Oh, yes, driving to the hospital on day 14 of labor.
We pulled up and I had the sickening sensation that we were once again too early, and that I was going to be shamefully discharged back home to a house full of temporarily sleeping preschoolers for another week or month of nightly contraction parties.
Dave asked if I wanted to be dropped off at the emergency door.
No. No I did not.
(Note: your wife does not want to be “dropped off” anywhere while she is laboring. Just a little cheat sheet for the menfolk out there in blogland.)
We park and I lean my head against the passenger side window and start whimpering about how we’re too early and they’re going to send us home. Dave convinces me to get out of the car and start what I’m sure will be the walk of shame to LDR. I carry my own purse. This is not looking good in terms of getting admitted.
I breathe calmly through a contraction as the ER (greeter? bouncer?) waves us on up to the birthing center. Hmmm, thought I, she must have thought I was in actual labor. Maybe, just maybe?
No sooner do we arrive at the nurses’ station then I have another decent contraction. Once again, breathing calmly (uncharacteristically so for my birthing style.) I fill out the requisite paperwork and am escorted to an actual delivery room. Not triage.
Holy crap, they believe me. What’s going to happen when they check and find out I’m only a 2?
I’m having less than positive thoughts about the birthing process and my body at this point, but feeling very kindly indeed toward the nursing staff. So kindly, in fact, that I invite the first person who enters the room to check my progress.
Um, let me grab a nurse, mom.
Oh, I’m sorry, laundry tech. I don’t usually solicit cervical exams from the hospitality staff, promise.
The past fortnight of falsies had all but destroyed my sense of common decency, let alone modesty. First-time-mom Jenny had explicit “do not offer to check me or give me pain medication” instructions in her 2 page birth plan. Old fourth-timer was hitting up strangers off the street for medical care.
The next person to enter the room was, happily, a trained and licensed RN who did, happily, discover my meager 2 centimeters from that morning’s prenatal appointment had magically become 5.
With my first two labors, I recall 5cm was around the point I started whimpering drug-seeking code words. (I couldn’t remember Evie’s labor in that moment, because God causes me to magically black out the previous birth experience by the time the next one rolls around, 20 months later. An evolutionary defense mechanism, I believe.)
Dave and I high-fived each other after the nurse told me “of course you’re staying, you’re in labor, honey” and I settled into my handsomely-appointed costume and … waited.
For 2 hours I submitted to continuous monitoring and IV antibiotic-drippage and multiple stab wounds because “rolling veins, lol” … some lucky lab tech even went ahead and blew a vein in my right arm which was many lol’s and much fun. And I was like, oh crap I’m in trouble because the IV stabbing and the burning penicillin (Strep B positive, baybee) hurts more than my contractions do…so when they do start for real, I’m in big trouble.
I just could not wrap my brain around the possibility that perhaps this labor was going to be a bit easier because perhaps my body had gotten a decent-ish head start over the past 2 weeks, or perhaps I had the uterine tone of a birth warrior, or perhaps, perhaps, perhaps….I just couldn’t even.
Oh, and p.s. my water had broken, but not all the way. So there was some kind of water balloon situation keeping baby high and “insufficiently applied,” hence the stupid contractions without pattern.
Well, at least I’d had time to shower and blow dry.
Around 5 am anesthesia came by and casually mentioned his shift was ending and would I like an epidural yet? I’d already sent him away once (WHAT??? See, this is why I was still not convinced of the reality of labor.) and I figured I’d better cowboy up and start the drugs since now I was 8 hours into my broken water situation and they were like, hey, ever tried Pitocin, little girl? We can hook you up and because I was crazed from lack of sleep and continual contractions I was like IF YOU WANT TO GIVE ME HEROIN BC YOU THINK IT WILL SPEED THINGS UP, GO RIGHT AHEAD LUMIERE.
And I figured (rightly so) that Pitocin contractions were going to be muy difficult than the generic human version, and guess what? Yes, yes they were.
This is the really fun part though, because even though the nurse anesthesiologist was super nice and super chill and wearing a head wrap and had his ear pierced and probably liked rock climbing…it didn’t work.
The epidural he performed on me did.not.work.
The Pitocin, however, was beginning to work. And I was at long last a hard-won 6 cm. But with feeling.
The nurses were kind but were probably like lady you need some sleep and just relax and watch Mean Girls (which I’d really lobbied for but soon lost interest in on the teeny hospital tv) but then when I almost donkey kicked the sweetheart administering my catheter (sorry/notsorry casual male readers) she was like “oh, you definitely should not be feeling that.”
Dave Matthews came back to the room literally on his way off the clock (there’s a lesson here, people) and gave me a “booster?” “ballast?” “bolus?” of extra meds and patted me on the back and said sorry that should do the trick.
But it did not.
At this point I was of two minds. On the one hand, that midnight purchase of “Hypnobabies” on ye olde Kindle a few weeks back was serving me moderately well during some of the contractions, but on ye other hand, I was only slightly over halfway there.
Another 20 minutes or so of “where in all of Arendale are those narcotics going if not to numb my pain?” and I was ringing the nurses’ station and considering my options. Happily for all parties involved, a lovely older woman named Barbara who’d been practicing anesthesia for 25 years came and pulled that epidural right out and started over. And this time? Like a charm.
The moral of this story is that there’s no harm in keeping an open mind about labor and birth even if you’ve delivered once or seven times before, because they’re all just a leeeetle bit different.
Now that I was become comfortably numb, the real business of being born could commence.
Except that for the next 5 hours or so, all that really happened was some halfhearted attempts at napping and, at one point, I actually sent my doctor to the cafeteria to get some lunch because he was talking to me about large game bow hunting (we’d already moved on from how to perfect the “Bic” method of hair care and also abortion, so we really had run out of things to discuss) and I was started to feel like a proverbial watched pot.
Not long after I’d sent away the best supporting actor, a nurse wheeled the delivery cart into the room and some nurses came in to start setting up the warmer. This part of labor (at least my labors) always seems so crazy to me because yes there’s pressure and yes, I realize a baby is going to be the eventual punchline of all this activity, but they’re just setting up as if one is actually coming along now, any time.
I always make sure to astutely vocalize this to any and all who will hear me.
Oh my gosh, I’m going to have a baby. A baby is coming!
Yes, crazy lady. Hence the copay.
This is a good point to interject that my nurse had slipped a paper into my hands a few minutes earlier with my graduation year, high school, and a classmate’s name written on it, and when I stared at her wondering if this was some kind of “is she drugged up enough to push?” litmus she smiled and asked if I remembered so-and-so, and did I know she was on staff and at the nurses’ station right now?
I did not attend my 10 year class reunion, but nothing says “how’ve you been?” like having your former classmate bring you a peanut ball while you’re in active labor. I was really happy to see her though. And that peanut ball got the job done. Last centimeter be gone.
Now the super special part of a medicated birth (mine, at least) where the whole room fills up with expectant faces and your doctor asks you if you’re ready to push.
The elusive “urge to push” is still not something I’m familiar with, but I guess my urge to not be pregnant any longer took over, because the eviction process commenced. My younger sister Lizzie had also joined us in the delivery room at this point, because when you’re on your millionth or so kid, you no longer care who is there, and honestly, I would have invited in the FedEx man at that point.
It was really cool to have my sister with me though. And more emotional than I expected. She very sweetly held a damp washcloth to my head and told me what a good job I was doing and pulled my hair back for me. In other words, she was an indentured doula.
I’d been pushing for about 20 minutes when I sighed in exasperation? confusion? and asked the entire room to “ballpark this for me.” Blank stares as they wondered why the pushing woman was polling the audience for an ETA.
I can’t explain it, just that between the epidural(s) and the Pit and the sleeplessness, I was kind of losing my edge and really wasn’t convinced a baby was coming out of this all and did it look like I was going to be done any time soon?
That’s kind of up to you, Jenny, was my good doctor’s gentle response.
So I summoned my reserves of strength and focus, looked at the clock and narrowed my eyes: this baby will be here by 2:20.
It was 2:14 pm.
And then, wonder of wonders, some short minutes later with a final push and a sudden flurry of activity when my doctor quietly and urgently announced a single word, shoulder, 6 nurses pounced on me simultaneously while doc got very, very involved in the birthing process himself and then oh my gosh, there’s a baby on my chest.
I blinked away tears and Dave said “a boy, another boy!” in wonder, his voice thick with emotion. I looked at my sweet little son, a little on the purple side but blinking and turning his head from side to side. His color pinked up right away but he did not utter many verbal confirmations of his arrival, much to the nurses’ continuing anxiety, but as they suctioned him while he lay on my chest, he made a few obligatory squeaks and they were satisfied. I’m so glad they didn’t cut his cord and whisk him away immediately, though I’d have understood if they had. He wasn’t distressed though, just quiet. Apgar of 8/9. Sweet little blue eyes open and wondering, looking all around the room.
Luke. Luke Maximilian, because thank you Jesus and thank you, St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day it was and who had come through with a delivery in exchange for which I promised middle naming rights. Also, he arrived at 2:19 on the dot. Which everyone in the room was kind of delighted by, not least of which his mother.
He was so darling, and he is so darling. He had some shoulder dystocia on the way out (hence the dreaded s-word, which apparently makes labor nurses very nervous indeed) and a double nuchal cord, but despite all that he came out healthy and has been the happiest, most perfectly lovable newborn in the world. All 8 lbs, 15.5 oz and 21 inches of him. And now at 2.5 weeks old and 9.5 lbs, he’s sleeping at least well enough to let mommy write his birth story.