The sign on the physiotherapist’s door said: “Knock ONCE and wait PATIENTLY”. The physio ushered us into her office, while still treating a pregnant woman for problems she probably didn’t want to share with J-man and me. The physio was nudging 60, wearing a white zip-up coat and sneakers, and had a Carmela Soprano hairstyle. The open-plan surgery was very old school, with 1980s-style posters on the wall, baring slogans like “PELVIC FLOOR: USE IT OR LOSE IT”. Her writing was scrawled and heavily underlined on a couple of whiteboards: “TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE DURING CONSULTATIONS!”. We winced when J-man’s phone buzzed.
Over the next 30 minutes, these are some of the things she said while diagnosing me with something called Pelvic Girdle Pain (it sounds so benign and Victorian) and showing J-man how to massage me:
– “This is probably labour. You’ve been in labour since Friday.”
– “You want the pain to go away? Get that kid out.”
– “Take off all your clothes. But not there – anyone could just walk in and see you naked.”
– “I’m going to use a permanent marker on your buttocks.”
– “Joel, put your finger there. Ask if it hurts. Wait until she says yes and then press down hard.”
– “That’s good, Joel. See how she’s crying? Sometimes you’ve got to make them cry.”
– “Is that your pubis? Good! I’m pleased with your pubis.”
– “Now. Go home and have sex. I’m not joking – that’s the best way to get this kid out.”
Monday came and went, and Snorky did not arrive. At this rate she’ll be celebrating her 18th birthday in utero.
It was going to be the perfect labour story. I imagined telling my daughter about the night she was born: “Your Gigi and I were talking on the phone about when you might arrive, when I felt pain in my back, spreading around to my tummy. It was good pain, exciting pain,” I would tell her every birthday. “I had a deadline to meet the next morning, so I hung up and worked for hours on a project I was really proud of, happily feeling little pains every so often. After days of weird Spring heat, it was cool outside and the wind howled wildly. Your dad was watching Cloud Control play at the Metro and I texted him to say I thought you might be on your way. He told his friends the news, and we were all so thrilled. I had peanut butter on toast for dinner, and late that night, I went to bed and cradled my tummy, nervously imagining the next 24 hours and how much our lives would change.”
That was Thursday night. Little Snorky didn’t arrive. On Friday, I felt really uncomfortable. I still felt twinges when I walked. It was painful walking the six blocks to the coffee shop and home again, but I was so excited. That night, we went out for what I was sure would be our last meal as a childless couple, and by the end I could barely move. We had to catch a taxi the four blocks home. I thought: This! Is! It! I even had J-man take a photo of what was definitely my final day of pregnancy. How smug I felt.
On Saturday morning, her due date, Snorky was a no-show. When I tried to get up, I couldn’t, with a shooting pain ripping through my hip, my butt, and down my right leg. Every step I took was accompanied by an automatic wince or a scream or a cry. I spent Saturday on the couch in my dressing gown, with darling J-man tending to my every need. Before bed I tearfully talked to a midwife, who said the only cure for what she thought might be sciatica at this stage of pregnancy was to have the baby. I crawled onto our bed and cried in frustration. Today, Sunday, has been no improvement. Little Snorkel is in there moving around like it ain’t no thing, happy in her human spa bath while I grit my teeth in agony.
This morning I thought about how lucky I’ve been to have an incredibly smooth pregnancy, with no illness or complications. If this is all I have to endure before labour, then I should be thankful. And I am.
But so far, Snorkel’s labour story goes like this: “In the days before I had you, I was in so much pain that your dad had to do things like carry me to the toilet, help me bathe and put my underpants on. And that’s why he started dating men.”