I recently read an article about a woman who had this super-keen memory about everything that had ever happened to her since childhood. For every day of her life, she could recall exactly what she had done that day, even if the day was uneventful for the most part.
The article did not mention the woman having any children, and I thought to myself that this ability, this extraordinary memory, would be a wonderful gift for someone with children. How I would love to remember every day that I spend with my children. Not just the family trips, but the days we sat on the couch and got it greasy with popcorn as we watched a movie. The days that were so hot we played in the sprinkler for hours. I remember some bizarre events, but oh, to remember them all.
Somehow, though, there are four days that I can remember the best. And they are the days that my babies joined me in this world. Palmer is ten years old today. And I remember every detail like it was yesterday...
My due date was May 11th. A Sunday. It came and went, and when I showed up to work the next day, I put a sign under my name plate that read: "Yes, I'm still here." Because I ended up hearing that question at least a dozen times in my first 15 minutes of work. My doctor told me I would be induced on the 19th, Tuesday of the following week. I settled in and planned on having the baby then.
On Saturday the 16th, I started to feel ill. I thought "Great, another UTI", since I had several during the course of my last trimester. I told Pieman I would be going to bed early, around 9PM or so. Even though we usually stayed up to watch SNL, I couldn't do it. I felt crappy.
At 3AM, I woke up with the mother of all bellyaches. I woke Pieman up and told him. He said "Go back to sleep, and let me know if you feel crappy again." I did. At 3:10. And 3:20. By then, we knew it was time.
We tried calling the doctor's office at 4AM. Busy signal. We kept trying. I was starting to freak out. We were watching music videos on TV. To this day, "Closing Time" will always remind me of the birthday of my son. And true, it was a new beginning, and the end of an old one.
We eventually got through to the doctor's office (I had been reading the number off the business card, and dialing the area code, but not the one before it. Back then, that would get you a busy signal). They said "Come in at 7" And so we planned to do so.
During contractions, I would pace around my kitchen table, chanting "I'm walking around the table, I'm walking around the table." It worked for me. I went up to the bathroom, had a contraction, and when it was done, took a shower, knowing I had 10 minutes, and nothing more. I shaved my legs.
I finished packing my hospital bag, using the checklist in "What to Expect". What a dork.
As we drove to the hospital, in our powder blue VW Golf, I was still chanting "I'm walking around the table". Hey, it worked. It was the mantra I needed for the natural childbirth I wanted.
My MIL was already there when we got there. Pieman had called both our mothers. To this day, I could kill him for that. She had scratch tickets with her. She was schmoozing with the nurses. I was told by the nurses that I would be put on a Pitocin drip, because if I didn't, my labor would "Last forEVER, and you'll be EXHAUSTED." Young, inexperienced and wearing out from labor, I didn't question it, even though a natural birth was my plan. Contractions immediately became unbearable. My baby was "sunnyside up", and I was now having intense back labor. I wanted to get on all fours and rock. The nurses caught me, and said I wasn't allowed to do that because it was messing up their monitors. We compromised, and I sat in a rocking chair. I rocked back and forth, breathing, focusing. At this point, my mom and my friend Kat (who would be my son's Godmother) had shown up. I spent time with my visitors. I rocked. The nurses insisted on an epidural every time they checked on me. I told them no. They offered something to "take the edge off" instead. I accepted. It ended up being Demerol. I became cold. And nauseous. I closed my eyes and continued to rock. My labor was officially no longer a "natural" one. Eventually, I was told I had to lie down. On my back. I couldn't handle it, because of my back labor. And then, it happened. A nurse approached Pieman "Tell her she needs an epidural!!" He told them it wasn't part of my birthplan. Then, mid-contraction, "You need an epidural. I'm ordering you an epidural" I gave in. I was more pained and exhausted by their badgering than the labor, so why the hell not. It was waiting for me the second I gave in!!! I felt a crunching while they were putting the needle in.
I passed the time not doing much of anything. Waiting. Talking to Pieman and my visitors. Pieman left the room for a quick bite from the vending machine. (This would happen again with the next birth, which is when I called for a “no food for daddy rule”.) When he came back, I was on oxygen. The baby's heart rate was dropping. Then I had a LOT of pressure. I felt like I had to take a 7lb. dump. That was the urge to push, they told me. And I did. For an hour and a half. I needed to get him out quicker! Then, holy splitting vagina Batman!! “You felt that?” asked my OB. My epidural wasn't working. It had run out. The doctor was trying to give me the episiotomy, and owwww...They called the anesthesiologist back in. She gave me more medicine in my epidural. During this time, I hadn't stopped pushing. I told the doctor to hell with the episiotomy. He told me he wanted to get the forceps in. I started to tear. The doctor said “Well, since you're tearing anyway...” and made a quick cut. My baby flew out before the doctor could reach for the forceps.
“It's a BOY”
We have it on video. Dear Pieman had it on standby, and was kind enough to shoot from my head, down. He ran down the hall, to tell our moms. They weren't allowed in the delivery room, thanks to MIL. The nurses told my mom “We usually let the mother's mother in, but I didn't want to upset her." (her being MIL). I held my new, naked son on my chest.
“I want four” I said. He was perfect, with his red face, folded elf-ears, cone-shaped head, and layer of little white hairs. I was still out of it from the Demerol, cold and dizzy, but I pushed through the fog of it all so I could enjoy my little boy in his first minutes of life. I nursed him. Our visitors poured in. At 3:17 PM, on Sunday, May 17th, I became MOTHER.
I might not have a super-human memory. But I remember almost every detail of the most important day of my life. The day Palmer was born.