“How would you like to have a baby this time tomorrow?” said the smiling midwife. Now, who would say “no” to that question? But it turns out that was just a big, fat lie. And that our daughter is stubborn as a mule. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
With my wife’s gestational diabetes (which I still don’t think the readings showed, but that’s another story) the hippie midwives had decided that maybe it might be best if our little infant came out earlier rather than later. They would induce about a week before the due date. We were nervous and vulnerable. Of course we said yes. (I should mention at this point that the ultrasound technician – who should not have been offering any opinion at all, we were later told – had shifted our worries into high gear at the start of this visit by suggesting our child was small enough to be concerned. My daughter was later born at a rather normal weight.)
Here’s how I pictured it happening: We arrive pre-dawn. As the pill drops into my wife’s mouth, we hear a rumbling, like on Indiana Jones, when he picks up the bag of… whatever it is, and the giant boulder starts chasing him. Get the catcher’s mitt ready, cause there’s a baby a’comin’!
How it, in fact, happened.: We called the hospital in the pre-dawn hours, like they’d told us to, only to be told that they had no beds. Call back in a few hours. We called back. No beds. Ad nauseum. We ended up seeing an evening movie, called afterwards, and were told to call again the next morning. This day should have been my first clue that perhaps things were not as imminent as we’d been told.
When we finally got a room, they gave her the magic drug (not, in fact a pill) and…and… Nothing happened. Nothing at all. They gave her more. Nothing. We went on for a few days like this. I grew more and more confused. I got her lots of cranberry juice and ginger-ale. We watched TV. Pretty boring, actually. ‘I thought you said this baby was in a hurry to get out?’ I repeated, to no one in particular.
What feels like weeks later, her water is broken, and contractions have started. She pushed! And pushed… And pushed. For hours she pushed. And those clueless hippies came and went and encouraged her while each was there. “You just… go! Get that baby outta there!”, they said, in an accent like Tina Fey used for Sarah Palin. Turns out our daughter was in there with her head pressed to her shoulder, essentially saying ‘No. Not ready yet! I’m doing something…’ just like she’s said in one way or another every day since. If we’d had any brains at all, maybe we’d have listened. Instead, we made the decision to cut her out. The hippies (finally) faded into the background as the sterilized medical professionals took over.
Now, I may not be the best witness about this, but from my perspective, what happened was that we were standing in an operating room, and there were medical looking people on the other side of a sheet, and my wife was there, and they said some words, but I didn’t hear them. They pulled me over towards some kind of light, and then the people, the room, my wife and everything else dropped away into nothingness and obliteration, as I stared into the eyes of my daughter for the first time and tried to stop her crying. Had the hospital collapsed, had the world ended? For a minute or so, I didn’t know.
The rest of that night was a happy blur. Eventually, the little one went off with the nurses, and we rested in some way. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to sleep on a night so momentous, but the next thing I remember, I was awakened the next morning on the hospital room floor by the doctor who’d written the baby book we’d studied in the weeks leading up to the event. I didn’t even know she was still at the hospital. It was confusing, and shocking, and a good initiation into parenthood, it turns out. Nothing much about my life has been perfectly understandable to me since.
Rob is a freelance writer who lives with his family on the north shore of Boston. To read more of his work, check out www.robkristoffwriting.blogspot.com and www.ourdaysarejustfilled.com. His daughter started kindergarten this year.