The IVF doctor sighed deeply, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re very old and you’re quite deformed. There is no point in you having sex anymore.”
Ok, fine. Maybe I’m paraphrasing. It was more like, “Given your age, and the fact that you have only one Fallopian tube, the chances of you conceiving naturally are quite slim.”
But I heard what I heard.
This was back in April 2021, about 7 months after a disastrous ectopic pregnancy that had resulted in a burst Fallopian tube and emergency surgery to remove it and save me from internally bleeding to death.
Eric and I were trying desperately to have one more child (we had always dreamed of two girls, and by we I mean me, and then I convinced Eric it was his dream too) but, given my various mental health issues, I had been staunchly avoiding a trip to the IVF doctor, fearful of what the brutal process would do to me, both mentally and physically.
I have known many brave women who have gone through IVF, and I have always marveled at their tenacity and strength. I couldn’t imagine having to manage the slew of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, hormone shots, side effects, and overall logistics without going completely insane (particularity given that my depressive and anxious tendencies can be triggered by something as benign as a change in routine, or the fact that it’s a weekday). IVF didn’t seem like something I was built for.
But it had been seven frustrating months of natural trying, and while some of you (men. Definitely only men) , might think “Cool! Sex!”, I can promise you that nothing is less seductive than strictly scheduled, position-coordinated sex, followed by obligatory post-coital bicycle kicks (just me, not Eric, although he was welcome to join) in order to get those sperm a swimmin’. All of this culminating in half-upside-down vertical leg-propping on the headboard whilst scrolling social media to pass the 15 minutes those little champions need to find their way to your ancient egg!**
This ritual was not proving successful in making a baby, but while upside-down Instagram scrolling I did come across a useful reel about how to put a tortilla under my nachos as a vessel for all the crumbs at the end, thus creating a bonus burrito. So not entirely unproductive.
The pressure we were putting on ourselves was making us both miserable, and we finally broke down and decided that intervention might be necessary, both to make a baby and to allow us to return to a non-cyborg sex life.
In the weeks leading up to our initial consultation with the IVF clinic, I still held out hope that we could somehow conceive naturally– hope that was immediately dashed when the doctor informed me of the cobwebs in my uterus and the deficiency of my lady parts. Or however he phrased it.
The doctor was confirming my worst fear since the ectopic pregnancy– that getting pregnant again was going to be extremely difficult, and perhaps not possible at all. I could tell he knew his shit (as I like to assume all doctors do), and so I took a deep breath and tried to process the fact that natural baby-making was no longer an option for me.
The doctor walked me through the process. We discussed timelines, hormone side effects, actual chances of conceiving and the likelihood that I would have to go through the process more than once. In more disappointing news, it turned out I would need to have preliminary tests done before even starting IVF, including testing on my one remaining Fallopian tube, which he was convinced was likely blocked with scar tissue from my two previous surgeries, and might have to be removed in order to optimize IVF results. I asked about IUI, a less invasive intervention, but was told that given my ectopic pregnancy, I was a poor candidate. The only way to ensure that I would not have another ectopic pregnancy was to bypass the tube entirely.
Eric rubbed my back as I sobbed.
The doctor was sympathetic and kind, but firm in his belief that we shouldn’t waste time. “Call me on the first day of your next period, and we can get the ball rolling.”
I never got my period.
Instead I got this:
Turns out, I was already pregnant when we spoke with the doctor, but I didn’t know it yet. My one lonesome, rickety tube beat the odds. And apparently, uterus cobwebs are helpful for trapping embryos***.
So for about the 85th time in my life I learned the slightly terrifying (but in this case fortuitous) lesson that doctors don’t know everything– and despite my propensity for skepticism, I had to admit that miracles really do happen.
I said miracle. I didn’t say genius.
** I consulted an actual scientist who confirmed there is, in fact, no science to this.
Don’t get me wrong, we love him. We truly do. But he is dumber than a banana sandwich.
I’ll admit, we did not exactly set him up for success. The very first decision we made regarding Riggins was, after all, choosing to name him Riggins. This is in reference to a character from the amazing, deeply-revered (by us, and anyone with a soul) tv show Friday Night Lights (FNL).
You see, the FNL thing (for those of you who are new here) is a whole theme in our family, as Eric has the same name as the title character, Coach Eric Taylor, and it’s pretty much the main reason I agreed to go on a first date with him— on a Friday night, no less! After that, FNL continued to be a theme in our courtship, right up to our wedding hashtag, which was a spinoff of the FNL tagline “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”– #cleareyesfullheartstwojews (if none of this means anything to you, I apologize but also would like to know wtf is wrong with you. It’s the best show ever and god gave you a whole pandemic to catch up).
So anyway, to continue with the FNL theme like the cheeseheads we are, we named our dog Riggins, after FNL’s beloved character Tim Riggins.
Here’s the problem with that: Tim Riggins is a certifiable dingbat.
Yes, he’s a fantastic character with a heart of gold, but he is the resident dunce and also a classic, reckless bad boy. He fails out of school (because again– very dumb!) and lands himself in jail (because again– not smart!). He is the king of destructive decisions and bonehead antics.
Enter our Riggins. The eyes of an angel with the brain of a snow cone on hot pavement.
If you ask Eric or my mother in law, they will dispute the fact that he’s a nitwit, but they are blinded, I believe, by the missing hole in their hearts where a son/grandson would be. I never particularly wanted to have boys, so I have no such hole, and therefore no such soft spot for his endless and maddening shenanigans.
Said shenanigans can not be summed up in one post, and therefore creatively titled “Dog” will likely be an ongoing series. Presently I would like to focus on his most annoying trait– the barking.
When we first brought Riggins home, I was 7 months pregnant with Sophie (if you’re scratching your head thinking, “The last thing in the world I would do while 7 months pregnant is get a puppy,” then congrats, you respect yourself!) I immediately noticed that, while cute and fluffy and all that fun nonsense, the dog had a major flaw (pissing on our floor and licking it up aside)– he was very barky.
If he saw even a hint of movement outside the window (I’m talking a leaf gently blowing in the breeze), he’d bark as if someone was being murdered (ironically, if one of us were to be murdered, I guarantee you the dog would do jack shit, other than maybe find a good pillow upon which to sit and lick his penis.)
“This is a problem for me,” I said to Eric. This is how I begin most conversations in our house, so understandably, he did not respond.
“You need to train him to stop barking before this baby comes. If he barks at everything he sees, he will wake her. And if he wakes her, I will kill him.”
Eric rolled his eyes. “You can’t train a dog not to bark at perceived danger. It’s instinct. It’s what they’re supposed to do.”
This sounded suspect, as I know many a barkless dog, but I trusted that Eric knew what he was talking about, as he had spent the past 7 years on dog blogs and poring through Dog Training for Idiots with a highlighter and post-it pad, preparing for the day I finally relented and let him fulfill his dog-owning dreams.
In contrast to Eric, I put in roughly (and I’m estimating here) zero minutes of prep work for this puppy. But I had a yellow Labrador as a kid (for whom I did NOTHING). That felt like a sufficient prerequisite.
So I trusted in Eric’s research and countered, “Well then, if he can’t be trained to not bark at danger, he needs to be taught what actual danger is. Like, not a leaf. Or a squirrel. Not our car pulling into the driveway. Basically, I need you to train him to not be such a pussy.”
Eric: “Ok well that’s not really a thing.”
Fast forward a few months. The baby is born. The dog barks. The dog wakes the baby. The baby screams. I contemplate murder. Rinse, wash, repeat– every day, all day, leading up to present day. Eric and I send no less than 10 texts a week on this exact topic. Sometimes I can keep a sense of humor about it:
Other times I’m just done:
Then recently, I went to visit friends who got their same-breed dog at the same time we did, and you know what happened when I rang their doorbell?
Their dog stood there and promptly did NOT bark. At all. “Oh my god, how did you get her to not bark?!” I asked said friend.
“I trained her to not bark.”
“Well you know how you train dogs to sit? And stay? And not eat socks? And shit outside? I did the same thing, but with barking.”
I then googled “get dog to stop barking,” and no less than 893274987219847893247 links appeared with tools, tips and tricks for how to do just that.
I fear, however, that it is too late for us. The dog has become accustomed to his manic barking ritual, and the only solution is to lock him in the basement while Sophie naps. This felt cruel (to Eric. I clearly didn’t give a fuck), so Eric decided to move his entire home office from the large, sunny upstairs room to the dank, underground cellar-dungeon, so the dog has a friend during nap time. And thus, this is how we are currently living our lives:
And this complete rearrangement of our entire lives and schedules and bladder/bowel movements in order to work around the dog’s dumbness is a completely reasonable solution to the problem, right? RIGHT….?!
On Friday, September 11, in the bullshit, hellfire year of 2020, I peed on a stick and it showed a positive result.
Sorry, I should clarify– I peed on a PREGNANCY TEST stick and it showed a positive result for PREGNANCY. (Just in case you thought I peed on a popsicle stick or a yard stick and that the stick, as a result, felt optimistic. As far as I’m aware, my pee does not have that power.)
One might view this as good news, and generally it is (obviously), but any excitement I felt about the positive result was quickly overridden by doubt and worry because 1) the line was VERY faint and 2) it took four days after my missed period to even show up on a test (My mother, quite the Fertile Myrtle* yet from the Jurassic Era of pregnancy, did not find this latter point suspicious in the least, but we all know that modern pregnancy tests can now detect pregnancy SUPER early, often BEFORE a missed period, and almost certainly on the DAY of the missed period. And by “we all know that,” I mean that’s what happened with my last pregnancy and therefore based on that one situation once, it is filed in my brain under “Facts We All Know.”)
So naturally, I immediately googled “faint line on a pregnancy test 4 days after missed period and I’m freaking out.” I got about 78923392893 explanations, and 78923392892 of them were some version of “Every woman is different. You’re fine, Karen.”
But naturally, I zeroed in on the one article that mentioned ectopic pregnancy as a possible reason for this late, faint-line scenario, and my anxiety disorder immediately perked up and declared “YES. I’LL TAKE ECTOPIC PREGNANCY FOR 500, ALEX!”
For those of you who don’t know what an ectopic pregnancy is and who enjoy getting your medical information from this blog (not advised), it is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus (don’t worry, I cut and pasted that from wikipedia a verified medical source so that you know it’s accurate). The uterus (again for those of you who skipped 5th grade health class because your parents are religious, or for those of you who are Mike Pence), is the only place in the body that can provide a “hospitable environment” for an embryo. If the embryo attaches outside the uterus, it cannot thrive and grow, and therefore has no chance of being a viable pregnancy.
Reading all this on The Google offset a series of back and forth with my OBGYN. I requested an earlier ultrasound, because the soonest appointment offered to me was 10/14, which would put me at 9 weeks 2 days pregnant. That seemed an absurdly long time to wait, especially considering that my “advanced maternal age” (cue flirty hair toss)
and previous C-section automatically put me in the category of “high risk.” The doctor agreed to do bloodwork to ensure my hormones were rising as they should, but wouldn’t budge on the ultrasound date.
Then I found blood in my underwear.
Finding blood in your underwear is never a sign that today is going to be a good day. Even when it’s the “good” blood (aka your period), it’s a huge fucking bummer. So when you find the “bad” blood, you can pretty much throw out your chances of mental sanity for the foreseeable future. (What you can also do is take pictures of it and send to your BFF, thus solidifying what you already knew was an in-the-trenches-together-for-life friendship. Thank you again to that friend, and I’m sorry if you still can’t eat.)
I called my doctor and she insisted that it was still too early for an ultrasound (at this point I was 5 weeks 3 days), but that we’d see what my blood results had to say. My results came back the next day and showed that the hormones were increasing as they should. And you know what’s great about your hormones increasing properly during early pregnancy? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING IF IT’S AN ECTOPIC PREGNANCY. Because technically, you are pregnant (just in the wrong place), so your body continues to supply you with the hormones as it would for a properly-placed pregnancy. It doesn’t yet know the difference. So a blood test early on will reveal absolutely zero helpful information in terms of discovering an ectopic pregnancy.
You know what WILL reveal an ectopic pregnancy that early?
A MOTHERFUCKING ULTRASOUND.
After more pleading (because I was not satisfied with the bloodwork results alone), my doctor agreed to move up my ultrasound to 10/6 (when I would be 8 weeks 1 day). I still found this unacceptable. She continued to argue that it was too early for an ultrasound (FALSE– perhaps too early to detect a heartbeat, NOT too early to detect an ectopic pregnancy), and it wasn’t until I burst into tears with the secretary that she magically found a way to squeeze me in on 9/30, which would put me at 7 weeks 2 days. I still found this absurdly late for a first ultrasound given my age, the suspicious faint line, and the blood, but not wanting to harass them any further and come off as a complete crazy person (big mistake- I should have owned my title as I always have), I accepted that date.
On Monday, 9/28, two days before my scheduled ultrasound, I woke up to more blood.
And about an hour later, I began experiencing cramps on my right side, which quickly devolved into EXCRUCIATING pain. I could not move from the fetal position. Not that the fetal position was even helping. No matter how I contorted my body, the pain was sharp, intense, and relentless. It literally took my breath away, in the absolute least romantic interpretation of that phrase.
Eric called the doctor’s office. My OB was not in that day (OF COURSE), but the secretary told us to go to the emergency room. We drove straight to the nearest hospital in Norwalk.
Due to COVID, Eric was not allowed to stay with me. So I would now like to add “Scared and alone in the ER” to my “Things I Blame on Trump” list.
They took an ultrasound. Fun fact: the ultrasound technicians are not allowed to reveal to you what they are seeing. I don’t know if they take some kind of acting class in order to hone the skills required to stay completely fucking stone-faced while staring at a pregnant woman’s empty uterus, but I gotta say, the Oscar goes to technician Cindy in Ultrasound Room B.
Bitch didn’t bat an eye while gazing into what I would later learn was the hollow, unoccupied abyss of my uterus. She didn’t show the slightest hint of emotion when I asked her, through a cascade of tears, if she could hear a heartbeat. “I’m not allowed to discuss what I see,” replied Cyborg Cindy.
About 30 minutes after the ultrasound was completed, the ER doctor reported his findings. “There are no signs of pregnancy in your uterus. The ultrasound shows significant bleeding in your right ovary, and we believe we see an ectopic pregnancy in your right fallopian tube. The bleeding and pain is likely the result of the tube rupturing, but we will need your OB to come in to confirm.”
He was perfectly nice and sympathetic when he relayed this news, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to light his face on fire.
They called my OB’s office, only to be told the on-call OB was in the middle of performing a C-section. She would get back to us in an hour. I stared at the wall and choke-sobbed, creating a list of reasons (I love lists) why this was happening to me. In true depressive form, they were all my fault.
In a not-at-all-shocking turn of events, the on-call OB at my practice finally called back to say that their doctors are not licensed to practice at Norwalk Hospital, only at Greenwich, and therefore could not come to consult. I would need to be seen by the attending OB at Norwalk.
I jotted down this hour of wasted time in excruciating pain as the final point on my “Ways This Practice Has Ass Raped Me” list (looooove lists), and vowed to never return.
The one bright spot in the story is that the attending OB then stepped in, and she was a lovely angel sent from the heavens. She had the (wee) stature, coloring, and gentle, soothing manner of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and I immediately felt safe in her Jewish motherly presence (she probably wasn’t Jewish, but definitely had that “vibe,” which is a positive trait in exactly one kind of situation, and this was it). Ruth Dr. M was calm and comforting, but also knew her shit and wasn’t going to beat around the bush.
She immediately confirmed an ectopic pregnancy.
Obviously. Of all the “this-pregnancy-situation-aint-lookin-good” scenarios, Of COURSE this was an ectopic pregnancy. Because in no other body than mine would the egg and sperm go through all the trouble to meet and merge, only to then be TOO FUCKING LAZY TO MAKE THE 5 INCH** TRIP DOWN TO THEIR UTERUS HOME.
Sperm and egg were like “Hey, you wanna do this thing? Cool. So let’s just park it, crack open a can of hard seltzer (this embryo was VERY white) and netflix n’ chill here in the fallopian tube instead of, you know, doing all the stuff that requires energy.” Basically the story of my and Eric’s courtship.
And I’m obviously in favor of the whole “meet-and-immediately-settle-down” approach but in this scenario, putting in one more tiny modicum of effort turned out to be necessary for the success of the relationship. They were lazy and they blew it.
So I had immediate emergency surgery.
The embryo had been growing in my right fallopian tube, and because it had grown to a size that exceeded the diameter of the tube, the tube had ruptured. In case you’re wondering what it feels like when an organ ruptures inside your body, stop wondering. You don’t want to know.
They put me under general anesthesia. They preformed the surgery laparoscopically, and removed my ruptured fallopian tube. The internal bleeding and inflammation was so bad at that point, the doctor told me I was extremely lucky that I came in when I did. I took that to mean I very possibly could have died, but I didn’t ask her to clarify. Even I, the masochist, didn’t want to know.
When I awoke from surgery, which took about 2 hours, I was delighted to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg– the ACTUAL Ruth Bader Ginsburg– stroking my hand and telling me I did a great job. She was super proud of me. I thanked her, then asked, “Did you come back from the dead, Ruth? I can call you Ruth, right? That’s ok? Or are you a ghost? You know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m just so glad you’re here.” At which point Ruth lovingly assured me that I was on lots and lots of drugs, and that I should stop saying words.
I stayed quiet after that, but only after asking her to please sign my water bottle.
Idk she must not have heard me.
I am now home recovering, and have been getting plenty of rest and lots of love. My mother-in-law arrived the day of surgery and took care of Nora for the following 3 days. My parents then took over on Wednesday night. They arrived with a full bottle of Grey Goose, 5 bottles of wine, and their own coffee machine. None of it was for us. Those are apparently the supplies they require in order to make it through a 48 hour stay in our home.
My respect for them runs deep.
How am I feeling? I appreciate you asking (you didn’t). I’m pretty much all over the fucking place (hence the choice to start writing. It helps.) Here’s a sample of some of the things going through my mind. Don’t worry, it’s just a pu pu platter. I won’t torture you with the full menu, as I haven’t even worked through that myself.
I’m angry with my OB for not giving me an earlier ultrasound, and angry with myself for not pushing harder. I recognize she could not have prevented the ectopic pregnancy, but she could have discovered it sooner and treated it with medication, thereby saving me from this hell parade of an experience and the loss of my tube. While I know you only need one tube to get pregnant, it’s sure as shit easier with two. Plus no one likes to lose an organ if they don’t have to. Not to sound like my terrible-2 toddler, but that was MY tube, godammit. MINE! I grew it myself!
I’m sad. While I never fully committed to the idea of this baby due to the anxious circumstances surrounding it from the beginning, and therefore can’t really say I feel a true sense of mourning (as I know many women do feel after a miscarriage, no matter what stage of pregnancy, and that feeling of loss and grief is always completely valid), I had still let myself get excited. I was thrilled about the idea of Nora getting a sibling– that she’d have someone to talk to, even though there is no one she’d rather talk to than herself. She’s so ready to be a big sister, and I want that for her. Badly.
I’m anxious. About the future, and what this means for the family we were hoping to grow. The fact that this happened to me once means there is an increased risk of it happening again. I’ll be 39 soon. I’m down a tube. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the odds are bad– but they’re certainly decreasing.
I’m annoyed. On a purely logistical level, this was a perfectly timed pregnancy for a myriad of reasons. That feels silly to even put in writing, but it’s part of the feelings shitnado, so there you have it. I’m pissed that it didn’t work out, that my meticulously planned timing has blown up in my face, and I’m overwhelmed by the idea of starting from scratch.
I’m hopeful. Somehow, I’m able to wade through this shitswamp and take solace in the fact that whatever is meant to be is going to be. I often hate when people say that, but I do truly believe it in this circumstance. In many ways, I feel strong. And I agree with Ruth– I’m proud of myself for getting through this (this part, at least. I know I’m not done). I feel a new, even deeper appreciation for the one amazing, beautiful, dynamic, hilarious child I DO have. I feel once again validated in my amazing choice of partner (not that it ever needs validation– I just enjoy being right), because as always he has stepped up in every way possible. And I have not-new-but-always-growing gratitude for my incredible friends and family, who have always been there for me, this moment being no exception.
But none of this is linear. I’m deeply humbled one moment and back to angry and sad the next. Then back again. The only constant is the steadfast eating of feelings. I would like to thank “snacks” for sponsoring this miscarriage.
My body still hurts. I am still expelling remnants of a pregnancy that once carried endless possibilities, and is now just a visual reminder of hopes dashed. I know I’ll get through it, but I’m still in it.
And it’s pretty dark in here.
So thanks to those of you who have provided some light.
Especially you, Ruth.
*”She got pregnant if I even looked at her funny!” – My Dad. 🤢
“Hey, so,” (clears throat, clearly nervous) “I was thinking…and I know this is a little audacious of me to ask, but– would you please consider getting pregnant again? Like, immediately? It’s just– the last time you were pregnant, well, those 9 months were pretty great for me. I finally got to relax and kick my feet up for a bit, you know? Rejuvenate. Catch my breath. Felt like my normal, healthy self again. But I’ve just really been working on overdrive since then. And now with the pandemic and your anxiety and everything…I’m just struggling to keep my head above water here. So you’ll consider it? Pregnancy? It’s really my only opportunity for a break. I know you need me to keep working hard, but I can’t keep going like this without some kind of respite. I’m not a wizard. And, um, I don’t mean for this to sound condescending but– you know you, like, NEED me in order to survive, right? Like I know you understand that in theory but it seems you don’t really follow through with it in daily practice. Ok ok sorry, my bad, I see I’m getting you worked up. I won’t get ahead of myself here. We don’t need to make any permanent life changes. I know that’s hard for you. Let’s just focus on my short-term, 9-month vacation for now, and maybe then down the line we can work on some longer-term goals. Cool?”
Given the various issues we experienced during my last pregnancy and in the past year, Eric and I thought it would be wise and responsible to make a list of factors we need to very seriously consider before having a second child.
Here’s the final list:
Not birthing it during Outer Banks family vacation.
I meet a girl in the lobby who is also a new mom in the building. She has a 10-month-old son and when she finds out I’m around in the mornings and on Fridays, she asks for my number so we can get together with our kids. We exchange numbers and begin commiserating.
Girl: “Isn’t being a mom like a million times better than being pregnant?”
Me: “Oh my god YES. I say that all the time! I was a MISERABLE pregnant person.”
Girl: “Me TOO! The worst! I was SO tired the entire 9 months.”
Me: “Yup. And achy and short of breath…
Me: “And couldn’t sleep, totally nauseated, so irritable…”
Girl: “Oh my god YES. SO irritable…”
Me: “Hot flashes…”
Girl: “ALL the time!”
Me: “And like the bedwetting– what’s THAT about?!”
Eric was trying to stay upbeat and positive for my sake, but every once in a while I’d glimpse over and see this:
My cervix continued to be poked and prodded but, like my 4-year-old nephew at the seder table, remained completely disinterested.
Then the doctor had a theory– perhaps my water broke not because I was about to go into labor, but because there was some kind of threat to the baby, such as a virus or infection. So she took my temperature, but it was perfectly normal. “Phew,” I thought, “a fever right now would be bad.”
But you know what’d be worse? Having a thermometer stuck up your butthole. Which is exactly what they had to do in order to get a more accurate reading. Luckily for all involved (besides, I suppose, Eric), at this point in pregnancy I had zero percent shame left, and so had virtually no reaction when they rolled me over (a team effort) and prodded me in my 3rd-trimester-inflated tush.
“Yup! Fever!” determined the nurse excitedly, I guess because that finally offered an explanation for the nothingness that was occurring, but given that I was crouched there with my ass blowing in the breeze, I resented his merriment.
So it turns out I had some kind of minor infection, which triggered my amniotic sac to say “We gotta get this baby out!” and burst, but in its hysteria forgot to relay the message to the rest of my body, including the second body living inside my body, who remained so high up I swear to god I could feel her in my throat. Nora had no interest in coming out, and I can’t say I blame her because as far as she knew, the outside world consisted only of sitting on toilets, vomiting, and the Kardashians.
But now we were on a clock. The longer you sit around with your water broken, the greater the risk of infection for the baby. It was already determined that I had a fever, and although they gave me antibiotics to protect Nora, it still made things slightly more urgent– and as everyone knows, a ticking time bomb is exactly what an anxious person who has been instructed to stay as calm as possible needs.
The doctor presented us with a choice:
“We can do a c-section now, or we can give it some more time and see if anything starts happening. If we do give more time, it seems unlikely that anything will happen without the (induction drug) Pitocin, which we have to stop giving you because it’s lowering the baby’s heart rate. But it’s your choice.”
“Ok, well. Let us talk it over,” Eric said, as my catheter bag filled with nervous-pee.
She left the room and we discussed the pros and cons, deciding that it probably couldn’t hurt to wait a few hours. Perhaps we’d get lucky and things would suddenly kick into gear, and I could avoid a c-section. Plus it would give my mom, already on her flight to NYC, more time to get to the hospital and be there for the birth.
So when the doctor came back we told her, “We’ve decided to wait a few hours and see if anything happens.”
Doctor: “Ok, but nothing is going to happen. Your body is not in labor at all, and is showing no signs of starting. There’s really no point in waiting.”
Us: “Well, we just figured something MIGHT happen on its own…”
Doctor: “It won’t.”
Us: “So you’d recommend not waiting?”
Doctor: “There’s no reason to wait. Waiting will just increase risk.”
Us: “Oh. So when you said we had a choice…”
What the actual fuck?
Thanks for letting us spend half an hour in this hospital room discussing a choice that was not a choice, and having us select an option that was not an option. Cool use of tax dollars!
I was then told I was getting a c-section.
They were going to have a 5-minute team huddle, then come wheel me into surgery, and the baby would be out in 15 minutes.
So 9 hours of morphed into in a matter of 4 seconds and I gotta say, it was a little jarring.
In what seemed like no time, a medical team of six wheeled me into the operating room and whisked Eric away to outfit him in his surgery gear (side note: nothing made Eric happier than when they gave him a hairnet– “See, they think I have hair!” Then moments later he saw that the literally hairless anesthesiologist was also wearing one. Apparently it’s just protocol. They would’ve put Britney Spears circa 2007 in a hairnet.)
So Eric entered the OR expecting, naturally, that there’d be a sheet blocking the scary parts. Instead, he walked smack into my naked body on a metal slab, spread eagle and covered in orange goo. The doctor was literally already cutting into me when Eric opened the door. His demeanor remained calm but his eyes said “I’m am screaming on the inside.”
Fortunately for him, even though a nightmare of epic proportions was taking place below the curtain, above the curtain was nothing short of glam-squad allure:
The nurse asked if I’d like any music playing.
Me: “Ummm…I guess Adele would be soothing?”
So he whipped out his iPhone and Spotify-ed that shit, as any professional would do mid-surgery. But then he continued to look at his phone for another 2-3 minutes, on what I can only assume was Tinder. Which of course is completely fine but if you’re going to be online dating during my c-section at least have the decency to let me see who you’re swiping right on. I mean have some fucking respect.
As Adele played, I closed my eyes and tried to take in the hugeness of this moment, but found the only thing I could think about was my post-surgery snack. I silently prayed that Eric had already picked up one of my favorites, and it’d be waiting for me in post-op. Most people pray for their life before undergoing surgery– or, if nothing else, their child’s life.
I prayed for a muffin.
After a few minutes of tugging and digging through organs, the team began compressions right below my ribcage. Nora was already in the correct position (head-down) so the standard method is to then compress from the top, by her feet, which would force her head to emerge from the bikini-line incision and her body would eventually be entirely force-squeezed out of me. You know, like a sausage.
But damn was this one uncooperative little chorizo. Right before her head was about to emerge, Nora decided “Nope- fuck this noise!” and TURNED AROUND.
Like her mom on a Mondaywork day day, she caught a glimpse of the outside world and decided
She managed to somehow contort her body 45 degrees so that she was now laying across my stomach in transverse position (aka horizontal instead of vertical, aka nowhere near an exit hole). Not sure where this little bozo thought she was going. Clearly someone forgot to read the fine print of her 9-month lease agreement, but eviction day was upon us and, if resistant, tenant would be removed by force.
The team continued compressing from my ribcage, but with her new positioning, instead of moving down, Nora just swished from side to side. The compressions became more forceful and I could hear and see my body flopping around like a beached jellyfish. I have to trust there was a method to the madness, but eventually the medical strategy simply devolved into this:
She would not come out.
I heard the doctor call for an attending, and then for a vacuum. I looked up pleadingly at Eric. He lovingly stroked my hair and, in the most reassuring of tones, whispered, “I have no fucking idea what’s happening.”
I then turned to the anesthesiologist, and he assured me that everything was just fine. You know, like a liar.
A few more minutes of flopping, a couple rounds of suction, and a few buckets of sweat pouring from Eric’s pointless hairnet later, Nora emerged to the song “When We Were Young.” And it was beautiful.
The song, not Nora.
Nora looked like this:
Which some people might argue is beautiful, because everything about pregnancy, birth and motherhood is beautiful, and to those people I say GET OFF MY BLOG.
Thankfully, they cleaned her up before handing her to me, because, for christ’s sake, I’d been through enough.
And then, she was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I simply could not believe she was mine.
“By the way,” said the doctor, “the second I took her out of you, she shit all over me.”
Giving a spelling assessment to a 3rd grader I’ve worked with for years:
Me: “Next, spell ‘daughter.’ As in, ‘I gave birth to my daughter, Nora, in August.'”
Kid: “You have a daughter?”
Kid: “I don’t remember.”
Me: “I was here the day before I gave birth. When I came back to work in November, you gave me a gift for the baby. You asked me her name, and I told you it was ‘Nora,’ and you said it was a pretty name.”
Me: “You seriously don’t remember any of this?”
Kid: “The thing is, I only remember things I care about.”
(I started writing this 8 months ago. I got one paragraph in and then forgot about it, because #mombrain. “The Birth, Part 2” will come at some point, but this was getting too long and I’m tired and someone should probably check on Nora. Where IS she….)
The evening of August 24th, 2018 was like any other evening in my third trimester of pregnancy: I was rip-roaringly uncomfortable, sweaty, and crippled with impatience. Eric was bored out of his goddamn mind. This general state of misery (misery being a relative term, I’m aware that this all falls under the umbrella of #champagneproblems) had been on repeat every day for the entire summer, and with my due date two days away, I had lost all hope that this baby would be arriving early.
One of Eric’s best friends was having a birthday party that night, and even though I could have technically gone into labor at any minute, I assumed I was going to be pregnant for another 3-7 years, and therefore urged Eric to go. I would’ve gone myself, but alas, breathing while standing was a luxury I could no longer enjoy.
“Have fun,” I told him, while yearning to be in a body that didn’t contain a whole other body.
He swore he was only going to have one drink, just in case. “No, whatever,” I replied. “Get drunk. Enjoy yourself. This baby is never being born and I will forever be two people and I’ll never poop alone again and I’ll have two vaginas forever and that’s just a fate I’ve now accepted.”
So obviously after this diatribe he slowly backed out of the apartment, sprinted down the hall, fled to the west side and had himself a few hearty drinks.
And obviously, my water broke.
He got home from the party around 10:00pm, which is when people in their mid-thirties get home from parties. At 3am, I woke up thinking I had to pee, but when I stood up, I found I had no control over it, and bolted penguin-shimmied to the bathroom, luckily making it to the toilet before the major “break.”
“How do you know the difference between your water breaking and just peeing?” many people have asked me. “Doesn’t it feel the same?” Yes, it feels the same in the way a light ocean ripple feels the same as a category 5 tsunami.
NO IT DOESN’T FUCKING FEEL THE SAME.
One thing is normal and the other thing is .
If your water breaks and you think it’s just pee, you’ve been peeing wrong.
I flipped on the bathroom lights and screamed, “Eric! It’s happening!” Though questionably drunk, he was out of bed in .5 seconds and ready to call an Uber when I casually removed my torpedoed granny panties and got into the shower.
A strange calm took over. I knew this was it, but I also didn’t feel panicked. I knew I wanted to feel clean going into the hospital, and that I had time. In a voice I didn’t recognize, because calm is a distant stranger I’ve never met, I told Eric to call the doctor while I enjoyed my last shower as a non-mom (had I known what I know now– that Nora would insist on watching me shower every day, curtain open, like a complete tater-tot-sized creeper, I would have cherished that last lone shower even more).
(actual pic of her outside the bathroom door watching me shower and, I suspect, body-shaming me.)
The doctor said I’d probably start going into labor soon, but it was my choice if I wanted to go to the hospital now and induce, or wait at home for things to get moving. Asking an anxious person to sit around and wait is like asking my sister to emote– technically it can be done, but it will be painful for all involved so why torture ourselves.
We hopped (well, Eric hopped. I groan-waddled) into an Uber where I immediately called my Mom to let her know my water broke, and then immediately learned that you shouldn’t let your Uber driver know your water broke. They definitely surcharge that shit. I assured him that I wouldn’t leak in his ride, because “Don’t worry, Sir, I’m wearing a pad the size of Atlanta,” which definitely smoothed things over and made everyone feel more comfortable and less disgusted.
My mom, who was in the Outer Banks, where my entire family was vacationing without us, picked up the phone. She was 99% excited but I definitely caught that 1% of disappointment that I couldn’t kegel-squeeze this baby inside of me for another week so that her vacation could continue uninterrupted.
“I guess I’ll book a plane ticket!” she said, and I assured her, one last time, that she didn’t HAVE to fly in for this, but Cha Cha is no dummy and knew there would be social media evidence of her absence.
So she flew in for the optics.
When we got to the hospital I was asked by the nurse if I was SURE my water broke. I explained that I’m no medic, but if this isn’t my water breaking then either my body forgot how to pee right, or it turns out I’m a mermaid. For reasons I cannot place, she remained skeptical, and so took me into the bathroom to “test” the liquid.
“Alright, your funeral,” I shrugged, and as predicted, pulling down my underwear triggered another gush, which went all over her shoes. I’d assume labor nurses are used to and cool with this kind of thing, but she didn’t seem the least bit amused when I suggested she grab a boogie board so I don’t know maybe it was her first day?
“Ok, let’s check you in,” she said, now convinced that I was not in fact a mermaid and was maybe just having a human baby.
Another, more chill nurse thankfully then took over, and as she got me settled in my bed I caught a glimpse of my shitty-looking nails and said, “God damnit, I KNEW I should’ve gotten a manicure yesterday,” because that’s something that someone who is ready to be a mother says.
The nurse laughed and told me you wouldn’t believe how many women have glam squads come to the hospital to fix them up for the instagram birth series. That’s cool. I looked like this:
I was then asked if I wanted drugs, to which I replied YES PLEASE THANK YOU AND ALSO NOWWWWWWWW before the nurse could finish saying the word “epidural.” Please note that I was in absolutely zero pain at this point. I just wanted the zero pain to stay that way for as long as possible because, I don’t know, I guess I don’t hate myself?
But seriously, to the women who choose to suffer through the contractions or go all natural all the way, I gotta say damn you are brave. But also why? WHY?!
So they started the epidural and then the Pitocin, a drug to induce labor. And then I sat back and relaxed while nothing happened.
When the doctor went to check my cervix, she saw this:
Apparently my amniotic sac had decided it was go-time, but forgot to inform my cervix, which remained as closed as Donald Trump’s mind. (Relatedly, if Trump really wants an impenetrable border wall, he should build it out of my cervix).
No man, woman or baby was breaking through that barrier any time soon. I was 0 centimeters dilated. I know this because no less than four arms went up my hooha to check.
You know what’s a bad sign? When your doctor removes her fist from your vagina and says “Hmmmm, that’s odd.”
So we continued to wait while nothing happened. NOTHING.
So much nothing, in fact, that when the nurse came in to check on me, he just walked in, grabbed a seat and joined our binge session of The Sinner (great show, btw), which we were watching on Eric’s laptop. He didn’t even ask how I was feeling or if I needed anything– it was clear from the zero things happening that I was feeling nothing and needed nada. So he watched tv with us. Because Netflix n’ birth.
Clearly, it was going to be a long day.
Or so we thought.
*I’m totally kidding about the optics joke, Ma! I know you love me. Probably not as much as you love the Outer Banks, though, which is fair because the Outer Banks never called you a bitch when it was 16.