The story of the birth of my first baby made sense in a world inhabited by a uterus with something to prove. The story of the birth of my second makes sense in a world inhabited by a uterus who wants no one else inhabiting her.
Maybe I didn't appreciate her enough the first time. Maybe I attributed her skill set more to nature than nurture. Or maybe, she was in the Olympic spirit with her eyes set on nothing but gold. I can only speculate what drove her and offer a meager attempt to honor what she pulled off last week by telling this tale.
After a night of comfortably uncomfortable contractions and four weeks of false hope that labor was right around the corner, I spent my due date waiting. Nothing of note happened other than the UPS cashier markedly improving his speed-of-service when he guessed I was five months pregnant and I responded, "No. I'm due today."
The day after my due date, I loafed around. My little boy and I made up drive-thru errands to run and my husband stayed close. "It's not happening," I told him, "today doesn't feel like the day."
To my ute, those words were the secret password. Her eyes filled with dervish glee and she said, "Today doesn't feel like the day?? I believe I choose the day, not your feelings."
Luckily, my husband didn't believe my disbelief about the day and arrived home early from work. My little boy and I were baking brownies and staring at a sea of spilled Cheerios. The latter doesn't sound like a mommy-and-me activity, but it is because without the dog, he and I engage in at least six daily 'who is going to pick that food up off the floor' staredowns.
As a family of three, we watched Sesame Street and then whipped up a nutrient packed box of Kraft (Yes, Kraft; not Annie's) mac 'n cheese for dinner so my husband and I could say it was for our little boy but eat most of it ourselves.
My uterus watched and judged, of that I'm certain.
In the middle of this uneventful Wednesday night I used the loo and noticed I was either being eaten from the inside by slugs or had lost part of the mucus plug.
"How long until labor after the mp goes?" I asked Google and was disappointed the results page didn't say, "in the next five minutes."
"You want it in the next five minutes," my ute said with a tad too much insouciance for my taste, "I can do better than that."
"OWWWWW!" I screamed and hunched over.
"This is it!" my husband yelled through a mouthful of mac 'n cheese.
"Wait," I said, when the pain had passed not believing I was in labor although if I wasn't, I was surely dying of a tropical, and still undiscovered, gastro-intestinal disease, "these will be at least 15 minutes apart. We've got time."
"Don't think so," I heard my ute say in a matter-of-fact tone that mocked my own like I was being played back. I knew I was in big, BIG trouble.
TWO MINUTES later another one struck with double the intensity.
"Oh my God," I said, "call my cousin NOW to come get [son's name here]."
The old girl had skipped the warm-up round. She and I were in hard labor in the blink of an eye.
The next 30 minutes were straight from a scene out of a cliched movie which my little boy watched with a bemused expression as he ate his mac 'n cheese. I tried not to yell while my husband tried to stay calm. We both failed miserably. My ute, however, was hugely successful in blasting me with a soul-crushing, earth-shattering, whimpering-inducing contraction every three minutes.
When my cousin arrived, we shoved our son out the door with his overnight bag and Tupperware case of brownies. Had the pain been a bit less searing, I may have teared up when I hugged him, thinking about all our twosome adventures and boring afternoons of the past 27 months, but all I could think about was an epidural.
The next hour and a half I recall in bits and pieces. That labor blackout trick that keeps the world populated has started taking hold and so I only recall a dark shroud of pain punctuated by a dozen memories.
I remember contractions in the car. I remember closing my eyes, gripping the seat and whimpering like a barnyard animal.
I remember my husband asking to place a final $100 bet on the baby's gender and me responding in a scary calm voice that would make one believe I had an ice-pick in pocket, "Please don't talk."
I remember riding up the elevator, saying, "Never, EVER again. Never."
I remember listening to a despairingly long list of "to-dos" that needed checking off before anyone would stick a giant needle filled with magical elixir and unicorn hair in my back.
I remember recalling the hospital tour guide's suggestion from a few months back to bring lavender or jasmine to ease the contractions and lucidly understanding that she was on acid when she shared this "helpful" tidbit.
I remember recalling the odd inflatable pool that was also mentioned on the aforementioned tour and quickly devising a plan to request it and drown myself if the epidural was not taken care of in the next 10 minutes.
I think I cried.
And then, the epidural woman came in; an elfin blonde with an Eastern European accent toting a shiny metal box filled with Cold War era torture devices. I told her I loved her. I meant it.
Post-epidural, just over two hours into labor, I was 8 centimeters dilated.
My uterus laughed out loud at the shocked look on my face and reminded me I'd be at 10 if she hadn't stopped at Starbucks for a Caramel Flan Latte. There had been one five minute space between contractions and it seems it occurred only because she was waiting on a barista.
I experienced 30 minutes of epidural bliss, which my husband and I used to align on a final name for a boy, and then felt pressure. I called the nurse, who called the doctor. It was go time.
As it had 27 months ago in a different hospital, in a different state, the room transformed into the Death Star and my ute was once again gasped at the probing lights that whipped down from the ceiling and stirrups that whipped up from the bed. I however, told her to get on with it. I appreciate her esteem for dignity, but she's got a job to do.
I pushed once.
The doctor said, "I can't hear the baby's heartbeat very well so I need you to push hard right now. We're not waiting for a contraction."
I did as told.
The doctor said, "Ok. I'm still having trouble hearing it, probably because the baby is under your pelvic bones. I'm going to cut you."
My ute gasped more loudly than when the stirrups appeared.
I on the other hand, wasn't sure what to think. Those are not the words one wants to hear when stirruped. In fact, I believe "I'm going to cut you" is a trendy phrase that is not usually followed by an actual cut in my circles. However, talk of heartbeats made me nervous and all I could muster was, "Uhh. Ok?"
The doctor asked the nurse for a vacuum and then asked me to push.
My ute, knowing it was too late to escape the knife but not the vacuum, used that third push to sweep my second baby out into the world.
"It's a boy!" my husband shouted, which I'd known all along without ever confirming.
I looked down for a second time at a bawling boy on my chest. "Brothers," I thought getting a little teary-eyed and immediately started forgetting the hell of the last 3.5 hours.
"Whoa!" I said after looking at the little guy a little closer, "he's BIG," and the doctor said, "yeah, he is big." The scale confirmed that I'd given birth to an 8-pound, 11-ounce baby.
In the distance I heard my uterus inhale loudly, preparing for a rant. I stopped her. "You're right. I had very little to do with this. It was ALL you." (Ok, so I had a little to do with it, but I need to hedge my bets. The chances are slim that I'll ever do this again, but nonetheless, I need her in my good graces.)
Last time, she chose a 12 hour, easygoing labor. Perhaps sensing I was a bit indifferent about her abilities, this time she brought a pain-riddled 3.5 hour labor. It bordered on a coup d'etat, so I will never doubt her again, and likely, never do this again.
Ute, this was another job well done. You grew (and grew and grew) another perfect baby boy and ejected him when you knew it was time. Now cash in your 401k and head for the islands. I will be here managing dirt and superheroes and blocks and huge appetites and little boy hugs. Thank you for the perfect workload.