First comes labor, then comes deliveryPublished 6:43pm Saturday, September 15, 2012
Column: Alexandra Kloster, Pass the Hot Dish
It was a dark and stormy night. The hospital went black. “Someone check the generator!” the surgeon yelled just as a dim light illuminated the operating room producing an uneasy relief quickly interrupted by a crack of thunder.
I’m lying. I’ve always wanted to start a story that way, but nothing interesting ever happens to me on dark stormy nights.
It was an ordinary, sunny Sunday afternoon during my eleventh week of bed rest when, purely by accident, I caught sight of my feet for a fleeting second. I hadn’t gotten a clear look at my feet since around my seventh month, but I had faith they were still there the same way I believe in the moon on a cloudy evening and that someday someone will finally acknowledge the brilliance of Ron Howard’s portrayal of Richie Cunningham by officially introducing “Happy Days” Day to the calendar.
“Graham!” I called, “Do my feet look big?”
Poor Graham had bobbed and weaved his way around many a loaded question over the last nine months, and he looked weary as he mentally constructed a diplomatic answer without the danger of too much hesitation.
“Compared to what?” he asked, buying time.
“Compared to how big they were this morning,” I answered, as if it was his job to keep track of the growing and shrinking of my toes.
“They’re all swelled up,” I said, having abandoned the Queen’s English and any hint of articulate delivery weeks ago.
Like two nervous hens, we went into Labor and Delivery whenever there was an unexpected change in my condition. Every time they wheeled me through the double doors at United Hospital it was like old home week. Off we went again promising our dogs, Sidney and Gizmo, we’d be home by dark.
I was lying in bed with monitors playing the reassuring tunes of Baby A’s and Baby B’s heartbeats when all at once my lower back spasmed and screamed.
“Sweet Mary, what the $%&* was that?” I cried.
The machine next to me spit out a paper tape colored with angry peaks and valleys.
“A contraction,” said the nurse.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re in labor,” she answered, as though women had babies every day.
“Don’t be silly,” I told her. “I have an appointment for a C-section one week from tomorrow at seven-thirty in the morning. I’m only here because my feet are all swelled up. See. Look. I’m all puffy, but I’m not in labor.” Just then the hot poker of hurt returned with a convincing argument to the contrary.
It wasn’t that I was too posh to push, but the babies had turned breech weeks ago, and I knew they hadn’t turned back by the way they danced the Lindy Hop on my bladder every night. Regular old labor was out of the question.
After a consult with the neonatal intensive care doctor, who expressed no concern about my almost 37-week-old twins, the nurses began to prep me for surgery.
“Just hold on,” I protested. “We still have a week, and I’m only half way through the episode of ‘My Three Sons’ where Dad refused to help Ernie with his science fair project. I need to know how that turns out.”
Graham and I were taking a crash course in better parenting through classic television.
“We just realized that the title ‘Father Knows Best’ isn’t meant to be ironic,” I explained, “and we’ve only made a tiny dent in “Donna Reed.”
The nurses were unmoved. The next thing I knew I was getting a shot in the spine and falling over onto an operating table. The numbness rose so high I couldn’t feel myself breathe.
“Am I breathing?” I asked the anesthesiologist.
“If you’re talking, you’re breathing,” he said.
“Am I talking?”
“Yes,” he laughed.
The scene was dreamlike. Graham sat next to me and waited to broadcast our future.
“OK Dad, what do we have?” the surgeon asked holding up Baby A.
“It’s a girl!” Graham announced.
A minute later…
“It’s another girl!” Graham proclaimed with disbelief and a catch of joy in his voice.
The nurses laid each baby next to my head, and I took turns kissing them on their cheeks while they screamed. For years I’d thought that at the moment I gave birth I would have something uniquely profound to say, something wholly original to fit the occasion, but my words were eaten up by bliss. All I could do was hack off of Tennessee Williams. For an instant the pain of childless years, the pain of disappointment, the pain of longing vanished, and I whispered quietly to myself and to the girl who mourned for what seemed a lifetime, “Sometimes there’s God, so quickly.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.