Now we’re going to get REALLY meta: what you see here is the resurrection of an all-but-completed revamping of a much earlier draft of a post which was itself written a month after the events it describes. And that is four levels of lack of commitment to this blog.
My autosave says I last worked on this post on April 21, 2014.
As I was trying to figure out how on earth to get back to posting after a three month hiatus that followed the BIRTH OF MY SECOND CHILD, (something I guess I should really post about), I saw this draft of a post from ….the end of January, it says. [Isn’t this fun? It’s like Inception, but with less walking on walls.] It’s only a fragment, which is totally appropriate, so I’ll have to dig around in the recesses of my memory and see if I can finish it for you:
This is a posting from that hazy, murky place called “sleep deprivation” and “raging hormone-fueled wine-and-chocolate cupcake-bingeing”. I have such a backlog of things to post about, some of which I’ve already begun jotting down in a draft post that may or may not ever see the light. [Oh my gosh, it goes deeper than I thought! This IS Inception!]
Madeleine Mary Grace was born at 7:56 pm on the Feast of the Epiphany during Polar Vortex the First, while about a foot and a half of snow fell outside. My water broke at 2:30am on Sunday, prompting us to head to the hospital to beat out the impending snowfall, despite the fact that labor was initially slow. My friend Maureen arrived at our house minutes after my breathless phone call around 3am, still in her pajamas, and wide awake with helpful advice and reassurance. Later in the day, her husband and two children would move into our house and stay for the next several days, freeing Phillip up to take care of endless last minute details that, naturally, we had failed to prepare (like shoveling the driveway and taking down the Christmas tree) and shuttle back and forth to the hospital several times a day.
I spent a good part of the afternoon by myself in the birthing suite, calmly bouncing on a large exercise ball (“to open up the hips!” the nurse assured me), alternately Skyping with family members and reading Gates of Fire. As long as things were slow and easy, Phillip decided it would be better for him to be home with Dominic and taking care of said details. Very gradually, labor began to kick into a higher gear, at which point I got an epidural, and things went back to calm and uneventful. My book was interesting and my nurses were kind. I drank my body weight in water and apple juice.
Phillip and Dominic had come to visit in the afternoon, and Dominic appeared generally uninterested in the whole scenario, except for a brief moment when the nurse tried to hook up a fetal monitor to my abdomen. From his place on my lap, Dominic repeatedly slapped the nurse’s hand away every time she reached towards me, defending his mother against whatever insidious plans these strange women had for me. (He wasn’t too wild about the straps she placed around my tummy, either, and yanked on them with an unhappy expression.)
[Apparently that was all I had time for. So! The rest of the birth story]: Phillip returned by himself after Dominic went down for a nap, and we talked for a few hours — beginning with a somewhat surreal but entirely enjoyable conversation about the concept of masculine virtue in Spartan culture, while the monitor continued to chart my unfelt contractions (a little bit of irony there). Like the rosary that Phillip and I said in the wee hours of the morning as we waited for Dominic’s arrival, this my favorite part of the labor. I was free from pain, and Phillip and I had that heightened awareness of the awesomeness of what was about to happen that made a kind of bubble around us. For the first time, maybe, since Dominic was born, the normal distractions and preoccupations (and computer screens) of daily life disappeared. The topic didn’t really matter; the conversation was simultaneously easy and profound, like the marathon conversations we used to have when we were dating. Things that had previously seemed difficult to express under the weight of old arguments and worries and the banality of daily life were suddenly easily said (and stored away and cherished.) It was the pink moment of Madeleine’s delivery.
Eventually, Phillip went home to have dinner with Dominic. Things continued to be very slow and painless, prompting the nurses to turn up my dose of pitocin. Then, suddenly, things were neither slow nor painless. My epidural blocked out all but some (very emphatic) localized pain, but since I hadn’t been able to feel *anything* when Dominic was born, I didn’t really know what the things I was feeling meant. Around 7pm, it seemed like I was gripping the sides of the bed somewhat especially hard every two minutes or so, and I had the distinct sense that something (ouch!) was definitely (hoooo!) happening… (HOO-hoo-hoooo!)
All this time, I was by myself in the room, since the nurses were convo-ing outside my room in preparation for a shift change. I assumed they knew what was going on with me, since they had just checked me out and said things were progressing nicely but didn’t seem terribly excited. Eventually, though, I thought perhaps I should interrupt their paperwork and other shift-change formalities and suggest that something….might require their attention…perhaps? They came in smiling and with the air of preparing to take my order for tea on the veranda; “Hi, again! Yes, we’ll check you out, sweetie…”
[ever so brief a pause]
“Page the doctor — get him in here, now! We’re gonna do this, girl!” Big, round overhead lights snapped on, carts laden with mysterious instruments appeared out of nowhere and were wheeled to my bedside, the out-going nurse forgot her plans to leave. “Call your husband! Tell him he’s got two minutes! (….where is that doctor? Anyone seen him on the floor yet?)”
I managed to call Phillip in between contractions and assure him that, yes, this time I was sure this was no false alarm like we’d had with Dominic. “Sure I won’t be waiting around for six hours this time?” he quipped.
“GET. (breathe!) OVER. (breathe!) HERE!”
“…right. On my way.” Two contractions later (it seemed), he was at my bedside looking calm and pleasantly interested, like he was about to see a good movie. Some 10 minutes after that, my doctor came strolling in, snapping on his gloves with a smile and an air of benevolent boredom, like he was going to perform some elementary parlor trick for the umpteenth time for another group of easily-impressed children. The nurses were the only ones who seemed to be taking this thing with the appropriate level of fussing and bustling excitement.
This time around, the delivery was much more painful — which is to say, it rose to the level of, “Ow, that really hurts and I don’t want to do this” for about 30 minutes. (Complaining or asking for sympathy from my natural-birth mama-friends, I am not.) There was a little yelling during the pushing phase (“It hurts, I know,” the doctor murmured at one point. Like hell you do, I thought), but roughly three to five pushes brought little Madeleine blinking into the light, all 6 lb, 2 oz of her. One of those ounces was all thick black hair.
The doctor immediately presented her to her father for approval and gender-inspection. “Congratulations, daddy!” he said. Phillip had some difficulty at first distinguishing what it was he was supposed to see. (“He showed me the baby butt-first,” he said afterwards. “I couldn’t see anything.”) I pushed myself up far enough to see what he couldn’t, and fell back on the pillows content. And vindicated.
“It’s a girl,” I said, and smiled.
I knew it all along.
They laid her on my tummy while the doctor tried (unsuccessfully this time) to convince Phillip to cut the cord, then she was brought up to my chest for our first meeting. She was instantly calm and quiet and studied me gravely for a while. “Hi, baby,” I grinned. “I’m your mommy!” Phillip leaned against the head of the bed and watched us both for a while, occasionally stroking her black mane and murmuring to her.
Baby indicated her approval of our little triad by quickly latching on to nurse and staying there. For an hour and a half. The nurses, kind, patient, and in favor of prolonged mother-baby bonding time as they were, began to get impatient. “Okay, girlie,” one said as she finally cut in. “You’ve got places to be.” Madeleine gave a high-pitched, prim little squeal as they took her away from me to be weighed and prodded and made official. I watched her from across the room with that peculiar, mild alarm of the Brand-New Mother, as though Madeleine might stop breathing without me. Giverherbackgiveherbackgiveherback, said my brain. Madeleine’s wailing seemed to be saying the same thing.
Finally she was back in my arms, swaddled and warm; immediately, her wailing stopped, and she fell into a contented sleep. Too soon after, Phillip and I were being hustled out of the labor and delivery unit and over to the maternity ward. There was the negotiating of piles of personal items that seemed to have multiplied awkwardly since we arrived; the ugly blue hospital socks, the wheelchair. My gentle and doting nurses had suddenly become brisk and efficient.
And that’s where the final layer stops. I suppose I couldn’t figure out how to finish it, since most everything that came afterwards was so completely ordinary.
…though, come to think of it, that’s not true. Other things I might have chosen to include in my description of Madeleine’s very first days in the world:
1. The fact that she and I were mostly alone during the entirety of my stay in the maternity ward, aside from brief visits from Daddy and Dominic, and the 847 nurses, doctors, specialists, consultants, therapists, social workers, government employees, kitchen staff, and cleaning women who rotated through our door approximately once every 15 minutes and I’m not even exaggerating. (Well, you know — not much.) The finishing touch was the nurse who woke me up at 2am to ask a list of questions, including “Do you feel like you’re getting adequate rest?”
2. Dominic’s utter lack of interest in his new sister. To be fair, I did everything I could to downplay her presence at first, to head off potential eruptions of jealousy and abandonment issues. Maybe putting her in her bassinet and shoving it in the corner of the room before his first visit was going a bit far…
3. The fact that Dominic’s second visit to see me suddenly became a visit to the ER, after he caused a mild panic by picking up a pill that had fallen to the ground and popping it in his mouth. No one could say what it was, but the possibilities were frightening, so off he and Daddy went. (He was fine.)
4. The fact that Polar Vortex the First had made it impossible for about half the hospital staff to come to work the day after Madeleine’s arrival, so nurses were working double shifts, doctors were simply camping out at the hospital, essential employees were being brought in by hospital-owned Hummers (still not even joking), and the kitchen was simply sending around whatever meals it felt equipped to throw together, delivering to the wards in the order dictated to it by some mysterious algorithm of its own devising. I will only say that the maternity ward was at the end of this schedule because, as the kitchen employee informed me when depositing my ice-cold eggs and toast at 10:30am, “Someone said they thought the mothers would like to sleep in for a bit.”
Because, naturally, the arrival of our breakfasts was the only thing keeping us from getting our full 8 hours.