My mentor since high school, Kerry, told me something when she was pregnant that's always stuck with me. "Waiting for labor is like knowing you're going to be in a car accident. Who knows how severe it will be, but it's a car accident, and it's out there, and it's going to happen- sometime."
She later half-rescinded this comment, as her labor and delivery went perfectly smoothly with very little fuss. But too late, the metaphor had lodged permanently in my brain, and it kept me up at night, fretful and tossing and dreaming of rogue headlights, until around week 37. At that point, tossing was no longer a thing I could do. Moving from my left side to my right now requires props, pulleys, three strong men and a team of oxen. Now, at week 40, I fantasize about that luscious, mystical car accident. Skidding on light snow into the guard rail. A mac truck, wheeling out of control in the opposite lane, heading right towards me. Either way. Just deliver me of this Tasmanian Devil, this ball of elbows and feet and pointy appendiges who never ever EVER stops moving.
The same week that David and I purchased our home in West Asheville, an unknown developer purchased the adjacent lot next door. There is no fence, no trees, not even a single shrub separating the two properties; any onlooker would assume it's our side yard. We moved in, the months marched on, and the lot remained vacant- just an empty square of grass where Hometeam liked to bury her favorite stuffed toys. "You know what's going to happen, don't you," I said to David. "That lot is going to remain empty until the day we bring a newborn baby home. And then the construction will begin."
Three years passed. Then, when I was eight weeks pregnant, the machines showed up. The world's slowest, loudest, and most confusing construction project began. On the day where the porta-potty was plunked down next to my mailbox, I stepped outside and introduced myself to the developer. "I'm building this thing myself!" He declared with a tinge of rogue pride. "Might take me a while. When's your baby due?"
"About eight months from now."
"Oh that should be no problem- all the loud stuff will be done by then, we'll just be polishing up the interior."
Fast forward to August. After seven months of was seemed- at least from the outside- like a chaotic slurry of pipes, cement, supportive beams strung across our lawn, disrupted mail delivery and trash service (the machines hid our mail box and blocked the trash trucks) dehydrated workers sneaking into our screened-in porch to find shade and non-stop banging, the foundation was laid. The foundation was nearly as tall as our entire house. And it had taken seven whole months.
I kept my head down, slipping into my house after work and turning on fifteen floor fans to drown out the noise. I renamed my home Tornado Alley. Something was always blowing. I dutifully cleaned up the construction trash in our yard every morning, hoping my tiny effort would move things along. I kept my mouth shut and held lots of tension in my shoulders. Eventually, this project would be complete. It couldn't go on forever- could it? If it took seven entire months to build a concrete foundation, how long would it take to frame it? And do whatever it is that comes after framing? The math was dismal.
In mid-August, the developer abandoned the project. One morning, the machines did not show up. Someone came and picked up the toilet. A single, defiant stock of corn grew up in the midst of the cement and rebar and produced four perfect ears. The bare walls are so close we can reach out from our porch and run our hand against them.
Who cares. It's quiet now. It's as quiet as our neighborhood can be, anyway. May those concrete ruins remain their forever, ugly, dangerously strewn with errant nails, but not bothering us.
Life can be hard to plan for. Plots can twist.
During those nauseating first months, I agonized long hours over birth center care verses a standard OB practice. I desperately wanted to use the birth center, but it was not fully covered by our insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. It was partially covered, with the faint promise of further coverage in the future, but there was a very real possibility where choosing the birth center over Mission hospital would cost us thousands more.
Maybe. Hard to tell. There were many possible scenarios, at least where expenses were involved. Nobody seemed to really know anything. I whittled away at figures and lists, I called the insurers and my city council woman, hospital billing, Labor and Delivery ,the director of the birth center. If I could only be an informed consumer, then certainly I could make the right choice. The one where we got a baby and maybe some prenatal care and didn't end up paying off both in sizable installments over the next thirty five years.
Turns out, when you're anticipating the cost of giving birth in America, there is no such thing as being an informed consumer. Nobody is informed. It's a total crapshoot. Eventually, we opted for the birth center.
And thank god we did! Because not only did Blue Cross Blue Shield finally accept the birth center as entirely in-network, they also came barreling out of left field over the summer and announced that they were breaking up with Mission Hospital- the LARGEST hospital in Western North Carolina. As of six days from now, our hospital will be out of network for most of us who live in this town. Anyone with BCBS of NC- over 70% of Mission's current patrons, will have to find somewhere else to pull out their appendixes and deliver their babies.
See? These things are hard to plan for.
"You must be so excited!!!" People said this to me all the time in the past eight months. And because I am a chronic over-sharer, I always responded with the truth. "I sure would be, if dealing with insurance wasn't sucking every ounce of energy out of my soul."
But today is my due date, the corn is growing high in the abandoned construction project next door, and this week's latest attempt by republicans to strip us all of health care has died yet another death. What a time to be alive!
That's as much of an update as I have the time for today. I'm going to leave this cafe and head home to check under my pillow and see if my baby hasn't been delivered in my absence. She really is due to arrive any time today.