The Last Day

A year ago tonight, and into tomorrow...

Unbeknownst to me, my water broke on July 20th sometime between lunch and dinner, somewhere between the Connecticut shoreline and my home in the northeast corner. I spent my last full day as a mommy-motel (womb with no view) taking my dog for a field trip. We went to a pond where she could swim and, hopefully, not ingest so much water that she would be peeing all the way home. I was nine days overdue at this point and the next night’s moon was going to be a full one, so there was something definitive in the air as I waited expectantly for my life to change.

This breaking of the water was an unnoticeable trickle for awhile, becoming more pronounced but still not tell-tale as the day wore on. Don’t ask me what I thought it was or why I didn’t make the connection, but it wasn’t till ten at night that I mentioned it to my husband. He had more faith than myself that I didn’t just suddenly go incontinent and was relatively certain that my old amniotic dam must certainly have burst.

I phoned the doctor on call, who directed me to come into the hospital so the staff could assess the situation. Once the water breaks, he said, contractions usually begin within 12-24 hours. At the time, I was still contraction-less and feeling fine. My conscious self was a bit paranoid that maybe I could not properly recognize the difference between lax Kegel muscles and an actual rupture of the amniotic membrane; but, at a subconscious level, I knew very well that the baby train was barreling down the track and I was powerless to stop it.

The half hour ride to the hospital at 2 a.m. was black, peaceful and portentous. I was becoming more aware by the second that I was taking a one-way trip out of my old life. I was attuned to every shadow, every curve of the road, every shard of moonlight that lead the way. The Dixie Chicks sung “Landslide” on the radio and I was overwhelmed. Then the hospital was on my right, and I looked at the elongated glass façade of the state-of-the-art facility that I had driven by so many times, never knowing when I’d end up inside, but always aware that I would not come out the same.

We walked in the emergency entrance as directed by the on-call doctor and signed in. A Women and Infants nurse was dispatched as our escort. On our way to the labor and delivery wing, we wound through an emergency ward of moaners, pukers and passed-out invalids presumably drawn in by the pull of that full moon. “This is much worse than usual,” said the nurse. “I’m glad you’re not having contractions so we can just get through here fast.”

We did, and soon I was in my own room, in my own hospital gown, joined by a nurse, a midnight midwife and a medical intern of the Doogie Howser persuasion. The midwife did an internal, inserting a long cotton-tipped swab that turned blue in indication that my water had truly broken. She reminded me that contractions should begin within 12-24 hours of point of rupture (which I arbitrarily assigned a time of 7 p.m., though I was pretty sure the leak started earlier than that).

The midwife who would take charge of my active labor was scheduled to come on at 8 a.m. Her name was Sue and she should not be confused with the midwife I had been seeing faithfully for the past nine months--who, of course, was on vacation. That’s life, I thought, and settled into bed per the nurse’s suggestion that I try to get some sleep. Soon the fat moon was replaced by a fat sun visible through frosted windowpanes.


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