I’m hovered over the toilet, panting as the contents of my day sting my esophagus, splashing acid upwards through my throat. Guacamole was probably a bad choice. I typically don’t opt for avocados outside of my home state.
“Stop doing drugs!” the worker outside the door screams. “I know what you’re doing!”
A bead of sweat trickles from my forehead into my mouth and I taste the chalky tang of day-old dry shampoo. Good thing I switched to the all-natural stuff. I certainly never planned to eat it. Bracing for another contraction, I’m convinced I’m going to have this baby on the floor of Atlanta International’s B Terminal.
“You’ve been in there for 20 minutes. This isn’t your private hotel room!”
God, what I wouldn’t give for a private room. The family restroom is hard and dirty. I grit my teeth and muster out a moaning plea for the woman to leave me alone, but she’s the least of my worries.
I tell myself to let it go, and a series of synapses fire suddenly. Snippets of life flood forth to distract me. In my mind, I play my favorite scene from Frozen. Let it go, let it go. I see my boys’ faces at home, I see my husband’s hand helping me labor back at the hospital in San Diego. That’s how these things are supposed to be.
Above the biting pain is an anger and deep self-pity pathetically straining to mask my fear. Why do I have to deal with this? Nate told me not to travel this late. Should I call 911? No, it’ll stop.
Chelsea, for crap’s sake, calm down.
“What if someone else has to pee? You are a rude person.” She has an underlying accent, stifled from years in the states. Jamaican? I can’t place it. Somewhere I’ve never been. Hopefully, somewhere I’ll never go.
I sort through the mental checklist from the doctors. I’ve been drinking a ton of water, I’m plenty hydrated. I didn’t do any strenuous activities today. It’s definitely the stress aggravating my condition. “Irritable Uterus,” the doctor called it. I told him that was the most ridiculous name I had ever heard. At least give it a name that somehow dignifies the pain. Spontaneous Stomach Hellfire. Unfathomable Internal Skewering.
The baby responds with a lurching roll as another contraction wracks us and I tremble violently. For a minute I’m afraid I’ll die. It doesn’t feel like a person can survive this. I vividly imagine my contorted body being discovered in the morning and I clutch my phone, my lifeline to the outside if things get really out of hand.
The woman starts vigorously attacking the door handle. I’m not sure if I want it to hold or not. At least if the barrier gives, she could bring some paramedics to help. Yeah, right. She’d probably just kick me in the ribs and run off with my wallet. Where do I draw the line between normal “irritation” and actual labor? How long has it been this time? Half an hour, maybe? Every two minutes? I feel blinded and I struggle to think with my thoughts being violently crashed into.
It’ll stop, Chelsea, calm down.
The thought brings forth an audible choking laugh, a sick gurgly sound. Trying to make me calm down is like telling a cow not to moo. A fleeting thought; I bitterly blame my mom. She’s so high-strung. Come to think of it, my dad isn’t particularly mellow. Then again, personalities aren’t really inherited. I’m this way all on my own.
I feel a flood of cold in my veins as my muscles suddenly start to relax. It’s ending, and I’m fine. I say it aloud to myself repeatedly, apprehensive tears of relief squeezing between my eyelids like rain through a broken window. I’m fine.
I sit on the urine-splattered floor for a few minutes before trying to stand, wobbly and awkward as a newborn deer. Dignity hardly matters at this point, but I manage to run a damp paper towel over my hair and untangle the chunks of vomit. My nose and throat burn. I make a mental note to start carrying mints.
Slipping quietly out and heading in the direction of my next gate, I hope the woman has moved on. A janitorial uniform emerges out of the corner of my eye. “Bitch, what were you doing in there? Having a frickin baby?” she calls at my backside.
I turn, slowly, so she can make out my full figure.
“Actually, I’m 7 months pregnant and I have a medical condition that causes early contractions and can lead to preterm labor. So yes, I was just about to have a baby in there.”
Her eyes drop and she stammers as other employees emerge from the far corners of the abandoned terminal, scrubbers and vending items in-hand. This is the airport entertainment at 2am. “I-I was just worried about you. I was about to call 911.”
“No, you weren’t. And your constant screaming was really unhelpful. Maybe next time you’ll consider the potential circumstances and have a little compassion.”
I mutter an expletive under my breath as I turn, feeling pairs of eyes following me quietly.
I feel proud of myself. Not for the expletive – classy, Chelsea, really classy – but for the rest of it. For recovering. For generally managing to keep the world at bay.
It had been a month since my last episode. The fact that I got through six days of round-the-clock work and travel before it became too much…that was actually an accomplishment. I’d known going into this pregnancy that I would face extreme pain, and that I’d come out the other side.
What I didn’t know was that this pregnancy and this child in particular would meld me into a better, more articulate and calmer person. Friends and family have commented on my newfound ability to keep my cool.
If Frozen didn’t do the trick, my uterus sure as heck taught me to let things go.