17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#232)

Around here, we do things The Hard Way.

  1. Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
  2. Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”
  3. Unpleasant Exams. You’ve probably heard terms like “effacement” and “dilation” being thrown around in delivery rooms. These basically mean that your cervix, which holds the baby up and in the uterus, is getting thinner and wider. When your OB examines you and discovers that your cervix is 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, you’re ready to give birth. But you know what all those helpful little links above don’t tell you? Exactly HOW the OB examines you. She shoves a couple fingers up your vaginal canal and checks your cervix by feel. THIS IS NOT PLEASANT. This exam is actually on par with your annual pap smear—no curling iron-like speculum, but way more digging around. (Hey, you men bemoaning the horrors of your first prostate exam at age 50? Woman the fuck up.)  
  4. You might hurt someone. It might not be your husband, either. If you think those checks on dilation and effacement are bad, try coping with the doctor breaking your water. (Breaking the amniotic sac is another way to help move labor along after you’ve been in the hospital for a day.) Your OB will now be up your vaginal canal with two hands, one holding a sterile wooden swabby thing to poke a hole. If you’re a control freak with “no touchy!” issues and freakishly strong leg muscles, your semi-involuntary thrashing may send your OB to the hospital floor. (On the upside, it may also motivate your nurse to get the anesthesiologist in ASAP for an epidural, though, since she doesn’t want to risk catheterizing you until your lower half is numb.)
  5. Your amniotic water isn’t clear and pretty. In fact, it could be filled with greenish black baby poop. All babies swallow and pee in the womb, but big, late babies are more likely to start pooping before delivery. Problem is, too much prenatal poop (known as meconium) in the amniotic fluid can block airways. It’s another worry when your baby is a late arrival. 
  6. You’re not the only one having a baby. In fact, your hospital might be having a “baby blizzard” the day your son finally shows up. This means that your OB and your nurse are running from room to room. With 58 babies born on the same day as your son, they may not notice when you’re a) fully effaced and dilated, or b) start running a fever.
  7. You’re feverish and puking when the nurse and OB insist it’s time to push. 
  8. Your baby might decide to present himself on his back (face up, also known as posterior) with a lifted chin. This means that each time you push, the baby tilts his head back, instead of forward, blocking his own exit. And if your baby has a big head? He can get stuck.
  9. If your fever hits 102 and your baby’s heartrate goes up, you’re gonna need an emergency Cesarean section. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been pushing for hours and your friend KL can see a hint of baby’s head. Baby needs out, fast.
  10. No matter how quick your emergency C-section needs to be, someone will find time to shave your pubic hair. 
  11. You’ll have a second OB in for your C-section. One will say, “In a minute, you may feel a little pressure.” Translation: one doctor will throw their entire weight across the top of your midsection while the other hauls the baby out of your uterus. 
  12. Your husband may hallucinate. Sure, you’re the one with the fever and the puking and the abdomen open to the elements, but he’s had a long day stroking your hair and lying about how great you are doing. Ignore him when he tells you he keeps counting eleven fingers and toes on your newly delivered baby.
  13. You might not get the much vaunted “skin on skin” contact after a tricky delivery. Baby D was all cleaned up and swaddled up when the nurse handed him to me. I was okay with that, since he wasn’t in distress. (Instead, he looked up at us with big grey eyes and a puzzled expression that clearly said, “You guys are it? Seriously?”)
  14. As much as you want to hold your newborn, you might not be able to do it for very long. You might be feverish, exhausted, and shaking so much you can barely hang on to him. 
  15. It’s really, really hard to watch your husband leave the room, carrying your baby off to the nursery. But you know your baby has to be weighed, measured, and examined thoroughly, especially after a traumatic delivery. (Also, someone in better shape than your husband needs to check on those fingers and toes.)
  16. Being stitched and stapled back together takes a lot longer than being scalpled apart. At least an hour. You will have plenty of time to wonder if your husband passed out or dropped the baby. But then you’ll remind yourself that you carried Baby D for ten months. It’s someone else’s turn. Ultimately, you’ll realize that it this is just the first of many times you’ll have to hand your baby over to someone else. And yet…

17. Even after a miserable pregnancy and a grueling delivery, the most difficult part of motherhood will always be letting go.

Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.

My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)

NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?

I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.

Continue reading Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

Weary of Boys (#235)

I always knew my husband and I would have a boy. An ultrasound at 21 weeks proved I was right.

Usually I love being right.

Not this time. Continue reading Weary of Boys (#235)

Oh, Boy (#232)

My Chinese-American husband grew up to be a successful engineer with two advanced degrees — and a disappointment to his parents. If he got a 4.0, his father Jay would grunt and his mother Sunny would mention a cousin graduating with honors. When Andy got a job at large company, Sunny told him that a government job would be more secure and have better benefits. Continue reading Oh, Boy (#232)

Gender & Preference (#231)

Parents always say they don’t have a favorite child.

Everyone eventually learns that’s bullshit. I knew it earlier than most. I have four baby siblings, born anywhere from 9-12 years after me. And hell, yeah, I had a favorite.

Pretty Space Cadet Sister spat up on everything as a baby. She was not my favorite. Continue reading Gender & Preference (#231)

Calls From the Dark Side (#152)

img_0958Two weeks after our honeymoon, I made the mistake of answering the landline. (Yes, we had a landline. Yes, we didn’t pay for caller ID. Yes, my husband is sometimes a cheap bastard.) A gruff, low, male voice I didn’t recognize barked something about a son or a grandson.

I said, “Wrong number,” and hung up.

Ten seconds later, the phone rang again. I answered again.

The same voice muttered, “….my grandson?”

“Look, dude, there are no kids here, I’m not a kidnapper, and you have the wrong number!” I hung up.

Continue reading Calls From the Dark Side (#152)

Thanksgiving with Jay (#97)

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The Treaty of the Religious Wedding Ceremony ended our War Over the Wedding Location with Andy’s parents. One of the conditions was that we would spend the Thanksgiving after our wedding with Jay and Sunny. During the week we were there, they would host a Chinese-style wedding banquet, mainly for Jay’s family members.

Andy’s parents called once before we left to get our flight information. Sunny asked Andy if there was anything we wanted to eat. He told her no, anything was fine. Which it was – FOR HIM. Andy can – and will – eat anything from animal brains (inaccurately, but oh-so innocently labeled “sweetbreads”) to Rocky Mountain Oysters (bulls’ balls). Continue reading Thanksgiving with Jay (#97)

Anchor Babies (#79)

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My friend M recently passed a young woman with a pack walking alone on a deserted rural road in the United States. In the rain. Now, I’d see this as a potential opening scene for a horror movie. M saw it as a Nicholas Sparks book. M stopped and offered the soaked young woman (we’ll call her “Anna”) a ride. Continue reading Anchor Babies (#79)

Why Andy is Handy (#48)

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Andy installs his own tile floors and fixes toilets. For real.

My Chinese-American fiancé isn’t confrontational. As a child, if Andy so much as disagreed with his father, he’d get a knuckle in the head. Andy’s parents didn’t care what he thought, what he wanted, or whether he agreed with their plans. Jay and Sunny did what they thought was best. They expected their children to fall in line. Continue reading Why Andy is Handy (#48)

Invitation to Disaster (#38)

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The wedding invitation designer put her head in her hands.

“You can do it,” I told her encouragingly. “I’m sure you can find some way to fit them all in.” Continue reading Invitation to Disaster (#38)