Thursday, April 24, 2008


"I'm heading to Superstore to do the grocery shopping this morning... Are you SURE you're feeling okay??? Because, if you're not... if you THINK you might need me... just say so, and I won't go."

Thus spoke my best girlfriend, on this day, at nine o'clock in the morning, exactly twelve years ago.

I was sitting up in bed, nursing a cup of tea, and contemplating heaving my enormous bulk downstairs for some breakfast.

"Of COURSE I'm okay. The doctor saw me just yesterday-- this baby is high, and in her exact words, I'm 'tight as a drum', even if I AM nine days overdue... I'll meet you at the doors of Labour and Delivery tomorrow morning at 8am... They'll start the induction just as soon as we get the paperwork done. I'll need you then, for sure. Go and get food for your family!!"

We hung up, and I thanked my lucky stars to have such a friend: one who would leave her nearest and dearest at six o'clock in the morning, and struggle through two hours of nasty rush hour traffic, to support me through the birth of my first child. My husband is the "squeamish" type-- the type who freaks out and demands I take antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle-- and I wasn't entirely sure he would make it through a long, hard labour in a fully-conscious state. Sandy would be there to support BOTH of us-- the "green", newbie parents-to-be.

I felt a twinge as I waddled down two flights of stairs for the kitchen, and breathed through it. Several more rapidly followed as I munched through my cornflakes and toast, but it wasn't anything unusual-- I had been having those pesky Braxton-Hicks contractions for WEEKS... and for what?? For the doctor to proclaim me "high and tight" upon each and every examination. As my due-date drew nearer, and then passed altogether, I began longing to actually BE "high and tight" in a completely different manner... Surely a few pain-relievers and a glass of white wine were IN ORDER once you had passed the forty-one-week mark...

I puttered around, and planned out my day. I had one day of work left. One matinee performance of "Showboat" to get through, with all the various crazy costume changes and typical disastrous malfunctions. The cast and crew had been wonderfully supportive during the run, and cheered me on enthusiastically every day I actually turned up at work. Apart from the stage hands making air-traffic-controller-type motions with their flashlights every time I crossed the darkened backstage (it was all in good fun, really... even though they WERE supposed to be ensuring that I didn't trip on all the damn lighting cables rigged across the floor), everyone seemed quite thrilled to have a heavily pregnant woman around, and by no means felt they had to make "allowances" for me... well, apart from letting me go first-in-line in the cue for the only ladies' room in the back of the theatre, that is.

I would have one more half-day on the job, and then would take the evening off, in order to rest up for the next day's delivery. Husband and I would enjoy a leisurely dinner together-- the first one in WEEKS, because of our conflicting schedules-- and then settle down on the couch to watch one of my favourite movies: "Some Like It Hot", with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

At about eleven o'clock, I called to my husband breathlessly, "I'm going to take a shower. Then, could you drop me off at work?"

Husband noted that I was slightly red-faced, and puffing a bit.

"It's nothing, I promise. I've been having these contractions for weeks now. YES, they're five minutes apart, but they always stop. This baby is coming TOMORROW. I've got a matinee TODAY. I'll be ready in half an hour..."

And I trailed off to the bathroom.

LUCKILY... My husband had the sneaky foresight to call our obstetrician while I was out-of-earshot. Because had I been within earshot, there would have been NO WAY I would have let him call. And then call my boss, and tell him that I would not be "in" for the performance that day.

When I emerged from the bathroom, I discovered my husband standing at the front door, my little suitcase in hand. I was told that we were heading for the hospital. NOW. No questions.

And thank goodness for his insistence... because once I got over the fury of being usurped by my spouse, I was doubled-over in the passenger seat of our Volvo, huffing and puffing away, praying that the twenty-minute journey to the hospital could be just a little bit faster... and the date with the anesthesiologist could be arranged, oh, say, AS SOON AS WE HIT THE PARKING LOT??!!

I'm certain the nurses thought I was just some melodramatic first-timer, when I had to take breaks every minute or two to put my head down on the desk and breathe through excruciating contractions, while I was completing the hospital sign-in process. No one seemed in much of a hurry to call a doctor, either. But mercifully, my own OB was on call that day, and came hurrying down as soon as he heard we had arrived.

"You're seven centimeters. SEVEN!! That's great!! Amazing!! You slept through most of your labour!! How about that?? It won't be long now..."

My husband was IMMEDIATELY on the phone to Sandy-the-best-friend, who lamented that she likely wouldn't make it to the hospital in time...

But I was too busy discussing a Very Serious Matter with the doctor to be much panicked about that. I knew Sandy would arrive eventually... but WHAT OF THE EPIDURAL???

I had been taught from a very early age, that when making important decisions, or choosing a life-path, one should always allow for some "wiggle-room", just in case. "By all means, choose what door you want to go through," a former guidance counsellor used to tell us, "but for goodness sake, make sure you leave a window open."

And so, when I was told that "the window was closed" on the heavy-duty, effective pain-relief, it did NOT go over well with me, the She-Lion-In-Hard-Labour. It didn't go over very well with my semi-hysterical husband, either... Even as they were tucking me into bed and making all the weird adjustments to the end of it, and shining that blasted light DOWN THERE, I could STILL hear him shouting, "But I'm supposed to be HER PAIN ADVOCATE!! I PROMISED HER!!!"

To which my blessed doctor responded with soothing "clucks", like "Yes, yes... It's hard, isn't it? I have four children, myself... There for every one of them.... It's hard to watch your wife go through... But it's the same for everybody..." And then, when my poor, distracted husband threatened to go off the deep end, altogether, I heard a nurse say firmly:


And then, everything went a bit fuzzy for me after that... It was a "blessedly" quick labour, but a truly shocking one. Not frightening, exactly, but I do remember being completely amazed when a sort of "animalistic instinct" took over, and suddenly I understood exactly what to do, and how to focus...

My first memory of my newborn daughter is the sensation of the weight of her tiny little body being placed on my chest. And while I was so exhausted from the hour-and-a-half of hard, HARD labour, that I couldn't even open my eyes to look at her... couldn't even really "hear" her first cries... I remember the feeling of her... of the two of us, separate, and yet, together at last.

My husband cried. And I confess, I took advantage of his completely flabbergasted state-of-mind to ask to name our baby after my much-loved great-aunt, and after his mother. They were beautiful names-- perfect for the perfect little dark-haired angel they had gently swaddled and placed in his arms.

It's been twelve years, today. It feels like only a moment ago, but in so many ways, it has been a lifetime. Forever.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful, sweet, twelve-year-old girl. I'm so proud of you. And happy birthday to me, too, because on this day, a dozen years ago, I became a mother. We are a pair, you and I.

Just the sound of your voice,
The light in your eyes,
We're so far away from yesterday
Together, with a wink and a smile.

We go together like a wink and... a smile.


Karly said...

You dilated 7cm and STAYED HOME? You are my hero. And happy birthday to your baby girl. :)

Leeann said...

That was beautiful! Your daughter will cherish this one day. Perhaps, as she is waiting for her first child to arrive.

In 20 years.

When her Dad finally lets her get married. LOL

Bon said...

oh wow, that was beautiful. :)

happy belated to your girl.

slouching mom said...

what an incredible story. so moving. happy birthday to your big, once little, girl!

painted maypole said...

oh... happy birthday. and happy anniversary of motherhood to you. our husbands sound similar (and the 2 hour away friends coming for labor... except that my labor took FOREVER - 48 hours - and i tried like crazy NOT to have an epidural)

mrinz said...

Happy birthday to you both.

These days in NZ the midwives make a 'birth plan' with the mother but to me it seems that in a good 95% of times the actual event is entirely different from that visualised!

Seems rather silly to me to even go through the exercise as the baby (and the mothers body)have a plan of their own and will run their course regardless!

My husband sat and read the newspaper through one of my labours! I was not impressed.

Multi-tasking Mommy said...

Oh, a Happy HAPPY belated birthday to child #1! I hope she had a great day. I cannot believe she is 12 already, it seems like just yesterday....

canape said...

What a birth story!!!

Happy Birthday to #1. I hope it was a wonderful day for the whole family.

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