If you lay down, the baby will never come out!
-- Native American saying
I didn't think she'd take me seriously. Then again, I was pretty sure she was physically incapable of granting my request. I should have known better. After all, this was the same woman who spray-painted a cat's ass to ensure its adoption; this was my clever sister, who once magically convinced me to dress as a snow fairy and read storybooks to a bunch of doctors' kids for hours on end. "Hold it in, Jane," I'd said, watching through the window as cotton-ball--sized puffs of snow floated to the ground 3000 miles away from her. "I want to be in town when this baby is born. So think like a rabbit and don't let go until I get back." Jane promised to do her best, but not for my sake -- she needed time to prepare for baby number two. At the time of my request, Jane was "three centimeters dilated." If you don't know what that means, it's probably for the best. Just think of it as "The garage door is partially open." When I returned to town, Jane's "garage door" had opened a few centimeters more, reaching the halfway mark. On Monday, Jane's doctor told her not to venture too far from the hospital and said she'd be surprised if Jane made it through the weekend.
Tuesday came and Jane offered to take me to lunch. She didn't tell me we'd be going to Chuck E. Fucking Cheese's, or that she'd get a great big kick watching me chase her three-year-old through the bright, loudly bleeping gauntlet, but I didn't mind as much as she thought I would. The place was nearly empty and my niece was star struck by the giant animatronic mouse. Sure, we were frightened by the yellow hair and fuchsia talons of a few deep-cleavaged Vegas mommies, and every surface was probably coated in kiddie germs and fecal matter, but upbeat attitudes and a bottle of Purell ensured our fun.
Jane had finally tied up all those loose ends, and she was ready to meet her new family member. Unfortunately for her, the itty bitty body in her belly had plans of its own. Jane was not worried -- she had the kid's room number and knew how to send a wake-up call. When she'd wanted Bella to arrive before the hectic Thanksgiving holiday, Jane spent a full day power shopping at Fashion Valley with her friend Marissa pacing her and then went home and ate a large portion of Simon's spicy chili con carne. Sure enough, after one massive contraction, a phone call, lies about how many contractions she'd had and for how long, she arrived at the hospital with her garage door open almost all the way and just enough time to have drugs injected into her spine before Bella came tumbling into the world.
Now, with a three-year-old in tow, it's not as easy to power shop, so Jane resorted to power walking around her neighborhood (apparently, when trying to coax a little one from your loins, assigning the word "power" to your physical activity of choice is imperative). A few blocks away from Jane's house, we saw a woman pushing a stroller across the broad street. She smiled our way and then, holding her hand a few feet above her stomach to indicate Jane's impressive paunch, she shouted, "How long?"
"I'm five centimeters dilated and 70 percent effaced! " Jane yelled back to the woman and everyone else within the same zip code. The woman rewarded this graphic declaration by spurting a series of "Wow"s and "My God"s before she finally ended with, "Then it's any minute. It's now! Good luck!" and continued on her way.
I quickly dismissed the notion of asking Jane to explain the term, "effaced." As someone who gets grossed out by her own saliva, I'd had quite enough biology talk for one day. That night and the following, I was on baby watch -- if Jane went into full-blown labor, I would be at her house in 15 minutes to keep an eye on a sleeping Bella so that Simon could take his wife to the hospital.
My phone rang early Thursday morning. When I picked up the receiver, I heard, "Still five centimeters, 70 percent effaced, I'm not in labor, want to go to Target?" Sick of being asked the same question at the beginning of every phone conversation, Jane had taken to blurting out her status before even saying hello.
I agreed to join her, but first I had to look up that term Jane kept repeating. I assumed it was akin to the baby saying, "I just need to put on my socks and shoes and then I'm out the door." In this case, the dictionary was no help, as it defined "effaced" as meaning either "to rub away," or "someone who is shy." A quick Google search turned up something about the cervix thinning and shrinking. Hmm , rubbed away and shy.
Jane laughed when I suggested I follow her around Target with a towel in my hands, "just in case." I was unable to adopt my sister's cavalier attitude about her physical state; every time she bent over to check the price on something, I instinctively grabbed a corner of Bella's pink blanket.
While the guy in red was ringing up Jane's cartload, I said I needed to call home and check in. Jane cooed sarcastically, "David, I need you to run me a bath."
"No, it's not that," I said, smiling mischievously. "I had my bath last night."
"Oh, David," Jane continued, her voice dripping saccharine, "can you feed me cheese while staring longingly into my eyes?"
"Shut up, prego. You're just jealous."
"Hm, beh beh ? Wine and chocolate in the bath ?"
"That's it," I said in mock anger. "You keep this up, and I will punch you in your stomach ." Jane laughed. Encouraged, I continued, "Don't think that getting knocked up is going to protect you or your belly from a noogie." Realizing we hadn't moved in a while, I glanced over to see what the hold-up was and found the guy in the smock staring at my card as if I'd spit on it before handing it to him. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hit her," I said by way of comfort. "At least not here ."
That evening, Jane and I were sprawled side by side on her couch. "It's so frustrating to not know when it's going to happen," she said. "I tried everything. Exercising, eating spicy food..." That left one. Earlier, she'd told me that the third and most doctor-guaranteed way to induce labor was sex. But, understandably, she and Simon decided against this method to spare themselves the trauma.
"Here, feel this," Jane said. I placed my hand on her stomach. A second later, I felt pressure on my hand, like knuckles rubbing against the length of my palm.
"Okay, that's just freaky," I said, keeping my hand pressed firmly against the thin wall between my flesh and the baby's. "It's like you're growing this thing and it's going to come alive and burst forth from you, like an alien."
"Yeah, it's pretty crazy," Jane agreed. We sat there like that for a while, my hand on her stomach, every few minutes saying something like, "Wow," or "Do you think that's a knee or an elbow?"
To her doctor's surprise, Jane made it through the weekend, despite the miles of power walking, extra red pepper flakes on her food, and telepathic urging. It was as if the child wanted to prove a point -- I'm calling the shots this time, lady, and your job is to sit back and make the milk. But Monday night, seven days after Jane's doctor said "any minute now," the child finally decided it was time to say hey. All that power walking and fiery food probably contributed to the quick and easy labor of less than an hour.
With so few surprises in life, Jane and Simon decided to leave the baby's gender a mystery while in the womb. Now it's Tuesday, and everyone in the family is speed dialing their phones to spread my clan's happy news to friends and family near and far: "It's a girl! And her name is Olivia." Welcome, Olivia.