I was terrified that Marlowe would die in utero. I'd get up every morning and drink ice cold orange juice and jiggle about until she kicked. I had three consecutive miscarriages in the year and a half before the "good pregnancy" and I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then a very dear friend lost a badly wanted pregnancy at six months. I could imagine nothing more crushing than a stillbirth---so as per my usual habit---I had to brace myself against the worst case scenario. After her loss, I had endless nightmares about my own pregnancy. Self-absorbed much? Yes, I have to make everything about me.
My husband was wonderful through out every moment and I had an angel of a doula. There were a couple of friends whose endless reassurance and advice were priceless. But as a whole, entering motherhood felt solitary. No one can give birth for you. No one knows how you physically feel--- least of all that fucking Angelina Jolie who was at the time, publicly proclaiming that pregnancy makes her feel the most sexy she has ever felt.
I was pretty sure I was doing it all wrong. For being the most natural thing in the world, it all felt very unnatural and miserably uncomfortable. In the last weeks I slept nearly upright; slumped over like a hobo on a park bench.
Delivery was ridiculous. I went in to be induced at 40 weeks because she was already "quite big", and I suspect also because the doctor could see Crazy written all over me. I go into the hospital and get some kind of cervical prep pill and then start on Pitocin. "Pit"---they call it, because they are old pals---does not work on me. My uterus immediately wigs out. My contractions come too closely together. I imagine my uterus is hyperventilating. I could use a paper bag myself. They dial down the Pit, to "calm things down" but increasing it again creates the same results.
The next day I had made no progress and the doc was about to break my water. She warned that I'd likely have a c-section, which she knew I did not want. I was told that all vitals looked good, so I could go home for up to another week instead of having my water broken. So I LEFT the hospital. I left the hospital and went straight to the biggest bathtub in NYC, which fortuitously belongs to my bestie. I fully submerged my manatee shape into the warm water and cried.
After a week of employing every old wives tale that I had ever heard for natural labor induction, a week of a waddling tour of the malls of Long Island and non-stop Braxton Hix, I was still not in active labor. So back to the hospital I went for take two. Water broken. Pitocin again making me contract every minute but not at all productive. I eventually gave in and take the epidural in hopes that it would help my contractions be normal. I'm making no progress and under constant threat of c-section, when suddenly I am miraculously fully dilated.
The epidural gets turned OFF and I push for three hours. It's a vacuum of time and space in which the pain comes in waves and is accompanied by my workout jams power songs playlist. "Can someone skip to the next song please?" my husband asks when The Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get Retarded" starts playing.
I'm allowed to push for three hours because the doc is busy delivering other babies. It's go time. I'm given the choice of c-section or forceps. I go with the forceps. An audience of med students is brought in (yes, seriously) to observe and learn the antiquated art of assisting childbirth via salad tongs.
I hear a doctor say "ohmygodohmygodohmygod." And I scream out, "what's wrong?!!"
"That was just me. Nothing's wrong", my husband replies.
She's beautiful with huge dark eyes, but I'm physically shaking so hard that I'm can't hold her. She has lots of business to tend to anyway and so do I. In the corner of the delivery room, the baby is getting the tune up and detailing by her pit crew. At the same time I'm getting "fixed up". It takes forever. This is my first clue that I am tore up from the floor up.
It's the middle of the night and I'm now in my Soviet-era shared hospital room. I wind up on the "bad floor" of the hospital. The one that "will be renovated next year". The baby is in the nursery because I panicked and there are nurses there. I assume they know what to do and I'm certain that I do not. I'm all alone expect for my faceless comrade on the other side of the curtain. I get up to go to the bathroom, which is arm's length from my bed. It turns out that's a positive. I can't walk.
The nurse wheels her little plexibox into my room for feeding/ bonding/ staring at a sleeping baby. Her breathing is erratic. [It will be months later when I learn that all babies have erratic breathing.]
Now I'm terrified that she will stop breathing.
This is the first time the thought enters my mind. It will take several months, a Zoloft prescription and a motion detection monitor in order for the thought to release me. Til then, I have to watch her breathe. Everytime I wake up, I am in a panic. My constant vigil is the only thing keeping her alive.
It's the first time in my life that I'm holding an infant and not desperately waiting for its mother to rescue it (and me from it). There will be no rescue. This is mine.
The sun rises and sets and I'm 100% discombobulated. I cannot get her to latch onto my frighteningly massive boob. The nurse shows me all kinds of tips, none of which I can put into practice. "You want her mouth to completely cover your areola." That's not going to happen. She is 16 hours old and my areola is the size of a vinyl record. I'm able to express a little bit into a thimble sized cup. And then I pump. [For the next two months: I try to get her to latch. She gets a bottle. I pump. Repeat. One day it works and she stays on the boob for a year.]
The next day I manage my first shower. It feels like the best shower ever. It looks like a crime scene. I can still barely walk. But I'm packing up to go home. That's when I'm informed that I'm cleared to go home, but Marlowe is not. She has to stay in the hospital because she has severe Jaundice.
Almost as an after thought the nurse adds: P.S. Your baby has failed the hearing screening. She hands me a pamphlet called "Can your baby hear you?". The nurse tells me that "it's probably nothing, likely just fluid". In that moment my heart sinks to the pit of my stomach and I know that my baby is deaf.