Home delivery used to mean a mustached man named Raul driving an oxidized Ford Pinto and tossing the morning newspaper into our neighbor’s bushes. That was until my impatient baby made a quick exit onto my living room floor and redefined the term.
It was 12:15 a.m. when I was jolted from my slumber by a drive to my gut with a #5 iron, followed by a series of wrenching contractions at five-minute intervals. This little baby meant business. I felt as anxious as the day I found out I was pregnant with our first child. While my fellow graduate students awaited the results from their Experimental Psychology finals, I sweated out the results of my pregnancy exam at the student health clinic; the brightly colored condoms piled high on the counter, mocking me.
“Honey, wake up—it’s happening! I think I’m in full swing!” I yelled to my husband, Chris, who lay as dormant as a bear in hibernation. I repeated myself, and gave him a nudge.
He turned over and grumbled, “Keep your eye on the ball!” pulled up the covers and rolled back over.
Fighting rapid-fire contractions, I said, “Honey, I think I’m having the baby.”
“Baby! Did you say baby?” He did a front round off and vaulted off the bed like an Olympic gymnast.
“Start the car and call Mrs. D,” I cried.
I tried to convince myself that this was a false labor, like the kind I once experienced when Chris and I abandoned a rack of lamb and carrots Vichy during a candlelight anniversary dinner at a five-star restaurant and headed straight to the hospital, only to return home to a reheated bowl of yesterday’s chili over the 11:00 news. Maybe I was using avoidance due to the stressful conditions of my first birth, which took place at the end of the hallway in an overcrowded hospital bulging with women in labor, something to do with a full moon and the Macy’s Annual Sale.
But when embryonic fluid suddenly gushed out of me, I knew there was no denying it. This labor was real. In a panic, I waddled down the stairs and headed to the front stoop, where I collided with Mrs. D, our neighbor. “Where do you think you’re going in this snowstorm? You get yourself right back into that house, young lady, or you’ll have yourself a car delivery!”
“Yes, Mrs. D” I replied.
Did she say car delivery? In my book the only acceptable car delivery was a newly purchased Baby Benz arriving at my doorstep. Yet I was terrified by the idea of having the baby at home. I let Mrs. D guide me back into the house. Uncertain as to how to proceed, I did what came naturally to me during times of stress. I reached for the cookie jar, and groped my way to the bottom where I located one lone fortune cookie. I cracked it open. “Car delivery today mean messy carpool tomorrow.” I imagined what the morning routine might look like.
“Time for school, kids. Get in the car.”
“But Mom, there’s a giant jellyfish on the floor!”
“Sweetie, that sea creature is just mommy’s placenta. Now step over the damn thing or we’ll be late for school!”
I let Mrs. D guide me back into the house. By now, a team of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu warriors were trying to fight their way out of my belly and I was beginning to think of childbirth less as a miracle and more as cruel and unusual punishment. I leaned forward, struck my best werewolf pose and let out a primal howl that rivaled the wild dogs in Kujo. Then I dropped down on all fours with my knees cushioned by our new living room carpet—the one that had led us on a three-year quest for the perfect color rug to match our gold and mauve living room.
A generally kind and gentle person, I ordinarily would have welcomed Mrs. D’s outreach of affection. But possessed with unworldly pain and glowing red eyes, I hissed, “Get your hands off me!” Mrs. D’s arm recoiled from my flaming body. Mrs. D. may have wondered whether she needed to get help, or garnish herself with a string of garlic.
This was not the delivery we had planned. Where was the soothing music, the relaxation mantras, and the blast of narcotics that would send my uterus into a blissful coma? “I don’t want to have the baby at home!” I wailed. Nothing changed. A moment later, something changed: I felt the baby’s head, and screamed, “I’m having the baby at home!”
Chris assured me, “Everything’s going to be okay. Let me give you a hug.” Or maybe it was, “Everything’s going to be okay, just don’t soil the rug.” As two policemen stormed through the door, followed by two volunteer emergency medical technicians, I regained hope. But I worried when the EMT’s appeared to be younger than my high school babysitter. I wondered whether they’d ever seen a vagina . . .
Within minutes of screaming, “Get this baby out of me!” the baby glided out like a slippery bar of soap into the cradled hands of the EMT. I heard, “It’s a boy!”
In overwhelming relief, I responded, “Towels!”
Chris repeated, “Towels for the baby!” like a short order cook.
“Towels for the rug!” I added. Then I provided detailed instructions on emergency carpet care.
As a group of men stood around my tethered baby scratching their heads, debating how to tie off the umbilical cord without a clamp, I watched Chris reach down to remove his shoelace. I reminded him of the recycling twine in the drawer next to the stove.
After arriving at the hospital, I was finally able to call my parents and congratulate them on the birth of their new grandson while Chris proudly handed out cigars to the staff. Then the nurse called him over to the examining room. A few minutes later, Chris approached. “Lisa, you’re not going to be believe this. We don’t have a baby boy. It’s a girl.” I dropped the phone. “The nurse said she looks beautiful. I peeked under the blanket, and she’s right, it’s a girl,” he said, as he tenderly wiped a string of drool from my gaping mouth.
“Lisa, Lisa? Are you there?” I heard my mother’s voice from the dangling receiver. I picked up the phone.
“Mom, scratch that. It turns out you have a granddaughter.”
“Lisa, did they give you drugs at the hospital?” She asked, trying to rationalize my gender confusion over my own child.
“No mom,” I said as I spoke my thoughts out loud. “The baby must have been swollen when she was born and someone thought she was a boy.”
“So what they saw wasn’t a, a …” my mother asked tentatively.
“Nnnno.” With that, I hung up the phone.
The next day, as my husband tried to convince me that it was the EMT and not him who had called out our baby’s mistaken gender in all the hullabaloo, the familiar sound of a dragging tail pipe prompted my husband to retrieve the newspaper. This time, Raul’s home delivery brought news of my home delivery. The local headline read, “New Baby Boy Girl Born at Home.”
News Flash: My story, “Previews of Coming Contractions” is included in the new humor anthology, “My Funny Major Medical,” now on sale on Amazon! “Laughter might be the best medicine, but it’s not covered by Medicare. So this little book provides a low-cost, over-the-counter dosage to cheer up (and/or terrify) those who find themselves on the wrong end of health maintenance. (Whichever the “wrong end” might be.)” ~ Amazon
When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother. Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties. Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist. Her weekly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Visit her blog http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/ Follow her on twitter @lisatognola