You’d probably still be in the womb if it weren’t for Pitocin. Like Emmy and Odessa—you were induced. They were both still cooking after their due dates so the OB decided to get the party started. But with you being the 3rd baby and your dad being 6’6” and all, there were concerns you might come out the size of the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and ain’t nobody got time for that. So we made an appointment to come in on your due date and prompt a little action right from the get. That’s what she said.
Third baby. Everything’s supposed to go fast, right? Easy, right? Slip’N Slide right? I actually wouldn’t know, I’ve never had the privilege of slipping and sliding. The backyards I grew up in and around were concrete and rocky and Asian. We don’t intentionally spray water all over everything and try to fall down. That would be both wasteful and dangerous.
In any case, I was under the notion the third baby was just going to ease right into the world, and more or less fit right into the sched. As a producer at NBC Bay Area with 3 kids repeatedly said, while gently peer pressuring me into having three kids, “The third baby is the family’s baby. The baby just falls in line. It will go with the flow.” And of course I read zero baby books about birthing and labor, to keep with the tradition of how I went in blind with baby #1 and #2. I mean what good is The Good Doctor if I can’t treat him like a human Alexa MD? “Good Doctor, what does a contraction feel like?” “Good Doctor, what is this poop pain?” “Good Doctor, is labor supposed to feel like you have to poop but you’re not pooping?” It doesn’t matter that he’s not an obstetrician. I still expect answers. Just like the relative who wants him to look at a purple rash. When there’s a doctor in the family, he treats all-comers related by blood or marriage. #doctorlife as the millennials would say in a sing song voice.
So there we were, bright and early, ready for the IV and the drugs to start puffing me up and forcing my uterus to contract. The drip hit my system at about 7AM. You arrived 12 HOURS LATER. As Odessa would say, “For real life?” Yes, for real life. At least we managed to binge-watch the OJ Made in America documentary. I can only imagine what the nurses were thinking every time they came in to check on me.
The whole thing took way longer than I expected. Only when we were at the hospital did I hear for the first time, “Oh third babies are tricky. They are either really fast, or they take as long or LONGER than the first.” Say what?
After the OJ binge, we did a lot of hall walking, with the wireless monitors velcro’ed around my enormous belly, and The Good Doc maneuvering the IV pole behind me. Design suggestion for architects blueprinting future OB wings: install a track for laboring women. A nice circular loop with mile markers and some natural light, and extra receivers so the monitors don’t get out of range, forcing the nurses to go looking for you because they’re worried you fell off the grid. Then just put the pregnant moms out there and let them grind away until it’s time to push.
When that time did come, I was dangerously close to not being able to have an epidural. Every time, and I mean EVERY single time, I have said, “I’m gonna try to go without an epidural.” Wisely, every single time, The Good Doctor has put on his most nonchalant, non-judgmental face and said, with his most supportive and sincere tone, “Oh yes, definitely. You should try.” If he were Kevin Spacey, this is where he would turn to the camera with a South Carolinan accent and say “Yeah right.”
This was my closest call though. A skilled doctor managed to get the epidural in about 20 minutes before I felt like I had to push in earnest. I’d like to think I would have made it gracefully without the drugs, but we’ll never know. Spacey, toward camera, “Yeah right.”
With the epidural in, the laboring experience was fairly straightforward. Once my doctor and nurse reminded me HOW TO DO IT. The nurse: You remember what to do, right? Me: ??? Actually I don’t!!! Nurse: Take a deep breath and exhale while you count to 10 and bear down. Me: Oh yeah, now I remember. *INHALE*
The thing is, you forget. Especially if you’re me. I have the worst long term memory. I blame the years of general assignment reporting where I had to exercise my short term memory so much on a daily basis that my long term memory bank grew dusty and cobwebby. Every brain cell was focused on becoming a mini-expert on that day’s story. Remember, process, deliver the story, delete.
Also, nature tries to trick you into forgetting all the loco that comes with childbirth so that you’ll repeat it and we won’t become extinct.
So I’m inhaling and pushing during the exhale and bearing down and our doctor, our lovely doctor who came in on her holiday weekend to deliver this baby, is so encouraging and upbeat and cheering me on so hard, “That’s it Vicky! THAT’S IT! You got it Vicky. YOU GOT IT!!!”
Except I didn’t got it. I would look down and think I had pushed the baby out, along with a pot of gold, because she was so enthusiastic and excited and…nothing. Not one piece of baby anywhere. But this is also a part of the labor mind game. The doctors and nurses have to cheer you on like you’re about to score the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Even if you’re just barely moving the baby millimeters down the birth canal. Because you’re freaking exhausted and hungry and cranky and even with the epidural you still feel all the body parts doing crazy things that they don’t usually do, so the medical people are smart. They make you feel like a million bucks even though you’re a tired, grunting, primal being in mother beast mode with your uterus in the driver’s seat.
But after about 15 pushes--the Good Doctor will have to confirm--but I think it was relatively manageable and clocked in under 45 minutes from first push to last. I also had a mirror towards the end. I know, I thought that was crazy gross before but there is seriously something incredibly unforgettable about actually seeing your baby being born. I wish I had done it the first two times. Even with my poor memory, I think I will always remember that instant and the indescribable sensation of seeing and feeling something simultaneously that is as close to an out of body experience that I’ve ever had.
Then the doctor lifted you up, RenRen, and you were a purplish blue perfectly formed human being. You didn’t cry right away, and now that I think of it, I don’t know how you did on your APGARs but you must have done okay because you sure can yell and scream with the best of them now.
You were just a warm, soft, tiny and impossibly perfect person out in the world for the first time. I’ve often said I would endure 10 births for every one pregnancy because the birth itself is such a miracle. Pregnancy is month after month of endurance. Labor is a few hours of crazy but the reward at the end is so tangible and magical. A human!
I've read several articles that say how important it is for us to be awestruck in our lives. To be in awe, to feel like you are part of a giant, amazing, way beyond yourself universe. Having that feeling of being in awe is supposed to help lower your blood pressure and stress levels and give you a sense of connectedness. It’s an awe often felt when you’re out in nature. Maybe a walk in the redwoods, or standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Giving birth definitely qualifies for a level of awe unmatched by any of my other life experiences. I’m grateful I’ve felt this awestruck three times. Don’t even think about asking me if we’re going to try for a boy.
Love you Renley Jade,