The Captain and I had already been married for 6 years, and we had never, during that entire time, spent a night apart. But when the Captain decided he needed to make a career change and try something he had always wanted to do, like the devoted wife I am, I shrugged my shoulders and said "okay".
Our timing was terrible.
My sister was getting married at the other end of the country when Firstborn was due, so family members were simply not available to come down for the birth. Most of my friends were teachers who had just started the new school year and couldn't possibly take any time off. In the end, I had one awesome friend, a stay-at-home mom who kept her phone on night and day for me, and a doula we hired just to ensure I had a ride to the hospital. I owe these two a debt of eternal gratitude.
On the morning of September 19th, a week after the Captain had flown across the country to begin his new career, Firstborn started to cause me some pain. He did, of course, wait until I was pushing a cart through Safeway. So, as I was walking around the frozen foods aisle, and having to stop every 10 minutes or so to double over in pain, it occurred to me that this must be it. Finally, the gargantuan alien in my stomach was ready to come out! But, remembering the tales of 50-hour first labours in my (almost completely useless) birthing classes, I decided to finish shopping, so there would at least be milk in the house when I got home from the hospital.
After an uncomfortable drive home (ladies, do NOT try to drive while in labour!), I went about the business of timing the contractions. To make a long story short (because isn't it the most tiresome thing in the world to hear a person tell their whole nightmare birth story in detail?!), my labour ended up lasting about 26 hours, with 4 horrific hours of pushing. The labour, and the three months of single parenting that followed were, shall we say, a bit of a learning experience. Here are some highlights:
- The first 8 hours of labour were spent alone at home, timing contractions and wondering why no one had warned me it was so painful (little did I know what was to come!). At about hour four, Father-In-Law called and asked me how I was. I told him my contractions were 4 minutes apart and I was trying to time them, thinking it'd get him off the phone faster. Father-In-Law's response? "Oh great!" and then fifteen minutes of non-stop talking about himself. This kind of thing is why we prefer to live far, far away from them...
- During hour three of the pushing stage, the doula, who was used to being hired because someone wanted a natural birth experience, decided it was time to start doing things the hippie-dippy-crunchy-granola way. I'd have preferred to stay on my back, but I'm wimpy so I really didn't want to argue, and before I knew it, I found myself (prepare for WAY too much information here, people!) on my hands and knees, buck naked (no idea where my backless gown had gone by this point, but it was gone) with my giant butt in the air. When that proved unsuccessful, she then had me hanging on what they called a "squatting bar" trying to push my giant-headed baby out using the birthing-in-the-potato-field method. In the end, I flopped back down on my back and waited for a doctor to become available to retrieve what turned out to be an almost ten-pound baby, using something that looked like a toilet plunger. That's when the doula pulled out the camera...
I won't horrify you with those pictures, but seriously, check out this noggin!
- After Firstborn spent 5 days in NICU (fetal distress from being stuck in my birth canal for FOUR HOURS! Go figure!), we then spent a few days sleeping in my friend's guest room, until I insisted that I needed to get myself home and figure out how to do this on my own. It wasn't easy, but I didn't end up jumping off a bridge either. My mom came out twice to help, and was wonderful. My in-laws came out once to be served cups of tea and meals prepared by me between breastfeedings, and almost put me over the edge. Monster-In-Law (who is the Captain's stepmother and never actually raised any kids of her own) was the first to run back to Ontario and viciously tell any family member who would listen what a terrible job I was doing. I look forward to one day "helping" her down a flight of stairs.
- And three months later, just before Christmas, Firstborn met his dad in a crowded airport. A lady standing nearby was driven to tears at the sight of a man in uniform meeting his baby for the first time, and kindly took a family photo for us.
A lot of people have heard me tell of this experience and asked how I survived, saying they couldn't possibly do it. And my answer to them is always the same. When you have no choice, you do whatever you have to. This was my introduction to military life--and what an introduction! But it taught me that I'm capable and independent, and that if I should someday have to handle life on my own, I can.
And in the end, whatever our loved ones do for a living, that's something we should all be able to say.