I like coffee ice cream, even though it gives me serious dog breath. On June 27, 2005, Rob and I went to The Mall (which I always capitalize in my head because that's just how glorious this place is - it's Valhalla with Motown on the rock-shaped speakers) and hit up the Marble Slab Creamery. MSC is just like Cold Stone, except that it's at The Mall, which naturally makes it nine thousand times better.
I blame Norah's two-weeks-premature birth entirely on that ice cream. Either she wanted more and knew that it was Out while she was unfortunately In, or she was getting back at me for eating an entire waffle cone of it, giving us both the aforementioned dog breath. Whatever the reason (she still won't tell me), she decided that it was in fact time to cut loose, and my water broke at about 3:00 AM.
They don't tell you what that's like in baby-having class, not really. Our nurse, who was a leetle too focused on visualizations and imagining myself on a sailboat while the labor pains ate me from the inside out, sort of glossed over the whole water-breakage issue. What I didn't know was that I would run frantically to our shower, yelling, "Seriously! I think I'm wetting the bed and I CAN'T STOP GODDAMMIT ROB YOU GET IN HERE AND TELL ME WHAT THE HELL THIS IS." I think I was more upset about my water breaking than I ever was about the labor. My dignity, man! My dignity was in shreds!
Two hours later, we got the green light to go to the hospital. The 120 minutes between the first call and the green light call were spent in the bathtub, fretting. I tried to focus on what we had learned during our single baby-having class: sleep until it's time to go, because you are going to need the rest! Don't freak out when labor starts, because you've got time, so take a nap! Move your already-packed luggage to the car, idle around a while, play a few games on the XBox and make yourself some cheesecake! You're cool!
What we're going to do now, baby-having-class-curriculum writers, is we're going to put a live person into your body who is desperate enough to escape said body to shatter the very sac that gives it life. YOU NAP WHILE WORRYING ABOUT ALIEN SPAWN BREAKING OUT OF YOUR ABDOMEN. I did not nap. I stood in the shower and decided that labor pains weren't really that baaaa----
And then they were in fact that bad, so once the doctor gave us the thumbs-up, we piled into our aging Volvo and headed for the hills of north Durham.
That whole "two weeks early" thing got us in some trouble, namely:
- We had never toured the hospital. I didn't know if we were going to Labor and Delivery or the cafeteria, either of which I would have taken at that point. I'm a nervous eater.
- I didn't know my doctor. I was still scheduled for two more appointments with the practice's two remaining doctors. Ha ha, guess who was on call? One of them. Nothing says "relax" like a complete stranger walking in, foisting your legs apart, and saying, "Nope, we're not quite there yet. Would you like to see this, Dr. Harrison? It's very interesting, what's happening HERE..." Luckily, it turned out she was quite nice, and I didn't want to tear her face off for much longer.
- Rob's insurance was due to start on the first of July, and so it hadn't kicked in, and we were still on the COBRA plan that my old employer had set up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking COBRA -- but in the time it took us to fill out the necessary paperwork, I think I gave birth and taught Norah how to drive. It got very interesting when the poor check-in guy kept asking for cards I clearly didn't have (but I remembered those slippers in my hastily packed bag, oh yes I did) and I couldn't explain myself between yelps. Finally he ushered me into a wheelchair - and how fun was THAT, let's not lie, it was a total kick in the pants in the middle of all this chaos - and got me upstairs.
There was a bed, I know that, and after some clothes-changing and a few trips to the bathroom to alternately pee, puke, and panic, I was in it. And then there was peace, broken only by the contractions and Law & Order on the TV. Sometimes the nurses would come in, do a little poking under the hood, and determine that things were progressing as they should be, but otherwise I'M TOTALLY LYING ABOUT THE PEACE THING, BECAUSE OH GOD IT HURT. Shortly after threatening a very nice nurse with imminent demise, someone found an anesthesiologist. He might have been a janitor, for all I know, but they found him and at that point I would have taken a hammer to the forehead, just to help me forget the cramping in my belly.
Brief time-out to say this: I am so all about the natural childbirth. I say, if you got the cojones, you go for it, ladies. But I'll be the first one to admit that I ain't got 'em, and the rest of this story is going to go infinitely better because of that man with his nice spine-piercing needle. I do applaud anyone who can do it without the drugs... I just didn't want to. There you go.
Anyway. The nice man and his nice needle came, and only one of them stayed, and was I ever glad it was the little shiny one. Because I'm fairly tall, they went ahead and cranked that sucker up, and after a minute or two I was a-okay. And seriously, I was. I remember everything, I was alert and happy, and no one had to die! Win-win! Law & Order ended and another one began, thus bringing me the realization that Dick Wolf actually owns television, and baptizing Norah in the sweat of Lenny Brisco and Ed Green. If she remembers one fleeting moment from her birth, I'm pretty sure it's going to be the fact that when the doctor finally said go, Mama said, "Right now, or when this one's over?"
Too bad for me, the doc meant right then. I had been in labor for almost exactly 11 hours, most of which had been a cakewalk. I got my feet up (note to Rob: please tell me you've gone ahead and blocked that pretty picture out of your memory, because I have never felt quite so large and... inverted) and we went for it, and with only a few seconds of OH DEAR THAT REALLY DOES KIND OF HURT, we had a baby.
We had a baby.
She was redheaded. She had long fingers, her father's ears and her mother's earlobes. She was long and beautifully built, and red as a tomato. She cried for about a second, and then started a sweet little meh sound that I will never forget - Norah's first conversation, and she already had a lot to say.
Despite all the chaos and the pain (which was already disappearing from my conscious memory), we had a baby. She was lovely, and I was fine, and Rob was there, even though our bedroom carpet was soaked, our insurance was a total clusterfuck, and somehow we'd forgotten to turn off the TV and The L&O Sound was still bomp-bomping out from a crackhouse in Queens. We had a baby, and everything that was scary and bad and awful was piddly in comparison.
So that all happened a while ago, and now the lovely (red) baby is still as lovely, if somewhat noisier and more mobile. The lovely baby says things like "hellafint" and "copacopter," and has entire conversations with her crayons. The lovely baby eats chicken vindaloo with as much love as she does macaroni and cheese (which she used to call "vackaveen," which is now how a buddy and I greet each other, because it's just darned fun to say). The lovely baby is my best pal, my little cheerleader, the one who keeps me from getting lonely on the long nights when her daddy is stuck at work. The lovely baby looks just like me, and at the same time, just like her father, especially when they're sleeping with their mouths open - which reminds me how much I love him.
And how much I love you, little girl. Happy birthday.