In late 2009, after being married two months and spouting off about how we were going to wait to have children, I got pregnant.
My firm was facing cutbacks and I volunteered to be laid off so I could revel in the miracle of life’s beginnings, absorb the peaceful last days of un-motherhood, and act as the general contractor for our basement remodel.
I finalized designs, hired subcontractors, secured permits, scheduled construction and shopped for materials.
I got to use a clipboard.
At first, I was as a conductor. On a perfectly orchestrated afternoon, the electrician would pull up as the plumber was leaving, and the driveway would clear out in time for the lumber delivery.
At second, I ran into an enormous energy deficiency. Thankfully, once the construction was set in motion I was able to rest in the company of strange men blasting pneumatic nail guns.
The incubating baby must have interfered with my brain’s ability to pick up common sense signals. I hadn’t entertained the possibility of a glitch in either my pregnancy OR home renovation. Any bozo in their right mind knows that neither of those two things ever go as planned. This pregnant bozo did not.
A few months in, my crotch gave out.
Standing upright gave me a strong impression that the baby, along with the entire top half of my body, was about to drop out through my girl parts. If I moved my legs independently of one another, as legs are in the habit of doing, a sharp pain alerted me that I was in danger of splitting at the groin like a wishbone. To alleviate my symptoms, I settled into a delicately balanced arrangement of supportive pillows and cried for three months.
With my clipboard.
My doctor sucked. Upon hearing my complaint she told me I wasn’t handling pregnancy well. Comparatively, she had performed with her Celtic dance troupe well into her third trimester. I didn’t change doctors, which further supports my synaptic lapse theory.
At week thirty, my pubicular complaining drew her attention to my harmless Braxton-Hicks contractions. She cried, “Pre-term labor!” and sent me to the hospital for monitoring and steroid injections. I returned home thoroughly freaked out, left off whining about my busted yahoo, and concentrated on staying pregnant as long as I was supposed to.
Meanwhile, in the other downstairs...some jack-ass jackhammered a hole in the floor and poured a concrete foundation for a support post to hold a 25-foot, custom made, steel beam...six inches off the mark. The engineer came back, the city had to approve new drawings and my perfectly executed construction schedule was shot.
A few weeks later we had a heat wave while the duct work was being installed for the air conditioning system. I gained ten pounds in a week. It looked as though someone had tucked a hose under my skin and filled me like a water balloon. Desperate to escape the 103 degree inferno, I borrowed and mounted a mobile AC unit in the window of the bedroom and sequestered myself in a fortress of freon.
I continued to direct construction from my *waterbed.
(*Not an actual waterbed, just my liquid retaining body in a horizontal position.)
Until my kidneys failed.
My uber-hydrated physique sent my doctor into a spin at week thirty-nine. By this time I was unimpressed with the things she chose to give her attention versus not, and thought little of her concern. Until I saw test results confirming pre-eclampsia.
Back to the hospital.
Beginning with the least invasive method possible, a cervical dilator inserted like a tampon, kicked labor off right proper and delivered me twelve hours of intense contractions, that tapered, then stopped altogether, leaving me a measly four centimeters dilated. (Reminder: you need ten.)
It should be illegal to administer the labor inducing drug, Pitocin without pain relief. The hospital staff pretended they were respecting my wish to have as unmedicated a birth as possible, but I suspect they hated me. I suffered through the next eight hours on straight Pitocin before I begged for my life. When the Pitocin stopped, my “labor” ceased again. At six centimeters dilated. The anesthesiologist came and I professed my undying love to him while he administered an epidural. The Pitocin went back to work while I rested through the night. The next morning I was set to launch.
I had a baby and a perfect one at that. Her arrival was only traumatic for me, and for her father, whose head I nearly squeezed off while he assisted me in the birthing process.
After five days in the hospital we returned home as a family. The air conditioning had become functional while we were away. Things were really looking up.
The early baby and behind schedule basement meant I was destined to share my postpartum days with the drywall team and the carpet installer.
My husband suggested the can of vulva-numbing agent and maxi pads I arranged like trophies on the back of the single toilet in the house, might make the workers uncomfortable. I was counting on it.
And then the dog fell off the roof.
He was supposed to be away the first week as we eased into baby life. Instead, he chased a squirrel onto the balcony of the condo where he was staying and launched himself over, thwacking the roof of the next level down, before splatting to the sidewalk three stories below. The plummeting pup was alive, but under suspicion for internal bleeding. He was heavily doped and in no condition to return to condo ing. So, on our first day home my husband left to retrieve the half dead dog, and brought him home to convalesce alongside our fresh baby and what was left of me.
* * *
I learned my lesson: no more construction projects while pregnant. I waited until our firstborn was a preschooler and had a toddler sister before I suggested we remodel our kitchen. If you can believe it, wrangling two young children through a construction zone while feeding them from a makeshift outdoor kitchen through three months of wet Oregon winter, wasn’t all that much better than pregnant with a broken crotch basement construction. In just one week our furnace gave out because a spider had laid an egg sack in the main vent line, but not before the house warmed up enough to hatch dormant fleas eggs, the remnants of an honest-to-goodness typhoon came through our back porch kitchen, my keys went missing and were suspected to have been dropped by a child into one of the many open walls in the house, and we all got food poisoning from Mexican take out.