Eight days earlier, Tabitha had been absolutely positive that the baby was on her way. Her entire pregnancy had been incident-free: no morning sickness, no swollen ankles, no varicose veins. A few stretch marks now crossed her abdomen, but otherwise it had been text-book perfect.
“I’m so excited, I just know it’s going to go smoothly, Mom.” Tabitha grinned as she cradled the phone between her chin and shoulder. The soft pastel green receiving blanket she was folding crackled with static electricity in her hands as she shook out the fold. “Plus, if we do have the baby tomorrow — no, when we have the baby tomorrow, I’m going to think positively — I’ll win that brand-new nursery at the mall!”
“But you already have a crib, and a stroller.”
“I couldn’t resist entering that contest, I just had a really good feeling about it.” Tabitha added the tidy square of fabric to the linen shelf beside the crib, and picked up a cotton one printed with yellow duckies. “It includes a bassinet with a lacy lining, so Victorian and adorable, plus a changing table. I don’t have a changing table.”
“Do you really have room for all of that?” Her mother cautioned. “We talked about that. Until you move, you’re pretty crowded as it is. That’s why I got you that rail-riding changing thingy.”
Tabitha suppressed a sigh. “I’d make it work, Mom. I’m creative. I play Tetris, I like rearranging things.” She refused to look around again at the small bedroom holding the old double-bed, one long dresser, a side table with a lamp, and for the baby, the linen shelf she had converted from an old plant stand, and the crib squeezed into the only space left, nearly blocking the bedroom door.
“I wish I could be down there with you, dear,” her mother sighed.
“I know. I do too.” Tabitha hoped she sounded sincere. On the one hand, having her mother present during her labour would be a comfort. On the other, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. It was going to be hard enough being exposed to the midwives again! Tabitha never even let women in a change room see her naked, always putting on her swimsuit in the bathroom.
Still, she had imagined her mom waiting just outside the delivery room, and being one of the first to hold her new grandchild. That would have been wonderful.
“Did your washer and dryer ever come?” Her mom was asking.
“Yes, just yesterday.” With great relish, Tabitha described her new appliances as though they were toys. “They’re really shiny, Mom. So much better than going to the laundromat. I can’t believe we lucked out on an apartment with a laundry room, let alone that we were able to buy the set on sale. It’s going to make using cloth diapers much easier.”
Tabitha didn’t care that her mother was probably was rolling her eyes; this was a debate she had often gotten into with her. No, she did care. “I know you think it’s silly, but it’s really better for the environment.”
“All you’re doing is using more electricity,” her mother argued. “Why else did they invent disposables? God knows, if they had had disposables when you and your brother were babies…”
“There are mothers in India who never put their babies in diapers,” Tabitha pointed out. “Babies have survived being put in cloth diapers for thousands of years. It’ll help him to toilet train faster, if he feels the wet.”
“Tabitha. This is a baby. You’re looking at a year before that is even close to happening.”
“Yeah, well… I want to try it, anyway.” A lump pushed at her hand, to the left of her navel. It was most likely a foot. She prodded it back, and the foot abruptly struck her lower rib. “Ow. Besides, it’s a lot easier than it used to be, with the velcro Kushies instead of pins.”
She’d never be able to convince her mom, Tabitha knew.
“When will Dad be back from his business trip?”
“Oh, in about a week.” The tone of her mother’s voice changed from wistful to bemused. “He’s been trying to get me to fly out and join him in Vancouver, but I’d rather be closer to you. Maybe I should take the train down, what do you think about that?”
“Mom, you’d have to sleep on our couch. It’s just not practical.” Not to mention the single bathroom they’d have to share! “I’ll be fine. I can take care of a baby.”
“Really, it’s going to be great!”
“I mean, Alex is going to take a few days off, and the midwives will be doing two home visits, so I won’t be completely alone. I can take care of the baby.”
“What about the rabbit?”
Tabitha glanced down at the black-and-white German bunny sniffing around her feet. “I can take care of Beatrice too; she can run around while I’m feeding the baby. She won’t be a problem. We finally got her litter-trained, so cleaning the cage is easier, too.”
“Well, if you need me to take her, let me know.”
“It’s fine, Mom.” Tabitha cringed; she didn’t want to sound like a whiny teenager. “Listen, I have to go to the bathroom. I just got kicked in the bladder again. I’ll call you first thing tomorrow, and as soon as my labour starts, all right?”
“I love you, Tabby-cat.”
“Love you, too.”
Tabitha rubbed her belly as she set the phone back in its cradle. “Your grandmama is going to love you soooo much, little one,” she reflected aloud. “We just have to be patient a little while longer. It would be nice for her to be here, but we just don’t have the space! And I read all the books, I know how to take care of you. How hard can it be? You’re just one little baby!”
Her bump shifted abruptly, as though in response.
“Yes, yes, I get it. My poor bladder is crowding you. Well, let’s take care of that.” Quickly folding the last three blankets and setting them on the shelf, Tabitha grabbed her battered copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and headed to the bathroom.
And emerged, a short time later, feeling slightly disgruntled.
Where were all the signs of imminent labour? Her muscles had been scrunching and relaxing inconsistently for a week, a strange but not unpleasant sensation, but there had been no pain to suggest that it was time. Sherry, her primary caregiver, had said that she was experiencing pre-labour, and that it was a good thing. But nothing else had happened.
No bloody show. She wasn’t quite sure what that would be like, in spite of the book’s description.
No sudden gushes of fluid, or flare-ups of back pain, not that she really wanted to experience these things. Tabitha just wanted to have her baby, as quickly as possible. And if it was at all possible, it would be ideal if needles were not involved. It wouldn’t be comfortable, but unless medical intervention was absolutely necessary, no needles would come anywhere near her skin.
Admittedly, all the battle stories she’d heard from her prenatal classes, and read in her books, about the potential side effects of drugs on a baby’s brain — or on the mother, so she couldn’t remember giving birth — had strengthened her prejudice against modern medicine. Plus, the fact that even watching someone getting a needle made her nauseous made getting an epidermal completely out of the question. Absolutely nobody was getting near her spine with a sharp object unless she was knocked out, first.
Punctured spinal column. Tabitha shuddered at the thought.
Alex was completely on her side. He attended as many appointments with her as he could, and understood her fears. “I won’t let anyone touch you, unless there’s a problem,” he promised her, over and over.
She was relying on that.
Her mother had reminisced often enough about Tabitha’s own introduction to the world. In the late 1970s, she had had to shave, and have an enema at the start of the labour. Ick. Thank goodness hospitals no longer did any of that — Tabitha did not relish the picture her mother had painted of a woman who had just given birth running to the toilet. Sherry had laid those fears to rest in one of her early appointments.
“Enemas? No, no, that’s not done anymore,” she shook her head, smiling. “And you’ll only need a catheter if you go in for a c-section. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. If there is a problem, we’ll refer you right away to the obstetrician-gynocologist.”
“How quickly could the OB-GYN get there, if the baby’s in distress?” Alex knew all the terminology, from his years as a volunteer with the St. John Ambulance. He smiled at Tabitha, squeezing her hand as tightly as she held his own.
“He’ll be either in the hospital, or on-call, depending on how you are at the beginning of your labour.” Sherry consulted a schedule hanging on the wall. Her light brown curly hair reminded Tabitha of her mother. “In fact, the doctor has a couple of scheduled inductions and a caesarean booked around your due date. I don’t think you’ll need to worry, unless the baby is breech or something else is going on.”
So many things could go wrong, but Tabitha tried not to think about that. For over eight months, ever since she had confirmed that she was pregnant, she was only ever optimistic that her first birth would be perfect. Traditional, in the modern sense. She would breathe through the pains, using her meditation and yoga training. She would visualize, to help her body relax. She would have her favourite soft-rock or new age music playing, and a scented candle. They would be in the hospital, just in case, but Alex would be by her side through the whole experience and make sure that it was just like she wanted.
Twenty-four more hours, and she would be a mother. Alex would be a dad. All of this discomfort and concern would be behind them.
Thirty-six hours later, Tabitha had to stop herself from grinding her teeth with impatience.
“Honey, what are you doing with that shovel?”
Tabitha huffed and puffed, her breath coming in little clouds of condensation. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m shoveling.”
Alex approached her with the caution of a bomb defuser approaching an unknown container. “I can see that. But sweetheart, you’re nine months pregnant. Why don’t you let me do that?”
She glared at him over her muffler, without breaking her rhythm. “I’m fine. It’s just a couple of inches of snow.”