A few days before Rory’s birth, I mused about how things might go down. Now, finally, nearly 8 weeks later, I’ve written the final chapter of the pregnancy.
The scene: mid-morning outside of Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan. Michael and I are on our cell phones at the bus stop, frantically texting and making phone calls to let people know… today’s the day. No, I wasn’t in labor. We’d just been at the doctor’s office, a couple of days past my due date, and the routine blood pressure check had turned up an alarmingly high reading. Dr. Henry inflated the blood pressure cuff again to be sure. My blood pressure was lower, but still high — a sign of life-threatening pre-eclampsia. Well, he said, it’s time to get this baby out. Michael and I looked at each other, nervous smiles on our lips. It wasn’t my dream scenario, but I was ready. Induction also held the advantage of familiarity. We knew the routine, having gone through it nearly three years earlier with Callum.
We had to go straight to the hospital, but there wasn’t any hurry, so we took the M42 bus — talking on the phone with friends and family the whole time — over to Times Square. Then, we took the 1 train up to Columbus Circle. Underground and cut off from cell signals, we held hands on the train platform and smiled at each other, giddily. Here we were, going to the hospital to have the baby… on the subway. Surrounded by hundreds of strangers, we thrilled in our little secret.
The momentum slowed once we got to St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital. We sat in triage for hours, waiting to be assigned a room, while women in various stages of labor (and those like me) shuffled in and out. Once we got a room, Michael headed home to get the “go” bag and I relaxed while they performed tests. Because there were no more high blood pressure readings, and no other signs of pre-eclampsia, at least one doctor and the nurse planted seeds of doubt in my mind. Maybe they wouldn’t induce, after all, and we’d just be going home. I tried to mentally make peace with that idea, though I was disappointed. I imagined Michael turning up with our bag of stuff, only to be told we needed to turn around and go home. But, for the moment, we stayed. I read “Forever” by Pete Hamill. Michael returned.
By around 5 p.m., the doctor on duty told us the evidence for pre-eclampsia was strong enough to warrant an induction. The blood pressure signs — intermittent though they were — were worrying enough. So, at 6 p.m., in went the Pitocin drip, and the contractions began. It was an hour or two before I asked for an epidural. The pain was just starting to get intense (they kept turning up the Pitocin) when I asked, and by the time the anesthesiologist arrived, I was moaning loudly and crushing Michael’s hand with every contraction. Holding still for the needle — even though I knew he was sticking something in between my vertebrae — was a challenge. Then, the drugs kicked in and a smile spread across my face.
A while later, I was 5 cm dilated, and the nurse suggested we take the opportunity to take a nap. Great idea, I thought. I’m getting tired and this could take a while, given how long it’s taken to get to this point. If it took as long to dilate the second 5 centimeters as it took for the first 5, we’d be into the next day. I proceeded to take off my contact lenses and both Michael and I began to prep for sleep. Then, suddenly, the baby’s heartbeat started to slow now and then. Uh, oh. We’d had a similar situation with Callum, but it was right as I was pushing, so we were able to just get the delivery over with. At just 5 centimeters, that wasn’t an option.
I was placed on oxygen to ensure the baby got plenty. I shifted to my left side to maximize the amount of blood flowing to the baby. The c-section option was discussed, much to my dismay. Finally, the doctor examined me. Less than an hour after I’d been at 5 centimeters, I’d arrived at 10 — fully dilated and ready to push. Perhaps the shock of so many strong contractions was what was slowing the baby’s heartbeat, Dr. Hedley speculated. Whatever the reason, it was definitely time for him to come out.
Michael stood on one side of me, holding my left leg up as I pushed. The nurse held the right leg. It probably took all of 3 contractions of pushing — and a little help from vacuum extraction — before Rory was with us. Immediately, they placed him, all slime and blood and beauty, on my chest while Michael cut the umbilical cord. When I heard his lusty cry, that’s when I began to tear up with relief and joy. Though we’d thought it impossible, he was just as beautiful as Callum — healthy and whole and born at 10:15 p.m. that Thursday night.
It had just been a little over 4 hours since the start of the Pitocin drip. It was three days after my due date. And it was less than 24 hours after a visit to the doctor’s office started the ball rolling. Rory, we love you dearly. Welcome to the family!