“Here’s what we can do. I can just rough you up a bit and then it’ll be time to go.”
In a moment of sheer stupidity, I said what all dumb people say to a horrid statement like that: “Um. Okay.”
In case you were ever wondering what it was like to pay for molestation at your OB-GYN in order to trigger a baby’s birth, I strongly suggest that you agree to that statement the next time you find yourself nearly naked and extremely vulnerable in gynecological stirrups that have birth control ads on them. (As if the situation alone weren’t sufficient birth control in and of itself.) Look, I’m not exactly sure what my doctor did down there, as I deeply believe in repression as a form of psychological coping. That being said, I’m pretty convinced that whatever may or may not have happened in my vagina somehow involved a sharpened cheese grater, a chainsaw, and a toy dinosaur.
A sick grin came across my doctor’s face as she emerged from the ruins of what had once been a normal, happy and well-adjusted vagina. “How’s that?”
With my vagina whimpering and shaking in the corner of the room, a shell of the woman she once was, I think I heard my vagina somehow manage to whisper: “You just murdered love.”
Dr. Mengele shrugged. “Well, your contractions are regular now—time to go to the hospital!”
It was go-time. We got in the car: suitcase in tow, vagina in pieces. The goldfish crackers were still spawning in the back seat of my car, as they had been on the day of my false labor. It was July 14th: Bastille Day. A day when the French stormed the Bastille fortress wall, liberating their country into a life of modernity…and a day when my fetus would storm my uterine wall, liberating herself from a life of maternity.
In short, it was time this little sucker to do something more than swim in her own urine. Au revoir, Womb. Bonjour, World!
This time, there was no smugness in the PET unit: I was in, and it was time to have my labradoodle.
Once I had been admitted into the hospital, I was reacquainted with Vagina Gopher and The Giantesse, both of whom obviously still wanted a piece of the 180-pound-hotness that was me, as they always did. With heaviness in their hearts, even they had to admit that it was time for me to be admitted (being committed comes later—I think after your child is about three weeks old; details to follow in later posts). After a little more molestation by these two humorless trolls, we moved across the hall into labor and delivery. So far, so good. Everything was fine; contractions were coming pretty regularly, and I was in “level 4” pain on a scale of 0 (at which point I’m cheerfully watching terrible reality TV) to 10 (when I would rather carve out my eyes with razor-edged ice cream scoopers than endure the current pain). The nurses recommended getting the epidural “if I wanted it” at this point.
Look, I respect all you natural birthers out there who want to “experience” birth “as God intended”, by which I mean of course that I think you are all insane, sadistic masochists who probably get your jollies and sexual kicks through hardcore violence to small, adorable animals. But to me, an epidural is not a question—it’s a fact. Why on Earth would I want to “feel” childbirth!?!? I feel and experience enough, thank you very much.
Imagine my delight, then, when an old man in scrubs walked into our labor and delivery room with an-almost-twelve-year-old also in scrubs. Was it “Bring Your Great-Grandchild To Work” day, perhaps? At this moment, my husband was told to leave the room. After all, we wouldn’t want HIM to have to see me in pain, would we? (Um, yes. I could milk that shit for years.)
Somewhat jokingly, I said to Junior, “You’re not new at this, right?”
Begrudging chuckles from the Oldster. “Oh no, he’s not new. He’s a resident, and I do want him to perfect his technique on you.”
Note to anesthesiologists everywhere: NEVER, EVER tell a patient that you want a resident to “perfect” his technique on you. And as long as I’m doling out tips here, please make a personal effort to avoid childbirth in July, when all the new residents arrive. Which means, take this handy note and put it in your goody drawer: “When in November, protection remember!”
Naturally, at this moment, I began crying, not that anyone cared. Where’s the humanity, I ask? I shouldn’t have to beg an emotionless nurse to hold my hand while I got the epidural. Did I do it? Yes, yes I did. For those of you uninitiated romantics, “epidural” means someone is going to stab the biggest needle they can find—we’re talking a foot-long needle here—in your back repeatedly in between your spinal thingies in an attempt to temporarily paralyze you from the boobs down. Sound awesome? Yeah, because it is. This is “not supposed to hurt”. There is supposed to be “a little stinging” and a “cold feeling.”
I don’t know about you, but when someone shoves a saw into my back repeatedly, yeah, it hurts like a motherfucker. At this moment, I began digging my nails into the nurse’s hand, trying to focus on her hideous metallic nail polish as I howled to the world like a wounded Wookie.
Obviously, my screeches were so horrific that neither the Oldster, Junior, nor the nurse felt the need to say goodbye to me; better not to make eye contact with the wild beast. They packed up shop unceremoniously and left the room, at which point my husband returned, a look of horror on his face.
“That sounded awful.”
At this point during the “delivery,” a term I use lightly as nothing had been “delivered” to me except several heaping plates of torture and molestation, it was time to wait for my trembling, scared vagina to bust a baby out (as in “How many babies you bust out?”—a question asked to me shortly after delivery by a visiting relative of another patient). Since I was only four centimeters dilated at this point—and for the next 16 hours, I might add—no one thought this “busting-out” was going to happen anytime soon. In fact, my OB-GYN did not even deign to show up at the hospital, literally “phoning in” her decisions to up my levels of Pitocin, a drug that doctors give you through an IV to make your contractions claw through your skin and make you hallucinate skiing down a mountain of spaghetti naked. (Yes, that was my own personal hallucination. It was AMAZING.)
Every two hours, someone would come to our room to “check my dilation” (read: see if my va-jay-jay was ready to barf out a newborn). Thanks to that magical epidural, these horrific checks didn’t even feel like molestation anymore! Each time a random resident came to check me out, I had only the vaguest sense that someone was up there—maybe with a trumpet or a wind instrument, perhaps?—but it didn’t bother me because the epidural had made the lower right half of my body blissfully paralyzed. The left side was still feeling the world somewhat, but I tried not to let that bother me at this point.
At 4 AM, I received a damning decree, though. Another nameless, faceless
resident peered into my vagina, left a kazoo in there, and then turned to me somberly. “Look. You’re still four centimeters. It’s been a while. If it keeps up like this, it does increase your risk of C-section.”
Cue Ariel’s emotional breakdown, including but not limited to: panic attacks, uncontrollable sobbing, and accusations against husband that he “doesn’t know I’m not going to die.”
By 6 AM, the residents finally found a resident in the hospital who knew how to break my “bag of waters,” or the baby’s swimming pool in utero. The plan of attack was to make this baby not want to be in there anymore by removing her pleasant living environment, which only sounded fair to me, as my pleasant living environment had seriously been ruined from the moment I got “roughed up” at the OB-GYN’s office just a day earlier. I begged my husband to go into my purse and take out the Jewish voodoo talisman that my mother had given me weeks ago: a silver amulet with a prayer for a healthy and safe childbirth. I gripped it tightly in my palm
At this point, I had also begun to accept my fate that I was going to have a C-section and probably going to die in the process as some newbie resident botched the whole thing as he or she “perfected technique” on my body. That was when I decided, as most people would, that before I died, I wanted my last moments to be spent watching “Spanglish,” the Adam Sandler movie, because it has an absolutely spectacular scene showcasing a sandwich with delicious-looking bread that makes me want to be a better woman each time I see it. (If you have seen this movie, you know what sandwich I’m talking about.)
By 6:40 AM, though, I had not yet seen the sandwich, and I felt something funky going on downtown. I grabbed my husband’s hand and looked into his eyes. “This really fucking hurts like a motherfucker.”
“It’s going to be okay, it’s just a contraction.”
“No, this really, really, really hurts like a motherfucker! I feel this huge pressure crushing my left side. But I don’t feel anything on my right side!”
Hmm: “perfected technique” = epidural that only works on one side of your body.
My husband tried to remain calm, and did a pretty good job at it but I couldn’t help but notice his eyes starting to get red. He was holding his shit together for me because I couldn’t hold it together myself.
“I NEED TO PUSH NOW!”
I can’t really compare the pain to anything because the comparison would fall short but how’s this: maybe THIS was what it felt like to have a huge freaking baby ramming its head over and over again against your pelvis? Who knows? For my first baby, the epidural worked!
Now I couldn’t even dream about watching that delicious sandwich anymore because the pain was real, and the attending nurse just plain old didn’t care. She looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s not time to push yet. Hold it together. We need a doctor to get here.”
I screamed, I cried, but that nasty old bitch of a nurse (husband correction: “sweet, kind, obliging nurse with your best interests at heart”) just didn’t care.
“I. NEED. TO. PUSH!”
The nurse quickly shoved a tricycle into my vagina, took her hand out and declared unceremoniously, “You’re ten centimeters.” And just like that, after 16 hours of torturous waiting and molestation, it was baby time!
Suddenly, my life had turned into a movie, but there was no Adam Sandler, and there was certainly no sandwich. People rushed into the room, seemingly from all directions, which was weird, because there was only one door on the room, so obviously some of them came in through parachutes through the window. There was a party in my vagina, and everyone was invited! As I screeched in terror, three residents and three nurses filed into the room. Each person took one of my limbs and pulled it in one direction, like I was Gumby.
As they shouted, “PUSH!” I felt like I was in a movie, but why had no one done my make-up? I was looking hideous! With three pushes that felt like I was taking the biggest shit of my life, out came our baby, covered in what appeared to be brie cheese. Had they shoved a fromagerie up there during all those checks? The wheel of brie was shoved onto my stomach as they started to sew my vagina shut for its six-week Vaginical, which is like a sabbatical, but for your vagina.
At the exact moment of our baby’s birth, my OB-GYN ran into the room looking fresh from the gym, spitting, “Damn. I missed it.”
Ya SURE did.
Next, she said with a confused tone that should have been filtered, “Weird—I’ve never seen a baby look like that before.”
Trust me, these are not the words you want to hear after you’ve just shat out a person, unless those words somehow suggest that your baby is some sort of otherwordly genius/beauty queen. But it was true, though. The baby’s body was that cute fleshy pink color, but from the neck up, her head was dark blue, and the first thought that ran through my head when I saw her was not very maternal: I just gave birth to a Smurf. I wish there had been another thought—a better thought. A more sentimental thought. But that was the thought I’d thunk.
Suddenly, neo-natologists joined Vaginapalooza .Thankfully, they decided that “when a baby shoots out like a bullet, the face is usually bruised horribly.” My little smurf was fine, it turned out. Just “roughed up,” like her mother.
So there she was: my 8 pound, 6 ounce bundle of joy, pink-bodied, blue-faced, looking really fucking angry—again, like her mom—and 100% ours.
I looked at my husband and saw in him all that sentimentality that I hadn’t let myself feel for the past nine months.
“Is that Eliana?” I asked.
And for the first time, he allowed himself some of the tears that I had cried for both of us all night long.
“Yeah. That’s her.”