During my pregnancy, Mr. Rosenberg, kept me supplied with the white bread sandwiches I was craving. He didn’t complain when our bed was turned into a repository for oddly shaped body pillows. He played the guitar and sang, “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck,” to me and The Tummy. He was on board with foot massages and shoulder rubs. He gained thirty pounds in sympathy weight, God love him. He was obviously more of a natural at this than I was.
At almost 39 weeks pregnant, I lay on the couch watching the Food Network. I had gained a delicate 65 pounds during my pregnancy, and it was quite apparent that 20 of each of those pounds were residing in my ankles. My ob-gyn and my pre-natal specialist had placed bets on how much of a giant this kid was going to be. I was placing our super-baby in the forty to fifty pound range.
I had bronchitis, and my Goliath-son had kicked me so hard I had a broken rib on my left side. Coughing was an event. It was my first official day off from work, and I was looking forward to some time with my swollen feet up. As I watched Emeril work his “essence” there were suddenly two Emerils, then three. I glanced away from the TV and saw that the room had also tripled. My vision was extremely blurry for a few moments and then it returned to normal. Then it wasn’t
normal. Then it was.
Any physical change I experienced in my pregnancy, I looked up in the book What to Expect When You Are Expecting or as I had renamed this frightening work, What to Expect When You Are Expecting the Worst. I consulted my book of fears and found that blurry vision was a sign of preeclampsia, the high blood pressure that can accompany pregnancy. The only cure for this dangerously high blood pressure is childbirth. I called my doctor. She instructed me to go to the hospital. She would meet us there. If it turned out that I had preeclampsia, we would be having a baby today.
Jeff raced home from work. I was ready at the door with the large I’m-going-to-the-hospital-to-have-a-baby suitcase I had packed six weeks before. My bag was filled with everything every girlfriend and every book and every preggo website had suggested I might need for the trip. I had giant granny underpants and Hello Kitty socks and a robe long enough to cover my behind in the drafty hospital hallways. I was as prepared as I could be for an event that was mostly out of my control.
At the hospital, we learned that my blood pressure was fine. I did not have preeclampsia. There was no explanation for my intermittent blurred vision other than “pregnancy sh*t happens.” I was instructed to stay a few hours hooked up to the fetal heart monitor for observation, just in case.
I asked Mr. Rosenberg to retrieve a bottle of water for me from my suitcase. “And a protein bar, do
you see those in there? They should be near the magazines.”
“Thanks. Hey, Honey? Where’s your dad bag?”
“I didn’t pack my official dad bag yet, so I threw this together when we left the house.”
He held up a small plastic Ralph’s shopping bag. I looked inside.
“So you have three pairs of tube socks and two packs of Extra spearmint gum.”
“And that’s it.”
“I’ll do better next time.”
When I went into labor three days later, he added a toothbrush to the bag. He was ready to be a dad. I had been going through contractions for fourteen hours when my doctor let me know that because Mr. Baby was very large, his shoulders might be stuck. I could continue labor and possibly deliver vaginally, maybe end up needing an emergency c-section to get the guy out, or I could have a c-section now. I wanted to be awake when he showed up. I opted for the c-section.
Back in my second trimester, Mr. Rosenberg and I had taken a childbirth class at the hospital with fifteen other couples. On the very last day of class, the teacher gave us all the option to stay and watch a video of a c-section. Most of the almost-parents made for the door, while we and two other couples stayed behind because we were obviously insane. What we witnessed was a somewhat dated video of the miracle of childbirth or what looked like a baby being born out of a pan of lasagne. Watching the video made me feel prepared for the procedure, as long as the procedure was done on a woman who wasn’t me and that woman had a Rachel hairdo.
As I lay on the operating table, the happy drugs I was on helped to create a somewhat disembodied feeling for me, which was definitely a good thing. Mr. Rosenberg held my hand and we watched in an overhead mirror as the love of our lives was lifted out of me. There was much bustling and fussing by the doctors and nurses. We had womb-freed him not a moment too soon. He had indeed been stuck, the short cord wrapped twice around his neck in such a way as to have made it difficult for him to come out. In addition, while still lodged in my baby-making condo, he had already taken the opportunity to relieve himself. This was definitely “a situation” but with the combination of drugs and anticipation, I didn’t care. As the professionals vacuumed our boy’s first baby mess from my insides, our nine plus pounds little man was deposited on my chest for our first meet and greet. He was squinty and purlpe-ish and put out.
“Hi. How are you?” I asked. He didn’t answer but I knew we’d be working on that. “Welcome home, Robert.” He wriggled and squinted and made a noise that in newborn-speak approximated, “Hey, where’s my sandwich?” Clearly, we were related.
The next morning, our pediatrician came to see Mister Baby for the first time. She cradled our kid sweetly. His face was covered in downy brown hair in mutton chop sideburns. She looked at the newborn acne sprinkled liberally across his chubby cheeks and his Eddie Munster-like widow’s peak and declared him, “Perfect.” She also recommended we take a picture of him in his pimply-baby-monkey state to show to him later and remind him that, “We loved you even when you looked like this.” So we did, and we did. We loved him.