Before we married Melanoma Man and I talked about having two children, as if it was all up to us. Thinking we were in charge of all the variables, and because we said so things would just happen the way we planned. The fact of the melanoma was there from the start. I pushed it aside, tried not to look. Two years after we married imac was born. Again it was a planned event. I planned to use self-hypnosis to get through labor. My walking partner, Judy, mother of three, physician and epidemiologist had done it. So I figured I could too. Judy's Dad was a psychiatrist and had taught her self hypnosis. She used it for the birth of all three of her children. My friend Marianne was a Doula and a Bradley method instructor at the time. The evidence was all around me that natural childbirth was feasible. After a bit I found a class, HypnoBirthing, one state away. Melanoma Man was game. We spent 8 weeks with six other couples watching videos of women quietly giving birth. There was no resemblance whatsoever to what I witnessed during my labor and delivery rotation in nursing school. I decided to believe in Hypnobirthing anyway. We had guided imagery scripts to practice with and a cassette tape, a t shirt and a pen with the Hypnobirthing logo. We did our homework, practiced. Pretending to give birth is like pretending to be dying I'm guessing. The pretend version really doesn't do it justice.
Imac's due date came and went. I had a doctor's appointment on his due date. Dr. B determined, "Nope it won't be today, not dilated." He gave us a time frame, after which, if labor had not begun, he would induce. I left the office crying. Dr. B. knew of my plans to use HypnoBirthing and to his credit he was not critical, offered no opinion, let me know I could change my mind at any time. That afternoon Melanoma Man and I went on a long hike, ate spicy food, did everything we could think of to induce labor. Nothing. Ten days would pass. On the tenth day I woke up around 5 a.m. feeling crampy. This is it. This is the day! Melanoma Man started in with the HypnoBirthing scripts around 7 a.m. We timed contractions and went to the hospital around 11 a.m. when the contractions had reached the frequency that warranted it. To my dismay I was only 2 cm dilated, zero percent effaced. I was advised to walk the halls, which I did for 2 hours. Then we were sent home. "How will I know when it's time to come back?" I asked. The labor and delivery nurse replied, "Oh you'll know. You will know."
Dutifully Melanoma Man read the scripts, checked on me. I didn't feel like I was on a pink cloud. I didn't feel like I was going to be ok and soon I started vomiting. The vomiting broke whatever little bit of spell the hypnosis might have cast and it continued every 20-30 minutes or so for the next 19 hours. Back at the hospital I wouldn't let Melanoma Man go to the cafeteria for dinner and I wouldn't let him eat the snacks I packed for him either. After 20 minutes or so, he said he was "stepping down the hall to the nurse's station." I knew he was going to the cafeteria, but I liked the idea that he was just down the hall, not two floors down in the cafeteria. Although I was in no medical danger whatsoever I became convinced that I was going to die and this is why it was absolutely imperative that Melanoma Man NOT leave the room. I thought that dying would be OK really. I thought Melanoma Man would do just fine as a single Dad. By this time I had already thrown in the towel on Hypnobirthing, asking my labor and delivery nurse for whatever relief modern medicine could afford me. "Not yet, too soon," she said.
Around 10 pm the anesthesiologist arrived to put in the epidural. I was prepped, in position sitting on the side of the bed,with my back beta-dined and ready. A contraction started. I asked him to wait. "No, this is the best time to put in an epidural, during a contraction," he said. I was doubtful. Next the pitocin drip to try to strengthen the contractions. Around 3:30 a.m. Dr. H came in and said imac had still not dropped and that I was only 4 cm and not effaced. He recommended a C-section, to be performed by his partner when she arrived at the hospital after a full night of sleep. Imac was delivered at 8:38 a.m. At this point I had decided to retract my earlier decision to have two children. One would be just fine.
At home I took everything too seriously. I couldn't watch the news or the television show ER or anything which might include bad outcomes or danger. I was stunned by the responsibility of this one baby, this one baby that I would leave at home to go back to work in 5 weeks. Melanoma Man ran the show for the first month, during which I was totally irrational. He had baby care down in a week. Thoughts of melanoma returned. I remembered a patient I'd had, showing up 5 years out from her first melanoma with a tumor in her jaw. I thought maybe I could manage raising one child by myself, but certainly not two. Twenty years as a litagator, he won that argument, as he has won most. I finally fessed up to Melanoma Man just last week, once our two children ages 10 and 12 were in bed: "you know the real reason I didn't want to have two kids was my fear of the melanoma coming back and me doing this on my own. Now I can't imagine imac without Butter or Butter without imac."