The story of how my beautiful big son Wiley came into this world. Told in two parts because the story has a lot of mass. The birth story for my just-as-perfect Valerie can be found here.
The doctor laughed out loud as she spooled out the entire tape measure down my 38-weeks-pregnant belly. “This baby is HUGE!!”
She laughed. I laughed. Then I inhaled deeply and the tape measure snapped in half and whipped the doctor in the eye and then she collapsed onto my belly and the baby came out my nose. It was a wonderful, emotional day.
I’ll add here that it’s been over a year since my son’s birth, so the details are murky. But there definitely was a tape measure and a shocked doctor. Then, ah yea it’s coming back to me: she told me we’d have to schedule an induction for 39 weeks because there can be complications in delivering a super big baby. “Don’t Google ‘shoulder dystocia,'” she warned. I didn’t. I’m not a masochistic Googler, though I was flattered that she thought I knew how to spell “dystocia.”
The prospect of an induction was the light at the end of the tunnel. It felt like centuries before that I had showed up for my 8 week appointment, heard a heartbeat, and then begged my doctor to give me a prescription for “the Kim Kardashian nausea medicine that she got in trouble for posting on Instagram not because it was bad medication but because she didn’t indicate it was an #ad which violated FTC laws.” (Known to regular people as “Diclegis: Kim’s Barf Stopper.”) #notanad
At 12 weeks, Nate and I sat in the dark ultrasound room as the technician told us that our baby was healthy and had “very long bones.” She also casually mentioned that there was a second fetus in my uterus, a twin that was no longer viable (a.k.a a “vanishing twin”). It had vanished around 10 weeks, so that heartbeat we heard at 8 weeks was actually two hearts…I’m just gonna say it… beating as… one? Either way, I was proud of my baby for eating its twin, because I don’t think I could’ve handled that nonsense.
At 14 weeks, I sat in the exam room and sobbed hysterically while my 15-month-old screamed and smashed graham crackers into the stirrups. I told my doctor that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was too sick, too exhausted from being at home full-time with my daughter, and too stressed over the Herculean undertaking of raising and financing two under two. She talked me off the ledge while I strong-armed her into telling me it was OK to have a glass of wine every night.
At 20 weeks, Nate, Valerie and I went to another ultrasound and learned that we were having a boy. I was disappointed. I had wanted another girl for reasons I no longer remember because I recently saw two teenage girls flirt with a 40 year old man.
At 28 weeks, I dragged my daughter to yet another appointment and promptly tranquilized her with a YouTube video on my phone. My doctor bent down to show her pictures from her son’s first birthday party. “I painted styrofoam balls to look like planets because my son loves space… actually, we both love space!” My daughter was unresponsive. She couldn’t have cared less about our universe, let alone the lady’s space balls. I cried on the way home because of course the brilliant, beautiful physician and her brilliant, beautiful physician’s son love space! My daughter and I think science is dumb and we plan on watching Swiffer ads on YouTube while the world around us burns.
At 30 weeks, I was physically and emotionally crumbling under the exhaustion of chasing my toddler around 10 hours a day while sciatica and acid reflux scorched my insides. I jumped on an opportunity to work a temporary office job. Valerie flourished in a fabulous home daycare while I ate donuts at a desk. I have never known such peace.
I picked 6/14/16 as the induction date. It’s a pleasant-sounding, even-numbered day (Flag Day, in fact) with my brilliant, beautiful doctor on call. Overall, it would be a lovely day for a baby to be born. I hesitated slightly when I learned June 14 was Donald Trump’s birthday, but I knew damn well that his name would be obliterated from history come November 8, 2016. A mother just knows these kinds of things.
Although we had a date, I was not going to rule out an early labor. We set up a complicated labor plan that involved grandparents arriving in the middle of the night, rush hour traffic routes, and a map of all Potbellys and Chipotles I frequented in case it happened in a public restroom. (Fun fact: Majority of babies born in cars or on the sidewalk are second or third babies, thanks to the Slip’n’Slide their older siblings used and then forgot to put away.)
No labor plan would be complete without figuring out what to do with the goddamn dog. We found a sitter on Rover.com, Craig, who could come take Banjo at a moment’s notice during a nebulous timeframe in June. This was a mistake. More on that later.
Our induction was scheduled for a Monday night. The weekend before, we made the preparations: Craig came and got Banjo on Monday morning and my mother-in-law prepared to stay in our apartment with our toddler while my parents offered additional childcare support. On Monday afternoon, we took our last picture as a family of three.
We packed our bags, kissed Valerie goodnight, and left my mother-in-law in charge while we went to a sushi restaurant before heading to the hospital. We got a call at 9:00pm that the hospital was overrun with women in active labor and there was very little chance we’d get a bed. They would call back in an hour to confirm. The nurse apologized over the phone and added that June is a popular month for babies and that the full moon often contributes to an increase in water breakage.
The next available slot wouldn’t be until Thursday night.
After dinner, we strategized at a bar while watching the Cavs/Warriors NBA finals game. The nurse called back and confirmed there was no space in the hippie dippie birthing tent. Nate and I were scrambling on our phones because, after months of planning, we didn’t have a plan for “where to sleep when mother-in-law is currently asleep in our bed and we’re at a bar.” I was upset because the plan was starting to unravel and, worst of all, we’d have to make arrangements to keep Banjo at Craig’s a few days longer. Dogs are the worst.
While our heads were spinning with disappointment, logistics, and the horror of being three million months pregnant for two more days, a nice woman sitting next to us thought it was the ideal time to strike up a conversation.
“Is it a boy or girl?
“What’s his name?”
“We have a few thoughts, but we’re going to wait until he’s born to make a decision.”
“I like the name Christian. Yea… Christian is a good one.”
She took a long sip of champagne (?) and seemed to be transported to another world… a world where a shy loner named Christian falls in love with a beautiful waitress and also has a baboon’s heart.
We ended up sleeping at my parents’ house. I woke up to a barrage of texts from Craig saying that Banjo was “restless” and didn’t like sleeping on the bed they gave him. He complained that he and his wife didn’t get much sleep because Banjo kept pacing and whining (they had refused the crate we offered them because Craig thought dogs “should be free, man”). Keep in mind that this dude had NO idea that my induction had been delayed. It’s 6am and he’s all “maybe I shouldn’t do it, but ah who the hell cares, let’s text the woman who’s in labor about how I didn’t sleep great because the dog that she’s paying me to watch was mildly annoying.” Send!
The only good part of this ordeal was that we had two “free” days – days where Valerie was in daycare and we didn’t have work. We went to brunch, voted for Hillary in the DC primary, watched the first four installments of OJ Simpson: Made in America, and cried myself to sleep because people in power don’t care when women and people of color are in distress. I also had heartburn.
Two nights later, we were in the hospital waiting room. The nurse had called and said that the hospital was quiet and we’d most likely get a bed, probably because the cat sacrifice and spider seance were wrapping up early. Nate and I bickered anxiously as we waited. Both of us were terrified that we’d get turned away and this nine month nightmare would never end. But we got called in and we were that much closer to meeting… Our. Big. Son.