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7 May


Hysteric – from the Greek, hysterikos – of or from the womb (uterus: hystera); suffering caused by the womb.

Yesterday, I went to the hospital. I wasn’t convinced that I was in full-on regular labor, but something was up, and I was concerned enough about what was going on – over two days of very painful, if irregular, contractions, and reduced fetal movement, and this after a full week of less intense ‘false’ labor – that I called my doctor and asked what I should do. The nurse on duty said, predictably, go into triage, better safe than sorry, this could be labor, it could something else, in any case we want to make sure that you and the baby are okay.

She also said, bring your hospital bag, just in case. Not having packed a hospital bag – because, you know, packing hospital bags just jinxes any possibility of a baby coming in a timely manner, yanno? – I gathered up my phone and camera and laptop, shoved a clean pair of underpants in my coat pocket and commanded my husband to drive.

The nurses at triage were wonderful, sympathetic, gentle women who said all the right things about me coming in and getting checked out and felt my belly gently as it contracted and contracted again and then hooked me up to all of those monitors and things and cooed soothingly as the heart monitor registered a healthy heartbeat etc, etc. Your contractions are registering as mild, they said, but of course that doesn’t mean that they’re not painful. Coo, coo, cluck, cluck, everything looks good, dear.

My doctor wasn’t in or on-call, so they called in a resident to examine me further. The resident did not coo or cluck. The resident sat down in a chair next to the hospital bed and looked me up and down. I’ve looked at the fetal cardiogram blah blah blah, she said. Everything looks fine, and you seem to be in very early labor. She paused again. But it *is* early. Why did you come in?

(Momentary stunned silence)

‘Um, because of the pain? The pain has been bad. Off and on, for days now. DAYS. Since early last week or so. And the baby wasn’t moving so much. So I called, AND THE NURSE TOLD TO ME TO.’

That can happen; it can go on for weeks; it can be painful, yes, but it’s perfectly normal. Your uterus is just getting ready for the birth blah blah blah.

‘I know, I know, but my doctor told me to come in straight away if the pains got worse. They got worse. And the baby, not moving, and I called the nurse and she said…’

Of course, of course, you did the right thing (fake cooing)

She pauses again, and flips through my file.

I see here that you’re a patient in the Reproductive Life Stages* program here at the hospital… *(RLS = Crazy Pregnant and Post-Partum Ladies Psychiatric Care Club, membership by referral only.)

‘YES WHY?’ (hysteria rising in voice)

Just asking. You’ve been feeling okay? Managing your anxiety? Have you spoken to them recently?

(Is she calling me crazy oh my effing god? IS SHE CALLING ME CRAZY FOR COMING IN HERE?)

‘A few weeks ago WHY?’

Just want to make sure that you’re not too anxious about this pregnancy.

‘I am anxious right now because I am in PAIN.’

I know, I know (fake clucking, jotting of notes that I KNOW say something to the effect of batshit loco.)

She pauses again. So, she says after a moment. What are we going to do with you?


I left, after numerous sympathetic back pats from triage nurses who cooed kind things about not hesitating to come in again if the pains worried me, and promptly burst into tears. When I got home, there was a message on the phone from Reproductive Life Stages, ‘checking in’ on me: was I okay? did I need an appointment? At which point I might have burst into tears again, if I hadn’t needed to double over just right that minute to cope with yet another pain.

I’ll talk to my doctor about it, and she will, I know, shake her head vigorously and insist that I was absolutely right to come in, and that I must not hesitate to do so again, and that I should pay no mind to any real or perceived suggestion that my experience with this interminable false/early/whatever labor is anything but legitimately frustrating and worrying and that, again, again I must not hesitate to call or come in at any time if I’m in any way concerned.

But the damage has been done. If I wasn’t a basket-case before, I’m well on my way to being one now. If this baby doesn’t begin his emergence in some sort of very obvious, textbook way, I’m going to be reluctant to call again, ever.

Which means that this baby just might get born in our bathroom. In which case, those clean underpants in my coat pocket really will be a useless precaution.

(For the Countdown To Baby record, the contractions subsided in the night – so I got to sleep for a few hours for the first time in DAYS – but are back again and are hurting and would be it be wrong for me to hit the liquor, like, now?)