Saturday, March 27, 2010

Labor Pains

I had envisioned March going one of two ways—either I would simply be pregnant until March 29, when the scheduled C would go forward, or I would go into labor earlier and have earlier surgery (and maybe have to deal with the whole preemie thing). Either way, I figured I wouldn’t have to experience much “labor.” And I certainly didn’t anticipate having to deal with labor pains for at least a week before the babies came.

Is this normal? (Is there any “normal” when it comes to pregnancy?) For more than the past week, in late afternoon or evening, the contractions begin. Mind you, I also have contractions during the day. But they’re not regular, and they tend to be brought on by activity. In contrast, the evening contractions are coming every 8-10 minutes. Or maybe even closer, because I’m still having trouble figuring out what’s a contraction and what is just—for lack of a more precise term—pain. Dude, it hurts! The contractions tighten my abdomen and speed up my heart rate, and sometimes I whine and whimper as they get intense. But then there are also all these other pains in my abdomen—sharp stabbing pains, like one of the babies (okay, let’s lay blame where it’s due—it’s always Baby A) is trying to cut his way out from the inside. And then there are the pains in my even-lower torso (sometimes across my lower back or butt, sometimes in what feels like the bottom of my bladder, sometimes in more unmentionable places). And these extra pains aren’t on a schedule, they just hover around and in between the contractions, sometimes making it hard to tell the difference. Do I count those when I’m trying to figure out how far apart the contractions are? Who the hell knows?

But none of this really matters, because the one clear truth is that none of this is “real” labor. How do I know? Because it eventually goes away—sometimes by midnight, sometimes not until 4 or 5 in the morning. If it were “real” labor, I would have real babies, by now, right?

And so I wait. I hurt, and I wait. The one bright side is that at least I know the babies are coming out Monday morning no matter what. I can’t imagine wondering if this was going to keep going for weeks on end.

I guess I’m going through some figurative labor pains as well, which are a lot more interesting. This morning J and I went to a breastfeeding class. I had signed up for one weeks ago, but missed it (along with most of my other classes) due to hospitalization and recovery. When J mentioned that we could take a make-up class today I jumped at the chance (though I wasn’t even sure I could sit through the class). It was kind of funny to be going to a class like this when we’re going to be putting this very information into use the day after tomorrow (unbelievable!). I’m so glad we went. It seems like feeding the baby is about 80% of caring for the baby, and I was feeling frantic at my lack of knowledge about how it all works (especially with twins). Now I’m feeling a lot more confident.

In between all this whining, fussing, and desperate last-minute preparation, J and I are finding some excitement creeping in. Every day this week J has announced that this is our “last Thursday,” or “last Friday” before the babies come. Or he’ll mention, casually, “Did you realize that in three days our lives are going to change forever?” And then we’ll start giggling in disbelief, because neither of us really can get our heads around this idea. “Really,” we’ll say to each other (a la the SNL Weekend Update segment), “Really. We’re going to be parents on Monday. Really. They’re just going to hand us two babies and expect us to take care of them. Really.”

We started trying to conceive in June 2005. I was only 33 years old—the ideas of infertility, repeat pregnancy loss, adoption or IVF or the use of donor gametes never seriously having crossed my mind. In the past last five years, this naivety has been stripped from my soul. As I told a friend who was afraid she’d scare me with her high-risk-pregnancy stories, I’ve seen the boogeyman. J and I have been through three IUI cycles, one FET cycle, and five IVF cycles. We’ve had intense battles with the blood-sucking HMO over coverage for infertility, surgery, treatment for J. I’ve negotiated a shared-risk contract with my fertility clinic and taken out a second mortgage to cover the costs. I’ve had dozens of sonos, close to a hundred blood draws, and have lost track of how many sharps containers J and I have filled with our various injections. We’ve seen five pregnancies, and four miscarriages—one of which was an especially heartbreaking ectopic pregnancy. We’ve researched adoption, even gone so far as going to an international adoption meeting at a local agency. We’ve seen me through major surgery, and we’ve spent hours in front of my computer choosing a donor.

And god only knows how many tears I’ve cried. Huddling behind a closed door in my office, trying to regain control long enough to escape down the stairs (because waiting for an elevator is just too exposed) without anyone noticing, or praying no one would knock on my door while I waited for the xanax to kick in; hiding behind sunglasses while I walked through a neighborhood full of happy, screaming kids—playing basketball in the street or running through the sprinklers or the inflatable pool in front of their houses; rocking back and forth in my bed, wondering how long I could let myself go before giving myself a migraine. And the one time I heard J cry when I had to give him the bad news over the phone—just one cycle where we got a negative beta and it was just too much for him—when listening to him sob on the other end of the line broke my heart all over again.

I’m 38 years old now, and while I’ve been beaten and battered by the last five years, I wear my scars—literal and figurative—with pride. I would never wish this experience on anyone, but I’m not sorry about who I’ve become as a result, or what this has done to my marriage. I once thought that when I finally made it through this phase of my life (and that’s how I always made myself look at infertility—just a phase I had to get through, one way or another, to become a parent) I would look back on these years as “lost” years, years wasted on tears and obsession and desperation. But I don’t. I’m not even sure that they were the worst years of my life. Certainly infertility has been the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But in these years good things have happened, too. In some ways, I feel like I’ve finally grown up. I finally feel like a real lawyer in a job that could well satisfy me for the rest of my career. I finally took the steps necessary to heal my chronic lower back problems, and I feel more confidence in my body’s ability to cope with aging than I have in years. And J and I have grown to love and appreciate each other’s strengths more than I ever thought possible. I couldn’t have chosen a better father for my children, and just thinking of him holding one of my babies makes my heart ache.

I’m scared about next week. Scared that, no matter how good our intentions, taking care of two babies is going to overwhelm us beyond our ability to cope. (It doesn’t help that much of the support promised from various friends has evaporated in the cold reality of their own job schedules and family obligations. And I can’t blame them—annual leave is precious and free time is hard to come by these days.) Scared that when neither of our needs are getting met, J and I won’t be able to maintain the cohesion we’ve achieved over the years. Scared that being stuck at home with two babies while J escapes back into theatre la la land (which will happen about three weeks after the babies are born) will make me bitter and resentful, or lead to post-partum depression.

But underlying that fear is a confidence that even if the beauty and magic of parenting doesn’t show up right away, even if J and I start sniping at each other, even if I get depressed and bitter and angry, this is going to be wonderful someday. We will get through this and still love each other, and we’ll love our babies more than anything we ever imagined. And I’m not sure I would have this confidence in myself—and in J—if we hadn’t traveled through hell and back together.

The day after tomorrow it all starts. I’m going to be a mommy. J’s going to be a daddy. And we’re gong to be a whole new kind of family. As J puts it, on Monday our lives change forever. To which I can only add: Hallelujah. It’s about fucking time.


kate said...

Wow. Just WOW! Monday is the day! I couldn't be more thrilled for you. You are RIGHT. It's about fucking time! I know a lot of people who feel like they've paid their dues on the way to becoming parents, but I can't say I know anyone for whom that is more true than you and J. I can't wait for you to become parents! Truly, truly over the moon happy for you both.

I am sorry about the extended contractions. I kinda figured the same thing would happen-- either real contractions would start, or I would be headed in for a c-birth. I knew there could be some Braxton-Hicks action, but I wasn't aware that there could be days of actual contractions (be they "false" or whatever). That just SUCKS. But... considering that you get to take home a baby at the end of all of it, I guess it's pretty worth the pains and hassles!

Man, I *really* need to get on the ball with scheduling our classes. I was divided about the breastfeeding class, but I'm definitely going to do it now. I also promised myself I'd take the CPR class, too. There are several others, but those two seem like they're the most important. I want to take the child birth class, but since I'm pretty set on a c-birth, I don't know if there's a whole lot of point in taking it, since the thing I want the most from the class is the tour of the facility, which I can do separately for free.

Anyhow... YAY! Just a scant few hours till you guys get to meet the babies!!!

(Oh, and for what it's worth, A is my little troublemaker, too. He's always trying to burrow down somewhere inconvenient. Usually, it's his butt in my bladder, or tap dancing on my intestines, but this afternoon while trying to get a little grocery shopping done, he was bent on burrowing through my hip and side. It was as pleasant as it sounds...)

Sue said...

Good luck Monday. I'm so happy for you - you and J are going to have so much fun with your babies. I know twins are going to be exhausting, but you'll get through it.

Holly said...

Just stopped in to check on you and LORDY-you have had a rough couple of weeks...but the greta part is-MONDAY! I will be praying for you and smiling in my heart knowing you are holding those precious sweet babies!

It will be a roller coaster ride for sure, but you two can handle it! Just take each moment at a time and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Best of luck to you Monday, can't wait to hear the good news!

annacyclopedia said...

Hallelujah is right! You have definitely paid your dues and soon you get to begin this amazing new job. It is trying in the early weeks, and no doubt more so with twins. But you and J will get through it and seriously - it flies by! Before you know it you will both be feeling so competent and in sync with your babies and all these years of suffering will recede into a bit of a fog. At least that is how it has been for me and I deeply wish the same for you.

Kate said...

Great post. Best of luck on Mon, and I can't wait to hear how it all goes down.

Elaine said...

A few people, but these two seem they are the most important.

Elaine from Baby Products

Good Egg Hunting said...

Your lives WILL change, and not all of it will feel fabulous all of the time. But you're right, there is a lot of wonderful in there. A lot. It is going to be better AND harder than you've imagined. And you won't want to trade it for the world. I am so happy for you and wish you all the best as you begin this new journey tomorrow. Just soak it in -- all of it.

Gil said...

Just stopping by to say Hallelujah along with you. It -is- about time, isn't it? I mean, literally too! It's Monday and I'm thinking of you and I know exactly the moment you speak of; when the two of you become a "family" and everything changes. Soak it all in, enjoy it, cherish it and kiss those babies for all of us infertiles who rejoice alongside you as you bring the babies into the world. Can't wait for an update!

Me said...

This was a beautiful post... that I am reading on Tuesday morning. Hope you're holding your babies right now!

玉鳳 said...

^^ 謝謝你的分享,祝你生活永遠多彩多姿!........................................

Jaded Girl said...

Thinking of you today!

Sana Khan said...

Excellent. Please keep up the good work for the concise and informative articles. This is more informative than other media, I really like following your blog as the articles are so simple to read.
Web Development Karachi