i’m beginning to tire. i try to remain hydrated between my frequent trips to the bathroom. would you like an orange juice or something? a nurse offers sarah. no, i’m good, just my water, sarah says. i’ll take one, <quote-01>i chime in<quote-01>. lindsey shoots me a look. you’d make a terrible doula, she says.
at around 2am, lindsey encourages sarah to begin engaging in some more direct pushing. she again assures her that there’s no rush, that the baby isn’t in any distress, but that they might be able hurry things along a bit if sarah is willing to do some more focused work. she turns on an overhead light illuminating the bottom half of the bed. <quote-02>the vagina spotlight, she calls it<quote-02>.
lindsey directs sarah’s efforts, showing her with her fingers where to push. harder. no, harder. it’s not enough, sarah, you got to give me more. after a while sarah starts to feel like she’s not doing it right, like her efforts are fruitless. it’s going to feel like you're shitting, lindsey tells her. oh, i’m aware, sarah confirms. she’s frustrated. lindsey assures us things are moving forward--the baby can only move in one direction, honey--while continuing to invite sarah to give more.
at around 3am, sarah looks tapped to me, like there’s nothing left in the tank. still, with each contraction she musters the energy to bear down again. sarah-grace and i each support a leg, pushing hard against sarah’s heels with our palms during the contractions while lindsey, her fingers inside sarah, pulls down against her perineum. down here, down here. harder. push into my fingers, sarah. that’s it, good. more. more, lindsey says. then, ok rest, rest, after the contraction has passed.
<quote-03>the nurses continue to wipe sarah<quote-03>. hey now, it’s all got to come out before the baby comes out, <quote-04>lindsey says<quote-04>. your poop looks great, by the way. what have you been eating, beets? goddamnit, i think, constipated as i am. i can’t recall ever seeing someone take a shit before, let alone continuously shit for hours, yet instead of being grossed out by it, i’m thinking how relieved i would feel <quote-05>if only i could shit like that<quote-05>.
well, christ. <quote-06>keep up the good work, babe, i guess<quote-06>.
by around 5am there’s a feeling in the air that something might be wrong. the baby’s head is clearly visible, but he doesn’t seem to be progressing. the obstetrician from earlier comes by to check in with lindsey, and after examining sarah he discusses with us the likelihood of shoulder dystocia. there are rare cases where the shoulders are too big to pass through the pelvis and c-sections are required. if the head comes out but the shoulders remain stuck, we’re in trouble, he says. he floats the option of using the vacuum to assist, but if the shoulders are too big, it’s not gonna work. sarah is too exhausted to make any decisions. sarah-grace asks why these are the only two options on the table, and lindsey, while seemingly calm, appears to be deferring to the doctor. if not for her faith in him, i am ready to shout him out of the room. he seems distressed, and consensus seems to be that sarah only be allowed a minimum number of pushes before they elect to put her under and operate. for me, this is all coming on way too fast.
i’m terrified of complicating matters, but i don’t want to let sarah down. i already feel like i’m to blame for the labor not transpiring the way she had planned. i push for attempting the vacuum in the face of the doctor’s mounting insistence that the baby will not be born vaginally. he says that he’s willing to let her give it one try, and i immediately worry whether i haven’t just made things worse for both sarah and the baby. the doctor’s assistant gives sarah a local anesthetic in her perineum, alerting her to the likelihood of an episiotomy, and the doctor folds the suction cup into sarah’s vagina like a button, attaching it to the baby’s head. the next contraction comes on, and sarah gives it everything she has. i’m up by her head, hoping for the best. the contraction comes on, i hear a cut, the doctor leans into his pull, and next thing i know <quote-07>a giant purple baby<quote-07> is placed onto sarah’s chest.
<quote-08>thursday, september 10th<quote-08>: i leave the absurdist theater that is the postpartum wing at metropolitan for new york presbyterian to have my stent taken out. i’ve never known exhaustion like what i’m experiencing now. the idea that sarah and i might be able to rest between feedings has been thwarted at every step by nurses and pediatricians stopping in to check this and tell us about that. benjamin’s blood sugar is ever so low, so they’ve been trying to pump formula into him. at one point we watch a nurse get 30ml into him with a bottle before he promptly <quote-09>vomits<quote-09> it all back up. his stomach is the size of a grape, for christ’s sake! if he needs an iv or some shit, give him a fucking iv! they prick his heel for blood every three hours to make sure his levels are where they’re supposed to be. three good readings and they say they’ll leave him alone, but nope, they keep wanting to double-check. they get a reading that is too borderline for their comfort, and it all starts up again. sarah and i have gotten no rest.
my kidney doctor asks how the birth went. twelve hours, unmedicated. she was a champion, i tell him. excellent, he says. now we’ll see how you <quote-10>do<quote-10>.
the procedure is supposed to take 30 seconds; it takes a full three minutes. the doctor can’t seem to get a good hold on the stent. you know what? hold on, let me get another tool, he says, leaving the room, his assistant left holding my penis with whatever medieval torture instrument is sticking out of it--i’m not about to look. i continue to hum the improvised melody i’ve got going at no low volume, my arms folded over my face.
he asks if i’d like to see the stent after he finally manages to extract it. um, yeah, no thanks, i tell him. naked from the waist down, i stumble into the bathroom to relieve myself afterwards, and i nearly pass out. it’s that flannel shirt you're wearing, the assistant posits, offering me some water as i lie slumped in sweat on the bathroom floor, grateful for the cold tile. oh yeah? not because your guy just yanked a plastic tube out my dick? <quote-11>i fire back<quote-11>.
with the stent out, i no longer have to pee all the time. when i urinate in our bathroom back in postpartum, i pass a few small pieces of dark rock, the remnants of the stones in my left kidney, <quote-12>broken up<quote-12> by the laser. i can feel them as they pass. it’s an odd feeling, but it doesn’t hurt.
<quote-13>friday, september 11th<quote-13>: i head down to the <quote-14>fancier<quote-14> vending machines in the lobby of the hospital around one in the morning, and i think to give casey a quick call. it’s strange to talk to him on the phone after the last couple weeks--strange for him to talk to me too, i’d imagine. i tell him about benjamin and about how it took us a minute to decide on a name. we were originally going to go with <quote-15>thomas<quote-15>, but he didn’t look like a thomas to us, so we had to keep thinking.
after more interrupted sleep we are signing the paperwork for release and packing up our stuff by early afternoon. lindsey stops by, and we are happy to see her. she apologizes for the state of the obstetrician during the last half-hour of our baby’s birth. evidently, he’d just come from another birth that didn’t turn out so well. did the baby die? sarah asks, surprising me with the bluntness of her question. no, thank god, says lindsey. there was no reason a c-section should have been part of the discussion. your baby wasn’t in distress. it might have taken a little while longer, but you would have been able to birth him on your own. i’m sure of it.
i’m not sure how i feel, hearing all of this. but watching sarah nurse our son, <quote-16>it’s hard not to simply be grateful<quote-16>.
i am able to install the carseat without too much trouble. checking my email in the car, i notice a recent note from my therapist asking why i didn’t show up to our virtual session that afternoon. he hopes everything is alright. i give him a call to apologize. i’m so sorry. i forgot that two weeks had passed already. we had the baby and we’re heading home from the hospital now. / that’s fantastic, he says. congratulations./ yeah, thanks. /how’re you feeling, he asks. something tells me to wait, but i can’t not. well, i went to the emergency room after our phone call, and it wasn’t psychosomatic pain. it was a <quote-17>kidney stone<quote-17>.
<quote-18>thursday, september 17th<quote-18>: we’re back in the park across from the courthouse, having another strawberry shake. <quote-19>ben’s showing on the scale was enough to satisfy the pediatrician for now<quote-19>. we’re not as hungry today as we were earlier in the week, so i get us single-patty burgers instead of the usual doubles. but i do go ahead and get us a second shake, because... well, why not? one strawberry and one cookies and cream. it really is a shame they don’t have the peanut butter anymore.
i walk back slowly with the food because i’m on hold with the florist who did our wedding. <quote-20>our anniversary is saturday<quote-20>. year four is flowers, a no brainer.
the cookies and cream is quite good. <quote-21>big chunks of cookie come up through the straw<quote-21>.