January 6, 2007

Black ice & beige gravy: an eventful Friday night

I was going to stop by Happy Hour, have a Diet Coke with my beer-loving friends, and then head home. I needed to eat dinner no later than 6:30. Perhaps I would have salmon. Then, I might visit MySpace or check in on my Sims.

I was thinking rather mundane thoughts as I stepped off the curb into the office parking lot, momentarily contemplating its icy treachery as I found a seemingly safe patch of pavement on which to place my shoe.


In a split second, I was thinking of nothing at all.

My face was pressed against the cold, wet pavement. The contents of my purse were spilled at my side. My laptop case was ten feet in front of me.

As the shock of the fall subsided, it was replaced by something more frightening.

I had flopped straight onto my belly. The force of my entire fall had been inflicted upon Rasbaby and her little home.

I found my cell phone among the scattered contents of my purse. I called Sam, sobbing so hard I could barely form words. He was on his way.

I continued to cry as indifferent coworkers drove past, showing enough concern to steer around the laptop case in the middle of the parking lot, but not quite enough to stop and talk to the woman sprawled out on the ground.

It was Friday night, I figured. It was 5:30. Nobody wanted to stay at the office a minute longer than necessary.

Or maybe they realized there was nothing they could do for me at that moment.

A very sweet woman stopped to help. A member of the night cleaning crew, she didn't speak English. She picked up my laptop and reassembled the contents of my purse and set them next to me.

She offered me her hand, to help me stand up. I couldn't. I was scared to stand on the ice again. Even if I were able to walk, I didn't know where to go.

I thought about physics. Force equals mass times acceleration. Gravity causes a falling body to accelerate at 9.8 meters per second per second.

I have a significant amount of mass. With boots on, I'm nearly 6 feet tall. How many meters is that?

How much force can one little amniotic sac absorb?

When Sam showed up, he helped me to my feet and asked me what I wanted to do. This only made me feel worse.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I should go to the emergency room or if I should go home and rest. I didn't know if I was overreacting, or if I was underreacting.

How dare he ask me what I wanted to do? I was a traumatized, sobbing, pregnant wreck with soaked jeans and skinned wrists. I didn't want to make a decision.

I got into my car, mindlessly merging into the gridlock of 395-North at rush hour. I thought through all the people I could call. Who could tell me what to do?

My mother? No, this kind of news would shoot her blood pressure into stroke range, and I didn't want to worry about my mother and daughter simultaneously.

911? Too extreme. If I can contemplate whether this qualifies as an emergency situation, I'm probably not in an emergency situation.

My obstetrician? Closed at 4:00.

But... wait... Wasn't there an option on my doctor's voice mail to be connected to an operator?

And so I called.

"I'm 7 months pregnant, I slipped on some ice and fell on my belly. What should I do?"

The operator sounded appropriately concerned, then offered to page the doctor on call. I gave her my cell phone number and felt a little better.

As I waited for the call back and slowly pushed through the traffic, I realized something. It had been half an hour since I fell, and I hadn't felt the baby move since then.

Rasbaby and I had a routine - Whenever I'd drive home from work, she'd kick and punch me until I couldn't take it anymore. Then, I would sing silly pop songs to soothe her.

Why wasn't she moving? Did she feel my stress - or was she in serious trouble?

The doctor called and directed me to the hospital for fetal monitoring. Relief washed over me. My concerns were validated, and I would soon be in a safe place.

Even though I was just blocks away from the hospital, my arrival wasn't smooth. An endless series of red lights. Construction everywhere. A baffling array of entrances, none of them anywhere near Labor & Delivery. A game of cell phone Marco Polo as Sam and I tried to find each other among unfamiliar corridors and skyways.

By the time I was in a hospital gown with an array of devices strapped around my belly, it had been an hour since the fall. I still hadn't felt so much as a poke from Rasbaby.

The rapid "whoosh whoosh" of her heartbeat on the monitor may have been the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

For two and a half hours, we stayed there.

Once I truly calmed down, Rasbaby started moving again. She kicked, punched, and twirled around.

Despite a series of little disappointments - the rather depressing diabetic food tray, the tiny bathroom with the burnt-out light, the blood draw that was only necessary because nobody knew my blood type (O positive, in case I ever forget again) - I appreciated my time in the hospital.

I found that the nurses were more kind and attentive than I had any right to expect.

I learned where the Labor & Delivery unit is located, even though I still have no idea where to park.

I decided that I will enlist Sam's help in smuggling me delicious food when Rasbaby is born.

I discovered a new appreciation for the little kicks and punches that keep me awake at night.

And when I do return to the hospital, hopefully in March, I will thank all the heavenly forces that allowed Rasbaby those last two months of safety, security, and the best shock-absorption system known to mankind.

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