...I was in labor.
I've been thinking about it all day, and I've been exhausted, binging on gluten-free Irish Soda Bread I made this morning (which is like a rock in my stomach) and Season Three of "Murder, She Wrote," starring the amazing Angela Lansbury.
Olivia has spent the past several hours at a friend's house on a "play date," which included (I have just been enthusiastically been informed by a three year-old who smells refreshingly of outside) a dance party, cookie-making, and a card which reads "AMiALOVESOLiViA," and is bedecked with brilliant red hearts. Amia, being the aforementioned friend, is an older woman of five, who can not only write her own name, but other words as well, and she can color in the lines. She certainly has earned Olivia's respect and undying love.
I have enjoyed the "one child down" time by wrestling with a particularly fiesty almost-one-year-old in trying to get her to sleep. Elsie, with whose labor I was wrestling 365 days ago, finally knocked out about 30 minutes ago, at 10 PM. But not without a fight. Fortunately, once I had her in a body bind, wrapped in sheets and tucked firmly between a pillow and myself, she calmed down a bit and only required about 30 minutes of nursing (25 of which were in a partially-soporific state) before I was able to extricate myself, emerging with only a few scratches from her ever-sharpened fingernails. Whew!
It has been my experience with children (and, while I don't have many, I at least have two) that the temperament of the child is decidedly determined far in advance of her advent into this world. Even womb-bound, both of my girls demonstrated what I can now firmly call unique character traits - movement or stillness, sleeping or schlopping, reacting to external stimuli or maintaining a zen-like composure - all in a manner which carried on into their personhood in this world.
And their births, I believe, carry the same calling card of character. While Olivia took her own sweet time in deciding she wanted to be born, and no amount of pushing and tugging (literally on the pushing, but not on the tugging) would entice her to move until she was ready, Elsie fairly jumped into the waiting arms of the doctor. Likewise, my three year-old won't budge unless she's all prepared, and Elsie is jumping off of the furniture (again, not literally - don't worry, Momma).
Elsie was due on the first, and she almost made it. She began giving me hints in the early morning, and I decided to go right back to sleep, seeing as I was probably not going to be able to do so again for a very long time. I did, and the contractions stopped. Almost so much that I thought that it would be at least a day or two before she'd make it (Olivia's birth being my yardstick). I felt nothing throughout the day, and decided to not worry anyone by calling (poor Nathan's parents rushed over for Olivia's birth, only to be in waiting rooms for many MANY hours). In the evening, we decided to go to the grocery, and I was grumpy to find that our favorite, Whole Foods, had closed early on account of the holiday. Which, by the way, seemed rather silly, as people had most likely been partying the night before, and would have probably enjoyed New Year's Eve night off, rather than New Year's night, when all they could do would be to go home and recall the impropriety of the night before.
But, I digress - we couldn't go to Whole Foods, so we went across the street to Jewel, and I wandered grumpily, trying to find foods that I like. If there's one thing I dislike, it's being lost, and that confounded grocery store not only had none of the food I particularly wanted (I was still pregnant, you know, and what with all the cravings...), but was laid out in such a silly manner as to be annoying. Also, my contractions had started up, and I get cranky when I'm in pain. And I was in PAIN. Oh, boy. Apparently, Elsie had been working undercover, because when they started up again, they came on full force.
We finally got out of there, and called a friend to come help with Olivia, and then decided to pack the car.
Which took FOREVER.
But, dear reader, you must remember, that I was in pain. And therefore cranky.
Did I mention I was in pain?
When we all piled into the car (after the requisite call to the doctor), we sped down to Chicago. At least, in hindsight it must have been speeding. But it seemed to take, again, FOREVER.
Just ask my husband, who was privy to my lack of courtesy brought on by the contractions. I'm a proper backseat driver when I'm sober, but when I'm in labor... Well, use your imagination.
Needless to say, he was relieved when we arrived. Why we had chosen a downtown Chicago hospital (which was at least a 30-minute drive, sans traffic) rather than one of the local Evanston places is another story (a good one, too). But we got there, and Elsie wasn't delivered in the car, although at that point, I would have done it in a minute. I clomped in to the reception area, wearing my huge impervious-to-water Baffin snowboots, a comfortable brown maternity skirt (which I liked but didn't match anything else), stretchy black pants underneath (the mother's uniform), several layers of shirts & coats, and a silly hat smashed on top of my strubly hair, which was hastily done up in a hair tie bun. I think I had a bag or two. I rushed in, my hair all flyaways, ready to give birth then and there, to be told that I needed to wait until the woman in front of me (who, dear reader, was smartly attired with shiny black boots and a cute plaid coat, and had her lovely little wheeled carry-on right next to her). She was apparently NOT in labor, but at least she was pregnant. At that point, I couldn't think of why in the world she would want to be checking in, but later recalled hearing of women who chose to schedule either labor induction or a planned cesarean section, so as to best fit their busy schedules. All opinions aside, I certainly presented a fair case for the latter as I stomped like a caged bull around that waiting room, snorting through the contractions, which were coming on more rapidly now. If she hadn't been planning a cesarean, she probably saw me and thought better. She probably scheduled hers then and there. Which is why she took SO LONG to finish that stupid paperwork.
The nurse finally called me over and asked me to fill out some paperwork. She timed her request right in the middle of a particularly strong contraction, so I flatly refused, and sent Nathan over to see what she wanted. Seeing as I was in no polite mood (what woman sends her husband to answer delicate questions?), she rushed me into the examination room, where I was told, after a bit of a resented (on my part) delay, that I had progressed to seven centimeters. The nurse was clearly impressed, and I was a bit smug about it, being able to do that all on my own. When I entered the hospital with Olivia, I had only three centimeters to my name. I was determined to beat that this time, and I had. I was rather proud of myself. Now if only people would start taking me seriously and believe that I was ACTUALLY HAVING a baby and stop taking SO LONG to get silly things like paperwork done! If the world were run by women in labor, things would be much more efficient, and there would certainly be less paperwork.
Once we were in the birthing room, I met with the doctor and nurses, who were very supportive and helpful. The doctor asked if I still wanted the labor tub which I had requested as a part of my birthing plan. I immediately said, "NO! Give me an epidural!" To which I added a quick "please," just to show that I did have some manners. In case my mother or God was watching.
There was no anesthesiologist to be found right away, all of them apparently busying themselves with planned cesareans, and I spitefully thought of my anesthesiologist ministering to Miss Plaid Coat from the waiting room, who no doubt had her epidural planned in advance, too... but that is an uncharitable thought. Each woman's birth is different, and not one is better than the other. Again, dear reader, I remind you that I was in pain. And cranky.
I got through some pretty fine contractions while I was waiting and, in hindsight, I may have been able to do the whole thing without drugs. But once that anesthesiologist showed up, I was in no mood to be a hero. She shot me up fast and good, and I had no real contractions for about forty-five minutes, at which point they returned, and again with a vengeance. It was almost as though I hadn't even been drugged. When I mentioned this to the nurse, she upped the dose, and then told the doctor. The doctor looked in on me and decided that it didn't really matter all that much, as I was in the final stage of labor - transition - and it was time to push!
One, two, three, and ta-da!
Guess who was born?
My Fatty Lumpkin.
And she's one!