
All I remember about my frenzied trip from the delivery room to the surgical floor was a barrage of questions and the insertion of a yet ANOTHER tube up my woo-hoo (Foley catheter). From the time I agreed to the time I found myself transferring myself onto an absurdly narrow surgical table, it had to have only been about 5 or 6 minutes. While overwhelming and frightening, there is something to be said about the ruthless efficiency about the entire process.
The spinal wasn’t bad. It really didn’t hurt much more than a normal needle poke, although I admit I was more concerned about falling off that ridiculously tiny table than I was about the needle in my back. Through it all, I remember the kind, soft voice of my anesthesiologist. She’s the only one who took the time to really look at me. She had large, soft eyes, and I remember grabbing her hand when she offered it to me.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” I said in a high, panicky voice. “I mean, it’s too fast. I’m scared.” I glanced at the sterile, cold operating room. “I’m really scared. I don’t want surgery, but I have to. But I really don’t’ want to.” All I could see in my mind’s eye was the video we watched in Lamaze class. I know they probably meant for the CGI graphics to be comforting, but something about that video had embedded itself in my mind. I kept flashing back to the scene where they showed the disembodied hands spreading the contractor to separate the abdominal muscles. I liked my abdominal muscles in one piece. I didn’t WANT them separated, and I really, REALLY didn’t want disembodied hands pulling out my uterus and plopping it on my rib cage to “check it for tears.”. The whole thing felt foreign and frightening.
“You’re going to be okay. This is a great team. We’ve already done three c-sections today, and they all went smoothly. You’ll be fine.” She pulled her hand out of my iron grip, and reached up to tie on her face mask.
I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I was about to meet the DragonMonkey, but it was really hard to sink into a happy place when there was a strange woman crouched over my private parts, shaving me. I tried to ignore it, but it was just a little too much. Suddenly, I had an almost ferocious desire to just be Left. The. Hell. Alone. The nurse and I started a pathetic, almost comical slapping war. She’d shave a bit here and there while I grit my teeth and tried to think happy thoughts, and then my resolve would break and I’d slap her hands away. She’d counter by gently smacking my own hands out of the way, and I’d tuck my hands underneath me obediently… for about 1.3 seconds, and then I’d be back, slapping at her hands again. I remember her looking up at me in frustration, and biting out, “I NEED to clean the field for the surgery.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” I said weakly, watching helpless as my hands rose of their own accord to slap at her again. “It tickles,” I lied.
Finally, she motioned to the nurse at my head, who left off of draping me to tie my arms down.
Did you know that when you go in for surgery, they strap your arms down in the crucified Jesus position?
So, I learned something else about myself that day. I’ve always had the suspicion that I’m claustrophobic, but I’ve always managed to avoid situations where my suspicions can be proved.
While I knew and completely respected the fact that my hands needed to be out of the surgery field, I couldn’t help myself. I grit my teeth in an attempt to send my thoughts elsewhere, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that my arms were tied down, and all of a sudden I snapped.
I yanked hard at both arm straps and managed to break the Velcro ties. Somehow, despite the fact that I was 217 months pregnant, I managed to sit bolt upright, and managed to tear down the blue curtain separating me from the rest of my body. I probably would have leapt off of the table, but the spinal had already taken effect and my legs weren’t quite obeying me.
“Get her arms! Get her arms!
“Get her out of the field! Don’t let her contaminate it!”
I’m not sure what I was really thinking. In fact, I don’t think I was thinking much at all. To be honest, it was kind of like I’ve got to hand it to those nurses--- they’re quick! Not even five seconds after I made my pathetic attempt at freedom, they had me flat on the backboard again, arms strapped down with a double set of straps.
I tried to control my breathing, because I could actually hear myself borderline hyperventilating. I glanced around the room wildly.
And saw The Bean come in, warm brown eyes smiling at me from behind his papery mask.
I’ve never been more relieved to see anyone in my entire life.
“I’m scared.” I looked up at him, and felt a tear start rolling down my cheek.
“It’s okay, Becky,” he said, wiping the tear away with the back of his sleeve. “It’s okay. Everything’s fine.”
I took a deep, shuddery breath, and closed my eyes. The Bean was there. He’d watch over me.
For the hundredth time, I tried to force my body to relax.
This time, miraculously, it worked. I felt myself go warm, almost liquid. I felt the fear drain out of me and my breathing returned to normal.
I opened my eyes and smiled at The Bean. Ha. Mind over matter. See? All I had to do was take a deep breath, and I was able to overcome my fears. I let my eyelids sink back down, and reveled in my newfound peace.
I felt goooooood.
Of course, what I didn’t realize is that panicky patients are administered the morphine a little early. So what I thought was my superior, Jedi fear-controlling skills was actually just some really good drugs.
Oh well. I was proud of myself at the time.
The surgery itself was completely painless. Sure, there was a little pressure. Sure, there was a little tugging and pulling. But I really didn’t care about any of that. I was too busy enjoying the warm, golden sensations of having completely eradicated all fear from my body. I was queen of my emotions. I was warm. Golden. Fuzzy, soft, happysleepygood, all is great….
I was high as a kite.
I opened my eyes occasionally to share the golden peace of the moment with The Bean, but he was too busy trying to look over the edge of the screen.
Suddenly, over the mundane chatter of golf foursomes and dinner get-togethers between the two surgeons (seriously guys, could we get any more cliché? ), I heard the fairly angry wail of a baby.
“Is that… is that a baby?” It wasn’t my brightest moment ever, but what can I say? Morphine: it’s a helluva drug.
The surgical staff ignored me, so I tried again.
“Is that a baby? Is that my baby?”
Finally someone answered.
“Yup! That’s your baby! He’s a BIG boy, too!” There were a few, wet, squishy sounds I tried to ignore, and then, “Dad, want to have a look?”
The Bean stood up and peered over the curtain, and gave a joyful, shout of a laugh that will stay with me forever. I felt my eyes begin to tear up at the beauty of the moment, watching the play of emotions on The Bean’s face as he…
Reached into his pocket and whipped out a camera?!
There are many unflattering positions in the world that don’t’ make for good camera angles. Strapped down like a crucifix with your belly slit open and your internal organs piled on your chest are definitely among the top 10.
The man was very, very wise not to ask me before bringing a camera into the surgery.
“So, dad, are you ready to cut the cord?”
The Bean looked at me with panicky eyes. We’d discussed this previously, and the Bean had expressed his fervent desire to have NOTHING to do with the cutting of the cord. When I pressed him for answers, he said he was concerned that he might cut it the wrong way, and the baby would end up like the turkey in the Christmas Vacation movie.
I can argue with a lot of things. That just wasn’t one of them.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to, “I reminded him, and The Bean visibly sagged in relief.
“I don’t want to. You guys can go ahead.”
And with that, the DragonMonkey was on his own.
He weighed in at 7 lbs, 10 ounces. He looked a lot bigger at first, but in addition to his huge head and gigantic, barrel chest, he had nonexistent hips and scrawny little toothpick legs.
In short, I gave birth to a large, red, screaming frog.
Note: NO, I didn't do this out of meanness. I had to make the DragonMonkey mad to keep him awake through our failed nursing attempts for the first few days.
Once he was cleaned up and swaddled, The Bean brought him over to show me.
I’d like to say that I had something beautiful and meaningful to say all planned out. I’d love to say that I saw my son, quoted a scripture verse, kissed him on his head with a prayer of blessing, and then delivered a beautiful 14-line sonnet.
Instead, I said exactly what I thought. “Wow. He’s really ugly.”
It wasn’t really his fault. The poor little guy had been trapped backwards in the birth canal for so long that he looked like he’d been on the losing end of a bar fight. His nose was… well, it wasn’t really where it was supposed to be. And his eyebrows and lips were, well, bruised.
Still. He was mine. I craned my neck to follow them as they left, and then closed my eyes to wait for the doctors to sew me back up.
I don’t really remember the trip down to recovery. I remember showing the anesthesiologist I could move my legs and transferring into the hospital bed. I vaguely remember Nurse EvilSpawn and The Bean standing beside my bed in the elevator, waiting for the door to open.
The next thing I remember, I was sitting in an empty 5-bed recovery room, with me at one end and Nurse EvilSpawn at the other. She was bent over a stack of paperwork and had a pink tub beside her. I craned my neck around trying to get my bearings.
“Where am I?”
“Recovery,” she said, without glancing up.
I looked around a bit longer, trying to figure things out. I scratched my nose, which seemed inexplicably itchy.
“Where’s the baby?”
“The nursery,” she said, in a monotone.
A few more moments of silence went by. My blood pressure cuff began to inflate, and I craned my neck around to see the readings. I noticed that that my respiration rate was off the charts. I seemed to be breathing at a steady rate of 47 breaths per minute.
That’s weird. That seems really high, I thought, scratching my nose. I watched the numbers a bit longer.
“Are my breaths supposed to be that high?” I asked, knowing full well that they were not.
“You’re FINE,” Nurse EvilSpawn said in a grumpy, leave-me-alone voice.
I sat there in silence, scratching my nose, for a few minutes longer.
“How long do I have to be here for?”
“About an hour. You need to recover and I need to finish this paperwork.”
My itchy nose seemed to be spreading to my cheeks. I tried scratching them, but my hand wasn’t working like it normally should have. I waved it in front of my eyes a few times, and everything seemed… off.
“Excuse me, but… did they, uh, give me something? I feel… weird.”
Nurse EvilSpawn snorted. “Morphine. You’d be screaming in agony otherwise.”
Even high as a kite, that sounded a little rude, but who was I to know? Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. After all, I couldn’t get my hand to work right, so I obviously wasn’t the best judge at the moment.
I began to get the feeling that she was a little too busy to really look after me, so despite the fact that my thought processes were about as consistent as jello, I tried to watch the monitors to see if anything went wrong. I only had my EMT basic, but it was enough to know that a respiration rate in the high 40s was not normal in the least. I did my best to slow it down, and managed to bring it down into the 30s.
The blood pressure cuff inflated and deflated several more times, each with readings in the normal range.
“Can I see my baby yet?” I asked, breaking the silence once again.
“No. I’ll let you know when.”
I watched the monitors through another few series of blood pressure readings. I scratched my nose some more, and came away with a little blood. Whoops.
“What’s in the pink bucket?” I asked.
“Really?” I perked up, trying to see it, but felt an odd tightening at the incision site. Hmm. Probably not the best idea. “Does it… does it look okay?”
“It’s adequate. I’ve seen better, but I guess I’ve seen worse.”
I opened my mouth to try to drag more information out of her, but The Bean walked in. I reached out, and grabbed his hand, and asked about the baby. The Bean looked exhausted, but he had a huge smile on his face. He told me he looked healthy, and that he had all the right number of fingers and toes. The DragonMonkey had been chewing on his fist since he’d been in the nursery, which the nurse took to mean he’d be a good eater. A short time later, Nurse EvilSpawn and The Bean wheeled me to my room, where my family was waiting.
I’d like to say I remember every moment of that day, but like I said before, Morphine is a helluva drug.
I remember The Bean wheeling the DragonMonkey in and placing him in my arms. I remember glancing at the clock and realizing it was a full two hours after I’d given birth.
I remember thinking that there was NO way anybody should be handing me a fragile newborn when I couldn’t even manage to scratch my own nose properly.
I remember the nurse chasing everyone out of the room and trying to guide me into latching on. Unfortunately, I was too high and the DragonMonkey was far too sleepy by that point for either of us to do much more than make a complete mess of it.
I remember family members coming in and wishing me well, and a phone call from my dad in Thailand.
I remember the nurse asking me why I kept scratching my nose, and if my face was normally that red. I remember her giving me a Benadryl for my allergic reaction to the morphine, and muttering something about "recovery is supposed to catch stuff like this."
I remember trying to enjoy my “Celebratory” meal of beef broth and clear gelatin while The Bean chowed down on turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, and vegetables.
I remember leaning halfway out of my bed to puke over the railing, and feeling something pull unpleasantly in my stomach.
I remember at about 3 am, after yet another failed feeding attempt, the morphine wearing off VERY suddenly and me realizing that I had pulled something VERY unpleasant with my little puke session.
I remember a host of other things, but none of them clearly. I remember the nurse instructing us to use nipple shields to get the DragonMonkey nursing, and assuring me that they would be easy to wean off of (HA. NOT TRUE.).
I remember feeling totally disjointed from this black-haired, alien little thing that looked nothing like me.
I remember unswaddling him and laying him on my belly beneath the covers, skin against skin, and falling asleep. It may not have been the safest thing, but it was the first time I felt anything less than a strange emptiness when I held him.
I remember the sweet nurses with their helpful advice, and how they completely made up for the sullen behavior of the Nurse EvilSpawn.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember much else. Between the codeine and the exhaustion, I’ve pretty much lost the entire first week of The DragonMonkey’s life. That may not sound like much, but I have a very vivid memory, and it’s one of the things I really enjoy. I can recall conversations from years ago, word for word, but I can’t remember anything much from the first few days of being a mom. The fact that my memory of The DragonMonkey’s birth is so completely disjointed is one of the main reasons I’m so intent on NOT having a C-section again this time.
But all my complaining aside, I made it through. The DragonMonkey made it through. The Bean made it through.
And I never found out Nurse EvilSpawn’s real name, so even she made it through.
I know I'm skipping ahead on my story, but eh. It's my blog. I've been doing a lot of research on avoiding another c-section, and this story wouldn't leave me alone, so I wrote it down.
I don't know if I have any guys who read this blog, but I don't want to alienate them. So here, you guys can watch this instead of reading today's blog:
Okay, onto the story.
For someone so intent on having a natural birth, I was desperate to be induced. If Pitocin was an actual plant that grew somewhere, in October of 2008 cyou ould have found me squatting in a field, cramming half-chewed handfuls of leaves down my throat as fast as I could.
Technically, I was only a day shy of 2 weeks over due.
Realistically, I was more almost 3 weeks overdue. The date according to the due-date calendars was October 10th. On the other hand, at my first ultrasound (when I was supposed to measure at 9 weeks) I measured at 9 weeks, 6 days. They decided to keep my due date the same on the paperwork, and since I knew better than to worry about such a silly little thing as the official due date, I didn’t complain. Mentally I changed my due date, but the paperwork didn’t agree with me.
Somewhere around 36 weeks I woke up one day, and I felt “done”. I don’t know how else to explain it--- I just woke up and realized that the DragonMonkey felt like he was finished cooking. Besides, friends, family, and even random strangers on the street took one look at my gigantic planet-sized belly, and everyone agreed: There was no possible way I could make it to 40 weeks. I was definitely going to go early.
At 37 weeks, Matty dropped into position, and I developed PUPPP. PUPPP is an acronym for “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy”.
What this means, in layman’s terms is the following:
HOLY ****! MY SKIN HAS BURST INTO FLAMES, AND IF I STOP SCRATCHING FOR ONE NANOSECOND, THE FLAMES WILL CONSUME MY SOUL.
In other words, it’s itchy.
It can be classified as “itchy” in the same way flesh-eating bacteria and ethnic genocide can be classified as “not so good”.
I think my experience (and advice) with PUPPP deserves a chapter of its own, so let’s just leave it at that.
After 4 straight days of not sleeping more than 20 minutes at a stretch due to the itching, I managed to devise a routine: Ice-cold oatmeal bath followed by a generous slathering of three different anti-itch lotions, topped off by Sarna, and then I packed bags of ice on my stomach, legs, armpits and thighs.
I’d doze off for about an hour or two, until the ice had melted, and I’d repeat the process.
Somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning I would give up and try to do something to pass the time. The Bean and I were living in a one bedroom duplex. Our only television was in our bedroom (I didn’t want to wake The Bean) and we didn’t have any internet at the time.
I baked cookies.
I re-re-re-re-re-re-read books I’d read a thousand times.
I refolded laundry.
I tried not to scratch, as I’d already broken through skin and was bleeding in several places.
I stared at the walls.
I moped about, occasionally shaking my fist at the heavens and threatening to empty rooms in a Scarlett-O’-Hara-like resolve to Never Be Pregnant Again!
I’ve never had to deal with insomnia before, but I have to say I have a new found respect for its sufferers.
Ice packs. The second I took them off, the burning fire of an itching returned immediately.
Ice packs. Sarna. Oatmeal baths. Ice packs.
The rash spread further, crawling its way up my stomach and down my legs like a parasite.
Ice cubes in the cold-water bath, in an attempt to make it better. Sarna.
I took to biting my knuckles, once even accidentally biting off a piece of flesh, because for that brief second that I caused myself the pain, I wasn’t itching.
Ice, ice, and more ice. We were going through about 3 bags of ice a day. The corner store must have wondered about our sudden ice fetish.
Days began to meld together, and I felt like I was losing my grip on sanity.
I began begging my Ob/Gyn for an induction, only to chicken out at the last second. I wanted so badly to have a completely natural birth. Surely I could make it a few more days. I was due any day… any second, really.
I saw the nurse practitioner at the doctor’s more than I ever saw the actual doctor, and she knew how important it was for me to try a natural birth. She started stringing me along with half-promises. “Come on in next Tuesday, and if we don’t see any progress, we’ll might induce.”
After the third time we called our families to tell them they had put the induction off for another few days, we quit calling telling them about the possible inductions.
I started trying everything. I walked every night, waddling up hills and slowly through the city.
The DragonMonkey descended lower, making walking difficult. It’s a hard thing to explain, but I actually felt that kid’s skull in my nether regions. It felt like if I crossed my legs, I might actually do some damage.
I ate spicy foods.
I drank raspberry tea.
I was stuck at 2 centimeters dilated, and it seemed like I was going to be that way forever.
I increased my walks to several times a day.
They stretched my cervix, and despite the fact that I stood in the shower and tried nipple stimulation (oh, the sexiness) for over an hour, I couldn’t get the contractions to become regular. As soon as I stopped, they would stop.
I walked some more.
I ate Indian food so spicy it made my eyes burn just to be near it.
I waddled to the nearby library and researched every method of inducing labor that I could. I’m pretty sure I tried almost all of them.
I even bought a bottle of syrup of ipecac, but couldn’t actually go through with it.
Nightly, I turned to The Bean, heaving my grossly swollen body onto its side, tapped his shoulder, and said the world’s least romantic line: “Sweetie? I need you to deposit some more sperm near my cervix.”
To his credit, he never once complained.
To my credit, I told him he could shut his eyes and think about Anne Hathaway.
Inexplicably, miraculously, the PUPPP’s inflammation decreased. It wasn’t gone, but I could at least get 2-3 hours of sleep at a stretch. It felt like heaven.
Monday night, October 13th, I felt a change. I’d been in and out of the bathroom all day, with cramping and the runs (oh, the double sexiness.) Spicy food? Impending sign of labor? It was hard to say which it was. I’d had occasional Braxton Hicks contractions all day. My sister and I went down to screen a movie (Australia), and I warned her that there was a real possibility that we would have to leave before we were finished.
I made it through the movie with only 2 or 3 contractions. I was thoroughly disappointed.
I went home and slept restlessly, waking up several times with low, burning cramps.
Tuesday was awful. I had low, light contractions all day long. They weren’t terribly painful, but they were frustrating. I wanted the kid out, and I wanted him out NOW.
I walked some more, stopping occasionally to lean against a tree and sway.
Tuesday night was no better than Monday night. I was able to sleep some, but between the itching and the occasional contraction, it wasn’t the best.
By Wednesday, I was a mess. I began having visions of baby elephants and a 2-year-long gestation period. I kissed the Bean goodbye, and stayed in the house all day. I timed the contractions desperately. 45 minutes, 35, minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 8 minutes, 8 minutes, 7 minutes……. And then they would reset. 45 minutes apart, 35 minutes, 18 minutes, 9 minutes, 8 minutes, 7 minutes… 50 minutes. And so on, and so on.
I didn’t have any real friends in the area, so there was no one to talk to. It was a very long day.
Finally, about four in the afternoon, when I was once again around the 7-8 minute mark, I called the hospital.
“I’m having contractions, and they’re about 7 minutes apart. Should I come in?”
“Don’t come in until you’re five minutes apart,” said the nurse in a bored tone. “Just drink some warm milk and go for a walk and call us back when you’re at five minutes.”
She hung up on me.
I stared at my cell phone and had visions of ramming a machete through her skull.
Warm milk? Seriously?
The Bean came home, and the sun set. Exhausted, I slept deeply between the contractions, which were about once every hour. When I could feel my stomach tightening, I would immediately scramble to my hands and knees, since that seemed to make it feel better. I didn’t realize it at the time, but The DragonMonkey was facing backwards, so I was actually enjoying the beauty of back labor.
Dawn finally came. I had an early morning doctor’s appointment. I went out onto our front porch, and sat in depressed exhaustion, leaning my forehead against the pillars. I was going to be pregnant forever.
My neighbor came out onto her porch, and looked at me in surprise. “You’re still pregnant? I thought you had that baby by now.”
I was too tired to be as snarky as I felt, so I just ignored her.
At the doctor’s I put my feet up in the stirrups, and I prayed. I didn’t know what I was going to do if she told me I was still only 2 centimeters dilated. Dig the baby out with a spoon? Jump off a bridge? They were all sounding like viable options by that point.
She took a little longer than normal before lowering my covering, then looked at me. “Becky, you’re at five and a half centimeters. You need to go to the hospital.”
I was so happy, I couldn’t help myself. I broke down crying.
After making all sorts of promises that we would head straight to the hospital, the Bean and I headed home. I wanted my bag, and The Bean was in DESPERATE need of a haircut, especially since we were about to be featured in about the 1,400 photographs my mom took of the event. Since I now knew that my contractions weren’t just wasted Braxton Hicks contractions, I didn’t care that they were coming so far apart. With a smile I waved The Bean out the door, and he dashed to the corner.
Humming happily, I began fussing about the house. I knew the next time I saw it I would have a baby. I washed some dishes, and had to resist the urge to start cleaning the bathroom.
About 30 minutes later, my phone rang.
“Is this Becky?” the voice on the other end sounded disgruntled.
“Yes. May I ask who is calling?”
“This is the hospital. We were told you were going to be here any minute. We paged the doctor, and you’re not here. Where ARE you?” She sounded for all the world like a grumpy mom chastising a toddler.
I was so happy I wasn’t going to be eternally pregnant that I chose to ignore her attitude.
“Oh, we’ll there in a moment. We just needed to stop by the house and pick up some items.”
“Well, you need to get here soon. Just get in the car and come here now.”
I raised an eyebrow, but ignored her surly tone.
“We’ll be there as soon as we can!”
She hung up on me.
The Bean came home, sporting the worst haircut I’ve ever seen. The Bean favors the short, crew cut that Marines often wear. Until I saw him, I wasn’t aware you could actually mess up that hairstyle. He looked like he’d been attacked by a pack of feral moths.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” he asked, grabbing my bag and helping me into the car.
“No, no,” I lied, eyeballing an actual tuft of hair that sprouted out of the side of his head like a weed. “It looks great.”
We pulled into the hospital and made our way over to labor and delivery.
“Uh, we’re here to check in, please.”
The nurse looked at us in confusion.
“Who referred you? What procedure?”
“Um, actually, we’re here to give birth. I’m in labor. About 5 ½ centimeters along?”
Here eyebrows hiked up. “Wow. You guys are really calm! Sorry, I didn’t realize it was you guys. We’ve been expecting you. You know, you were supposed to be here sooner. Your nurse just left to get her lunch. She’s been waiting to check you in,” she scolded.
I didn’t know what else to say. “I’m sorry?”
She sighed. “It’s okay. I can page her.”
I changed and lay down on the bed, smiling over at the Bean. My nurse came in, a impressively solid woman with a permanently scowling face.
“Hi there,” I said.
“Lay down on the bed.”
“Oh, sorry. It just feels better to stand between contractions. Sure, no problem.”
She ignored me, and waited for me to settle in before strapping on the fetal monitors.
“Sorry about taking you away from your lunch. I’m doing pretty good right now. You don’t have to wait around on me.”
She glanced at me dourly. “I do. You need 10 minutes of fetal monitoring.”
She finished strapping me in and inserting my IV.
“Bend your legs.”
I stared at her in confusion, and crooked my leg slightly.
She sighed, heavily. “More.”
I bent the other one, still confused.
“MORE,” she said, in exasperation, and grabbing one leg to show me what she wanted.
“Oh. Sorr—“ I started to say, then yelped as she dove a hand in to check my dilation.
“You need to stay still for me to measure you,” she snapped.
“I didn’t realize that’s what you were going to do,” I snapped back, biting my tongue before saying anything further. I mean, seriously. Shouldn’t you at least share your first name before plunging wrist-deep in someone’s va-jay-jay?
“Six centimeters,” she hollered out to no one in particular, then said, “Roll over on your side.”
I was done taking her deceptively simple instructions. “Why?”
“I need to give you an enema.”
I glared at her. If I hadn’t of asked, would she even had told me what she was about to do? “Do I have to have one?”
Nurse EvilSpawn glared back at me. “The doctor prefers it. It prevents contamination on your baby and ensures the baby is born in a clean environment.”
I shrugged, motioned The Bean out of the room, and rolled over.
It SERIOUSLY hurt. Either they gave me an enema with one of these:
Or she did it wrong.
“Try to hold it for five minutes. Call me when you are done.” And with that, she left.
Ten or fifteen loud, embarrassing minutes later, I paged her back in the room. She reset the fetal monitors, and the Bean sat beside me, fascinated by the graphs and readouts.
I had two strong contractions, relatively close together. Not being able to sit up or rock on my hands and knees made them really hurt (yaay for back labor).
An unknown doctor came into the room, followed by two unfamiliar nurses. “Your baby’s heart rate keeps dropping during your contractions. We need you to lay on your side. We’re going to start a Pitocin drip to hurry things along. I think it’s best if we break your waters, too.”
I nodded, frustrated and a little worried.
The doctor pulled out an evil-looking hook and talked me through the process. For those of you who haven’t had a baby yet--- yes. The rumors are true. It feels like you’ve just peed yourself.
Flat on my back, I reached out to The Bean, and grabbed his hand, only to push his hand away as another strong contraction came. What had felt moderately painful when I was standing suddenly hurt like the dickens now that I was lying down.
This time, I was horribly aware of the sound of the DragonMonkey’s decreasing heart rate throughout the contraction.
“BEEPBEEPBEEP-BEEP-BEEP---BEEEP-----BEEEP----“ It was impossible to relax and let my body do its thing when I could hear the sound of the contractions apparently squeezing the life out of him.
Nurse Ratchet returned.
“You need to lay flat on your back with your knees bent through the contractions.”
So I did--- and &#%#! that hurt. All I wanted was to be able to stand up to take some of the pressure off my back, but I couldn’t, especially not with the sound of the slowing heartbeat echoing in my ears.
The doctor reentered. “We need to take a more accurate measurement of what’s happening to your baby through the contractions, so we’d like to do some internal fetal monitoring. Also, without the cushion of your waters, the baby doesn’t seem to tolerate the contractions as well. I’d like to thread a catheter up to provide some more fluid for him.
I didn’t want to say it, but come on. Fifteen minutes earlier they’d broken my waters, and now they were going to try and put more water back up in there? Whatever.
The doctor completed his tasks, and I shifted uncomfortably. I had an IV in my arm, two bands around my belly, two thin wires up my vajajay and screwed into my son’s head (they felt weird), another tube threaded up there and running fluid into my uterus (it felt even weirder) that constantly leaked out (that felt the weirdest) and I was now instructed to lay flat on my back for the rest of labor.
The next contraction hit with a vengeance. I twisted halfway onto my side, and tried to breathe through it. The Bean froze, unsure what to do. At the peak of the contraction he tried to hold my hand, and I slapped him away. I could feel myself wanting to make a low, grunting noise, but stopped, because I could feel Nurse EvilSpawn watching me and I felt embarrassed. The contraction was long—well over a minute, and it was well off the charts of intensity on the monitors. I could hear the nurses talking about me, but I was so caught up in the moment that I couldn’t speak.
“She needs to settle down. Look at her heart rate. She really needs to just calm down.”
“What she needs is an epidural, “ said Nurse EvilSpawn. “But she says she doesn’t want one.” I could hear her rolling her eyes.
“But look at her heartrate--- that’s not good for the baby.”
“Yeah. I know.”
I wanted to throw something at them. What I *needed* was for them to shut the heck up and quit talking about me like I was a mindless cow. What I *needed* was for someone to actually tell me what was going on, and that it was going to be okay. The Bean was even more nervous than I was, and when he wasn’t sitting there silent and unsure, he was trying to point things out to me on the monitor, like the fact that my previous contraction was strong. Really? Wow. Without that monitor, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. (For the record he has been officially fired from his position as birth coach. We’re getting a doula this time.)
The doctor entered again, and sat at the edge of the bed. “We need to make a decision. Your baby is not tolerating labor well. If you were further along, like 8 or 9 centimeters, I might say that we give it a go. But you’re only at six, and you probably have a long road ahead.”
I glanced at The Bean, who looked just as lost and confused as I was.
“I don’t know. I guess... I guess I just want the baby to be safe. Should I get a C-section? Is that what the baby needs?”
“It’s up to you.”
“What happens if I don’t get one? I just want the baby to be safe.”
The doctor smiled softly, apologetically. “At this point, I can’t make that decision for you. It’s up to you. His heart rate is decreasing significantly with every contraction you have, I can tell you that.”
I sat there for a moment, angry at the way it was turning out. I weighed the odds, and decided that my personal wishes were not worth risking the DragonMonkey’s life.
As a wrangler with a string of horses, it’s inevitable to have favorites. Let’s face it—like people, every horse has a different personality and a unique set of quirks, and it may not always mesh well with your personality. For instance, we had a sweet half-draft gelding named Drifter. Drifter was a fantastic all-around horse. Sturdy, solid, deep chestnut with 4 gleaming stockings, a wide blaze and a flaxen mane and tail, he was the kind of horse people dreamed of owning. His half-draft blood gave him feathered legs, an impressively deep chest and hindquarters, sturdy bones and a thick, deeply arched neck. His other half (seriously, what did they breed him with? A pony? How do you make a half-draft horse barely reach 15 hh?) gave him a cute little head, perky ears, and a startlingly nimble agility. For such a stocky horse he was incredibly quick, and if you drew him during one of the gymkhanas you were pretty much guaranteed a win. He knew his job and he performed it admirably. He was responsive and alert, and only needed a light touch on his snaffle bridle to show him where to go. Most of the wranglers would fight over who got to use him during the trail rides.
I hated riding Drifter. He had amazingly large, expressive eyes in a surprisingly petite face, and whenever I would slip on his bridle, they conveyed one emotion: depression. I’ve never met a more depressed horse. Most of the string horses hated their jobs. After all, it doesn’t get much worse for a horse. Day after day, ride after ride, they have beginning riders plopped on their backs--- beginning riders who haul at their mouth and kick at their sides in an effort to “show them who’s boss”, shifting their uneven weight around in painfully interesting ways, throwing out an steady stream of unintentional mixed messages as they grip with their heels and haul at the bit in an attempt to ride. It’s not the rider’s fault—most of them were first-time riders. What more could you expect? Still, it’s a hard life for a horse, and most string horses burn out after a couple of years. They develop bucking problems, rearing tendencies, or nasty dispositions.
Drifter was too sweet of a horse to get even. Instead, he got depressed. The only enjoyment he seemed to get out of his rides was the chance to scratch his belly with the mesquite bushes that grew in the area. He would walk along in a steady, even stride the entire trail… right up until the end of the trail, where he would occasionally “drift” solemnly off the path and through a belly-high patch of brush, slowly rubbing back and forth as he went through before returning to his place in the string. It was hard for me to deny him his simple pleasure, mostly because of those big, sad, expressive eyes of him. Every couple of weeks, when he had hit his limit, he would give himself an extra day off. Most of the horses had 2 days off a week. Drifter gave himself a third by refusing to come in for breakfast. Catching the horses was simple—dinner was a light fare, so by the time breakfast rolled around, all we had to do was fill the row of feeders and the horses would come running. We’d close the gates at either end and voila. The horses were caught--- except for Drifter. On the days when he needed a break, Drifter would stand up at the top of the hill and refuse to come down, staring down at the rest of the herd eating their breakfast. I figured if he was upset enough to miss a meal, then he probably needed the day off. Like I said, I hated riding Drifter. It felt wrong to force myself on him when he so obviously asked me not to. Who wants to do that?
That’s why I loved to hate Raymond. Raymond was the complete opposite of Drifter. Whereas Drifter was sweet, solemn, and a pleasure to ride, Raymond was troublesome, annoying, and an absolute terror when he felt like it. While Drifter the ranch-favorite was eye-catching and majestic, Raymond looked like a midget Irish cob. He was a beautiful dapple grey, with a slight roman nose and a compact, impressively strong body. He could haul a 200 lb man up and down the mountain for 3 rides in a row and never break a sweat. He had thick bones, and sturdy, straight, absurdly short legs that were capped off by hooves the size of dinner plates. Everything else was well-shaped and normal looking, except for his complete lack of cannon bones and shanks. By all rights he SHOULD have been about 15.1hh. Instead, he was a stubby little 13.3 hh. He was shaped like a wiener dog. I’m sure at 5’9” I looked absolutely ridiculous riding him, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. As the shortest horse in the herd, Raymond somehow managed to end up as second in command. I think that says something about his stubborn wiles. It was like God ran out of lego pieces when he was making Raymond, so when he skimped out on legs he made up for it with a double dose of intelligence.
Raymond was stubborn. Lord, he was stubborn. It wasn’t that he was mean, it was simply that if he didn’t feel like going where you pointed him, well, then you were out of luck. It didn’t matter what kind of bit we put on him--- if Raymond felt like wandering off the trail and eating some of the green grass on the other side of the creek, well, then two of you were going to go to the other side of the creek until he felt like rejoining the group. If I as one of the wranglers was barely able to wrest control from the little bugger, then the poor fool who had never been on a horse certainly wasn’t going to be able to. On more than once occasion Raymond held the entire trail ride up as he dragged me to a patch of edible goodies. It didn’t matter that I was thumping the corner of my heels in his sides as hard as I could--- although he grunted audibly with each shockingly hard impact, he would cheerfully ignore me, meandering forward despite the fact I’d cranked his chin so far sideways it was almost over his withers. Bit? What bit? Stop? Turn? Huh? Me no speakum English he’d seem to say, ripping the reins out of my hands as he bent down to nibble, laughing up at me beneath the thick fringe of white lashes as he watched me search around for a branch to smack him with. Raymond respected crops, and the second I had found a switch he’d immediately quit grazing and meander over to me, standing complacently by my side, expression still teasing. Huh? The stick? Why do you have a stick? I’m standing by your side, ever-obedient to your wishes, my Mistress. Red-faced and irritated, I’d ignore the teasing of the group I was leading (Isn’t the wrangler supposed to be able to control her horse?) and head back out, Raymond docile and obedient.
I’ve always been a sucker for a horse with a sense of humor.
The only time I ever let anybody else ride him was when one of the guests had irritated me. When people irritated me, I would secretly downgrade their ride. People who were nice got Drifter. People who were irritating got a hard-mouth, trail-sour horse. People who were so annoying they made my teeth hurt got to ride Raymond.
“Do your worst,” I’d whisper at him as I tightened his girth and slipped in the bit. I swear that horse understood me, too. The rest of group would enjoy a peaceful, idyllic ride through the Ponderosa pines. The idiot on top of Raymond would be sweating and frustrated, ping-ponging from delicious grass-patch to interesting tree branch, or whatever else Raymond felt like looking at. “Use your reins,” I’d call out gaily from the front of the trail. “Just tip his nose in the direction you want him to go. You need to be assertive.” Raymond and I would both snicker beneath our breath. Just the tip the nose. Sure.
Like I said, Raymond was short—sturdy, but short. He was actually short enough that I could put my leg up over his back and actually slide on him with only a little hop. Once I got past the embarrassing fact that my legs dangled almost to his knees, I found his size rather enjoyable. After hours I would sneak into the back horse pasture, lure him over with a neck scratch, and then slide on him. The first time I did this, Raymond stiffened and froze. String horses aren’t usually used to anything other than the daily grind of feed, saddle, walk the trails, unsaddle and freedom. It took Raymond a few tense moments for him to decide whether or not he was going to spook and bolt when I hopped up on him bareback. I wasn’t that worried. If he bolted, I’d just slide off. It wasn’t like it was very far to the ground. He paused for a few moments, then decided to meander. I grabbed a handful of coarse, salt and pepper mane and deliberately avoided steering him. I was curious what he would do. Raymond took a few short, choppy strides, then smoothed out into a quick little ground-eating pace. His walk had us drawing near to a spooky little bay named Chip who bounced away at our approach, and I felt Raymond pause. I swear I could hear the wheels turning in his head. He cocked his head slightly, then set off deliberately at another horse. Obviously, horse with a rider trumps a horse, and that horse moved out of Raymond’s path without a fight. I felt Raymond take a short, happy little breath. “Ah-HA!”. You could almost hear him say it out loud. He picked up a steady little trot towards another horse, pinning his ears and shaking his head menacingly. The other horse bolted out of our way, and Raymond turned, honing in on Rock. Rock was a huge, black boulder of a horse. High-ranking and outweighing Raymond by several hundred pounds, the two of them would occasionally break out in furious, squealing kicking wars late at night. Raymond wasn’t about to let this chance pass him by, and while we were still half a pasture away he was pinning his ears at his nemesis. Rock pinned his ears in return, but moved away in a sulky manner from Raymond’s approach. Like Raymond had figured out, a horse with a rider trumps a horse, and he intended to use that to his full advantage. Raymond began to chase Rock across the pasture at a smooth little trot (his smooth trot was the other reason I loved riding him) practically snickering. I wasn’t in danger of falling off but I popped off and slid to the ground anyways. I hadn’t hopped on to give him the chance to terrorize the herd. Raymond faltered, then stopped, looking back at me in sorrowful confusion. “Why’d you go? We made a great team. We were having such fun.”
The problem with Raymond is that his sense of fun was always a little on the mischievous side. Wouldn’t it be fun to open the gates with our lips and wander through the tack room? We could pull saddles out and fling them around with our teeth! C’mon, guys! Let’s go squeeze through a narrow, dark hallway that we would never enter willingly on our own and go chew through the bridles!
It was like having Tom Sawyer in the herd, or maybe a destructive puppy. His worst game was stealing our radios. Each of the wranglers was assigned a hand held radio in case of emergencies, and most of us clipped them to the back of our belts. Now, with four fingers and an opposable thumb it was difficult at best to unclip these radios from our belts.
Not for Raymond.
Like a teenage boy unsnapping bra straps before bolting away, Raymond LIVED to steal these radios from the wranglers. It was hard to understand just how quick the little mongrel of a horse could be. One second you had your radio on your belt loop, and the next second it had been yanked off and was dangling by its antenna from Raymond’s mouth. When he first devised this game he would twirl the radio by the antenna, amusing himself by swinging it in circles until you got close enough to steal it back. Eventually, he learned how to toss it. He’d wait until you got close enough to reach it and then swing it wildly to the side with his head, tossing it a good 8 to 10 feet where it would land in the dust, slobber caking the dirt to a crusty mud. He did this one time, and I left him standing with his reins in a half-hitch over the saddle horn. Stalking angrily over to my radio, I wiped it off on my pants leg and repositioned it on my belt. Unbeknown to me, Raymond had followed me, tiptoeing and oddly silent for a horse. Before I had even completely repositioned the radio, he had snagged it again and was skittering away on his toes, laughing at me as he trotted off with the radio.
“RAYMOND. WHOA!” I said, knowing it was useless.
Raymond slowed, glanced at me, and then glanced at the water trough.
“Don’t you dare,” I warned, feeling myself starting a healthy blush as the rest of the guests began laughing at Raymond’s antics.
As if fueled by my command he stepped sideways, slowly, carefully edging closer to the trough until he was dangling the radio inches above the water. He twirled it from his teeth slowly, watching me with a steady gaze, lowering it threateningly as I slid closer to him.
“Raymond, I swear, if you drop that in the water I’m going to turn you into glue. Kibble. Dog kibble. Your feet will be glue and the rest of you will be Purina,” I hissed out between my teeth, edging closer, slowly. I didn’t want to spook him into dropping the expensive radio into the water--- I couldn’t afford for it to come out of my check. “Raymond, please,” I said, ignoring the fact that the rest of the group’s riders were now in hysterics at the stand-off between us. “Please. Please… I’ll do anything. Just don’t do it.”
Raymond gave the radio a couple more experimental twirls, then sighed. Leaving the water trough, he took a few steps to the side, and gently lowered the radio until it was only a couple of inches above the ground before dropping it. I darted forward and snatched it up, staring at him for a moment before running a hand gratefully down his neck. Smart horse---- what a scarily smart horse.
I really did love to hate Raymond. What a personality.