18 years ago tonight, I was almost a week overdue. She was due on June 28, but that day came and went with no signs of her wanting to make an outside appearance. At my weekly appointment a few days earlier, my OBGYN said it rather plainly. “The holiday weekend is coming up and I’m going on vacation. I want her delivered before I leave. We’ll induce on Friday, the 4th”. Well, shoot.
Tuesday evening, June 30, 1997. I felt fine. Besides behemoth, that is. I took eating for two to a whole new level, y’all. Having never tipped the scales at more than 140 pounds, I was kind of in awe of myself. You know how some mothers carry the cute, pert little basketball belly? Right out there in front and nowhere else? Yeah, that was not me. I was like Godzilla wading out of the ocean to wreak havoc on Tokyo. BIG. That last couple of months, Hallee’s father had to punch extra holes in all of my sandal straps so I could wear them. There wasn’t a pair of flip-flops is existence that I could shove my elephantine feet into. My maternity wear was getting a bit…snug. My ankles were so swollen that the skin was actually cracking and leaking water. Nice visual, right? You’re welcome.
I had walked the dogs all over the neighborhood, even though it was hotter than the gates of hell outside. I cleaned the house and ooh’d and ahhhh’d over the tiny outfits and diapers all lined up in her nursery. I dragged myself into our pool and lay on my back like a beached whale, looking at the occasionally heaving mound of Mount St. Baby and wondering when, if ever, she was gonna blow.
Wednesday, July 1, 1997. I sent Hallee’s father off to work, there was no point in his staying home since this baby was obviously never going to budge. Ever. And I felt fine, pretty spry, for Gargantuan Girl, as a matter of fact. About 20 minutes after he left, I took a shower and got dressed. Then I noticed that something was amiss. I was peeing, but I wasn’t peeing. Was I? I don’t think I was peeing. But there was for sure wetness. Hmm. No contractions, no discomfort, I felt fine..hungry, as usual. I called my OBGYN’s office and gave them an update. They said to waddle my way over for a look. Sure enough, the little bits of leaking were amniotic fluid. (again…so very welcome) Her vitals were great, I was dilated to 3 and sent home to get my bag and call her father.
Since I didn’t feel any contractions, I made a huge pot of chili (I have regretted this for the last 18 years) when I got home, had dinner and made phone calls. With the arrival of my (now ex) husband, we braved dinner time traffic and got ourselves to the hospital. I felt totally in control, fearless, not even a tiny case of nerves. I took the labor and delivery classes, right? I could breathe like a pro. I was so gonna own this.
Around 7 or so, we had been admitted, bagged, tagged and stuffed. According to the monitors, I was having pretty steady contractions, although I couldn’t feel a single one of them. “Ah-ha!”, I thought to myself. “I am a baby-birthing savant!”. There was a woman shrieking and yeowling like a cat in heat a few doors down, and my husband and I high-fived with glee…we were so obviously superior. Look at me, contracting like a Duggar and not feeling a…”HEY. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! OW, GOD, JEEBUS! OOOOOOWWWWWWWW-SON-OF-A-CRACK-WHORE-MAKE-IT-STOP!!” And with that little eye opener, we got a glimpse of what would be our next 12 or so hours.
After a late night epidural that allowed brief cat naps between being checked and checked again, the sun rose, the OBGYN was called in and the fun really kicked into high gear. (I am lying to you here. This was not fun. I will never be able to look back on this step of the delivery with fondness. This sucked. Badly.) First couple of pushes went great. She had hair, a ton of it. Beautiful, dark brown hair. But she wasn’t budging any further. Her little head (which was not so little at all) had corked. They mashed my poor belly down, trying to shove her along. They pulled out the jaws of life (suction cup, plunger, same thing) and hauled on her little head. During this I actually felt my bones move in my pelvis. Grossest thing ever. Ever de-boned a chicken? Yeah. Her heart rate was starting to dance.
I had been pushing for hours. Throughout the nausea (Hi, chili!), exhaustion and fear, I remember chanting to myself, “I can do it, leave me alone. I can do it, leave me alone”. My Dr. used the “made for TV movie” voice, “We have to get her out now. If we can’t get her head out we will have to call OR and have them ready.” There were too many people in the room. A pediatric doctor said he could try to dislocate her shoulder from the inside and help her slide out. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I begged them to let me sit up. If I could sit up and have support behind me I knew I could do it. With one ginormous push, one nurse on my belly and another behind me, the jaws of life suction thing and a miracle, out she came, cone-headed, furious and the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen.
9 pounds, 11 ounces, beautiful, healthy baby girl. With no name as of yet. As a matter of fact, it took my ex getting ugly with the social security lady who kept showing up in our room demanding a name before they left us alone to find the perfect fit for her. Hallee Julia.
That day is a blur, visitors, doctors and nurses, nursing consultants, a much needed shower and holding the world’s most beautiful baby in my arms. Did I mention she was huge? Yeah, girlfriend was almost 10 pounds. There’s all of these scrawny, red, 6 and 7 pounders lined up in the nursery window and then there was Helga, 9.11, looking like she was going to get up and drive herself home.
We took her home on the 4th of July, and I’ve been celebrating the gift of being her mom ever since. It wouldn’t be for years yet that I’d find out that my girl wasn’t going to have the life that I had fantasized and prayed for her to have. But I wouldn’t change one day of her life. NOT. ONE.
Tomorrow morning, my Hal will be be 18 years old. And I’m the one that’s gotten the gift, every single year. A friend sent me a quote after Hallee was born and I remember it every day. “I’ve loved you for as long as I can remember and as far as I can see”. Happy Birthday, my beautiful girl. My forever child. My heart.