“Early labor can go on for days!”
The first time she said it — the nurse who popped her head into my doorway – I thought it was a strangely clueless and unhelpful thing to say; but I didn’t really find it all that annoying. In the convivial phase of my early labor – if you can call your 25th hour of labor “early” in any sense of the word – I remained in the unshakable good spirits of a woman who would, in the very near future, finally finally finally get to meet her first child. I met her comment with affectionate bemusement, albeit with a sort of “ah, isn’t that complete idiot kind of charming in an all-too-human sort of way.”
However, by the 19th or 20th time she poked her head in to say those exact same words – well, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to poke her eyes out first or go straight for the jugular. I asked my husband if he could get her to come closer to my bed. He said he didn’t think that was such a good idea, perhaps because I was holding him tightly by the collar and whispering spit balls directly into his face when I said it.
Forty. Hours. Of. Labor.
No. Pain. Medication.
Things did not proceed according to my painstakingly- created birth plan. I never made it into the fancy-ass, brand new labor and delivery suites that resembled incredibly tasteful B & B’s with charming floral décor, and bentwood rocking chairs, and Boze sound systems. The room where I remained, due to “complications,” was essentially the size and general schema of a cell, as in The Slammer. At one point, I had the wherewithal to decide that I really must count: there were a total of nine medical personnel crowded around the bottom half of my body in this teeny little space. All of them were staring directly into my vagina.
Well, I thought to myself (between interminable and excruciating contractions), whatever remaining dignity I may have had is forever lost. At that point, I had been limited to lying in one position only for hours. I was tethered to an oxygen mask. Every possible monitor, probe, and gadget was either wrapped around my body or inside of it.
Forty hours after the first contractions of real labor announced that my baby was really, truly on the way to the outer world, Taylor John Hales was placed in my arms. I was too exhausted to lift my head by myself to get a good first look at my son. And when two people raised my head and put him to my breast, I thought, “oh my God, oh my God, I did not do enough. There is no amount of time, or work, or pain that could possibly result in this miracle, this brand new human life, this gift from the universe.
I will never stop, not for a second, trying to love him as best I can.
My son Taylor is 35 years old today.