A Labor Story

The format of this post is inspired by Mrs. Kennedy’s brilliant account of the birth of her son, something I read studiously in the weeks leading up to the birth of Leta, something that had me squarely convinced that any labor not involving a toilet was really no labor at all.

Friday, 30 January, 7:00 PM
For the 14 days prior to this evening I had tried every possible labor inducing technique documented in pregnant folklore to get this baby here including but not limited to:

1) Furious stair running (which in my nine months pregnant condition was more of a furious stair waddling involving alternating grunts and gasps for air)

2) Hour long run-walks with the dog

3) Praying (more like pleading or outright begging for mercy, at this point my bladder had stopped working entirely and I was peeing every 30 seconds)

4) Seducing my husband more frequently than should be legal for a swollen human incubator who has worn nothing but elastic-waist pajama bottoms in public for the last four months.

We hear about a local Italian restaurant that serves Pregnant Pizza, a specialty dish that has sent at least five pregnant women into labor according to a local newspaper. Of course, local newspapers in Utah do things like feature spreads on polygamy that read like glowing advertisements for the fanatical offshoots of the Mormon Church, but I’m desperate and I’m willing to try anything short of agreeing to let my daughter be married off at the age of 14 to a 60 year old dirty cock knocker who thinks he’s been ordained by God.

I order the Pregnant Pizza which really isn’t a pizza but a 144 square inch orgasm of garlic. For appetizers we order bagna cauda, a dish that contains over 100 cloves of roasted garlic. I eat half of it, Jon eats the other half. By the time we leave the restaurant I have consumed so much garlic that I have basically ensured that my baby will be pooping garlic for the first 13 years of her life.

Saturday, 31 January, 8:00 AM
Jon gives birth to his baby.

Saturday, 9:00 AM
I feel nothing. I haven’t farted or belched or felt any gastrointestinal movement, although it smells like a garlic bomb has been detonated in our bedroom.

Saturday, 1:00 PM
Chuck takes a poop in the backyard and it smells like garlic.

Sunday, 01 February, 6:00 PM
The Pregnant Pizza has effectively rendered me laborless and poopless. Consigned to the reality that I will never give birth to my garlic baby, we settle into the garlic haze of the bedroom to watch the Super Bowl. Perhaps it’s the garlic hangover or perhaps it’s because we’re reasonable adults, but we rewind the halftime boob malfunction only once. Jon asks with barely any interest, “Was that her boob?” and I say, “I think so.” I’ve got bigger boobs to worry about.

Sunday, 6:30 PM
I start feeling lower back pain in throbbing 60 second bursts. The pain is noticeable enough that Jon breaks out his watch and starts timing the intervals between bursts. One interval is eight minutes. The next interval is five minutes. Some are 15 minutes, but there is definitely a start and stop to the pain.

Sunday, 9:30 PM
I’ve been having three consecutive hours of random 60 second back pain. Jon has been diligently tracking each interval. We’re both quietly giddy. I suddenly come to the glorious realization that I need to poop! Pooping is glorious! I spend the next hour in the bathroom passing My Garlic Poop which leaves me with gigantic garlic hemorrhoids. The random 60 second back pain completely stops.

Sunday, 11:00 PM
Jon is still trying to reconcile the fact that he wasted three precious hours of his life timing poop labor.

Monday, 02 February, 9:00 AM
My doctor tells me that I am dilated to a three, meaning my cervix has opened to three centimeters, and that I’m in perfect condition to be induced. I don’t want to be induced, not with my garlic hemorrhoids, but he says that he’s going to be on vacation for most of the week and that I may go into labor when he isn’t in town. He looks at us and asks us if we’d like to do it today. Today? You mean, this day? The day that is this one? Like, TO-DAY?

Jon and I give each other a look that says Was there anything we wanted to get done before the birth of the baby? Aside from 1) A honeymoon to Paris and 2) Extensive experimentation with hard drugs, I can’t think of anything, so we both shout, “YES!” Normally we would have said “FUCK YES!” but my doctor is very Mormon and I don’t want to upset the man who will be holding sharp instruments near my vagina.

The doctor makes a call to the hospital and they say we should go home, pack a bag, take a shower, and wait for a call that should come by 11 AM, the earliest that they will have a free room.

Monday, 11:00 AM
We’re showered. We’re packed. We’ve called the family including my mother, The Avon World Sales Leader, who is canceling a flight to LA so that she can be here for the birth. We’re staring at the phone. The phone isn’t ringing.

Monday, 11:05 AM
Ring, damn phone! RING! Why won’t you ring?

Monday, 11:07 AM
I ask Jon to check and make sure the phone is working.

Monday, 11:08 AM
Jon assures me that the phone is working.

Monday, 11:09 AM
The phone isn’t ringing. I begin to hyperventilate.

Monday, 11:15 AM
The phone isn’t ringing. I begin to pace the floor.

Monday, 12:00 PM
I call the hospital to let them know that they are torturing me and that I may sue. They say that the woman who is giving birth in the room that they are going to give to me just needs to push the baby out. They say the room will definitely be ready in about four hours. FOUR HOURS? I DON’T HAVE FOUR HOURS. WHO HAS FOUR HOURS?

Monday, 12:15 PM
We throw everything into the truck, including the dog, and head to Jon’s mother’s house where Chuck will be staying for the next five days. We make sure that we notice how cold it is outside, how cold and gray and dirty, so that when we tell Leta about the day she was born we can begin by saying, “It was a cold and gray and dirty day in February.” That just sounds like something a parent would say. We’re going to be parents!

Monday, 1:30 PM
HOLY SHIT WE’RE GOING TO BE PARENTS. I begin to change my mind about the whole thing. I don’t want to give birth. I start to voice my concern out loud. Jon’s mother, a woman who has given birth six times, gives me a look that says I pretty much need to shut up. I shut up.

Monday, 2:00 PM
There’s that back pain again. I guess I’m going to need to go poop in about three hours.

Monday, 3:00 PM
I’m still having back pain. I convince Jon to call the hospital to check on our room even though it’s only been three hours. The hospital says that the room will definitely be ready by 4:30 and that in order to get the room we should be there at exactly 4:30. I suggest we leave immediately even though the hospital is only 15 minutes away. Jon is reluctant to indulge my irrational behavior, but we prepare to leave anyway. We give instructions to his mother concerning the dog: No potato chips. No raw meat. Make him work for treats.

Monday, 3:15 PM
We leave Jon’s mom’s house. Chuck receives his first potato chip.

Monday, 3:30 PM
Jon is driving slowly. We try to enjoy our last car ride as a childless couple. This is the last car ride of our old life. That sounds like a Richard Marx song: The Last Car Ride of Our Old Life. I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Monday, 4:00 PM
We arrive at the hospital and carry all of our luggage up to the fourth floor. I want to tell every single person I see that I am going to have a baby. I have to physically restrain myself from singing in the elevator.

Monday, 4:05 PM
The nurses sitting behind the desk in the labor and delivery area regret to inform us that they gave away our room TWO MINUTES AGO to a woman delivering triplets prematurely. TRIPLETS? WHATEVER, TRIPLETS. They can just go ahead and tell that triplet woman to step, bitch, because I am here to deliver my baby. Do you hear me? I AM HERE TO DELIVER MY BABY.

Monday, 4:07 PM
Despite Jon’s best efforts to comfort me I warn the nurses behind the desk that The Avon World Sales Leader has cancelled a flight to LA just so that she can be here when I deliver my baby, and that if they know what is best for them they will give me a room and not upset the Avon World Sales Leader.

Monday, 4:08 PM
Not wanting to upset the Avon World Sales Leader they tell me to go wait in the waiting room and that a room should definitely open up within the next hour.

Monday, 4:10 PM
We find the waiting room and it is filled with hundreds of little kids. Maybe not hundreds but it feels like hundreds with all the bratty screaming. Jon and I realize that we’ve made the huge mistake of trying to have this baby in Utah, the Baby Making Capital of America. It could possibly be the Baby Making Capital of the World, but there is probably a third world nation out there whose inhabitants have had no education on contraception, and that third world nation may have one or two more babies than Utah. We start to realize that we may never get a room.

Monday, 5:30 PM
Still no room, but my back pain has become really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I have to get up and walk around. My doctor has just delivered another woman’s baby and he visits us in the waiting room. He regrets to inform us that they have AGAIN given away our room to another woman and that we may have to go home and come back tomorrow. I nearly claw his eyes out.

I mention my back pain. He asks, “How far apart are the pains?” I say, “Close enough that I’m not going anywhere.”

Monday, 6:00 PM

Monday, 6:10 PM
I change into the dreaded hospital gown and I’m introduced to my nurse who is four feet tall and has a gray mustache covering her upper lip. I can’t stop staring at the mustache. It’s just so hairy. And thick. And mustachy. I wonder if Jon notices her mustache. How can he not notice her mustache? The nurse delivering my baby has a mustache!

Monday, 7:00 PM
I’ve spent the last hour giving Madame Mustache my entire oral history per hospital regulations. So many questions! None of their business! Just get this started already! GAHHH! She has a mustache!

Monday, 7:10 PM
Madame Mustache hooks me up to a contraction monitor and to the pitcocin drip, the hormone used to start contractions. We notice that even without any pitocin I am having contractions about seven minutes apart. We turn on the television to CNN Headline News, just to have some background noise. Hey! There’s Janet Jackson’s nipple!

Monday, 7:30 PM
I’ve been on the lowest dose of pitocin for about 20 minutes and my contractions are already three minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds each. These are contractions? These?? These here?? NO PROBLEM! I can TOTALLY handle this. This is easy! They are uncomfortable, yes, but to someone who has been constipated her whole life THESE ARE NOTHING! Contractions, Shmontractions! Hey! There’s Janet Jackson’s nipple, again!

Monday, 8:00 PM
I’m dilated to a four. My mother, my sister, and my step-father show up. My mother, The Avon World Sales Leader, is dressed in her best business attire. She looks like she has shown up to fire Donald Trump. There is my bare vagina on the hospital bed and my mother is perfectly pressed. I hope her suit has been scotch-guarded.

We all watch Janet Jackson’s nipple, again.

Monday, 9:00 PM
I’m dilated to a five. The contractions are becoming a little more intense but they are still manageable. Jon’s sister who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at another hospital shows up. Madame Mustache informs us that her shift has ended and that another nurse will be taking care of us. What? No more mustache?? But I wanted my baby to be delivered by The Mustache! Come back, Mustache!!!

Monday, 9:30 PM
New nurse arrives and she doesn’t have a mustache. In fact, she’s perfectly harmless and boring. Nurses should be required to have a mustache.

Monday, 9:45 PM
Jon’s sister is showing Jon how to help me breathe. The contractions are intense enough now that I really need his help.

Hew, hew, hew, hew heeeeeeeee.
Hew, hew, hew, hew heeeeeeeee.
Hew, hew, hew, hew heeeeeeeee.

Jon is wonderful. He is right beside me holding my hand. We can’t believe how easy this is! Bring on the baby!

Oh, hey everybody, there’s Janet Jackson’s nipple, again!

Monday, 10:00 PM
Did you hear that?
What that?
That popping sound.
What popping sound?
You didn’t hear that pop?
What pop?
That pop! I felt it in the back oh my mouth.
I didn’t hear any pop.

Monday, 10:02 PM
My water gushes all over the hospital bed.

Monday, 10:03 PM
Oh . . . THAT pop.

Monday, 10:04 PM
I run to the bathroom so that the mustacheless nurse can clean up the bed. While I am in the bathroom I have my first contraction post-water breaking and it is curiously unlike all the pre-water breaking contractions. And when I say curiously unlike I mean REALLY FUCKING AWFUL.

Monday, 10:06 PM
I return to the hospital bed and I tell Jon that the pain is getting a lot worse. In the middle of my sentence another contraction hits and I almost bite my tongue off.

Monday, 10:15 PM
THIS IS AWFUL. Contractions that were three minutes apart and lasting only 60 seconds are all of a sudden 10 seconds apart and lasting 90 seconds. The nurse realizes that the combination of the pitocin and my water breaking has thrown my body into a transitional state — what is supposed to happen when I’m dilated between eight and ten centimeters — even though I’m only dilated to a six. I start to shake violently and I’ve got the chills. I can barely see straight. The nurse turns the pitocin off.

And there’s Janet Jackson’s nipple, my constant companion.

Monday, 10:25 PM
I am on the verge of vomiting all over the bed. The pain can’t possibly get worse than this. During one of the 10 second breaks I ask all the women in the room, “Does it get worse than this?” They all look at each other silently. No one will answer me.

It’s going to get worse? It can’t possibly get worse. Worse than this is dead. There can’t possibly be a worse pain in the world. It feels like someone is trying to twist the top half of my body off my lower half, like I’m a plastic Coke bottle.

Monday, 10:30 PM
I’m going to die. This is going to kill me. Jon is trying to help me breathe, but my body’s pain coping mechanism is forcing me to hold my breath. I’m only getting 10 seconds of a break between contractions and I’m not getting enough air.


Monday, 10:35 PM
I’m officially writhing. There is actual writhing going on. Unabashed writhing.

Monday, 10:40 PM
Jon is forcing me to look into his eyes and breathe:

Hew, hew, hew, hew heeeeeeeee.
Hew, hew, hew, hew heeeeeeeee.
Hew, hew, hew, hew GET ME THE EPIDURAL!

Monday, 10:45 PM
The anesthesiologist shows up. Now that’s service!

Somehow in my awful, writhing state I notice that he is wall-eyed. His left eye is looking at Jon, his right eye is looking at me. It only confuses me more. I have to tell him that I understand what he is going to do and all I can think about is how brutal his childhood must have been, having those wall eyes and all. Children are cruel. I know, I’m about to have one.

Monday, 10:50 PM
I sign the epidural release form. He turns me on my side so that he can stick the needle in my back. I realize that one of his eyes his looking at my back, the other one is probably looking at the ceiling.

I’m in the middle of a contraction that is about to crush my body. Jon is holding both my hands and looking me straight in the eyes. You can get through this, he assures me. I have to hold still so that the anesthesiologist can stick the needle in the right place. Holding still is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Monday, 10:52 PM
I feel a small prick in my back and my leg flexes involuntarily. The anesthesiologist says that he’s done. I don’t believe him. He can’t possibly be done. It’s supposed to hurt and I’m supposed to freak out about the needle! He’s done?!


Monday, 11:00 PM
The epidural has taken effect. It is the best feeling in the whole wide world. I want to smoke a joint. I start to sing. My mother and sister start laughing. I ask Jon if we can name the baby Epidural Armstrong.

I am so happy!

Monday, 11:30 PM
Did I mention how happy I am? They should sell epidurals on the street. I would buy a hundred of them and give them to my friends.

Tuesday, 03 February 12:00 AM
Still happy! Everyone is talking and laughing and joking. I decide to tell my mother that I want to name the baby Leta after her sister who died in infancy. My mother cries a half set of tears. A full set of tears would be unprofessional. It feels good to finally reveal the name. It also feels good to not feel any contractions.

I love you, epidural!

Tuesday, 1:00 AM
I’m dilated to a nine and I feel no pain. At this point we have seen the replay of Janet Jackson’s nipple over 400 times. We need more nipple.

Tuesday, 2:30 AM
I’m dilated to a ten and it’s time to start pushing. I don’t feel like pushing but they assure me that it’s time.

Jon stands on my right side, his sister stands on my left side. They hold my knees to my chest and the nurse tells me to take a deep breath and push.

Push where?
Just push.
How do I push?

Tuesday, 2:35 AM
I think I’m pushing. I don’t know if I’m pushing. It doesn’t feel like pushing. It just feels like I’m holding my breath. Jon’s sister and the nurse exchange a silent glance that says This is going to take a while. I want to tell them that there is no way that this “pushing” thing is going to get this baby here. This pushing thing is stupid. There has to be a better way.

Tuesday, 3:00 AM
Still pushing. I’m pushing in three 30 second bursts every two minutes. Pushing is more tiring than any of the workouts I did during pregnancy. Pushing is hard. I look into Jon’s eyes each time I push and notice that he is unconsciously pushing with me. He is beginning to get light headed.

Tuesday, 3:15 AM
Jon almost passes out from pushing so hard. I warn him, “IF YOU WANT TO LIVE TO SEE TOMORROW, DON’T YOU DARE PASS OUT.”

Tuesday, 3:20 AM
Still pushing. My mom and my sister shriek simultaneously. They can see the baby’s head. Apparently the baby has hair! The nurse asks me if I want the overhead mirror to see what is going on. FUCK NO, I DON’T WANT TO SEE WHAT IS GOING ON. ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY?

Tuesday, 3:30 AM
My doctor arrives and he is very groggy. He wasn’t expecting my labor to go so quickly. He stands at the end of the hospital bed to assess my progress and I can see the reflection of the carnage of my vagina in his glasses. HORROR!

Tuesday, 3:40 AM
I want to ask my doctor to take off his glasses so that I don’t have to be confronted with my own reflection, but at this point the baby’s head is crowning and I can feel my body stretching around her skull. Why can I feel this? This feeling is WEIRD.

Tuesday, 3:45 AM

Tuesday, 3:50 AM
The doctor says something to the nurse at this point, something about how he thought he wasn’t going to have to, but now he is gonna, and he reaches for something, and Jon whips his head around to look at me, and then I feel a snip and a release of pressure. Thank God I didn’t agree to the overhead mirror.

Tuesday, 3:55 AM
The doctor makes a second snip. I feel everything. The burning has subsided, but I can still feel the contour of the baby’s head. I cannot describe this feeling as anything but weird. My mom and my sister are literally jumping up and down at this point, both are mumbling nonsense about SO MUCH HAIR.

Tuesday, 3:58 AM
I feel the baby’s head exit my vagina, and then I feel her shoulders. OH MY GOD THIS IS WEIRD. She is twisting as she is coming out and I can feel everything. I feel her arms. Then her belly. Then her legs.

Tuesday, 3:59 AM
My mother the Avon World Sales Leader is officially screaming at this point. My sister is crying. Jon is more lovely than I have ever seen him in my life. The doctor drops this thing on my stomach, and HOLY SHIT! IT’S A BABY! I honestly didn’t know what he was going to pull out of me, perhaps an abandoned tire iron, or maybe a bag of potatoes? I feel so much relief that it’s human.

Tuesday, 4:00 AM
Jon cuts the cord. The baby is whimpering. She is rather quiet. They wipe her down and place her immediately on my chest. Her right arm is stretched out toward me. We look at each other directly. Jon leans down, places his left hand on my head, his right hand on the baby’s back. This is the most defining moment of my life.

We’ve made a family.