Editor’s Note: I’m going to deal with every detail I can remember. Although I’m thrilled you are reading my birth story, I’m doing this to have a written record. So, if it’s not my usual witty concise writing, I hope you will be indulgent. -MO2
The hospital I delivered at is right next door to the perinatologist’s office. Odie and I had a short drive. One thing about being nine months pregnant, you don’t have to tell the people at the front desk of a hospital what you’re there for. The smart people who designed this hospital put Labor and Delivery on the first floor, very close to the front entrance.
The first time I came here to give birth, I was nervous and unfamiliar with the protocol. I was also gushing water with every contraction and feeling pain. I must thank my friend and coworker, Sarah, who gave me some chucks (those waterproof sheets they put under you in the hospital) for the car ride. She’s like that. Always giving you something you had no idea you would need.
I felt great that morning, June 27, 2011. Just very hungry. Pregnant ladies, if you think you’re going to go into labor, EAT. I swore that I would, and I didn’t. I had my last meal, a very small one, around 9 p.m. Sunday night and didn’t eat again until well after 9 p.m. Monday night.
In triage, they ask you a million questions. Once you are admitted, they ask you the same questions and more. I made Odie take the last picture of me pregnant on his phone since we didn’t have the camera. Then I put on the hospital gown. The nurse on-duty in triage informed me that they had ONE room left in Labor and Delivery, and I was lucky I came in when I did. Triage was empty when I got there and full when I left.
They kindly gave me a blanket to wrap around my back so I didn’t have to walk down the hall with my ass hanging out. I forced myself to be perfectly present as I entered the room. I took in the bed, the baby warming station where Pringles would go, the Daddy chair, the TV. Whoa, that is an old, shitty TV. Well, no matter. 40 weeks had brought us here. This would be the last time I would ever enter a hospital room happy and excited instead of sick and scared. Unless we get rich and I can afford the boob job, tummy tuck and face-lift I want. At 39, I don’t take for granted I’ll still be around when my daughters have their children. And if they’re like me, they won’t have visitors in the hospital when they do.
This would be my happy hospital room. I thought I had nothing but good times ahead. I was wrong.
Marie was my nurse. She had been on duty when I gave birth before, and I was happy to see her again because she was so sweet. Her shift had ended long before I gave birth to Viva, but she came to my room that night to congratulate me and meet my little baby girl. I thought that was charming.
What was less charming was how she blew my vein that first time. I had high hopes when she began the procedure this time, only to see them dashed against the rocks of disappointment. She was apologetic about the failure of my first IV, but nailed it the second time. I am not squeamish about needles, nor particularly sensitive to pain, so I assured her it was fine. She started pitocin at 10:30 a.m.
Odie was not with me during this time. He went home to get my hospital bag and our camera. His kiss when he returned told me he also drove through McDonald’s. Fuckface. I begged him to kiss me again. Why didn’t I EAT something?
Marie asked me if I wanted anything and I asked for cranberry juice. After taking a sip or two, alarms went off on the monitors in my room. Two additional nurses rushed in. One introduced herself as the charge nurse. They rolled me on one side, then the other. My baby’s heartrate had dropped. And here I was, so proud at the way they were praising Pringles’ heartrate up to then. Her variability looked “great.” Everyone commented on it. She was tolerating the pitocin induced contractions beautifully.
One of the nurses reached a gloved hand up to check my cervix and I actually screamed in pain. I always thought women who screamed during labor and delivery were being dramatic. They aren’t.
I reflexively wiggled to try to get away from my tormentor and the other nurses held me down. Someone put an oxygen mask on my face. It seemed like forever she was reaching up into me, moving my baby, trying to get her off the cord. I heard someone say, “No one else goes to the OR. Hold that gurney outside the door!” Some part of my brain, even in my agony, realized they were about to rush me to emergency surgery. I didn’t have time to be scared.
And then it ended as soon as it began. Pringles’ heartrate returned to normal. My tormenter removed her gloved hand from my brainstem. They propped me up in bed at an angle on my side.
“I guess your baby doesn’t like cranberry juice,” Marie joked.
I couldn’t bring myself to touch the juice again, despite her assurance there was no way the two could be connected. In my mind, the association was too strong.
Shortly after this incident, my OB, Dr. O showed up to break my water. I thought this was odd, considering I was being induced for low fluid. I wanted to ask her, “Don’t I need that?” but she’s the expert. So she sticks a hooked knitting needle dooley thingy up my hoo-ha and I’m screaming again. She apologizes emphatically as she does it, but HO-LEE CRAP that hurt. I’ve had just about enough pain from this delivery and damn it I haven’t even started having contractions yet!
Odie returns with my stuff. I’m glad he missed the “excitement.” He got to be spared the fear for his baby’s life. Oddly, I never felt afraid. I’m not sure if it was just self-centeredness, or that I trusted the hospital staff. Probably both.
Once, I had an upper GI test. After swallowing these capsules that filled my stomach with gas, I had a horrible sensation of not being able to breathe. My only thought was, “I’m in a hospital. If I pass out, they’ll take care of me.” Knowing that I could be rushed into the OR within minutes and have my baby out, I didn’t worry.
I was determined to do this birth differently than Viva’s. I delayed asking for the epidural because I wanted to experience labor. Bizarre as that may sound, I felt like I missed out on it, having the epidural so soon last time. Odie and I played Scrabble for a couple hours. I strongly believed that I should get extra points for any labor related words I could spell (“drugs” for example). My contractions began during that time and I felt them getting stronger and stronger. I had to pause and breathe and sometimes clutch Odie’s hand. Even though I was beating him at Scrabble for only the second time ever (I still believe he was throwing the game, no matter how he denies it), we abandoned it so I could bounce on the labor ball. That felt betterish. It feels good (“good” while in labor being a relative term) to sit on something soft and bouncy instead of a hard bed. I could rotate my hips during contractions, and that gave me some relief. We watched “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which isn’t as funny edited for television. It made me think of Kauai’s beaches to help distract me from pain. The movie has positive associations for me. Before I figured out side-lying nursing with Viva, I was up every two hours for about an hour all night long. I spent that time watching TV. “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” was my favorite. “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was new to the cable channel, so they ran it all the time. I watched it in whole and in part many times. I can’t think of O’Brien or Mila Kunis without my milk letting down.
When the contractions got bad, I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist came into the room, and I didn’t like him. I can’t tell you exactly why. I sensed arrogance. There was an almost indetectable change in the demeanor of my nurse. With my first birth, my epidural guy was an older, grandfatherly type who flirted harmlessly with the nurses and made them all sweet and giggly. My nurse lost all he warmth and became all business. After a few minutes, when I was pretty sure I felt him starting the epidural procedure over (he didn’t say anything to me during, so I was unaware what was happening to me), I had reason to dislike him. Like my IV, the first stick hadn’t worked. A day after my delivery, a giant bruise and two prick-marks in my back offered proof that I was right. I looked like I’d been jumped by a very short vampire.
And then, it didn’t really work so great. I noticed the IV bag said “Fentanyl” and something else on it, so I knew I was getting something narcotic. That explained my sudden chattiness. Oddly, it didn’t relieve my pain very well. I had this extreme pressure in my… uh, well… for lack of a better word, my taint. At first, it was just pressure, but over time, it became pain.
What I love about hospitals in the U.S. is exactly what so many natural birthers dislike. They really push the meds. Marie kept reminding me I could ask for more pain relief any time. So I asked her to bring back Dr. Vampire. He came in briskly and asked me where my pain was and to rate it 1-10. That is hard for me because as a teacher, a 6 is like a “D.” For a nurse, if your pain is a 6 out of 10, that’s REALLY bad pain. From my perspective, that pain is just below average. Does not meet standards.
As I’m explaining this to the doctor, Marie adds, “She says she feels a lot of pressure in her perineum.” And Dr. Vamp snaps at my sweet nurse.
“Let the patient answer my questions herself.” Marie does not respond.
“I feel a lot of pressure in my perineum,” I deadpan.
He gives me an extra dose of medication which helps. A little, but not for long. I think I asked for it again, or maybe twice more. regardless, I was crying through my contractions and getting no relief between them. Stupid pitocin.
What I discovered is that I had dilated from about five centimeters to ten in just over an hour. No epidural in the world was going to help me with that.
Odie was wonderful. He held my hand. He didn’t coddle me. He told me I was doing great and I was so close. That I was strong. Despite stereotypical representations of labor in print, television and film, I felt no ire toward him. If anything, I felt sorry for him. He loves me, you see, and I was in so much pain, I was sobbing. And there was almost nothing he could do.
Almost nothing. I was amazed for the second time at the pain relieving qualities of squeezing my husband’s hand. Especially the one with the wedding ring on it. That is some voodoo shit right there.
I cried and told Odie that I was terrified of pushing in this much pain. That I couldn’t do it. Marie overheard and she gave me the tough love pep talk. She said she would hear NONE of that. I had to breathe and relax and let my body do what it was made to do. No fear. There was nothing to be afraid of. Fear was my enemy. It would clamp my cervix closed and stop my baby from coming into this world. She told me to take a deep breath and let it out slow. I took a deep breath and let it out in a whimpering sob.
And then my baby’s heartbeat dropped again and people rushed in the room and the flipped me this way and flipped me that way and finally had me on my hands an knees. My doctor said, more tensely than I wanted her to sound, “I think we need to go to emergency section.” But the charge nurse said, “Wait.” She checked my cervix. I was already in so much pain, this was just more. I barely reacted. “She’s complete. Let’s have her push.”
“I’m worried this baby won’t tolerate pushing,” the doctor replied, looking at the monitors with a frown. I panted on my hands and knees, looking at Odie over the oxygen mask, my glasses fogged with sweat and tears.
“Try pushing,” the nurse instructed. I did. Pringles tolerated it fine. It was go time.
I pushed for almost two hours with Viva. I felt nothing. It was boring. In between contractions, I made awkward conversation with the doctor, Odie, and my nurse.
This time, I was in so much pain, I kept saying “I gotta get her out, I gotta get her out, I gotta get her out” in between pushes. For each “push” you push three times for 10 seconds each. I did that three times and she was out. Between the second and third round, I was panting and crying and Odie said to me, “Our baby has brown hair.” I reached down and felt her pointy little head. And I pushed until I thought I was going to have an aneurism, looked down, and saw my baby born. “My baby! My baby! My baby!” I said over and over, hugging her while they rubbed her with towels. She looked at me and cried. She looked exactly like my other baby.
I have never felt such physical relief in my entire life. No matter how bad the pain of labor is, or the burning, tearing feeling of pushing her out, it stops IMMEDIATELY when she’s born. I have never been so motivated to do something in my life. Three pushes. OUT.
And there she was. My perfect little Pringles. 7 pounds 2.8 ounces, 20.5 inches long.