Monday, June 25, 2007

Epistle: To Z. on the occasion of her eighth birthday

Sweet girl,

Nearly nine years ago, your father and I decided it was time for us to have children. Several minutes later, I was pregnant with you, although I couldn't confirm your existence for another few weeks.

From the very beginning, you were perfect. I read every pregnancy Web site that existed (at the time, there were only three or four), ordered books from Amazon (and paid for super-expensive shipping to Israel), and took my multivitamin daily. When the book said I should feel something, by golly I felt it on the precise day suggested. Every test was perfect. Every part of the journey was exactly as it should be.

When I found out you were a girl, I was over the moon. As much as we say we don't care, we care, and I really wanted a girl first.

On Thursday night, June 24, 1999, I was already 2 days past my due date, so I invited two girlfriends over to help me pass the time. We stuffed ourselves on cheesecake and watched trashy shows on television, and every time I thought my stomach was hard, they'd poke me and say, "No, no, that's nothing. Wait till you find our what real contractions are." At 11:00 p.m., they left, and I sat on the floor and played with my brand-spanking new Powerbook computer.

Daddy was watching a movie on television, and he planned to go grocery shopping at around midnight, when the stores are surprisingly quiet. So at 11:50, he stretched out on the couch and closed his eyes. I said, "Hey, aren't you going grocery shopping?" He said, "Later." I kept using the computer, when suddenly, about five minutes later, I had a really sharp pain that lasted about a minute, and then -- pop! and a small gush of water.

I jumped up and said, "It's time to go the hospital." Well, darned if that didn't wake him right up. We took our time leaving the house -- I didn't want to run out in a rush and forget something. The pain was already pretty strong, but I could handle it mostly by just saying, "Ow. Ow. Ow."

We headed out to the car, and the pain was much stronger. In the car on the way, I was trying not to show that it hurt, because Daddy was already going 70 mph. When we got to the hospital, it was about 12:30 or so, and the receptionist told Daddy to take me directly to the labor and delivery area and to come back to fill out forms. The people in the labor and delivery area put me right in a room and brought the forms to me. When they checked me a few minutes later, I was already 5 centimeters dilated, and all I could say to everyone who came into my room was, "I want an epidural!"

The midwife -- and I use the term very loosely, because in Israel it means something totally different from what we think of as midwives in America -- who taught our childbirth class had spent weeks telling us that "Nothing hurts as much as labor, and that is why God invented epidurals."

The midwife who came in to check me at the hospital -- not the one who had taught me, suggested that I take an enema. At that point I was way too tired to argue with people, and she said it would help ease the pain of the contractions, so I agreed. They put us in a nice birthing room with a private bathroom, and Daddy started setting up my carefully-selected music and the portable stereo he drove two hours to borrow from his brother. Well, once I came back from the bathroom, about 1:15 or so, they checked me again and said I was about 5.5 centimeters. I told Daddy to just keep bothering them and make sure I got my epidural.

The nurses assured me they had called the anesthesiologist, and he was on his way. Several times Daddy asked me what music I wanted to hear. I was way beyond caring. I just kept saying, "Please make it stop. Please make it stop." He went out to check on the epidural and was told that it was on the way. The anesthesiologist walked in then, and I said to Daddy, "I want to push." He started trying to relax me, and I grabbed him gently and lovingly by the neck and said, "Go tell them I want to push!" So the nurses came back in and checked me, and lo and behold, I was fully dilated.

The anesthesiologist said he wouldn't give me an epidural if I was fully dilated. I started to cry, I think, and I told them I was scared and I couldn't do it. They switched the midwife who had been treating me with an American-born English speaker. She was unimpressed by my claims that there was no way I could do this without an epidural. "No woman who comes in here thinks she can do it," said the midwife. "And everyone gets through it just fine. Now don't push, because I have to open up the birthing kit." She set up her materials quickly and removed a triangular section from the lower part of the bed. I was actually glad to be lying down -- going from 0 to 10 centimeters in under an hour and a half is fairly draining. After what seemed like hours, but was really only about a minute, she said I could push. At this point, my overwhelming thought was that I was going to die because there was no way I could do this. Again, the midwife was entirely unimpressed by my sentiments.

She checked my amniotic fluid and said that it had meconium in it, meaning that they would have to suction you before they could let you breathe. Fortunately, my childbirth class had prepared me for that possibility, so I wasn't as terrified as I might have been if I had never heard about that potential minor complication. The midwife called in a pediatrician -- not all births in Israel are attended by doctors, but meconium in the amniotic fluid means they have to have a pediatrician on hand to check the baby immediately after birth.

So I pushed, all the while crying that I'm going to die and I can't do this and please make it stop. And then Daddy said he could see your head and that I was doing great, and the midwife said, "Do not push. Do not push." She and the pediatrician suctioned out your nose and mouth and then they let me push, and about 1 minute later, they put you, this scrawny little one, on my tummy. I think pushed a total of three times, over about 5 minutes.

They cut your cord and took you away almost instantly, to make sure you hadn't inahaled anything bad, but once they saw she was okay, they let Daddy make the second cut and brought you back to me. You really were a scrawny one, and we just played with your fingers and toes until they took you back to weigh you and do all the things they do to babies in the hopsital when Mommy isn't watching. You were born at 2:10 am, June 25, 1999, and you weighed 2.7 kilos (5.5 lbs).

Now here we are, eight years later, and it still amazes me that Daddy and I made a real person who walks and talks and has a sense of humor. You are so smart and beautiful, and when you are not being difficult, you are a lot of fun. You are an amazing sister, and we love you so much.


Anonymous said...

seventh paragraph has a real name
btw you definitely convinced me not to have a baby on public health ba'aretz, i'd rather pay for my own epidural than do without

WriterGrrl said...

Thanks for the tip, and it really wasn't a question of paying -- my labor was just too fast. I went on to have two kids at home with midwives and one more hospital birth -- an induction -- with no epidural. Once I knew I could do it, I knew I could do it.

ella said...

Happy birthday, Z! WG, I hope you will show her this letter someday.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

What a wonderful story. Happy birthday to your daughter and happy anniversary of becoming a mother to you.

There was nothing I hated hearing more in labor than "don't push yet." Argh! Can't wait! MUST PUSH!

Meira (comments AT voirdire DOT org) said...

Happy Birthday, Z!

I have a 9 year old and 2 year old twins, and I get dumbfounded when I remember that there was virtually no pregnancy/breastfeeding info on the web back then. Of course, that also meant a lot less clutter in my "breastfeeding & prozac" searches . . .

Zoe Certain said...

Mommy, FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE I WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT I WAS BORN AT 2:11! THIS IS AWFUL! It's just like that time when I wanted to cry because I realized that if I was born in the US, then I would be born on the 24, so for about half-an-hour I was convinced that I had celebrated my birthday on the wrong day. I didn't cry, though. It was back when I was a big girl, and I didn't cry at the table.