Sixteen years ago today — Presidents’ Day 1994, I was watching the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, waiting for the Pitocin drip to work its magic and make a baby fly out of my body like a luge racer.
I wondered: boy or girl? What will he or she be like? Am I ready for this?
Turns out she would be stubborn and feisty and arrive when she was good and ready. Turns out she’s still that way.
Since I was heading into the second week past my due date, I had a scheduled induction delivery*. I was so big I could not drive a car or tie my shoes. I couldn’t get out of bed or stand up from a chair or the couch without help. I was ready to apply for a job at SeaWorld as Shamu’s stunt double. I developed high-blood pressure and had to be monitored every other day at the hospital. Yeah, it was that kind of third trimester.
We arrived before dawn at the hospital. Within an hour I was shackled to internal and eternal fetal monitors, a blood pressure cuff and a IV drip of Pitocin. I was glad to have a TV to break the boredom.
My obstetrician strolled in around noon, hoping to guide my baby into the world. Instead she found me nodding off to Sally Jessy Raphael. She awakened me, checked my vital signs, then ceremoniously unsheathed something that looked like a knitting needle and (sorry, folks) inserted it swiftly to break my water.
Well, hell, why didn’t she do that in the first place? Labor began shortly afterwards.
The battle for the rest of the day was pushing out this baby (forget luge racing, think Winnie-the-Pooh stuck in rabbit’s doorway) and keeping the nurses and my labor coach focused on me and not the Olympic events on TV.
I also was angry that all my natural childbirth classes were rendered useless due to my incarceration. Not only was I not allowed to get out of bed without a nurse’s help, but I also had to resort to drugs due to the intensity of the chemically induced labor.
Maybe it was the U.S. hockey team playing that night, but whatever the reason, I had to beg for attention. At my breaking point, I shouted, ” Shut the fucking Olympics off!” I didn’t want to hear another joke about Picabo Street or hear Nancy Kerrigan’s wailing sound bite: “Why, why, why?”
Like a screaming, hysterical woman anywhere outside an ice arena is going to get any attention.
But no one could tear their eyes away from the Olympics that year. Even with all my yelling, screaming and facial contortion, how could I compete with this?
Gold Medal goes to me for delivering a 9-pound, 10- ounce baby girl without a C-section. I was bedridden for two days afterward due to a postpartum hemorrhage and cursed the day I ever decided to lose my virginity.
Silver Medal goes to my girl, who arrived healthy and robust and still pushes me to the edge.
Bronze goes to all those skinny skaters in their tight costumes, who motivated me to lose the jelly belly and get back into shape. There is nothing more traumatic than looking at your postpartum body while Katarina Witt and Oksana Baiul swan around on the ice.
* I didn’t have the Internet available to me in 1994 nor was I particularly savvy about having a birth plan. At the time I was convinced that due to the size of my baby , the lack of contractions and my high-blood pressure, induction was medically necessary. Thankfully my baby was OK and eventually I was, too. Later I learned of the risks and side effects of Pitocin and induced labor, including hemorrhage. I made a birth plan with a nurse/midwife for future pregnancies.
In my non-medically trained opinion, I link my postpartum hemorrhage and inability to carry any other pregnancy to term to the trauma of that induced labor. I feel it’s worth mentioning to any woman out there who is putting together a birth plan. Do your research and come up with multiple plans for different outcomes.