On the day my daughter was born I was good and ready for her. I was good and ready eleven days before, on her actual due date and I was even ready six days before that, when my best friend and pregnancy buddy Alison had her baby. We were two weeks apart for due dates, so we shared all our milestones.
The day before I went into labor, I reached the max number of times someone could look at me at work and say, “You’re still here?” without me ripping their head off.
I asked my boss if I could leave and she looked at me and said, “Who could say no to you?”
I went home and eventually went to bed and when I got up bright and early to use the bathroom I knew something was going on.
I called my sister in law, who lived the closest to me to take me to the hospital, because my husband, as per usual, had not come home the night before.
Despite all his pleading and, “Everything would be fine if you would just move home”, things were not fine for the entire pregnancy.
But, in my excitement for a baby, I didn’t care THAT much. I hoped for the best, but planned for the worst. My sister and my husband were both invited to birthing class, because I needed someone I could count on and my sister has always been a rock.
I told myself that it wouldn’t matter if this baby had a dad, because I was going to be such a great mom.
A miracle happened that morning before I left home- my husband came home. He was expecting me to be gone for work, which meant the coast was clear for him to come home. He’s lucky it was the time before cell phones, because otherwise I’d have been that “Woman sends husband 65,000 text messages” headline.
Anyway, he came home and I informed him of the impending birth of our child. He informed me that I should go ahead without him, and he would shower and be right behind us.
I checked in to the hospital and he did indeed follow not too far behind. At nine am they broke my water. Mom and sister were there, so my sister in law, pregnant herself, had gone home.
At ten am my husband, Joe, announced that he was freezing cold (he was wearing shorts and it was April) and was going to run home and change. On the way back, he said, he would stop at McDonalds and did anybody want anything? Mom and sister gave him their orders. I was not allowed to eat.
Long about eleven, I started throwing up. Some people vomit when they have severe pain and it turned out I was one of those people. They gave me a shot of something that did about nothing for the pain, and offered me a shower.
I sat on a bench in the shower, pretty content to spend the rest of my life there, but eventually they made me get out so they could check all the things.
Out of the shower I started throwing up again, so they hooked me up to IV fluids and much to my distress, banned me from getting back in the shower.
My mom told me what a strong woman I was right before I vomited twice in quick succession. If you’ve ever vomited in the hospital you know they give you a tiny kidney shaped dish. (Like how hard would it be to have a clean bucket on hand?) They couldn’t swap my basin out fast enough, which resulted in vomit splashing all over me, my gown, the floor, and the rocking chair I was sitting in. The nurse helped me change my gown (no small feat with an IV or two) and made me get into bed.
I kept being miserable. Somewhere in the back of my head was the thought that it had now been HOURS and my husband had not returned, but I was quite frankly in way too much pain and focused on not throwing up to give the thought any of my energy.
At nine something that night the nurse started to get a concerned look on her face. She said she wanted to put a fetal monitor in, at which point I irrationally and angrily told her that she would not under any circumstances be screwing anything into my baby’s head. Bunny wasn’t even born yet and I was already a mama bear.
The nurse went to get the doctor. He very calmly told me that I seemed to have stalled at seven centimeters. (The standard for birth being ten in case you don’t know)
“We have two choices,” he explained, “We can either do an emergency C-section, or we can try an epidural.”
I thought a C-section sounded downright heavenly!
“Whatever you think is best,” I said instead.
“Ok, let’s try the epidural,” he decided, “sometimes that’s enough to get your body to relax and things to start moving again.”
It took almost an hour for the anesthesiologist to arrive, meanwhile I was still having contractions and they still sucked. Then the anesthesiologist, before he began inserting a needle into my spine, informed me that I could NOT move during the procedure, or I could end up paralyzed.
It’s no small feat to have contractions and not move a muscle, let me tell you, but I did it, and the epidural provided sweet deliverance.
My family, the members who had thus far been confined to the waiting room because I was a miserable wretch who did not want company, filed into my room. I talked to all of them and I ate three red popsicles in a row without vomiting.
That thought that had been lost in the pain all day long was back. WHERE THE HELL WAS MY HUSBAND!?!?!?!?
I turned to my mom, “Hand me the phone,” I said.
“Now Nichole, I don’t really think that’s a good idea-” I cut her off.
“HAND. ME. THE. PHONE.” I demanded.
So she did.
I called all of his friends. All of his drug buddies and all of their friends and their friend’s friends. I had a list of phone numbers in my purse and I burned through every one.
“Is he there?” I would start.
“No,” they would say, although this was not the first time I had called looking for him so I couldn’t be sure they weren’t lying for him anyway.
Then I would tell them that I was in the hospital, and if they saw that no good son of a bitch they better tell him to get his ass up there. Each and every one of them was kind enough to say, “What an asshole” or something similar and I gained a small amount of comfort from that.
On Bunny’s 21st birthday she said, “And he never brought my grandma her hamburger and she’s still mad about it.”
It’s true that just recently my mom did say from the other room, when the conversation turned to Bunny’s upcoming birthday and the day she was born, “And I never did get my hamburger!”
I hung up the phone, having exhausted all my options and let it go. Not because I was ok with it, but because I could tell by the immense pressure in my nether regions that I was trying to ignore, that it was almost time.
I ignored it as long as I could. I kept talking and laughing with my sisters and parents. I thought that maybe if I just ignored it the baby would just slide out under the blanket and I could skip all the pushing.
But the nurse insisted on kicking everyone out of the room so she could check my status, and announced that I was at ten and it was time to get serious.
I had been in labor for seventeen hours. I was exhausted and really thought if I could just take a quick nap I’d be ready, but that pushy nurse said “no time for naps!”
“I heard about your husband” she said quietly to me, “do you want me to have security posted outside the door?”
I was somewhat shocked. He was a drug addict, but I had never been afraid of him, so I told her that wouldn’t be necessary.
Next came a lot of pushing and other gross things I’m not going to write about and then ten minutes before Bunny was born, who should walk in the door?
I was sweaty and pant-y and pretty f-ing angry by then so I said, or more like snarled, “You might as well just wait outside now” and he seemed to know better than to argue, so he left.
Bunny was finally born, at 12:43 am, and I lay back, exhausted and spent both physically and emotionally.
When Joe came back he walked into the room, now empty and quiet, and said, “She doesn’t even look like me” which I completely ignored because all my problems fell away with that new baby in my arms. He sat down in the recliner and proceeded to sleep, pass out more like, for 24 solid hours. And then he left, again.
All my family and friends came to see me, and I went to breastfeeding class and how to give your baby a bath class and how to take care of a belly button class and then, when I was alone that night in the bathtub, I cried and cried and cried.
I cried because all hope was lost for my marriage, I cried because my hormones were all wonky, but mostly I cried because that day I had seen all the cute couples with their babies. All the dads asking questions and holding their babies. And I knew, like I had never known before, that no matter how good of a mom I was for my baby daughter, it would never make up for not having a dad.
My aforementioned sister, the rock, spent my first night at home with the baby with me. She went to the store and got me some groceries. She took the cat to my mother-in-laws after it tried to attack the baby.
“Where’s Joe?” my MIL asked when I told her my sister would be bringing the cat over.
“Gone,” I said, “he dropped us off at home and left.”
“What an asshole,” she said and it gave me a small comfort that even his mom was on our side.
She would go on to be a fantastic grandma to Bunny, except for the part where she died when Bunny was seven, which I can’t hold against her but sometimes still irrationally feel mad about. (But not at her, only at the world or god or life in general for taking her away from my daughter)
For Bunny’s whole life she’s had the amazing disappearing dad, including the day she was born. Her dad would tell me many years later that he had been in the hospital parking lot all day, freaking out about being a dad and coming down from his meth high. I didn’t forgive him, but I’m not still mad.
Joe and I never lived together after Bunny was a few days old, and I filed for divorce when she was four. It took that long because I had a new baby and no money for a divorce, not because I had any hope.
Over the years, Bunny would end up getting mad at me for a number of things having to do with her dad. For not ever trying to help her dad, for not letting him come stay with us when he exhausted all his druggie friends welcomes, for not ever taking her to see him when he was in jail.
But eventually, after spending a holiday with her dad and family as a teenager, she thanked me for getting us out of that life.
So this year at least, he called her to wish her a happy birthday, and she handles him with more love and grace than I ever had in me. I’m sorry that her dad is the way he is, but so proud of her for NOT being the same.