A year ago right now I was in labor.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was in labor. I wasn’t sure for hours and hours and hours. It’s not like it is on TV, where a woman has one contraction and either a) grabs her stomach and screams or b) serenely turns to her husband and says with all of the female wisdom of the ages, “Honey, it’s time.”
I thought maybe I was having some more Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I'd been having off and on for a few weeks. The ones I was having that day didn’t really hurt, and they weren't coming at perfect, regular intervals, but they weren’t going away, either. Eventually, I looked up “early labor” in a couple of my pregnancy books. One book said to eat a lot and stay really active; another book said to only eat “soft” foods and just lie around. I took the lying around option and spent the afternoon on the couch watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. (That’s the one with Colin Firth and the wet shirt. Nice.)
Jay came home at the usual time and brought me Boston Market mashed potatoes. He ran on the treadmill; I watched the season finale of Everybody Loves Raymond. Somewhere toward the end of the show – I don’t even remember how it ended now – I started thinking that maybe we should call the doctor.
Here’s another thing that’s not like TV: You don’t call Dr. Huxtable at home, where he is ready to instantly drop whatever hilarious thing he’s doing with his family – like lip synching to a Ray Charles song – and run off to the hospital immediately. I had to leave a message with the answering service and wait for the doctor to call back. When she did, she said she didn’t think I was really in labor, but I could come in and get checked if I wanted to.
After that, a few more contractions hit. Bad ones. We were in the car and driving off into the night. Every time I had a contraction, I’d try to picture something happy, like Disneyland or the Yellow Brick Road, or the Yellow Brick Road leading into Disneyland.
Even after all that, I was only dilated to one centimeter when we got to the hospital. They made us walk the hallways. Around and around and around and around.
And after all that, I was still only dilated to one centimeter. There was talk of sending me home. I said I wasn’t going home. They said they had some pills that would stop false labor, if it really was false. The pills did nothing. They let me stay.
Everything else is a long blur, and probably pretty boring to recount here. That’s another thing that’s not like TV: Labor in the real world is long and boring. It’s not filled with wacky misadventures or me yelling hilarious insults at my husband.
I remember finally getting to three centimeters, and a nurse making me fill out a big pile of paperwork while I was having contraction after contraction. I still have no idea what I signed. It's entirely possible that WCB officially belongs to the hospital.
Fast forward to 7 a.m. the next morning, when the epidural man finally showed up. I bet being an epidural man is the best job in the world, because you spend your day visiting women who are happier to see you than they’ve ever been to see anyone else in their lives. Oh, how I loved that man.
Then came the pushing. Ah, the pushing. Again, it’s not as dramatic as it is on TV, but I won’t go into graphic detail.
Fast forward again to 11:26 a.m. on May 17, when I saw my little WCB for the first time. It was the greatest surprise ever. Jay and I had decided to go the old-fashioned route and not find out the sex of the baby until he/she was born. Then we spent nine months calling the fetus “he” and, more specifically, “Clark”. That’s another story.
But I was so, so, so happy to see my little, red, wrinkled, loud, six-pound-thirteen-ounce girl. All of the pregnancy books prepare you for how ugly and frog-like your newborn is going to be, but not mine. Mine was extremely un-froggy and all-around beautiful. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I can’t believe tomorrow she turns one.