December 9, 1998
Yellow Jell-O


Working on it ... in betwixt earthquakes and tornadoes and black-outs and record cold-spells and The Donny & Marie Show and assorted other anomalies of nature. You know the drill ... click here to read about yesterday's blood-curdling *run-in* with The She-Beast ... and then check back later.

Later That Day:

God was on my Shit List, that frigid December morning seventeen years ago today.

So were  --  in no particular order   --  my husband, my obstetrician,  two of the three nurses hovering nearby, especially the one who kept referring to me as "ma'am" ("Now scooch your bottom a little bit this way, ma'am") ...

... the lying sack of weasel dung who wrote "Pain-Free Childbirth: A Choice For Life" ...

... my girlfriends, my sisters-in-law and my Avon Lady, for failing to adequately prepare me for the horror I was experiencing: why hadn't they just come right out and TOLD me that it was like passing a steel-belted radial through your nostril?? ...

... my parents, for giving birth to me, twenty-three years earlier ...

... and basically anybody within a thousand-mile radius of the Evergreen General Hospital Labor Room. (With the notable exception of the anesthesiologist, who was immediately written into my will  ... but that came later).

But mostly I was mad at God. Where the heck was He, for one thing?  Had He not been listening to me, the past twelve hours? Was He not *buying* my promises to forever give up soap operas and little white lies, if only He would put a dent in some of this horrific excruciating agonizing pain?  How could He take something as intrinsically wonderful and miraculous as childbirth, and allow it to turn into this degrading, dehumanizing chamber of horrors? This last blasphemy as I lay on the delivery table, nude from the waist down, in front of eleven people ... shaved, spread-eagled, attached to assorted tubes, writhing in pain and thickly smeared in something resembling yellow Jell-O. Not particularly a Kodak Moment. (And if anyone had tried to make it a Kodak Moment, right about then, I would have strangled them with my catheter.)

My labor had started exactly twelve hours earlier, as I lay in bed watching Johnny Carson launch into his monologue, my husband snoring next to me. One single, wrenching blast of pain, tearing through my midsection ... and I knew. This was it.

I hauled my enormous selves out of bed and lumbered out to the living room, where I sat bundled in the rocking chair and quietly monitored the contractions. Every time a fresh new pain rocketed through me, I wrote the time down in my journal. ("12:32 a.m. Ouch." "12:43 a.m. OUCH." "12:59 a.m. FUCKKKK!!!!!!!!")  After a couple of hours they were coming at regular, eight-minute intervals, and I knew it was time to call the doctor. Unfortunately, "we" had failed to pay the GTE bill that month (or basically any month in the recent or semi-recent past) and our phone was deader than Elvis. So I threw on a jacket and a pair of Ray's work boots, and I grabbed an umbrella, and then I tromped down the street to use my next door neighbor's phone. It was 2 a.m. and pouring down rain. I stood on Ben's porch and pounded on his door. Inside, I could hear him moving around ... sensed him peering through the peep-hole ... but he didn't respond.

"Ben!" I shouted. "It's Terri from next door, and I'm in labor! Can I use your phone?"

He opened the door a fraction of an inch, never bothering to unlatch the security chain. He squinted through the crack at me, as though he had no clue who I was (nor why this madwoman was beating on his door at this ghastly hour) ... and then, once he appeared to recognize me finally ("Oh yeah! Zucchini Lady!"), he shook his head sadly and said "I'm sorry. My phone is out of order."

His phone was out of order.

OK. No reason to panic.

I responded to this news in the most courteous and appropriate manner possible: by breaking my water on his front porch. (Hey. It was raining anyway.  So whut the hell.) I thanked him and lumbered back down the street to my own little house ... soaking wet, chilled to the bone, contracting like crazy ... and ready to pinch someone's head off. Or testicles. Either would be fine.

Under the best of circumstances, trying to wake my hard-of-hearing husband was like trying to raise the dead. At 2:20 a.m. on a rainy night in the middle of winter,  it was like trying to raise the dead just so you could kill them all over again. Finally I had to resort to pulling the blankets off him, opening the bedroom window wide open and SCREAMING at the top of my lungs. The combination of no covers/Arctic air/angry howling wife finally did the trick, and a few minutes later I was standing in a phone booth with a stack of quarters, calling the doctor and the in-laws and my parents and basically anybody else I could think of. ("Hello. Mr. Iverson? You may not remember me, but I was in your sixth grade class ...")

A few minutes after that, we were off to the hospital, where the torment began in earnest ...

... and that's what led to my moment of hating God and doctors and the medical community in general and anything with testosterone and anybody who was standing upright, basically. As much as I wanted this baby -- as much as I urgently, desperately desired for this baby to be born healthy and whole (and SOON ) -- I felt like the entire process needed major reworking. And I didn't mind telling God so.

And then, of course ... it happened.

My pal the anesthesioligist had slipped the big square needle into the base of my spine a few minutes earlier, initiating blessed cessation of pain. My mind quieted. My body relaxed. And for the first time in twelve hours, I felt like I was in the game.

Someone  --  Nurse #2, I think, the one who'd kept me supplied in ice chips and Kleenex all night  --  said, "I can see the baby's head." And she pointed to the mirror mounted high on the wall, directly across from where I lay, and helped me focus my sights and attention on the little patch of brown, emerging from the center of me.

I looked at the top of that little head, and I felt a sudden fierce gust of love, quite unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I said aloud, awestruck, "Who are you?" ...

... and the little patch of brown responded by thrusting and wriggling itself up and down and out into the world, and into the waiting hands of Dr. Heffron, who held her up for Ray and I to see and said, above her cranky first wail, "It's a girl baby" ...

... and a few minutes later, when she was snipped and dipped and blanketed and nestled into my arms, all warm and weightless, and I was burying my nose into the brand-new smell of the patch of brown on top of her head, I looked at my obstetrician gratefully and thanked him for delivering her safely.

I looked at the nurses and thanked them. ("It was our pleasure, ma'am," said Nurse #1.)

I would have thanked my husband, but he was already halfway down the hallway to the phone booth, so he could call the new grandparents and proudly inform them that we'd just had a baby BOY.  (But that's another story for another day. And for the record, I did thank him later, for going in halfsies on the world's most perfect daughter.)  

And when nobody was looking  ...  I thanked God.  ("OK, maybe the ENTIRE process doesn't need reworking.  But can we talk about that disgusting yellow Jell-O thing?")


next

previous

back to journal archives

home