I was rudely awakened at 3:30 this morning by the simultaneous crackle of lightening and the whining of my dog at my bedroom door. It was a pretty intense storm, even Maddy got up and climbed into bed with me. We watched the light show and jumped at the thunder. After the storm blew through, I sent her back to her own bed, after suffering a kick to the hip and an elbow in my eye. She’s small but she’s the only kid I know who can go three wide on her own in a king-size bed.
As I lay there listening to the wrath outside, I was reminded of another storm that happened 19 years ago. I was awakened in the middle of the night by thunder and stomach pains. I was 27 months pregnant with Jessica and due to be induced the following day. After alternating between the couch and the bathroom approximately every 8 minutes, I began to wonder if my stomach pains weren’t actually also contractions. As this was my first pregnancy, every twinge and cramp had me scurrying to the hospital in hopes of getting this kid out into the world. So I started timing my pains and sure enough, it was labor. Whoo-hoo!
I woke up her dad, grabbed my suitcase (which had been packed since March), and began the long walk in the monsoon to the parking lot. As we were leaving, her dad asked if we had time to take the movies back to Blockbuster. Uh, sure, because we can’t afford the late fees? Come ON!!
He held the umbrella as I waddled down the sidewalk slowly, hindered by my elephantine ankles and 80 pounds of baby. A contraction started slicing through me and I stopped, grabbed my belly and began to breathe–and he kept walking with the umbrella. Have you ever tried to yell and pant at the same time? He turned around and said “what are you doing?” Um, having a BABY!!
We got to the car and headed through the rain to Blockbuster. We lived in Abilene, Texas at the time, a town surrounded by three creeks and a subpar storm drainage system. This town would flood at the slightest drizzle. The intersection by Blockbuster was of course awash in a river of rainwater. Brian managed to get through it, drop off the movies, and off we went to the hospital.
After getting settled in the bed and all hooked up to my monitors, the fun began. Neither Brian nor I knew what to expect – we’d never done this before. He kept asking me “is that supposed to happen” and I kept saying “I don’t know.” The monitors would beep and scribble, the heart monitor would whoomp and whoosh, and then the damn thing would slide off my mountain of stomach and everything would go quiet. Then my heart would race because OMG what’s wrong with the baby?!? It would cause the nurses to come in and reset everything and I’d relax, until the next contraction smacked into me.
We’d taken the classes but honestly, nothing prepares you for the experience of childbirth except…childbirth. I was starving, exhausted, confused, scared, and in pain. As it was a Sunday, the hospital was short-staffed, or so it seemed to me. 30 minutes would pass without someone checking on me, then I’d get 5 random doctors in a row coming to observe the chaos.
When I finally had to push, though, everyone came running. It might have been my panicked yelling that sent Brian into the hall for help. The nurse checked my progress and determined I was indeed ready to push. Ya think?
While in the throes of labor, I got wheeled down the hall to another room, with the operating room green painted walls and the big scary shiny light in the ceiling. Brian put on his scrubs and I got down to the business of birthing this baby. They gave me Demoral for the pain, which went right to my head and caused me to freak out. I couldn’t concentrate on my pushing, plus she wouldn’t stay crowned, so the doctor finally had to attach a little suction cup to her head and vacuum her out. That might explain why she had an aversion to the vacuum the rest of her life.
Finally, there she was. Jessica Elaine Uhl. 8 pounds, 1 ounce. 21 inches long. 10 fingers, 10 toes, my nose, a poof of dark hair and squinty eyes. Absolutely lovely.
She would have been 19 years old today. They say the memory of the pain of childbirth fades. I remember it all like it was yesterday, or maybe I’m imposing my new pain on those memories. Either way, the pain of bringing her in the world was worth it, even if she only graced us for a little while. I know I’m a better person for knowing her for 18 years, 5 months and 19 days.
Happy Birthday, baby of mine.