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A funny thing happened on the way home from Connecticut (part 1)

While I am sure he will eventually become a pain in my ass, Charlie's entry into the world began instead with a pain in my abdomen.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I had a stomach ache, bad enough to make me fractious and bad enough to make me call the doctor's office to ask whether I could have something a little more potent than Maalox or Tums, though not bad enough to make me casually request a snifter of Demerol. The answer, alas, was no — if over-the-counter antacids weren't working, I'd have to go in for an appointment before they'd okay anything stronger. ("Don't eat anything," the nurse helpfully suggested, an intriguing piece of medical advice when given to a gestational diabetic.) I made an appointment for late the next day, after we'd planned to leave for Thanksgiving in Connecticut with Paul's family, and hoped the pain would magically vanish before our plans were compromised.

And it did. Around 5 o'clock that evening, I suddenly felt quite normal again. Since I was perfectly well the next morning, too, I cancelled my appointment and we headed down the road.

(Here is where the sirens should be going off, howling, "PLOT POINT! PLOT POINT! FATAL ERROR! TRAGIC FLAW!")

Now it was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. We stopped for dinner — a glycemically virtuous affair involving a cheeseburger with no bun, some lackluster steamed broccoli, and a carefully calibrated handful of French fries. Six hours later we were in our hotel, Paul was in bed, and I was stretched out on the bathroom floor, thinking I was going to die, grateful only that the tile was cleaner than mine at home after 9 weeks without housework privileges. My stomach hurt terribly, with a dull constant pain, and my right shoulder felt like it had been wrenched. I assumed I'd strained it as I held myself above the toilet, trying very hard (but unproductively) to retch myself into good health again.


And by 10 AM on Thanksgiving, once again I was fine. I don't mean I was feeling suddenly less bad; I mean I was feeling perfectly normal, shoulder included. I ate what made me happy, and was quietly elated when I saw that my blood glucose stayed well within normal limits. Maybe Thanksgiving wasn't a total wash, I thought, carrying away a plate of pie to serve as my mandated bedtime snack.

Friday morning, Paul went out to his aunt's house with his sister, leaving the car for me so that I could follow later. I ate a normal breakfast, noodled around online a bit, and dawdled over hair and makeup as long as I could before leaving. I suspected a family baby shower was in the works based on some huddled conversations I'd pretended not to notice, so I wanted to give them time to make everything nice before I arrived, and I wanted to look especially nice for the pictures.


Before I even made it out to the car, the stomach pain had set in again. But I was determined to get there, and I was sure I could handle the drive. Through unfamiliar territory. With directions by Mapquest. And crippling abdominal pain.


Suffice it to say that between the pain in my stomach and the fiendish machinations of the sadists who programmed Mapquest, I have no idea where I drove during the next two hours, despite stopping thrice to ask where I was. I saw an awful lot of Connecticut, though I never got anywhere near Paul's aunt's house. I ended up beached outside a Costco, dialing my cell phone with fumbling thumbs, asking for directions. "We'll come get you," said Paul's cousin instead. I tilted my seat back and waited.

When they arrived, Paul took the wheel. I vomited quietly down my sweater, onto my jeans, into my jacket. I don't remember what we laughed about, but we did. Must have been really fucking funny.

I went immediately into Paul's aunt's room, where I would spend the next eight hours throwing up bile and trying to rest. Paul's cousins were so kind to me, rubbing my feet, offering tea, stroking my forehead as I lay in state, and yet I was happiest when they'd gone, when I could lie quietly, alone, without worrying that I smelled like vomit.

Time passed. That's all I know.

I can't really explain why we hadn't called a doctor or gone to the hospital, because it was bad enough that we should have. I will always regret that decision. Even if we hadn't been able to keep Charlie inside a single minute longer, a steroid shot as late as Friday night could have made a big difference to the health of his lungs. I can only say that I felt the baby was absolutely well — he was moving as much as ever, vigorously but not frantically, enough to make me resent the kicks he was merrily delivering to places that were hurting already.

But by 9 PM I was fine.

Back at the hotel, we sprawled across the bed and lay quietly watching TV. We shared a Diet Pepsi. We slept. Paul patted me in the night, as he often does. I thought it would all be okay.

Saturday morning, I was all right until about half an hour after eating a banana and drinking some water. At last I called my doctor, who okayed a dose of Zantac. "I can't prescribe anything over the phone," she pointed out, "so if the pain is really that bad, you should go to a hospital where they'll be able to check you out. Oh, and go to a pharmacy and use their blood pressure machine. If it's high, you should get looked at."

Paul drove us to the big grocery store down the street from our hotel. We made straight for the antacids, where I ripped open a box of Zantac and took one as I stood in the middle of the aisle. I went to the store's pharmacy then and strapped myself into the cuff. 145/90, especially high for me.

Between dry heaves into the balled-up sweater I'd removed, I paged my doctor again and waited for her to call back. 15 minutes passed. Half an hour. 45. She didn't call. I finally said to Paul, "Please go ask the pharmacist where the hospital is. I think we need to go."