Poomergency. It is a term that my Chen cousins have coined by way of necessity and it means exactly what it sounds like it means: when you need to poo and it is an emergency.
One month before Carter’s due date, on the day I didn’t know Carter was to be born, this is how I felt. Just on the verge of poomergency, but not quite over the brink. Sitting through a training on project-based learning at The Averroes Institute…nagging discomfort. Chatting with teachers over lunch…failed bathroom attempt. Getting my hair cut…squirming pain. Then, on my way to dinner at my in-laws’ home, the feeling most decidedly leapt over the brink. I called Andy to tell him I was going to go home first to handle my business before heading over; meanwhile, I was furiously texting my cousin the play by play of my bowels. Not. Going. To. Make. It.
Just when I got home and tore off my pants, ready for relief, my boss called. Oh the horror! I shimmied back into my pants – I don’t know why, it’s not like she could see me- and tried to maintain a professional tone for the next twenty minutes before, finally, finding relief. Feeling much better, I went over to dinner at my in-laws’ and helped myself to two heaping enchilada servings. The baby extended his legs deep into my right rib cage and kicked excitedly.
Around 8:30 pm, Andy and I drove over to Nordstrom Rack to meet a couple friends who were doing some spontaneous Friday night shopping. We perused the baby clothes and picked out a couple potential onsies before making our way over to the shoe aisles. My stomach started churning. I ignored it and wandered with Andy over to the men’s section when the pain came back more insistently. I told myself to wait until we went home before, you know, blowing up another bathroom. But, a few minutes later, pain changed my mind and I went to the bathroom only to discover that my underwear was soaked in bright, red blood.
I called Andy and tried to stay calm, despite my heart leaping erratically around my chest. “Andy? We need to go to the ER, I’m bleeding. Everywhere.” He told me it would be okay and that he was waiting for me outside the bathroom. Still sitting on the toilet, I called my mom to tell her I was going to the ER; I could hear the worry in her voice as she also tried to steady her concern over the phone. I sat and stared at the blood, breathed deeply and forced my thoughts into focus. Then, my friend came in to check on me and she helped me out of the bathroom where Andy was waiting anxiously.
I lay down in the front seat of the car with my eyes closed, wavering between total calm and cold fear. The baby is fine, it’s going to be okay, it’s probably nothing. The baby’s life-sustaining fluids are draining away, he’s suffering, he might not make it. No, no. It’s going to be fine. Remember reading about spotting online? This is probably normal and the ER doctors will laugh at you for worrying. Then, you can laugh too. In a couple hours, you’ll be curled up at home in bed. You’re going to lose your baby tonight, he’s sick, he’s dying. No. No. No. It is going to be fine. Breathe.
Andy became a race car driver as he sped toward the emergency room; every stoplight turned green just in time for us to zoom through – just one of many tender mercies and miracles to unfold throughout the night. His mind circulated the thought, “I have to drive fast, but I have to be calm and safe.” We reached the ER in five minutes, one third the usual time.
As we checked into the ER, the nurse asked me with a smile, “Are you in labor? Are you having your baby tonight?” And I laughed and told him, “Oh, no. I still have another month. I am bleeding a little down there and we wanted to make sure the baby is alright.” He sent me up to Labor and Delivery to be examined. The nurse who took my vitals seemed to brush off my symptoms and chalked up our visit to first-time parent jitters. Apparently, blood spotting happens often and she was sure I’d be home after the doctor’s examination. She did not, however, pay attention to the volume of blood that soaked my undergarments.
In another miracle, the doctor on call was Dr. Mason, my mother’s OB and my step-father’s colleague; her office is directly across the hall from his practice. She is a no-nonsense woman with a sense of humor that can put anyone at ease. At a first glance, she seems to be cut from a blended cloth of civil rights activist and nature-loving hippie. After engaging in a few lighthearted and humorous greetings with me, Andy and my mother, she began her examination.
In less than a minute, she looked up and announced with a smile, “Well, you are three centimeters dilated. You are in labor!”