Friday, March 3, 2006

Oliver's Life: A story of birth

Once upon a time there was a girl. She was overdue and anxious to have her baby out of her belly. Then fever struck. Ha! She thought. Now I have a reason to go to the hospital. Labor is not coming, but I bet the doctors will get the baby out of me now. So the girl called her faithful partner and told him he should come home and take her to the labor ward because the fever might mean something bad.

Arriving in the labor ward, they were greeted with blank faces. They know we are coming, the girl thought, why are they not now rushing around me with thermometers and baby monitors. Finally giving up on the staring statues behind the desk, the girl went to the busy lady on the phone.

“We’ve been expecting you,” she said with a smile.

Ah, some attention. The nice, busy lady on the phone ordered one of the idle wage-non-earners to bring the girl to a room. There temperatures were taken, monitors were strapped on and high heart rates were discovered on both the girl and the wee one inside. Hmm, the people looking at the monitors said, why are the heart rates so high? We do not know. Let us get the mother on an IV, give her some Paracetamol (UKish for Tylenol or acetaminophen), and start her on antibiotics and see what happens next. The poor girl has bad veins in her hands, so two blown veins and a shot of local anesthetic later, the girl has two bandaids, or plasters, if you please, on the right hand and a fluid pumping vein in the other. The girl lies in the uncomfortable hospital bed staring at the teeny tiny bubbles in the IV line waiting for one of them to make its way to a vein and cause all the trouble bubbles cause when parking it in the blood stream, but nothing so dramatic occurred and the girl deemed herself a hopeless hypochondriac. But at least she did have a slight fever and the doctors seemed to be validating her coming in in the first place.

Hours tick by and the girl comes to the conclusion that British hospitals are really boring because there are no televisions and there is certainly no cable. How do all the British hospital bound survive, the girl wonders often and aloud, because staring idly at her wonderful partner has ceased to be amusing. The wonderful partner is still in his suit, so the girl tells him to go home and stay there for the night, because observation has just become the order of the evening. Mom’s heart rate came down, baby’s? not so much. They like that sucker to be below 160, this kid liked his at around 185. And when people come in the room and gasp when they see the rate on the monitor, the girl knew she could take all the monitoring they could offer.

The wonderful partner left, but he wouldn’t stay home. Instead he came back and curled up behind the girl on the tiny, uncomfortable hospital bed and held her tightly as her body shook with the shivers and sweat till both were drenched. When they rose with the sun in the morning, the girl knew that she would never love another. During the night, the baby decided it would be fun to pull his heart rate back down, so we slept, but with morning came excitement. The baby pulled it up even higher. More gasps from people entering the room, this time from a troupe of rounds makers, doctors, students and the like. The girl didn’t find it at all assuring that one of the students had a splatter of blood on his white, rubber clog thingies and stared at the blood the whole of the time her room was invaded by the round makers. Why hadn’t anyone told him? Where did it come from? Ick. Make the bloody clog wearer leave my room, puhlease, the girl thought.

The round makers decided the order of the day was induction, so waters were broken and hormones were injected and contractions intensified. The girl moaned for an epidural, the epidural man called her a brave girl for being so still. Why could the girl not handle the IV needle but needle to the back, A OK? When the epidural man left, he told the girl that it ought to last her for another hour. Cue girl freaking out. An hour? An hour? This thing just started. South Carolina paralyzed me and gave me a good few hours worth, what is Britain playing at, the girl wondered as she waiting for the pain to subside. Two hours later, she demanded her top up and then the violent shivering and shaking began. Um, that didn’t come with the first epidural, but nurse kindly informs partner and suffering girl that it’s just one of the side effects. Wonderful partner sneaks out of the room, he worried and asks a doctor to help the poor girl. The doctor reiterates what the nurse says, so the partner watches helplessly as the girl rocks the bed with her shivering shivers and moans for this to be over.

Then they give her the anti-nausea pill and the stomach liner. Looks like a c-section might make it on the platter soon. No more water for you, they say to the girl. The girl’s mouth immediately dries up and she dies of dehydration. Okay, no, but she thought she would, but instead fantasies about Gatorade coolers full of ice being poured down her gullet, the ice at Taco Time, the sweat tea at McAllister’s overwhelmed our poor girl, so when the c-section was deemed an immediate necessity because they stuck a gigantor arm up the girl’s crotch and poked the baby’s head and took some of his blood, tested it, and found that there might be a chance of infection, the girl happily signed the papers and asked how long after the procedure she would be able to drink and eat anything. The room laughed at her. What a one-track mind they tittered. The girl humphed feeling slightly guilty for wanting to cure her dehydration (of which there was none because of all that bloody IV fluid, but still) when she was about to go into surgery to get her excited baby out of the womb. Just make sure that people don’t think I did this because I am too posh to push, the girl whispered to the partner before he was whisked off to the magical smurf outfit dispenser. To the surgeon, who if she cared to admit it, the girl thought was quite handsome, she whispered something about him perhaps sliding a tummy tuck in there while he was at it.

Then began the show. They gave the girl the superduper c-section epidural, which in South Carolina they gave the girl for regular old birth. Hmm. Then there was the spritzing of the super cold stuff to make sure sensation was dead. The girl made them wait until there was absolutely no cold felt absolutely anywhere. Horror stories had been heard, and the girl didn’t care to have one of her own. They erected the curtain and commenced cutting whilst the girl squeezed the partner’s hands. Now, in every episode of the Baby Story that the girl had ever seen, the cut was made and half a minute later out comes baby. So why were they pushing again and again and why was the girl rocking back and forth and feeling them leaning into her? Minutes were passing, still no baby. This wasn’t an episode of the Baby Story. The girl began to moan loudly because it wasn’t fun to be pressed on by four different people trying to get out a baby. And everyone kept telling her what a good job she was doing, which really pissed her off, because lying on a bed paralyzed from the waist down whilst waiting for people to do all of the birthing work for her wasn’t really her idea of a good job, plus all of the moaning specifically made her a wimp, and why wasn’t the baby out yet, again?

Finally, the cry of the infant could be heard, and all the girl could think was, about damn time. She knew the baby was okay, mother’s intuition. The nurse carried the baby boy to be weighed. Mystery solved. Nine pounds, two ounces, no wonder they had to tug so hard, and to boot, baby was deemed perfectly healthy. They wrapped the little guy up and presented him to a beaming mom and dad. The mom watched proudly as the dad held his little guy for the first time and stared down into his little scrunched up face, tears streaming down his cheeks. The mom reached out her hand and caressed her new son’s little head. His hair was lighter than she expected and not at all like hers or the dad’s had been when they were born. But he was his daddy’s little guy. He looked up into the dad’s face with blinking eyes taking in his face for the first time and the mom wept. What a beautiful sight, one that would be forever ingrained in her memory.

And then with baby tucked beside her, all stapling done, the mom was wheeled to the recovery ward. I have no more belly, she said looking down in surprise. The bed pushed laughed, and replied that she was all baby, that was for dang sure. In the recovery ward, the mom and dad were disappointed to see that once again there were no televisions and collectively realized how American they were.

The next couple of days in the hospital sucked royally. The mom stared at the walls – no television – and longed to be set free. She almost tricked someone into letting her out a day early, but a registrar caught on and prevented early release. So more wall staring and wishing that all hospital beds could go to the elephant graveyard and instead be replaced with king size Sealy mattresses. Oh and the mom also HATED visiting hours. Dads should not have to leave moms at 8 pm, no, no, no. Wrong, England. Wrong. You need TVs, or tellies, if you must, and no visiting hours. Staring at the walls is depressing. And lonely. And sucks. The mom was not happy, no she was not. Especially since she made the dad go to work on day two. The mom really really wished she could click her heels and end up in the South Carolina hospital, because people checked on her and helped her with the baby and prepared her baths and she never had to use the call button. The mom was not happy, not one little bit. England, you have work to do, yes you do.

Eventually, come Sunday, the mom and the dad and the baby got to come home. The mom and the dad finally agreed that Oliver Harry was to be the little guy’s name and they spent the rest of the day in bed (a comfortable bed at that, see, England, it is possible) staring at the beauty that had been in the mom’s belly kicking and rocking for 40 weeks and 5 days.

(I found it easier to write this in the second person. I'm not sure why, because I'd already written 1700 words of his birth story from my perspective, but I had to start over and write it again in order to get to the end. I haven't started the story of his death yet, but I imagine that it will take a lot of strength, but it is a story I need to tell. That will complete the trilogy. a story in pictures, a story of birth and a story of death. Thank you all again for your kind words. I am trying to respond to emails, and eventually, hopefully I will get around to the comments and try to visit your sites as well. Steve and I are, as I have said, eternally grateful for the outpouring of love.)