It was December 1992. The year that my Christmas belly-full-of-jelly was about as big as Santa’s himself. Except my belly was full of baby. However, the only bells that were jingling were the ones on the blood pressure monitor. The ones that clanged loudly every time my doc checked my numbers. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension he called it. PIH. It most likely would not abate until the baby came out.
But the baby was not supposed to come out until the end of January. So I got sent to bed with instructions to stay there. As the good doc said, “If it wasn’t Christmas I’d be sending you to the hospital.”
I was scared. I had endured three miscarriages before this pregnancy and I was scared.
After a few days in bed, Christmas arrived and my head would not stop banging. I called my mother to let her know we would not be joining the family for Christmas dinner. My mother calmly informed me that if I was too ill to come for Christmas dinner I should get the hospital immediately.
My mother knows how much I love Christmas dinner.
I spent Christmas night on a hospital bed and the next few after as well. My numbers settled down so I was sent home. My numbers skyrocketed so I went back. Because it was the holiday season, I saw a different doctor every day (mine was off skiing somewhere) but I will never forget the immortal words of Dr. Ken-Doll who saw me the say I returned.
“You’re in for the duration, Vickie. No more going home until this baby arrives.”
My heart sank. I hated being in the hospital and the baby wasn’t due for another month!
“The good new is,” Dr. Hottie continued, “PIH babies typically come early and they come fast.”
Oh. Goodie. I think.
New Year’s Day arrived and my new best-friend nurse said I could have a hall pass. My numbers were good. I could leave the hospital for a few hours to have dinner with family.
I spent those few hours on the sofa with an ever-increasing headache and ever-increasing numbers (my dear hubby had borrowed a BP cuff from a friend). We hightailed it back to the hospital early and my nurse immediately knew exactly why.
“Now you go to bed and you stay in bed except to pee. Those are the rules, Vickie. DO NOT break them!”
I hated being in that bed. It was uncomfortable and slippery. There was a plastic mattress protector under the flimsy sheet (you know us pregnant gals … things can get messy!) and I always felt like I was about to go flying off the bed every time I rolled over. Plus the constant PA announcements and then the code blues. Every time I heard one I was transported back to the night my father had a heart attack and then overcome with grief for the family going through it. (Yes I am an out-of-control empath plus there were all those hormones!) I was getting very little sleep and feeling kind of cranky.
On January 2 that day’s doctor stopped in and asked me how I was feeling.
“Tired. Really tired. I can’t sleep in this damn place.”
He looked at me like I was a moron. “Well then we’ll give you a sleeping pill.”
“What? Seriously? You can give a pregnant woman a sleeping pill?” I had never taken a sleeping pill in my life so now didn’t really seem like the optimum moment.
And I got my pill at around 8:30 that evening. By 9 I was drifting off into beautiful, unslippery sleep.
At around midnight I was awakened by a sharp cramp. “Oh damn,” though I groggily. “I’m getting my period.”
Holy crap!!! I’m pregnant! There are no periods. That was a contraction! I’m having a baby!!
I buzzed the nurse. Then I got up to pee and my water broke all over the floor.
The nurse said, “It looks like it’s time, Vickie. You’d better call your husband.”
My poor dear hubby, who had been driving the 30 minutes back and forth to the hospital twice daily while still maintaining a full-time job, answered after the 5th ring.
“Hey honey,” I chirped merrily, “Wanna go for a swim?”
“What?” He was still half asleep.
“My water just broke,” I announced proudly (as if I had personally orchestrated this event). “We’re having a baby!”
At this point I had been in hospital on and off for well over a week. Hubby knew the drill. He had witnessed the drill. Never-ending labours that went on and on and seemingly never-ended. He knew this was just the beginning. “Um, why don’t I get some sleep and I’ll come first thing in the morning?”
“No honey, come now. The nurse said you MUST come now.”
He was suddenly wide awake. “I’ll be right there!”
My contractions had begun less than an hour earlier and they were already a minute apart.
I was moved to the pre-birth room and given an enema because accidents do happen and those wonderful doctors sure as heck don’t want to be catching the wrong thing when we start to push. At the exact moment that I was sitting on the throne allowing the enema to do its thing, darling hubby walked in the door with two giant coffees in his hands. “Hey honey, I brought you a …”
He took in the scene instantly as I let out a loud contraction-induced moan. “Just give mine to the nurse,” I sputtered between moans. “I’m good.”
Back in bed I was asked if I wanted natural childbirth.
“Absolutely!” I exclaimed between even more moans. “I promise not to wear makeup. Now please give me drugs!”
They did. And soon thereafter the horrible cramps weren’t quite so horrible anymore.
But that darn baby refused to drop. He was nice and cozy in his own heated pool and had no intention of greeting this new year any time soon.
The drugs wore off. It was now 7am and a shift change so I had to wait for the new anesthetist. But she was busy with caesarian sections which for some reason were deemed more important than my agony.
My contractions were pretty much on top of each other, I was fully un-drugged and my blood pressure was frighteningly all over the place. At one point the nurse screamed “240 over 140??? We have to get this baby out of here!”
The anesthetist arrived on cue and shot me up. I have no idea what she did differently than her predecessor but I was suddenly completely frozen from the waist down. Delightfully, deliriously, completely frozen. Bu-bye contractions!
They wheeled me into the “birthing room”. I asked who the on-call doctor was. And I had gotten to know so many.
“It’s Dr. H,” the nurse rolled her eyes.
Oh, I had heard so much about Dr. H. He was one of the older docs and a bit of a curmudgeon. Grumpy and abrupt. Great. I had been hoping for Dr. Ken.
The nurse came to my side and whispered, “Vickie, I know he’s an old crank but he is the one you want. If there is any trouble at all, trust me, he is the one you want.”
I was relieved and terrified at the same time.
Dr. H entered the room with a young intern following like a puppy. He took one look at my nurse-friend and muttered sarcastically, “Oh great, it’s you. So lovely to be working with you again.”
This pair obviously had some history and she shot back without skipping a beat, “You know what, doc? Kiss my ass!”
Everyone in the room cracked up. Even the doc. He obviously had a sense of humour.
Good thing too, because there I was on the gurney with my feet up in the stirrups, frozen solid from the waist down. I had no idea what would happen next.
“Vickie, can you push?” the doc asked casually, all the while doing things with his fingers that usually require dinner and a whole lot of wine.
Push? Push what?
I tried with all my might to push and all the veins popped out on my forehead.
Apparently I could not push whatever it was I was supposed to push because I was FROZEN SOLID!!
“Vickie, this is Dr. M. You know we’re a teaching hospital and he is here to learn so do you mind if he takes a look?” Dr H corralled his young student into my legs. The poor boy was sweating buckets.
“Sure, why not?” I responded. “I’m here to serve.”
Everyone chuckled. Except for Dr. M. He was still sweating.
“So Mrs. van Dyke,” he offered lamely, “Do you think you’re having a boy or a girl?”
First off, who the hell is Mrs. van Dyke and secondly why the fuck am I making cocktail chat with an intern?
“I AM having a boy, doctor. I know this because I had amnio!”
Dr. H chimed right in. “Why did you have amnio, Vickie? Is it because you’re so old?”
Funny guy, that doc. Everyone laughed. (Even my husband, damn him.)
But hey, I am a seasoned performer and therefore – funnier. “You know what, doc?” I glared at him between my spread-eagled legs. “You can kiss my ass too! And I have made it readily available to you!”
Seriously, brought the house down
But still no baby. My precious baby would still not drop. They finally got him with forceps (ouch). Dragged him (literally) kicking and screaming into this world. Hubby took him to the “checking station” while I lay on the bed staring blankly at the ceiling. The drugs were still in full effect and I had felt very little. I was just numb.
While everyone else was busy fussing with my issue, Dr H came to my side. He sat next to me and very quietly asked, “Are you okay?”
I nodded. That was it. I couldn’t speak.
He took my hand and said, “Vickie you have a healthy baby boy. He’s early but he’s a good weight. Your blood pressure is down. You did great, momma.”
I burst into tears.
And then Hubby put Sam in my arms. There he was, finally. A real human. MY real human. My real human worth every ounce of pain, struggle and worry.
It was January 3 morning and I had finally got my Christmas present.
Best. One. Ever.