|My new little self, sleeping in the bassinet that my dad and all his siblings used,|
and the one that I used for Millie and Walter
The Official Birth Story of Erika
I was a little surprised to hear that women write “birth stories.” Women tend to verbally share the stories of childbirth with gross exaggerations and lots of histrionics, as though they were unique from the billions of other labors and deliveries and certainly far worse than any other. But I guess we’re all a little curious about our own stories and have only our parents to tell us about them. And being born is a big deal. Erika, this is your story.I was in labor for 842 days. I think that beats all the other stories I’ve heard, but not by much. The real story isn’t as shocking, but I’ll tell the truth.
I worked nights as a nurse on a psychiatric unit and thought it would be a good idea to take off about a week before my due date to readjust to days. Even though I knew that babies, being under legal age, don’t consider the due date as a contract, I still more or less thought that Erika would be born on her due date. I worked the last shift and came home to do some nesting, or cleaning and packing. At bedtime that night, around 9 P.M., I felt the definite more-than-just-a-trickle of amniotic fluid escaping. (I chuckled a bit remembering the story of my mother-in-law’s maiden aunt who came to stay for the birth of the baby. My mother-in-law called down the stairs to “Auntie” with the news that her water had broken. “That’s all right, Alice. It happens to me all the time,” replied her aunt.)
I told Erika’s dad that I thought my water had broken and called the hospital maternity ward to let them know. I was having mild contractions, and though I knew logically it could be quite some time with this being my first, I still felt a feeling of needing to hurry to the hospital. (Isn’t that how it happens in the movies? The mother-to-be feels a single cramp, and they speed away to the hospital. But she can never get there in time, so the baby is always born in the taxi.) The nurse told me to come right in, so I checked the suitcase one last time, and we got in the car – a green Chevrolet Impala with a bad transmission.
I wasn’t in the company of an experienced taxi driver who could deliver the baby, so it seemed to be a good thing to hurry a little. We drove from our little rural subdivision onto the main street safely, while the contractions were becoming pretty uncomfortable and much closer together, about 3 minutes apart. Maybe things would happen like they did in the movies! We passed a gas station, and Erika’s dad suddenly whipped the car around and pulled in. I asked why we were stopping, and he said he needed an antacid. Now, we were on our way to a hospital, and surely, they would have antacids there – rooms of them. Didn’t having a baby overrule indigestion?
When I arrived at the hospital, it was as a patient this time; it was intimidating to be on the other side of the fence. Riding in the wheelchair seemed really strange. The halls looked very different and so “hospital-ish.” Watching some labor and deliveries of other women when I was in nursing school didn’t prepare me at all for my own. I thought, “I can’t do this, but there is no turning back now.” I prayed the whole time. I was so fearful that I hadn’t eaten right or may have done something to injure the baby in some way, too, and now would come the reckoning. I thought of those many mornings after work when I could only stand the thought of orange Crush soda for breakfast. (And maybe some toffee.)
|My gorgeous mama, pregnant with me|
My sister, also a nurse who worked at the same hospital, was there for the birth, but she was somewhat blurry to me then, as was everyone in the delivery room. I was so tired, but so scared. The doctor told us that you had a wee bit of Erb’s palsy because of the length of the labor, and that you were a little short of oxygen, all of which resolved very quickly with no permanent damage. What relief it was to hear that Erika was fine! She was truly fine! After knowing you were well, it seemed as though the birth hadn’t really happened in some ways. So much of that night faded away quickly. A nurse came with a basin of warm water and soap and told me to wash up. As she left the room, she asked me if I was really going to wash, or was I going to fall asleep. I told her that I would wash, not to worry, and that’s the last thing I remember for a while.
I was so thrilled to finally have Erika brought to me to nurse. I couldn’t believe that she could be so tiny. I was built like a toothpick at 100 pounds before pregnancy, which made for a really funny shape when I was full term, though I only weighed 125 pounds then. People actually laughed at me without even attempting to disguise it! (Just what a nine months’ pregnant woman needs for her self-image, yes?) But even though my belly had seemed so large, there you were, all complete, but so little at 7 pounds, 11-1/2 ounces. And you were pink, not orange Crush-colored, thank God.
We couldn’t wait to bring you home. One reason was that wonderful excitement we felt to begin that huge adventure, almost too wonderful to believe. The other was because the woman next to me kept singing “The Lullaby of Broadway” to her baby. Don’t ever do that. If you must sing a lullaby, sing a real one, even horrible songs like “Rock-a-Bye Baby in the Treetop,” which has terrible, frightening lyrics. No show tunes.
There you have it. You were born, thank God. He makes the best stuff. And you just keep getting better and dearer all the time.