I’m going to tell you a story.
“Aaggle fraggle bloog,” Lilliya said.
No, not that one. I’ll tell you that some other time. Tonight, I’m going to tell you the story of how you were born.
“Dadoh ooh,” Lilliya cooed.
My baby girl was turning 1 soon and I had promised I would write down what happened that night so I would never forget. The internet had told me that my hormones, the culprit “Oxytocin,” would trick me into forgetting the pain of childbirth. Before I had gone into labor, I made a promise with myself that no matter what happened, I’d never forget. That I would document and catalog every moment into the files of my brain because, let’s face it, this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. And I didn’t want my hormones to sweep it away on a blissful cloud of happiness, like it never happened, like it was saying it wasn’t so bad, or you totally want another one, don’t you? And then before you know it, I could be back in the water with Jaws 2!
Jaws, you ask? It’s a Carcharodon Carcharias. A great white shark. You’ll understand in the future. But for now, let me tell you why it’s a part of this story.
It was July 31st, 2019. A dark and stormy night—
Okay, so it wasn’t stormy, but it was dark. And definitely nighttime. Earlier that day, I had my routine check-up with my midwife. Everything was looking normal. I was 2 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and you were at -1 station, your head prepped and ready to go. Let’s be real though. You had your head down the whole time. Literally, like, every time I’d get an ultrasound, the tech could never get a good scan of your head. That’s how buried and ready to go you were.
I digress. Anyhow, I’d been having my usual Braxton Hicks, which I’d been having for months. Your due date was August 2nd, but I really wanted you out now. Specifically, on August 1st. I thought, that’ll be easy for me to remember since I’m May 1st. So, I asked my midwife to strip my membranes. My mom (a Labor and Delivery nurse) told me that could help jumpstart labor. The internet confirmed that as well. Mom, I mean your grandma, warned me that it could actually kickstart my labor soon. So, we did a lot of walking around. Got a pedicure. Had lunch at a restaurant. All the while, I could feel your grandma’s eyes on me, watching me like a hawk.
Nothing happened though. So, we went home, and I told your grandma to go to the hot tub whilst I harvested your father’s prostaglandins.
“Aaggle fraggle blurg?”
I’ll tell you when you’re older. Anyhow, last time I got his prostaglandins, it put me into false labor. I thought, for sure this will get it going. Alas, nothing. So, I joined your grandma in the hot tub, feeling bummed that my plan wasn’t going to…plan. I was desperate to see you, to meet you. And as much as I knew I shouldn’t mess around with the timing of life—I’ve never really been one to be patient—I couldn’t help but think the science of it all wasn’t working.
Night fall came, 10:30 to be exact, and I was curled up with your daddy. He was reading me a pregnancy book when all of a sudden, I felt a sharp cramp in my lower gut. As quickly as it came, it was gone. Your daddy asked what it was. I said, just a cramp, and he continued to read. And then out of nowhere, I felt a squirt, like an uncontrollable spray between my legs. I jumped out of bed to clasp my legs together. “Holy crap!” I exclaimed. “What?!” your daddy said. And I said, “I’m all wet. Maybe I just peed myself. That was weird.” Your daddy cocked his eyebrows in suspicion. “Are you sure?” he asked. There wasn’t any more liquid coming out, so I thought, yeah just weird pee. Your daddy got up to go to the bathroom himself and that’s when my body decided to release MORE liquid. It was coming in random spurts. I was so confused. I said, “Get out of the way,” and sat on the toilet myself. Another cramp hit and I had a Number 2. The cramp went away after I finished. So, I thought, I just had to go Number 2.
Your daddy wasn’t convinced at all this time. He stood there staring and then carefully said, “I think your water broke. We should probably go to the hospital.”
“Nah,” I said. “I’m fine. I just had to go to the—” And then a cramp-wave came, like someone had inserted a bowling ball in my body and was using some serious bowling ball magnet to gravity-pull it out. It wasn’t painful really, but surprisingly intense. And it was followed by more water. So, I agreed with your daddy that my water broke.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” I told him. I had the sudden urge to get clean.
“Uh…I’m gonna tell your mom that we need to go,” he said, eyeing me carefully as I stepped into the shower.
The shower felt good, even as waves of cramps hit me every 3ish minutes. I was familiar with this feeling. They felt like powerful period cramps. Just like my friends who had babies before me told me they would feel like. I’ve had worse pain, recalling the time when my right ovary had a baseball-sized cyst attached to it. Side note: you’re a left ovary baby ’cause Mommy doesn’t have her right one anymore.
Your daddy is so patient. He stood there as I showered up, then blow-dried my hair, collected a few more items to pack up for the hospital, and then, BAM! The cramps I’d been feeling escalated to level 2. They were so strong I couldn’t help but fall over onto all fours. And the urge to push was stronger than ever. I looked up at your dad. He looked at me, eyes wider than before.
“Okay, time to go,” I managed to say after the contraction eased up.
I don’t remember what your dad said, but he and your grandma packed up into the car. I followed close behind—I had to take another moment on my hands and knees in the garage. Couldn’t help but think of the scene in An American Werewolf in London when he was turning into a werewolf. This must be what it’s like, I thought, waiting for the fangs and claws and thick wiry hair to grow out of my body. I’m pretty sure I was howling too.
As soon as it eased up, I rushed into the car. And then another one hit! But I couldn’t get on all fours! I was stuck in a seated position! This was bad. Very bad.
“Sitting is not good!” I cried out. “Worst position ever!” I started clawing at my seatbelt and door handle. My feet pushed against the top of the glove compartment.
“Don’t kick that!” your dad exclaimed.
“I’m trying not to,” I cried.
“Just hum, baby,” your grandma said in an aggravatingly calm voice.
I tried humming.
Nope. “Not working,” I said through clenched teeth. I think we were on the freeway at this point. Your dad was on the phone calling the hospital to let them know we were coming in.
“We’re overbooked. It would be better if you went to Panorama City. They don’t have any patients right now—”
“Are you f@#*& kidding me?!” I exclaimed.
“Okay, thank you,” your dad said as he hung up. “It’s not that far. It’ll be okay.”
“But I don’t know the layout. I don’t know where to go,” I said during the break between contractions. “Argh!” Another wave.
“Baby, hum,” your grandma said again.
“No! Put music on! I need! Action!” I grunted.
The Fallout 4 video game soundtrack played as we raced down the freeway at about 100mph. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. It was no wonder we got to the hospital so quickly from Simi Valley to Panorama City.
As soon as we got there, I burst out of the car and collapsed to my hands and knees. This was seriously the best position. Two men walked by, eyeing me strangely. I didn’t care. I loved being a werewolf now. Your grandma stood by me as your dad left to park the car.
Finally! The contraction eased up again. Your grandma and I rushed into the hospital and found the nearest elevator. The same two men were there too.
“Floor 3,” one of them said reassuringly.
“Thank you,” I said through clenched teeth. Another wave hit as I entered the elevator. Your grandma was humming for me now.
Floor 3. The elevator opened. I burst out and looked up. Labor and Delivery pointing left. I saw doors. I burst through. An alarm went off and a handful of nurses jumped up from their stations. I bent over their desk. I said something, I don’t remember what. Maybe something like, it’s coming.
“This is her first baby,” your grandma said.
“Oh…” And the nurses calmly went back to their stations.
I remember getting checked in with your daddy. Grandma had to wait down the hall. I remember rolling around the small room, desperately trying to find a forgiving position. This is it, I thought. I’m officially turning into a werewolf. Here come the fangs! I wondered whose throat I was going to rip out first.
Finally, a midwife showed up to check my cervix. I had a very bad feeling about this moment. My contractions were coming every 2 minutes and I could barely stay still, much less stay put for a cervix check.
Blinding white hot pain hit me. I screamed. A bloodcurdling scream that your grandma could hear all the way down the hall. I felt more liquid explode out of my body. My torso was hit by something raggedly sharp, like serrated teeth sawing back and forth, slowly, so that I could feel every pull. I looked down and I saw Jaws. His wide mouth engulfed my lower half, his triangular teeth sinking into my guts.
I was no longer a werewolf. I was Quint from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The scene played out in real life for me. Minus the blood spurting out of my mouth. But there might as well have been! The scene was on replay every 2 minutes. The famous great white biting down into my torso and slowly shaking me from side to side. Even the breaks between contractions were torturous because I knew Jaws was only going to come back! And I’d relive being eaten alive again and again and AGAIN!
“Two centimeters,” I remember hearing the midwife say when she checked my cervix.
“OH GREAT!” I screamed. I knew what that meant. It meant they wouldn’t give me an epidural. It meant I wasn’t anywhere near giving birth. It meant I was stuck, to be tortured over and over for who knows how long as a giant great white shark was EATING ME ALIVE!
“Help me,” I cried to your daddy. “I’m not gonna make it. I can’t do it.”
“Do you want something for the pain?” the midwife asked.
“YES!” Your daddy and I said.
“This will help take the edge off,” she said. They injected me with Fentanyl. I had no idea what it was. Later I found out it was a step below Morphine. But let me tell you, it DID NOT take the pain away. Jaws was still there chomping down on my guts. The only difference was I could pay attention to it more. Instead of shooting white pain blinding me every time, I could watch and be aware. It was like an out-of-body experience. I was fully cognizant of the agony, only this time I could take notes!
During this very intimate time with Jaws, I somehow was able to move my body onto a different bed to be taken into the delivery room. They were prepping me for my epidural. I had forgotten that even though I was only 2 centimeters dilated, my water had broken. That changed the rules and I was allowed to get the “big needle in the back.” You might think that sounds scary. Let me tell you, at that point the pain was an 11. You could literally do anything to me, and it wouldn’t matter. My brain was so fogged up with agony, you could’ve been cutting off pieces of my body, and I wouldn’t notice.
What about the Fentanyl, you ask? It only helped me tell my body to stay still as they inserted the giant needle into my spine. I didn’t feel a thing. The anesthesiologist said, you don’t need this…look at you…you’re doing great…
I think I laughed and made a joke. Not sure. There were two mes at this point. One standing back and pointing, laughing at the other me who couldn’t be tough enough to give birth. The other me didn’t care. This sucked. Jaws sucks. Me could judge me all she wanted. I wasn’t going to die by shark.
“You’ll start to feel a cool sensation in your back…” I heard the anesthesiologist say.
I felt it.
And suddenly a golden light came into the room. Jaws immediately released his grasp on me, dove back into the ocean and disappeared. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t shoot the damn thing and make him explode.
My body ached and I felt another swell come. I grimaced, thinking he would fly out of the ocean and get me one more time. But he didn’t come. Nothing happened. Just the tightening, pushing sensation. Jaws was gone. Now all I had to do was wait for you.
I didn’t sleep that night. Neither did your grandma. Both she and your daddy stayed in the room with me, Daddy taking a well-deserved nap. I could feel the contractions, but they were no longer painful. The epidural was pure magic. It was the exploding tank to great whites. It was the silver bullet to werewolves.
I turned and watched the darkness of night slowly turn a golden orange. The sun was rising. And I knew I’d see you soon.
The midwife decided I was ready to go a little after six in the morning. Your grandma and your daddy helped prop up my legs as I pushed. I even got to see your hairy little head pushing through when they brought a mirror out for me to watch. Aaaaaand then I decided I didn’t want to watch that anymore.
Within twenty minutes, you were pulled out of my body and placed gently onto my chest. You looked a wreck! Grey-white skin and a smooshed nose!
“Fraggle eh bloog…”
Well you were. But you had the cutest little cry. And your eyes were a deep blue. As deep as the ocean. They were staring at me as you gripped my skin with your tiny hands. You were alive. I was alive. We both survived. And Jaws, well…I never need to relive that ever again.
I do feel the need to remind you that every woman is different. At least, that’s what the internet says. None of my friends experienced this kind of pain. Jaws just happened to be mine. I did ask my midwife why this was the case. She theorized that it was possible my cervix was just opening up so fast and that your head pressing down on it didn’t help. But it was just a theory.
“Eh nananana rwarr,” Lilliya said.
I thought you’d find it interesting. I will say this. Jaws was worth it. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I love you too.