When I was pregnant, several people asked me what sort of birth experience I was looking for. I really had no idea. I wanted my baby to be healthy. That’s about it.
The best way for me to describe it is to say it was like a very long plane flight. We left in a taxi early in the morning, while the city was still asleep. We tried to pack light. At the gate we had to check in and get tagged and go through security. There was a lot of waiting around.
They showed us to our seat and buckled me in. We took off around quarter-to-ten— only two hours after we were scheduled to depart. I was terrified of the pitocin drip, but the take-off turned out to be smooth. The contractions I’d been having all week slowly increased in frequency and intensity, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
We loved the monitors. Between the two of us, we have about 25 years of training in looking at rhythmic electrical signals. I kept adjusting the pressure monitor to get better signal-to-noise. Right before the pain got unbearable I joked that graduate school was good training for this: I could survive any amount of pain so long as the data looked good. Then the pain got bad.
The nurses were friendly but they were also there to keep you in your seat. You had the sense there was a highly-trained professional flying the plane. When we stepped into the hall to try to walk through a few contractions it resembled nothing so much as air traffic control, with dozens of people watching the monitors. The contractions felt like the worst menstrual cramp I’d ever felt crossed with the worst stomach ache. I thought I could probably get through them for an hour or so. I thought I didn’t want to get through them for another twelve. I decided I would trust them to land the plane. It was about three hours total before the anesthesia took effect.
After she showed me how to feed him, the nurse put my baby on my chest and wrapped a blanket over him and under my arms. She called it the “kangaroo hold.” I didn’t know a plane could fly so high.
I watched David fall in love with him. They sat in the window, making faces at each other. One time I came out of the shower and found David knocked flat on the bed beside him. “So this is how the species gets propagated” he said.
When we left the streets were full of students. The year was starting. The streets were familiar. The streets were unrecognizable.
And when I got home I was a different person from the one who left.
Welcome to the world little Joseph. Photo by your adoring papa.