“I think you know that you cannot do this again.” You’ve just given birth to your second child, a 10 pound toddler by the look of him. He’s five weeks later than anyone expected. He’s also purple from the neck up and he looks as though he has two heads, one atop the other. You are exhausted. You are fat. You never want to do this again. You tell him that’s fine, and then you ask him, by the way, can he tie your tubes tomorrow?
It’s nearly midnight as you arrive at the hospital. You promised yourself you were never going to waddle. Your husband drops you off outside the ER and goes to park the car. You waddle toward the entrance, forgetting that you were never going to waddle. A nurse pushes a wheelchair out the door toward you. You are 63 inches tall, 52 inches around. The humid, warm night air envelopes you and you hope she reaches you before you sink to the ground. She helps you into the chair and says, “We’re just going to take our time going inside. It’s 11:57, and if I check you in before midnight, they’ll charge you a whole extra day.” It’s well after midnight when they take you up to the OB floor and into the labor room. Your husband finds a comfy chair and promptly falls asleep. You doze in and out, you have one contraction and a pain that awakens you, and then nothing. The fetal monitor detects a steady heartbeat. Nothing to worry about.
It’s 4:30 am, and you hear your OB in the hallway. He asks the nurse why she didn’t call him earlier, but he doesn’t wait for an answer as he enters the labor room. I’ve never heard him raise his voice before. “How are you holding up? Would you like something to help you relax?” “Anything,” you say. “Can we just get this over with?” Your husband is still sleeping as they wheel you into the delivery room, where just an hour earlier, your internist has, not quietly, given birth to her fourth daughter. “All right, let’s go,” he says. Your water is broken, and you start to push on his command. He barks another command. “Wait, wait. Looks like he’s got the cord wrapped around his neck, so we’re going to go slowly. Don’t push until I tell you.” You want to push, you need to push; you do your best not to. He turns your baby over and over, unwinding the cord, but before he can tell you to push, out pops baby, dragging half your lady parts with him, it seems. By this time, your husband has awakened and has joined you in the delivery room. The nurse wants to know do you want to hold him. She lays him briefly on your flaccid belly and you notice how badly bruised he is. They cut the cord, the surgeon holds him upside down by his feet, cocks his head and says, “10 pounds.” No spanking necessary.
They take you to a room where other brand new mothers are all arranged in beds, like a dormitory. The floor is full, but there will be rooms a little later. You just want to go to sleep. An administrator of some sort comes in to have you sign and initial a sheaf of papers. Consent for your tubal ligation tomorrow. Tomorrow is your ninth wedding anniversary and you wonder how you ever got to this place. You know exactly when your new baby was conceived; it’s the only time since your first arrived that you and your husband had sex. Not that it was ever a regular occurrence before that, either. Before you got married, everything seemed OK. It has not been OK for a very long time. You are not the least unhappy about having your tubes tied, which is a good thing, because delivering two large, bouncing boys has damaged your lady innards beyond repair. You finish signing and thank the nice lady and then you drift off to sleep.
You awaken as you are being moved to your own room. You have no idea how much time has passed, but you feel better than before you went to sleep. You want to see your baby, so you press the call button. You also have to pee. The nurse comes, helps you up and to the bathroom and waits to make sure you’re able to walk unassisted. You are surprised at how good you feel. You ask to see your bundle of joy and she shows you where the nursery is, where all those other women in gowns are standing and pointing at the window. As you make your way down there, you pass your internist’s room. She is getting ready to go see her little girl. You shuffle down together. People are murmuring and pointing at your two-headed toddler. You can hear the comments and you want to smack these inconsiderate boobs. “What’s the matter with that one? Is he going to make it”? “Wow, is that one ugly.” You say, loudly enough for anyone on the floor to hear you, “Excuse me. That’s my baby and I think he’s beautiful.” There are muttered apologies and the hallway is quiet, save for the normal hospital noises. Your internist assures you that he will be fine if you just give it a little time.
They’ve brought your little guy to you in your room. Your husband is here. You are bottle feeding him. The medicine you take prevents you from breastfeeding. It will travel through your breast milk right into his little body. He’s a hungry baby and so far, he seems pretty mellow. He looks funny, but you can tell he’s a snuggler, unlike his big brother, who feels like a piece of wood in your arms. He doesn’t like to be touched. You knew this one was a boy from all the various ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy, and you and your husband had agreed on a name months ago. When you they bring your copy of the birth certificate later, you are surprised to find that instead of the middle name on which you had earlier agreed, your father’s middle name to honor him, he has inserted his own name. You go back through all the new baby announcements that you’ve already completed and you cross out the name you thought you’d given him and write in the one on the birth certificate. You are too tired to fight with him in your hospital room.
While you are feeding your baby, the pediatrician comes in. He’s not your regular doctor, who is on vacation this week, but you know him because they’re all in the same medical group. He examines the new arrival. They would like to keep him an extra day, just to be sure he does not become jaundiced, but the good news is that you get to stay the extra day with him. He tells you not to worry, that in a month his little head will be just as round and pink as all those other babies. You realize that you have been holding your breath; you exhale a huge sigh of relief. No brain damage, just superficial bruising and moulding from being stuck all night in that narrow canal.
It’s afternoon on the second day. Your tubes are tied, your husband is at home with your 21-month old, and your parents have come up to visit you. Your mom is a practiced grandma; she has waited until the second day to visit and see her newest grandbaby. She has her hands full at home with your other one, the busiest toddler she has ever known. Your internist is passing by in the hallways with her daughter and stops in to say hello. Her little girl is tiny and perfect. You are immediately struck by the difference four pounds makes and you resolve to lose the 17 lbs you have gained, and then some. Next to hers, your baby is a giant. Your father coos over her little girl while your mother busies herself with your little boy. She is happiest with an infant in her arms.
You’ve been home two days and your mom and dad have seen to everything. Grandpa has fallen in love with your challenging toddler, Grandma has been cooking up a storm and cleaning house. You are dreading your mother-in-law’s arrival around lunchtime. You’re feeling pretty good physically, although it does seem as though whenever you stand up, your insides will fall out through your vagina. You will have to ask your OB about that when you see him later in the week. Everything is ready for lunch, Grandma is in the cherry rocker with your sleepy little guy. The doorbell rings. Your father gets up to let Mary in. He greets her and takes her overnight bag. Your toddler takes an immediate dislike to her and refuses to let her anywhere near him. He’s a perceptive child. In the family room where your mother is rocking the baby, Mary stops cold at the sight of him and out of her pie hole, in her syrupy, sing-song voice comes, “Ooooh. I HOPE he’s not going to be RETARDED.” Said as though she’s just stepped in dog doody. You know by the look on your mother’s face that were she not holding an infant, Mary would be out cold. Your father, who has no lost love for her, speaks up. “One more word and you will be on your way out.” Oh, this is just ducky. You can’t wait for your husband to get home. You snuggle in the stuffed rocker with your sweet little angel and life is good.
Mary’s stay is short. Lunch is over, thank goodness. Your husband is in a foul mood as he goes back to work, and your parents are not inclined to sit around and chat with her. You are about go upstairs for a nap. She has her bag and is heading toward the door. It’s a five-hour drive, and she has just remembered an important appointment tomorrow morning. You nod, say goodbye, wish her a safe trip and she is gone. You never hear from her again.