Monday, January 14, 2008

Notes from the Underbelly

Today my dear friend Mindy sent me her thoughts on how everything has changed. I thought about how, four years ago, we stood on her yard crowded with wooden pink flamingos I had sent for her birthday. I handed her a black strapless backup dress and she ran into her house and changed into it in the foyer before our three-hour dinner at the Melting Pot. A month later, she painted her toes purple in the passenger seat of my car on our way to Virginia Beach where we crashed in sleeping bags on her friend's couches, ate tuna salad sandwiches every day for lunch, to save money, and flirted with ill-chosen boys, to kill time. I watched the series finale of Friends in my jogging clothes on her couch because I was locked out of my house. She taught me how to climb indoor walls. We drank Sam Adams Cherry Wheat beer and watched movies and talked about the past and how it might come back in the future. She was one of the first people to meet The Boy. She said his spiky hair made him look "youthful" before we knew he looked youthful because he actually was. She's hundreds of miles north of here now, in her snowy Vermont with the love of her past who turns out to be the love of her life. So yes, everything has changed. Here is my response:

I can't get over how much things have changed either. I've been watching a ton of t.v. since I've been home with the baby and there is this commercial that starts with this couple in the hospital with their newborn and says, "How did it all start?" and goes backwards through the pregnancy and wedding and dating and every single time I see it it makes me cry (and I'm getting choked up now just thinking about it).

Sometimes I remember that I'm still the same girl, but sometimes it's hard because, so far, everything is so freaking different than it was. And that doesn't mean it's bad-- I love this little screaming, pooping person more than I can get my head around-- but everyone always says the first six weeks or so is the hardest and I have to believe that's right. The sleep is so spotty and I'm breastfeeding so I'm kind of chained to her until I get her to take a bottle (hopefully next week) and Dan and I aren't really sleeping together because I'm not really sleeping, and she's crying now and has been for about ten minutes so I can't even call you like I'd really rather do, so this is what you get.

I'm typing with one hand while I hold her with the other because, apparently, it was far too lonely in her bassinet. And having said all of this, my real fear-- aside from that, despite my 22-pound weight loss in 3 weeks, I will never get back into my jeans-- is that I won't live in this moment enough to appreciate it before it's gone. She's already grown so much. As much as I complain about going stir crazy, I know I will miss this time when my whole responsibility is resting and caring for her. Even when I'm deliriously tired at 3 AM, there is nothing in this world that compares to my little daughter falling asleep on my chest. Which is what she's doing now.

And despite all these whiplash changes, or perhaps because of them, I do desperately miss my friends. I feel like I have nothing to share, as my world has at once become quite big and very small. But please don't hesitate to call me. Most of the time I don't know where my phone is and I might not pick up, but I'm finally emerging from a three-week haze and would love to talk. And the monkey will eventually fall asleep, which means I will eventually call you back.

Thank you for checking in with me; your friendship is very important to me, no matter how jealous I am of your vacations and continued ability to type with both hands.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

After two visits I preferred to call "early" alarms because they weren't really false, Friday, December 21st we went to my little sister Sarah's JV basketball game. The Boy helped me climb to the top row of bleachers, much to the amusement of onlookers. I got entirely too heated coaching and chiding from up there, and the girls lost a heartbreaker in the last seconds. Sarah was supposed to stay through halftime of the varsity game that was to follow, but she told her coach she had to go. "My sister has to go to the hospital to have her baby." To our knowledge, this was not true. I scolded her for lying, but we were ready to go, so we went to dinner and Sarah got her things to spend the night at our house. "One more time before the baby gets here," I had said.

We couldn't agree on a movie and ended up watching Notting Hill, a movie I have never liked, on the couch before heading up to bed. At 1:30 from the bathroom, I called The Boy. "Yeah?" he answered from our room. Later he admitted it should have occurred to him, under the circumstances, that if I was calling him from inside the bathroom, he should probably come to me.

"My water just broke," I told him calmly, hovering over the toilet.

"Are you sure?" he asked. I enumerated the characteristics that made me sure and asked him to wake Sarah who, minutes later, came into the bathroom and watched as I stacked 4 maxi pads on top of each other, trying to figure out how I'd make it to the hospital without leaving puddles behind me. The Boy wandered in and out of rooms muttering, "Okay," repeatedly and under his breath. But we had done this twice before that week. I had not been to work since the previous Friday-- we were heavy into waiting mode-- logistically, at least, we were ready. He got the car and I brought a beach towel and my suitcase and we were off. I looked around at our quiet house as we left, cognizant even then that when we came home everything would be different.

At the hospital they knew my name before I said it and led me to my room. I knew the protocol at this point. We waited for the contractions to get worse. They did, but I didn't make any progress. I encouraged The Boy and Sarah to sleep while I writhed, the pain intensifying. Against my better judgment and my plans, I asked for pain medicine. I was in the middle of telling The Boy a story when the nurse injected my bum and my IV with the meds. I stopped mid-sentence. "I feel...I really know, I feel kind of..." I mumbled.

"Drunk?" the nurse offered.

"Yes. I feel kind of drunk," I said.

"Well, it's really good medicine." Still I was disappointed because I had vowed not to take any except for the epidural. I didn't want to be stoned for the birth of my child; I felt responsible for the drop in her heart rate that occurred almost instantly. Still, we waited. They started Pitocin. Everything got worse. The OB who was not my own expressed concern that I would not be able to dilate on my own, thanks to potentially unnecessary surgery I had undergone years before.

"Unless I can do it manually," she said, "you may need a C-section." I teared up. That was not in the plan either. She offered an epidural and said she would try once it kick in.

"Hi," the anesthesiologist said, "I'm Dr. Payne." I am not making this up. He decided I did not need a high dose, despite my admonition not to be fooled by my lack of dilation. The Boy was asked to leave the room, and I threw up on the nurse. I would later view this as a turning point. The OB was able to begin dilation, while I prayed, all nonsense and pleading. We waited. My family sat in the waiting room, wringing their hands.

Three hours later (13 hours into this ordeal), I told the nurse who had just started her shift that I was feeling lots of pressure and would like another dose of the epidural. "Your OB is in surgery and so is Dr. Payne. Let me just check though," she said, as if on a whim. "Well, you're feeling that way because you're fully dilated and ready to push. I'll get your doctor." Needless to say, I did not see Dr. Payne again. I get a little indignant now when someone says, "But you had an epidural, right? So you didn't feel anything?" I thought that's how it would have gone. No such luck. But I did not scream or swear or tell The Boy it was all his fault. I did, however, push for over two hours.

I thought the baby would never come. I turned down offers to look at the progress in mirrors, maintaining that the whole thing was gross. The Boy, regardless of his intentions, did not get that option. The nurse told him to hold my leg and count. He was awesome, and if he was queasy, he didn't show it. I have never felt such pain. But watching my little purple daughter emerge was, so far, the highlight of my life. Tears streamed down my face and I immediately forgave her and loved her like I have never loved anyone. I used to wonder why mothers weren't bothered that their new babies weren't clean when they are placed on their chests. I didn't care.

In the waiting room, my mother nearly lost it. She had visions of an emergency C-section no one had bothered to tell her about. When it was over, she stopped the OB in the hallway. "My job was to deliver the baby," she said when Mom asked for an update, "And I'm done now."

They finally let my family in and everyone cried. It took what felt like ten minutes before anyone even asked her name. Mirabella Bly. 7 lbs, 1 oz; 21 inches, born on December 22nd. And she's crying now, and so I'm off.
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