2.45 am: Overton is making piggy sighs in his sleep, but he’ll probably be up for feeding in less than an hour, so there’s no point in going back to sleep. Instead, I’ll try to relate here the experience of being in the hospital with BMA for his birth.
Before I left Cambridge on Monday, it seemed like everything would go wrong. In the two hours I slept that morning, The Minivan What Must Not Be Named towed again (I hate street cleaning almost as much as I hate myself for being unable to read the signs for it), and when I picked it up, there was a bad noise coming from the engine. I called Baruch in a panic, he sent me to his Jamaican mechanic, who had it going safely again in under two hours for under a hundred bucks. While that was going on, I ran errands on foot that I had intended to drive to (I love living in a city), and generally freaked out. Was planning to leave for Portland at one, check in to the hotel, take BMA and her kids out for a late lunch, and then get to the hospital around 7.30. Instead, I left at 2, barely made it up to Maine without falling asleep on the road, collapsed in the hotel, and got to BMA’s at 7.
The babysitter the agency provided was more than 20 minutes late, evidently with the permission of her agency contact. There’s going to be a politely but sharply worded lessons learned email for the agency when I’m done with all this. [Here’s where Overton woke up, so I saved the draft and continued writing at 8 pm] BMA hadn’t been able to eat dinner, and I knew from my sister’s birthing experience that you needed something in you before you got to the hospital, because who knows when they’re going to say you can’t eat anymore, so we went to the drive thru at McDonalds. I haven’t done a drive thru in probably more than ten years. Got to the hospital, got checked in, got situated in a swank labor and delivery room, started cervix ripening. Throughout, I offered to either be there or not for BMA, to give her privacy or be her support, and throughout, she asked me to stay. She even cut eyes at me when I looked to her for permission to cut the umbilical cord. The doctors discussed birth control, and I helped them tout the IUD over Norplant, so that’s what she went with.
Then we waited. All BMA’s previous labors had been in the realm of six hours, so I figured she’d be needing the epidural soon, and we’d be finished before noon the next day. Not so much. My parents arrived and met BMA, and then we both napped through the night, awakening for exams, more meds, and soaks in the tub. Morning came, and she was still holding at 3cm. I held her hand through vaginal exams that were sometimes gently unpleasant, and sometimes made us both want to punch the doctor. The nurses took great care of her, keeping her supplied with ice and conversation. They also took great care of me, checking in and answering my overly-informed questions, respecting my role without denigrating BMA’s.
By the time my parents got back to the hospital, BMA was waiting for an epidural, since her contractions were one on top of the other. I let her squeeze my hand through the more than an hour and a half it took to arrive, since both the anesthesiologists were in C-sections. Once the epidural was in, the contractions became regular, like waves every minute and a half, and they stayed that way for hours. Hours and hours. They broke the amniotic sac, and there was blood in the fluid, but they didn’t think it was too much of a concern yet. I helped shield BMA from seeing how bloody the pads they took away were, while also reassuring her and myself that it looked like way more blood than it probably was. No progress, pitocin, drop in fetal heartrate, stop the pitocin, lather, rinse, repeat.
By this point. we’d been in the hospital almost 24 hours. The people from the agency had come and gone (i was texting updates to an agency contact and my siblings when I had them), the doctors had come to get BMA to sign the releases for a C-section, just in case. I realized that I was gross, not having showered since the previous morning, and I asked my mom to pick up my dop kit when she swung by the hotel to get some dinner. Ready to settle in for another night, the two hour check came in, and boom: fully dilated, call the doctor in, we can see the ears. I called my mom and told her it was time, my dad didn’t pick up his phone, so I asked a nurse to go get him.
Less than five minutes of active labor later, right in the middle of the shift change, in a room full of doctors, nurses, residents, medical students, and me, BMA delivered Overton. I helped hold her leg (not too hard, thanks for the advice, Estye!), and stayed with her and tried to stay focused on her when they took Overton away and he wasn’t crying. And then he did. I was coached through photo ops by nurses, had to be reminded to call the agency, and held him for the first time. Let BMA get cleaned up, and then helped her hold him as she wanted. We got transferred to the mother and baby floor, and they set me up with a room adjacent to BMA’s, so Overton could stay in her room, but I wouldn’t be far away.
Throughout, BMA was incredibly gracious to me. She let me assert the name that I’d chosen, and had them put my last name on his birth certificate from the beginning. She welcomed my parents with open arms, told stories of her life to us all, and allowed me to be in the room throughout. She told the medical staff again and again that I was the one to make decisions for Overton. And she told me again and again how grateful she was that we had found each other, that I was staying with her, that she was supported in her labor, unlike the previous times. It kept taking me aback through my whole hospital experience with her how surprised she, the agency, and the medical staff seemed to be that I was there. Where else would I be? If BMA was going to let me be a part of this, I wanted to be there. It’s not the first time that people have expressed surprise, gratitude, or admiration that I’ve behaved in a certain way that I think is obvious, but it was repeated over and over during our time in the hospital. It’s an awkward position to be put in, to be thanked for something you’re grateful for the opportunity to do, or that you didn’t realize there was an option not to do. Do I really see the world that differently from other people?