The Three of Us: The Story of M’s Birth, Part I.

21 Sep

After four months of meaning to write this story, I’m just going to do it.  Be warned, those of you who are faint of heart: a cervix plays a starring role in this story, and it will be mentioned on occasion. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

As you know from previous posts, the baby’s arrival involved, like all babies, waiting.  After a serious false start, our doctor sent us home to wait for anything to change, telling us that the rules no longer applied to us and any change meant coming to the hospital immediately.  The waiting stretched into a week and a half during which I became progressively more cranky, tired, and morose.  One tragicomic episode involving an overdose of prune juice led me to believe labor had finally arrived (hurrah!), but it hadn’t.  In that week and a half, I felt one contraction, and it was so bad, and so sudden, that I screamed and sobbed.  And then nothing.

On Monday morning, my mom and I headed to a doctor’s appointment, where our rockstar OB/GYN told me to come to the hospital on Friday, and if I had passed 5 centimeters (I was at 4.5), we ‘wouldn’t wait forever.’ The meaning of that phrase inspired fairly heated debate within our household until I called the OB/GYN three days later for clarification, and discovered that it meant, according to his nurse, induction. My birth plan up to that point had been straightforward: no to pitocin, yes to an epidural when I could no longer stand the pain. Induction meant, most likely, pitocin.  The OB/GYN also told me I could exercise, but shouldn’t start anything extreme.  I told him that no one had ever accused me of extreme exercise.  “A smart ass,” he said.  “I like it.”

By Thursday night, I’d decided it was time to stack the cards more in our favor, and since the baby would be at 38 weeks in the morning–a marker we’d been waiting to hit if at all possible–I headed out with the dog on a flat, two-mile, slow walk (slower than the pace that people walk in the Atlanta airport; so slow, in fact, that the dog kept looking over his should to check on me or to plead with me). The walk was glorious until the half-way point, when I remembered why pregnant women do not take long walks in neighborhoods devoid of public restrooms. When I got home, I sat down on the bed to take my shoes off, and I promise this is true:  I felt the baby move down considerably.

The next morning, I called the hospital to confirm our 10 am appointment and was told to come in at 1 pm. The husband and I tried to play it cool by heading off to a favorite outdoor coffee shop in Yountville, where the smell of pastries permeates the air, and where I heard him say, after a tourist tormented the barista by asking how much milk was in every single drink on the menu, “Just order the damn coffee.”

At 1 pm, I waddled up to the labor and delivery unit, and our doctor confirmed that I was at 5 cm and at 0 station after I chased the eager PUC nursing student from the premises.  A four year old girl walked into our room accidentally right about then; she will never be the same again. The monitors confirmed I was indeed having contractions that I could not feel.  Our OB/GYN said we could not go home–forty minutes from the hospital was too far–but we could enjoy the day, relax, and come back at 7 pm to see how the baby was progressing. Unless, of course, anything changed before the evening.

The St. Helena hospital has a hierarchy of rooms: those with sweeping views of the Napa Valley, and those with views of the doctors’ parking lot.  We’d been assigned to the latter.  As we waited for the elevator to leave the unit, a woman wearing a dress and pearls, with perfectly coiffed hair, manicured toes, gladiator sandals, and makeup–MAKEUP–started talking to another man in front of us.  She was very pregnant and, as she told the guy, off to take a walk to see if she could get things started.  She’d been assigned a room with a view.  She was Napa Valley perfection. I hated her, nearly instantaneously. As Anne Lamont would say, she was my enemy.  And I was wearing my fat pants.  I had, in the tradition of my mother before me, painted my own toes the day before the baby’s birth–I hoped this symmetry would prompted the baby to arrive–and was fairly pleased to be wearing earrings. I wanted to mention, casually, that I was at 5 centimeters, hadn’t felt a thing, and would be back to take her room with a view at 7 pm.

Joel, my mom, and I headed to a bookstore, where of course I ran into a student, and I purchased a history tome–The Warmth of Other Suns–to read while waiting, and maybe even during the slow parts of labor. Off we went to the local coffee shop; we read while pretending to be calm, and I panicked that my mom was crying, but she was just reading “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” in David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day

Our friends at the Queso Dip had us over for burgers, and I will always be glad that S. suggested I eat that second burger to see me through. She was so right. 

By 7 pm, we were back at the hospital, I was at 6 centimeters, we got admitted, several attempts at starting my IVs failed, and the spunky nurse anesthetist announced she’d never run an epidural for someone who wasn’t actually in pain. But she ran it anyway, said she’d be back if the dose wasn’t strong enough, and even got an IV in my hand–one that lasted until early the next morning, when it infiltrated. And what a party that was.


What follows is still no excuse for what happened next

10 May

Yesterday, I had two simple things to accomplish, besides teaching, which is never simple and rarely accomplished.  First, I had a routine OB/GYN appointment; then, I had to go interview the pediatrician.  I am not sure that is how he would describe the meeting, but that is how I saw it.

What should have been an easy jaunt to the OB/GYN turned into me running really late because of several unexpected (but delightful) visitors who stopped by my office.  Because I was late, I made a poor veggie turkey sandwich lunch choice that I would later regret.  Then, I drove to the doctors’ office on an absolutely empty tank because I didn’t need to worry about getting gas because the appointment was routine and because the gas station was right next door, and I had hours after the appointment to fill up the tank. And I never have to go anywhere, anyway.

During the appointment–mere seconds after the OB announced that Baby Boy wouldn’t arrive anytime in the next three weeks–I had the privilege of getting my cervix checked “to establish a baseline” so we could measure progress over the next three to four weeks.  I hear that this is rarely much of a party, but what happened next was terrifying.

My OB stopped speaking.

For a long time.  

I think she might not have started to speak again had I not shouted, “WHAT?”  And followed it up with another “WHAT?” and then some “Whatwhatwhatwhat?”

“You’re dilated to five centimeters and I can feel the baby’s head,” she said.

Me:  “How exactly is that possible?”

Her: “Well, it happens sometimes, and you need to go to the hospital. Now.”

Me: “Do I have time to get gas?”

Her:  “Well, I guess? Maybe?”

The trip to the hospital reminded me why I hate Californian drivers who allow no one–no one–to merge.  Ever.  Just getting out of the parking lot took a lifetime. 

I bought $11 worth of gas and made it to the hospital, where my friend S. met me in the parking lot. She might have had a bloody nose, but that is a story for another time.  S. kept me hopeful by, among other things, describing my swollen feet as not puffy but, instead, “the ankles of destiny.”

What followed was a frantic drive home from work for the spouse (whose fuel tank was also empty, despite, or because of, his newfound hyper-miling hobby). He collected our half-packed bags and made it to the hospital.  My parents made it to the airport.

And then we waited, and waited, and waited, until, after hours of monitoring the baby–who is strong and on his way to being a mover and a shaker, based on his activity–and checking me again, we got sent home to our friends/hosts with the mosts over at the Queso Dip and my parents decided to wait until the next day to fly out. 

This morning, we headed back to the hospital and, after conferring with a different OB, nurse practitioner, and nurse, we decided to go home and wait, hoping Baby Boy can hold on a few more days and make it to full term.  Added to the stress is the fact that my grandfather is quite ill.

But all of this is not an excuse for what happened next.  Joel dropped me off at home and immediately went to the gas station to fill up the car; a few minutes later, I heard the trusty rumble of a diesel in front of our house.  So trusty, in fact, that the dog stood by the front door wagging his tail, waiting for JD to arrive home.  I opened the door to a fed-ex delivery.  If only I’d been wearing pants. 

Dear Baby

11 Jan

The husband has started to talk to the baby.  He gives solid parental advice, words of encouragement, and discipline when necessary.  Here are some of my favorite exchanges so far.  He always starts out with “Dear Baby,” like he’s writing Baby Boy a letter.

A few weeks ago, when I mentioned I was exhausted by how fast the baby seemed to be growing, which resulted in my ribs expanding and general crankiness, the husband gave the following pep talk:

“Dear Baby, I haven’t met you yet, but I think I know you.  I think you are like your parents.  When you are good at something, you keep on doing it, but Baby, it is ok to get a C in growth.  You don’t have to get an A.  You can be average.  That’s ok.  Let your mom rest.”

The next morning, when I woke up resembling someone run over by a pack of Alsatians or just your average pregnant lady, he added this:

“Dear Baby, you have disobeyed.  You are grounded now.  No going out, no talking with friends, and no laptop for at least five months.”

Yesterday, as he left for work, the spouse told me, “You are my favorite thing.”  Then he paused and talked to the baby.  “Dear Baby, your mother is my favorite thing.  You are also my favorite thing.  But your mother is my favorite thing.”  Then he looked at me and said, “I think it is important that he knows the difference.”

Today:  “Dear Baby, don’t zig when you should zag.”

Have I mentioned that I can’t wait to raise a baby with this man?


Ring, Ring, Why Don’t You Give Lee A Call?

11 Jan

I always learn quite a bit from my students.  This fall quarter, I learned more than previous quarters–more, in fact, than I might have liked.  I learned how to not smack students (rhetorically or otherwise) who really deserved it.  I realized, for the 900th time, that teaching is 98% acting, facilitated by frequently telling yourself, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful, IfeelgoodIfeelgreatIfeelwonderful, baby-steppin’ it into the classroom, baby-stepping’ it into the classroom.”  But here are the best things I learned:

The Cherokee traveled by chariot on the Trail of Tears.

The Pink Panthers were a militant group from the 1960s.

Jacob Riis was one of the ‘founding fathers of flash photography.’

We’ve had more presidents than we realized and some of our actual presidents did more than they thought:  Henry Clay finally achieved his presidential dreams by winning an election, Hairy Truman ended World War II, Thomas Jefferson founded the Confederacy, and Richard Nixon enacted sweeping civil rights reform (or was that his plumbers?) and somehow didn’t illegally wiretap himself while doing so.

Reconstruction led to the Civil War (the South told you so, you just didn’t listen).

Sometimes, during the Civil War, Mary Chesnut listened in on her husband’s phone conversations.  She was also an abolitionist (wherever did she find the time between snooping on James’ convos and organizing those tea parties?).

Franklin Douglass wrote an important book about slavery.

And after a particularly ugly day in the classroom, I also learned I do have, on the whole, the best students ever, even if they think I should name the baby either Opechancanough or Tecumseh.

Next stop: world domination

30 Nov

Internets, at nearly 14 weeks pregnant, I either have a visible baby bump or the visible results of eating too many quesadillas at Taco Bell.  I also feel like I am rounding the corner from wishing I was in a hole somewhere, away from everyone in general to students in particular, to feeling practically human again.  This ebullience caused me to apologize to my mother for being a cranky, edgy, emotional pain for the last few weeks (we’re going to pretend this is the only time in my life I’ve behaved poorly).  Her response?  “Oh honey, don’t worry at all.  We’re just so excited about having a grandchild that it doesn’t matter how you act.”

News I could have used a decade or so ago is all I’m saying.

My fast food walk of shame

19 Nov

Before actually getting pregnant, I had lofty ideals regarding how I would eat.  I would, once and for all, abandon preservatives and artificial sweeteners; I would eat fresh fruits and vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; I would send refined carbs packing; I would juice things; I would turn kale into smoothies that I would actually drink.  I would be a gracefully stoic pregnant lady, unconcerned about physical misery if it meant sacrificing for the next generation (so long as this next generation inherited his or her father’s musical talent and not mine, which is not talent or even hard work that pays off, but is instead torture for its audience).  

Then I got pregnant.  So far, I can divide the first twelve weeks of pregnancy into four or so stages.

Stage One:  Ginger Ale, saltines, and weeping.

Stage Two:  Saltines, breakfast macaroni and cheese, lunch macaroni and cheese, and dinner macaroni and cheese.  Intermittent weeping and intolerance for petty student complaints.

Stage Three:  Fast food hell and veggie sausage patties.  Three trips to Taco Bell, a place I frequent maybe once a year, in less than a week.  As I pulled into the drive through on the first trip, I thought to myself, “How could I have forgotten about the CHALUPA?”  And when I asked the nice guy taking my order what the “Supreme” topping was and he said “sour cream,” I said, “YES!”  By Tuesday, I’d transitioned to the seven-layer burrito, with all seven layers for the first time since high school.  Also on Tuesday, I left the husband out in the cold because I could not wait for him to come home for dinner before I, hobbit-like, ate first dinner.  When he did come home, I reminisced about the glories of Taco Bell (a place he hates) and announced “I love sour cream” while sipping my drink.  This caused him to believe I was drinking sour cream straight out of a glass.  I wish he’d been more worried.  Minimal crying: no spare time between plotting trips to Taco Bell and Foster’s Freeze.

Stage Four:  Nothing sounds good, not my mac and cheese, not my Taco Bell, not any of those pastries I so loved before getting pregnant, not mochas in the red Christmas cup from Starbucks, not a damn thing.  The chocolate shake from Foster’s Freeze did work some magic, but it took me an hour of hard thinking to decide between it and mashed potatoes.  In that hour of food strategery, I did come up with one thing I could eat:  my grandfather’s grits, made with horrendous amounts of cheese, Paula Deen portions of butter, and bordering on the heavenly.  This conclusion–combined with the realization that I cannot have my grandfather’s grits and that he will not meet and horribly spoil our baby–led me back around to the crying.  

Good news!

19 Nov

Our three post-graduate degrees have completely prepared us to be parents.  Grad school is, after all, where I cultivated my taste in music.  And this proves I too can calm a baby.

I might have cried about a wagon

13 Nov

Earlier this year the Great Road Bike debate raged in our household.  I don’t mean we raged at each other, but the debate itself went from Bianchi to Trek to Specialized to Bianchi to Giant to carbon-fiber frame to carbon-fiber fork on an aluminum frame to no one caring anymore because I’m pregnant so no road bike for me.  A blessed relief is what I call that.

Or what I called that until the Great Wagon Debate of 2011 replaced it.  And I don’t mean a wagon that a toddler pulls across our suddenly small back patio.  I mean the sort that you drive, the sort that confirms your pseudo-yuppie street cred without fully admitting that you are a resident of the Bay Area and you need the sort of vehicle you can drive to a protest without being protested yourself.  One that has enough room to slap a KQED sticker on the back window.  That sort of swagger wagon.  The kind that you can out-liberal the liberals with by using biodiesel instead of just plain diesel.

There have been a few notable glitches in the Great Wagon Search so far.  First, I have two tendencies within me.  One, inherited from my father, is what I believe he calls the cheap Dutchman (he is Dutch, so he can call himself this).  I want a deal, and deals are to be found in used cars (sometimes) or good financing (sometimes).  The last time I got a car, I nearly shouted “no” to all the add-on options.  But first I said, “How much?”  As in, how much is that sunroof?  And then, I DON’T THINK SO.   How much are those floor mats?  I DON’T THINK SO.  The other tendency is embarrassingly shallow.  I like bold jewelry and high-end cars.  I live in a valley surrounded by Bentleys, Aston Martins, Maseratis, Ferraris, Audi R8s, and the too-infrequent GTR (my idea of a family car).  I can identify them.  The poor man’s car here is the 3-series BMW.  If it is red, too expensive, and prone to being driven by folks who make quintuple what I make and have the plastic surgery to prove it, then I probably want to own it.  This second category does not come as a deal.  It comes under the category “requires premium gasoline;” or “costs $65,000 and the price of your soul over the course of its lifetime;” or “you can go ahead and buy that car, but then your friends will know how shallow you really are and judge you accordingly.”

This debate all started because we bought a dog; then we bought a house for the dog (a patio! a river walk! all for the high-energy lab!); and now, in our quest to make him the most expensive dog ever (dog day care! dog day camp! three crates and counting! one couch eaten! zillions of humiliating trips to the vet!), we’re purchasing a wagon so he can’t sit next to the baby and swap drool, but can have his very own safe space in the very back.  Don’t tell him.  The cat doesn’t travel, so no one cares where she rides in this hypothetical wagon.

You’d think it would be simple.  Have the husband use his organizational and spread-sheet genius to simply research, categorize, compare and contrast wagons and then, like magic, go out and buy one.  Except I am unreasonably emotional about this.  And those two tendencies move me across a used car lot like a crazy person, veering from the $6000 2001 Passat Wagon (we could buy it right now!) to the 2007 Limited Edition Toyota 4Runner (a V8 and red!) to the 2009 Passat to the Volvo V50 (no longer made in the US, but wouldn’t you just know that the nice dealer has one with a sports package being shipped in from Europe as we speak?) to the Volvo V70 to the Volvo XC70.  In notable restraint, I gave up on my Audi A4 Avant dream, and our collective BMW 328 wagon dream just got flushed down the toilet by cargo space that resembles the size of our master bathroom, which is to say is not cargo space at all.

I finally said to the husband, “I suppose the Jetta Sportwagen TDI matches our ethics.”  And he said, “I wish I could replay your tone of voice, because you sound so annoyed by our ethics.”  But then he added, “Our only lifeline away from Volkswagen seems to be a Volvo.”  Can you tell we already own one Volkswagen?

So round and round we go.  Try to act surprised when we embrace our status as young rural professionals (yurpies), buy the all-too-predictable Volvo (an academic in a Volvo? No way!), and immediately slap a KQED sticker on it, despite my cheap refusal to actually donate to public radio, if only because I hope either Alec Baldwin or Ira Glass will personally call me up to goad me into doing what I know I ought to do.


Why I continue to love my job

11 Nov

Martin Doblmeier, the producer of “Bonhoeffer” and “The Power of Forgiveness,” among other films, was on campus this week for a lecture series. In class yesterday, my students discussed his films. One had the following insight: “I feel like ‘Bonhoeffer’ is an Adventist film, you know, one we’ve all seen.” None of the rest of us had seen it. Turns out, her family watches it every Christmas. (Not to spoil the plot, but “Bonhoeffer” is not about Christmas–it is about the Nazis, resistance, and death).

“I guess our family just sticks to ‘A Christmas Story,'” said another student. And since I couldn’t resist, I added, “BUMPUS HOUNDS.”

I always do my part

11 Nov

I woke up the other morning to discover that the husband didn’t feel good at all. So I asked why he hadn’t woken me up in the night–he had barely slept at all–to tell me he was sick.

“I did,” he said. “Twice.”

I refused to believe him. He promises it was true, and that each time I woke up, I was very sympathetic and concerned. So concerned that I did nothing and didn’t remember it in the morning.

He also said I told him this: “Shut it. I’ve felt sick to my stomach and tired for at least eight weeks.”

I think he made that last part up.