Wanna Hear Something Gross?

I’m not sure I ever posted the birth story for my first. Suffice it to say, that was a cakewalk compared to the second, despite me being pretty freaked out through the entire thing. I timed contractions for a day, my water broke, I went to the hospital, I pushed for a while, baby came out. All was good.

We had a last-minute get together for Bea’s fourth birthday on Sunday, June 23rd, at my aunt’s house this year. I’d been having contractions off and on for a couple of days (not including the Braxton Hicks that had been going on since month five). They weren’t consistent enough to worry, but I knew “real” labor was imminent. I went home around 3pm because I was exhausted, and Charlie stayed at my aunt’s with Bea. They came home a couple of hours later. I was still having contractions.

Around 9pm, I went to take a bath, hoping it would help with the back pain. I hadn’t been in the tub more than five minutes when I felt that telltale “pop” inside and I knew my water had broken. I stood up and surveyed what sort of fluid was escaping. It was pretty slow.

I texted my aunt, who came over to pick up Bea and take the kid to her house. Charlie and I got some stuff together and headed to the hospital. I found myself extremely calm and almost emotionless during the entire scene. My contractions, though getting closer together and more painful, weren’t bothering me that much, and I was not nearly as freaked out as I’d been during my first birth.

We got checked in and I got checked out. Rather than the five centimeters I’d made it to the first time around, I was barely at two. I knew I only had 24 hours before they’d threaten to take the baby out on their own, so I chose to labor without any kind of drugs.

The contractions began to get worse, but nothing was happening by around 9 the next morning. They hooked me up to some Pitocin, which I had really, really wanted to avoid. Every time they increased the dose, the baby’s heart rate began to drop. By the third round, I opted for an epidural. I was sweating and crying through the contractions. Charlie kept trying to nap, but felt compelled to try and comfort me through those harder waves.

As Charlie lay down on the couch in the delivery room, he began to snore and I began to feel like something was wrong. I couldn’t twist my head back far enough to see the monitors. I called to him to ask what heart beat monitor said. He had just stood up to walk over when the room was flooded with nurses and doctors and some sort of emergency warning beep was going off.

Suddenly, nurses were hooking me up to oxygen. The baby’s heart rate had dropped a fourth time, and had been below 70 for a few minutes. A doctor was shoving my innards around and announced the baby was on her umbilical cord. The doctor couldn’t get her shifted and the heart rate continued to slow.

“We’re going to have get the baby out. NOW.”

A piece of paper was in my face. “Sign here,” someone said. “It’s a waiver.” I tried to skim through it but felt like I was going to pass out. I remember I was crying and trying to control my breathing as they wheeled me out of the delivery room into the operating room. Just like in the movies, they had me “hug” myself and they shifted me up and over onto the table from my bed. The resident anesthesiologist said he was going to give me more of the epidural to numb me from the waist down. If it didn’t work, I’d have to be put under.

A big blue sheet was up and over my face, my arms were being taped down, the head anesthesiologist was by my face, probably trying to decide if he should hold my hand, making jokes about his sons while I hyperventilated. I didn’t know where Charlie was, if he would be allowed in, what was happening to my baby.

Maybe ten minutes passed with this flurry of activity around me. I heard the doctor say “Scalpel,” just like in the movies. I heard him say, “You’re going to feel a lot of pressure. You’re doing great, Courtney.”

Then there was the sound of a baby crying and Charlie was standing by my right side, in a big white surgical suit and mask with one of those funny hairnets on. My tears had been pooling in my ears and he was still crying.

“The baby’s okay,” he said. And I just started crying even harder. I’d spent the entire nine months of that pregnancy on eggshells. A month before I got miraculously pregnant, I’d been told I couldn’t carry a baby to term. Every blood test and ultrasound, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the worst news. Up to the moment she was born, I feared she wouldn’t make it.

The c-section was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. I hated every moment of it. I had planned for a standard birth like Bea’s was. The recovery was difficult, especially at my age. Major abdominal surgery is not something I would have opted for and I don’t understand women who schedule unnecessary c-sections. But we are both okay, which is what matters.

Even after, I thought the worst. Would she have a physical problem? Would she be deaf or blind or have that weird disorder where people don’t feel pain? Instead, she’s a happy, healthy, chunky little bag of farts that smiles all the time and rarely cries. I couldn’t have asked for a better baby.



So here we are, entering our fourth month as Indiana residents. Again. I’ve gone back to the coffee shop on the weekends, we’re back in the old neighborhood. It’s like nothing has changed.

My diplomas sit neatly in their frames, doing nothing more than reminding me of my student loans accumulating interest.

It dawned on me today that, though I don’t regret much in my life, I do regret leaving Chicago. As I lay in bed, exhausted and feeling run down from lack of sleep and hours on my feet for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself ruminating. Playing the What If game.

What if we’d negotiated lower rent with the landlord? What if we’d really stretched out our savings. What if, instead of a couple grand in rent, deposit, and truck rental, we had just paid our rent in Chicago in advance? What if we’d started a garden and eaten from that, made a strict budget, and taken Bea to summer classes at the parks instead of paying for her preschool there? What if we’d sold a couple things to get by while I applied for full-time jobs on campus, and if I’d gotten one, Charlie could stay home? What if I’d made a lot more money than him? What if I’d taken those job offers and just asked to start a few weeks after the baby was born?

I don’t play What If with the baby. I don’t regret or resent her. She didn’t ask to be born.

I can’t stop thinking that we made the wrong decision moving back, though. I can’t help but feel more alone in Indy, a city supposedly filled with family and friends who were dying to help out with the baby, most of whom I haven’t seen more than twice since we moved back. We’re more sedentary, bored, overweight, and disappointed.

I have applied for more jobs, but each one leaves me feeling like I’d be settling. I feel like we settled for this house, for that job, for this neighborhood, for this city. I feel like I didn’t get a chance to put down roots in Chicago and every day, my heart aches a little bit for what we left behind.

We wanted Bea and Ellie to grow up around their cousins, and the kids our friends have. But it feels as if no one has the time and I’m left struggling to fill up our weekdays with mindless activities in the house. I’m spending all my mornings biding my time before Bea goes to her measly two-hour preschool program when what we could be doing is getting on the brown line and hitting the Lincoln Park Zoo, the beach, going for walks, taking a bus to the Shedd or a museum on the free days.

I missed Indy and people for a while after we’d moved. But it didn’t take long to find myself busy and happy and loving Chicago. Leaving felt like the “right” choice when we made it, but now I just don’t know. Was it the “only” one?

Today my heart told me it’s never too late to move back. It’s going to take something big to fill this windy-city-sized emptiness.