Tuesday, April 05, 2005

It's Again

We're in a cab joking through the syrupy traffic on the FDR (the highway that runs along the east side of Manhattan). Neither of us slept much the night before, what with her stomach hurting every few minutes and with my being worried about it. We have reason to worry--my wife is 33 weeks pregnant and our first child arrived at roughly 32 weeks. He's more than fine now, nearly two years old and his small self is beginning to push out past his body, but more on him later. We kid, the cab driver complains about something political that has the West Side Highway (pretty self-explanatory) jammed up for miles and hours. She winces with pain, and I wonder.

We're directed into Triage Room 1, the nurse is nice. My wife strips and lies down; the nurse affixes the two monitors, one that picks up the baby's heartbeat and projects it in squelchy blips and the other that tracks contractions. The heartbeat is fast, and I think to myself "Girl" (which we know is true with about as much certainty as is possible), and the numbers on the contraction side don't mean much to me at first. I begin to remember this machine from two years ago, and when she tightens up her face and breathes I see the numbers rise and the printout registers a peak. This continues for about 20 minutes or so, the noises of the place unnerving us a little. We spent far too much time in the Labor & Delivery wing and then in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when our boy came, and the sounds of the monitors and the phones and the intercoms have worked themselves so far down into our lower brains that there's pretty much a direct move from noise to nervousness that skips any sort of reasoning. We wait. The resident comes in, we each guess to ourselves how long she's been on shift, and she asks what brought us in. My wife tells the story: stomach pains and nausea over night continuing through the morning, the call, the order to come in, ending with "We think it's just heartburn--at least that's what it was a few months ago when I was told to come in." The resident reads the printout and says "You're having contractions."

It's again.

Our jokes now walk around the room on stilts, in particular the "Chicken Orzo Soup" talk. Okay, some background: Our first child was born 8 weeks premature and spent around a month in the NICU. That meant daily trips to the hospital, our taking shifts to hold, change, feed, etc. our boy. To approach something like normalcy, we often ate lunch around lunchtime (change of shift, no one but nurses in the NICU allowed), which meant passing through the oddly named Garden Cafe for plastic-wrapped ham on multigrain or the reliable Chicken Orzo Soup. The soup is reliable not so much because of taste (passable but salty) but because of frequency--we can't think of a single day we were there that the soup wasn't on the menu. We know the jokes mean that we're probably going to be seeing more of the soup, and we don't know for how long.

The facts: My wife is 33 weeks 2 days into her second pregnancy, and she's had no complications to this point. According to the two residents who look her over, the baby's weight is estimated at 4 lbs. 13 oz., which is a good size should she decide to come early. "Should she decide" is a good way to put it, since by all accounts the girl herself doesn't want to come. She's head down, which is common for this time, but she hasn't descended and hasn't sent out the hormones that would push my wife's body into the mode that it's been designed for in many respects. In any event, the most important detail for our purposes: her water hasn't broken.

They move her into a delivery room and start an IV to re-hydrate her and to combat any infections. They take gallons of blood. The drip comes in, the contractions ease and spread out, they leave her alone. And leave her alone. It turns out that this happens to be an incredibly busy time at Labor & Delivery--all the birthing rooms are full and my wife hears that five people line the waiting room, including one of the hospital's own nurses who has a C-section scheduled. This could be "good" news, though, since they won't keep her around any more than is strictly necessary.

Good night.

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