When you’re about to have your third child, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. I’m not talking here about the car keys (found them this morning, thank you very much), but rather things that you thought about a lot for the first baby. For example, giving birth to said baby.
As you all know, I’ve given a great deal of thought to being pregnant. You sort of have to, of course, because it’s not socially acceptable to go around town wearing pants that are unzipped and unbuttoned. Boy, I found that out the hard way. Being pregnant is pretty much in your face–or, in my case, uncomfortably wedged between my boobs and my cankles.
And all the evil eye/pu pu pu stuff notwithstanding, I’ve been starting to figure out what the heck this kid is going to sleep in, wear, etc. when it shows up in a carseat (crap, gotta get that, too) at my door. I secretly register for things. I order things that are kept in a warehouse ten minutes away, or my parents’ basement, until this kid is born and someone gives the ‘go’ order and they will make their way to my house. Why all this bizarre duplicity? This is because somehow, doing these contortion-ish things is not the same as actually having a baby shower and getting stuff in advance. Really, what it comes down to is that this is because we are Jews. We are a legalistic people who figure out ways to put strings around towns so we can carry things. We’re a weird bunch, but it all seems to work out.
But I have to say, until the other night, I’d given no thought whatsoever to exactly how this child was going to emerge from its current cocoon. That copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting? Still collecting dust on my husband’s bedside table. Both of us are generally “it’ll all work itself out” kinds of people. Which are great kinds of people to have around in certain situations, but in others…not so much.
So when I signed up for last week’s maternity ward tour, my husband sort of rolled his eyes a bit. His general take on such things is that he is a smart guy and can figure things out when the time comes. And this is true–he is a smart guy, and he can figure such things out when the time comes. I’m only suggesting the however-remote possibility that maybe, just maybe, his ability to figure things out when the time comes will be compromised by me screaming bloody murder and telling him it’s totally cool for him to park the goddamn car in the middle of the hospital’s helipad if he can’t find a freaking parking spot. Basically, he has only seen me as a rational human being. All that could change, my good man.
I also wanted us to go because my husband seems to have the idea that because I have done this whole giving-birth thing twice before, I know what’s going on and will explain it to him as we go along. You know, like translating a blessing in Hebrew, or telling him where I hid the remote. But he doesn’t seem to realize that when push comes to shove–literally–I’m not going to be explaining anything. I’m going to be losing my shit. Perhaps, again, literally.
So we show up at the tour. My sister, who is having a baby a few weeks after me (aww!), is already there with her husband. Her husband is taking notes. Note: they have already had a baby. In contrast, my husband, who has perhaps never been to a maternity ward, is not taking notes and may not have brought along either a writing implement or paper.
“Want a piece of paper?” I ask him.
“Nope,” he says with a smile. I take out one, and a pad, and balance it on my knee.
“So you come to the maternity ward when the contractions are one minute each, five minutes apart,” the nurse tells us. “Remember that.”
I look at my husband and make a big show of writing it down. He laughs.
“Contractions five minutes long…one minute apart…got it,” I mumble. He laughs again. We get an angry turn-around and look from the couple in front of us. They are both at least 10 years younger than I am. The guy has a calf tattoo which merges figures from packs of cards with images from Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory.
“Check out the tattoo,” J. mutters.
“Um, check out where the ELEVATORS are,” I mutter back.
“Let me hear you all say it together, coaches–FRONT ELEVATORS, THIRD FLOOR,” the nurse says. The men mutter along with her somewhat grudgingly. It’s sort of the antithesis of how most of them would yell, “LET’S GO, GIANTS!”
“You know what’s funny?” I whisper, risking the ire of Salvador as well as missing more important intel. “She’s referring to you as the ‘coach,’ but you know nothing about the game.”
“Not NOTHING,” he says indignantly. This is the same man who, when I quizzed him as to how many centimeters dilated I had to be to deliver a baby, responded, “Um…five?”
But I felt like I knew nothing. As she was talking about “transition,” I thought, right, that’s the part where they take me from the bed to the wheelchair. Um…no. That’s the part where the baby comes out of your body, Mom. Focus!
I watched him listen to the presentation. “That’s interesting,” he said as the nurse demonstrated the contraction monitoring equipment. “That looks rather midcentury,” he said as they showed a picture of the C-section operating room. Amusing, yes…but this was going to be the stuff that was going to make the difference between life and death.
“If something happens to me and I die, you’re not going to be laughing then,” I whisper.
“If you die, I’ll kill you,” he responds.
I had an epiphany. Yeah, sure, I’d done this before–but every baby was different, just like every hospital layout is different (front elevators, third floor!). We needed to get in gear and get a clue. Fast.
We walked the layout of the maternity ward. “I think we need to sign up for one of these classes,” I told him. “If you want to,” he said. Which I chose to interpret as, “Yes, my love, that was just what I was thinking–that would be splendid.”
I stopped. I looked at the tiny pink and brown bodies in the window of the nursery, freshly hatched. The little people were making the same movements I felt in my own uterus. One boy looked really angry at his sudden change in accommodations. The rest looked dazed and confused…sort of like our tour group.
I started sniffling, tears appearing at the edges of my eyes. I wasn’t moved or anything. No, seriously. I felt itchy.
“I think I’m allergic to something in here,” I said to my sister as we walked down the hall.
“Well, THAT bodes poorly,” she responded.
“Maybe you’re allergic to newborns?” my brother-in-law ventured.
I woke up the next morning, wedged in my usual fortress of tangled blankets and pillows. I turned over to give my husband a kiss.
I was surprised to find him already awake. He was sitting up in bed reading: What To Expect When You’re Expecting. He looked over at me. I smiled.