Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Bringing on Baby: A Journal of Augmentation

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To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

-- William Shakespeare, Macbeth (V.v.19-28)

Baby Countdown: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
October 30th

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day. . . . Well, if I'm going to announce this child's birth tomorrow, she'd better get to head-butting that cervix. Now that would be a helpful product: an easy-to-use cervix measuring kit to use in the comfort of one's home. The problem, of course, is that desperate women such as myself, in the final week and beyond of pregnancy, would measure every half hour or so, contractions or no. By the time the baby headed down for real, the passage would be worn raw. I resisted the home-use Doppler infant heart monitor for the same reason. I tend to get obsessive.
These days, everybody's got a theory on when the baby's going to come and what's going to inspire her to make the journey. The woman working in Customer Service at Target this morning asked the requisite question: When are you due? When I answered, she smiled (these are the rules and the pattern of this particular social dance) and said: "I went bowling. It really worked." Mark came home to report that another professor had stopped him in the hall and said: "Tell her when she can't stand being pregnant for another minute . . . it'll be two more weeks." The woman in the fabric store, with a two-week-old bundle in her arms, said: "Walking. You have to walk. I walked fourteen blocks and then I went into labor." Yesterday, my mom and I walked at least fourteen blocks with the dogs. I didn't go into labor.

Last night Mark dutifully did homework again. Homework -- that's the euphemism the obstetrician used when he winked at Mark at the end of our last appointment and explained that sperm contains natural prostaglandins that bring on labor. I'd hazard to say he even gave Mark a little punch on the shoulder at this point, but I might be making that part up. Either way, Mark must have shuddered inside. Homework. Wink.

~

Baby Countdown: Boo!
October 31st

Today is the day we've been waiting for. Humph. It's all I can do to make an entry today. Maybe I should just go back to sleep.

The sex isn't working -- although it's nice after what's been quite a dry spell. Sex during pregnancy loses much of its romantic appeal in favor of the comedic, I'm afraid. All the huffing and puffing and rolling around to find a position that permits penetration is more apt to invoke laughter than ardor. But we're doing our best. This is goal-oriented sex, much like the deliberate "baby dancing" that got her there in the first place.

As Mark and I kissed and fondled a bit in preparation last night, I said, "Oh, you know what? Maybe you could just knock the mucus plug out while you're in there." That did it. "Oh, c'mon," I said when he pulled away. "What's wrong?"

"Well, honey, the bloody show is not exactly the kind of thought that gets me fired up."

"Right. True. Sorry." And we were back at square one. Silly me.

So, the sex didn't work. And the walking didn't work. Neither did the raking, the jalepeƱo potato chips, the hot water on the nipples in the shower, the raspberry leaf tea, the deep knee bends, the pleas directed at this comfortable child in my womb: Okay, Baby, we're ready for you. Come out, come out, wherever you are . . . .Last night, as Mark and I headed out with the dogs for another walk, the man across the street turned off his leaf blower and chimed in on everybody's favorite subject: "I've got a grandchild due on the 19th of November. When are you due?"

"Tomorrow," I said.

"Wow. Well, the night my wife went into labor with my daughter, she ate a box of fudge and ran up and down the stairs."

I laughed and continued waddling down the block. "I'll try it tonight!"

And why not? But all we had were peanut butter cups and Snickers and, since our banister only extends halfway up our stairs, running was pretty much out of the question.

Come on, Baby. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon . . . .

~

Baby Countdown: Trick, not Treat
November 1st

Last night, Mom and I tried some mall walking and came upon a sale at Penney's, where I bought some sheets for my sister and some slippers for Mark. Of course, there was The Question:

"When are you due?"

"Yesterday." This, of course, accompanied by the wryest facial expression I could muster.

"Oh, any time now, then . . . ."

"Yup."

"First baby?"

"Yup."

"Oh."

Decked out in her cherry red, "Biggest Sale of the Year" Penney's T-shirt, this cashier was more reticent than most. She caught me off-guard. I felt as if I had to fill in her parts for her.

"Yeah, I know," I said. "The first one always takes the longest."

"Not mine," she said. She looked like she was about sixty. "I was only at the hospital for forty-five minutes when she came."

"Wow. Forty-five minutes!"

No reply. This wasn't the typical game; she was just telling it like it was. I tried again. "Mmmm. Must have been a pretty painful forty-five minutes though, huh?"

"Not for me." She folded the bag down at the top. "In those days, they just knocked you out. I slept through the whole thing."

~

Mark and I walked the dogs to the park this morning and tried the swinging method. This made sense to us: the use of good old centrifugal force to drive the baby's head down into the birth canal. Mark picked out a recently replaced, sturdy looking, industrial strength rubber seat, and I got to work.

There were problems. The first was that the swinging drove gallons of excess blood into the toes of my already loaf-sized feet, and they began to throb in pain. The other was that my old dog, Tango, has always had a fascination with swings and the people on them, and she ran right into position behind me to try to bite me in the ass on the downswing.

Mark yelled out: "Honey! Stop! You're going to kill Tango!"

That was a real ego boost.

~

I've added a few items to the list of activities that are not successful in bringing on baby: spending the better part of a day in bed moaning about the impossibility of labor and professing mortal depression, handing out gobs of sugar to small children in pumpkin jumpsuits and larger children (is that really a child in there?) in ghoul masks, and eating copious amounts of barbeque chicken from the school benefit van in the parking lot. The latter sent the poor baby into some kind of a meat coma, and I was up half the night trying to do kick counts to verify that she hadn't done the in utero equivalent of choking on a bone. Exhausting.

In the early hours of this morning, having peed and counted kicks until these things no longer diverted me, I tried nipple stimulation -- rolling the right one between my fingertips until it was sore, my fingers were aching, and my nightgown was sticky from leakage -- and, lo and behold, a contraction! I repeated this on the other side. Bingo. The only reason I'm not still at it is because I'm using my fingers on the keyboard. Thus is the reality of the well-recorded labor experience: the reportage affects the outcome.

~

Yesterday at our weekly appointment, the tall ob-gyn with the red hair and the swinging gold cross proposed what sounded like a simple solution as he snapped on his gloves: "If you like, I can strip your membranes while I'm in there." I'd noticed this word choice before; this particular doctor always says "in there" as if he's comparing his own latexed journey up the vaginal canal to Marlow's steamboat passage into the interior. And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth . . . .

"Strip the membranes?"

"Basically," he explained, "I just use my finger to separate the cervix from the amniotic sac. We think this chemically triggers labor to begin, releasing prostaglandins . . . ." Blah blah blah . . . . "Typically, a woman goes into labor between six to 48 hours afterward."

Just like that, eh? Just a little finger wiggle? The man made it sound like a real panacea. He wasn't trying to push it on me. He really wasn't. I think when he entered the examining room and asked how I was doing, I had said something like, "I'm done being pregnant. I can't stand it anymore. I'm miserable." It's truly possible that he was trying to help. Either that, or he figured that, since the new guy was on call for the weekend and I was obviously going to be a live one, if he could get things moving maybe he'd be weekending with his family in Brown County when my water broke.

He should be so lucky. I opted out. Now it's just my nipples and me.

~

My brother Ian sent photos of my nieces in their Halloween costumes. Four-year-old Jade was clearly The Itsy Bitsy Spider: oh-so-cute with her swinging legs. Amber, almost three years older, wore a kind of slinky black gown with fan-like sleeves and appeared to have on dark eyeliner and red lipstick. A witch? A bat lady? A fortune teller? No, no, we were told: A damsel in distress.

Me, too, I thought. That's me. A damsel in distress, and I'll tell you what: my Prince better bring one helluva sturdy white steed if he's planning to swing me up into that saddle.

~

Baby Countdown: Two Days Post-Due Date
November 2nd

Every day, Mark and I get up and say, "Today might be the day!" This morning, I'm feeling a new kind of patience. I've decided that every single labor augmentation trick is a matter of pure coincidence. Here on the fifth day or so of acupressure and walking and swinging and sex (not unpleasant activities in themselves, except for that surprisingly painful Spleen 6 acupressure point), I've come to an all-too-obvious conclusion, delayed by my persistent hope: because every woman in the world has to have done something on the day she went into labor, that something simply becomes the trick of the day. Now we wait.

Nary a contraction this morning. No bloody show. No leaking of water. Nada, nada, nada. Last night I dreamed I was thin again. In the dream, only two days had passed since the birth of the baby and we were all marveling at the rapidity with which I'd regained my waist. I know this isn't going to happen, but how luscious to feel -- even if only in my sleeping head and only for a moment -- lithe.

When my mom came downstairs this morning, toting camera equipment, she reported that she'd been taking pictures of the sky because the sunrise had been such a stunning shade of pink. "Perhaps today is the day," we say again and, in the interest of posterity, I consent to have my photo taken. My mom focuses her lens on my great baby belly, emerging taut and round and glowing from my fuchsia pajamas that are much too small. "Just the belly, Mom. I swear, if you get my thighs . . . ."

My mother, an artist, describes a triptych of photos: pink sunrise, pink belly, pink baby. A birthday gift. And this seems as good a sign as any.


Jill Christman‘s memoir, Darkroom: A Family Exposure, won the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction and was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2002. Recent essays have appeared or are forthcoming in River Teeth, Mississippi Review, Fourth River, Harpur Palate, and other journals. She teaches creative writing at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she lives with her husband, poet Mark Neely, and their three-year-old daughter, Ella.


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