Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Labor Day

Alice Spice is one month old today! To commemorate, I'd like to tell you about when she was born. I'll spare you any gory details, I promise.

The day I went into labor, we took Betty to the park in the damp, hot morning. Upon returning home, I discarded the leisurely pace I'd adopted over the interminable spring and summer. I was ready to get this baby out, one way or another. "Out of  my way!" I cried to Spiceboy as I barreled up the 48 steps to our apartment. 

That afternoon, we went to the Met and I waddled  past the Impressionists and the Modernists at breakneck speed, stopping occasionally to rest in front of a Pollock, a Matisse. 

I also insisted on walking the 20 blocks home.

The first labor pain came at 7:57 pm, though I didn't believe it was labor--I thought it was just really bad gas--not an unusual malady in our house. As I paced the floor in denial, Spiceboy packed his bag for the hospital. Mine had already been packed for weeks.

Two hours later, the pains were coming faster and harder.  The glass of wine and hot shower recommended in birthing class had not slowed them in the least. Each time a pain hit, I curled up on the bed and moaned.

"You need to page your doctor," said Spiceboy.

We finally left for the hospital, and when I stepped out the front door, everything was achingly normal--the hot sidewalks, the honking horns, old men lingering at the curb as their small dogs sniffed here and there. Spiceboy ran to Second Avenue to flag a cab, and I waddled to the stoop next door, where our neighbor, who was sitting and smoking a cigarette, eyed  me curiously. 

"Do you mind if I sit here with you for a minute?" I asked, lowering myself onto the cool, damp steps. "I'm in labor." 

I got a really strong contraction as soon as we got in the cab, and I arched back into the seat and moaned. The cabbie eyed me in the rearview mirror. "You might want to take it easy," Spiceboy warned him, "unless you want to have a baby in your cab."

We hurried down the quiet hospital corridors, racing against the contractions. When we arrived at the labor and delivery desk, my doctor greeted us with a smile and a cheer. "Yay!" she said.

Things went quickly after that. The delivery room was dark and quiet and I stripped out of my black skirt and tank top and slipped into my hospital gown with shaking hands. The doctor checked me and informed me I was 8 cm dilated, which for the uninitiated means I was very far along in the process. "Do you want an epidural?" she asked. 

Throughout my pregnancy, I'd entertained very strong notions of having a natural childbirth--no drugs. But the contractions were coming faster and stronger and I felt feverish and sick to my stomach--I couldn't breathe through them any more, couldn't relax.  I needed to make a decision. Another contraction hit me and I panted through it. In an effort to stall for time, I cried out to my doctor, "But it fucking hurts!"

"Yeah," she said, "but it's going to fucking hurt either way," she replied. 

I got the epidural. 

I have no regrets. Once the drugs kicked in, I was able to relax. I was excited. To be honest, I felt great. No more pain--none at all. Spiceboy stood bravely at my side, whispering encouragement and promising me that when this was over, he would  bring me many sandwiches (I'd been craving them) and the bottle of Roederer he'd stashed in the fridge. I loved him more than ever. 

Then it was time to push, and Spiceboy did what he does best--kept me laughing.  He yelled and cheered so much one might have thought he was watching me run in the winning touchdown during the big game, which made me laugh even harder. "Not many people laugh when they push out a baby," said my doctor. Indeed. But as all of my best moments with Spiceboy include laughter, I couldn't have imagined a better scenario. 

And so at 2:52 am in a small darkened room on the East Side of Manhattan,  Spiceboy and I found ourselves at yet another turning point in our relationship: we had finally become a family. And after the breathless, bloody blur of labor had ended and the doctor and nurse had us alone in the room,  he climbed into bed with me and we kissed and kissed, then we wrapped our arms around little our little cosmic baby--all red and hot and new--and dozed off as dawn crept into the sky over the East River.