“No need to worry or rush. You can wait an hour or two before coming into the hospital.” The sleepy foreign doctor declared. What? I thought.
“Yeah, OK,” I replied doubtfully, and pressed the “end” button on my cell phone with my shaky fingers.
“What did he say?” my husband muttered, half asleep.
“He said to wait an hour or two before coming into the hospital.” I replied.
“Oh. Can I go back to sleep, then?” He asked, eyes half-opened, rubbing his eyes with his fists.
“What?! No! Absolutely not! How could you sleep at a time like this?!” I yelled back.
He stumbled out of bed to try and calm me, but by the time his feet hit the brown carpeted floor of our bedroom, I had flown down the stairs into the kitchen to get things ready. There was still so much left to do. I began grabbing all our pre-packed bags and opened the case of Dr. Brown’s bottles I had received at my baby shower, haphazardly tossing them into the dishwasher. I went into our half bathroom downstairs to throw some makeup on and run a brush through my hair. During my stint as a stay-home pregnant wife, I had watched countless hours of daytime TV. One show that stuck out in my mind was Julie Chen telling pregnant women to brush their hair and put makeup on before going into the hospital, so they would look decent in the inevitable upcoming barrage of pictures that would take place.
This was going to be easy. I had watched all the shows, read all the books, magazines, and doctor’s office pamphlets I could handle over the past seven or eight months. I knew what was coming next. I would get to the hospital in plenty of time, labor for days, and be drugged up beyond recognition. That’s what happened on TV. They were educational shows on TLC, so they were right. They had all the facts.
I wasn’t in any pain at this point. My water had broken at 2:47 am, and Dr. Cutler had instructed me to wait a while before coming into the hospital. Around 3:45 am, we loaded the car up with our belongings, my husband put the car seat in the back, and we were on our way.
It was November 16th, 2010. It was dark and cold on our ride into the emergency room. The roads were desolate and quiet at this time in the morning. I recall wondering if the people in those houses we were riding past knew the gravity of the event that was happening on the road outside. Would everyone else’s life be changed from now on, or just ours?
We joked and laughed our entire ride into the hospital, walking into the emergency room recalling one of the numerous chick-flicks I had made my husband watch with me over the last several months. At this point, I was doing great. I was in no pain, and I knew I had this all under control – or so I thought. We made sure at this time to call all the necessary people to inform them that the show was underway. My husband called his boss and his parents, and I called my mother to let her know what was happening.
“Jack will show you the way to the maternity section of the hospital, ma’am. Please follow him.” The kind woman at the desk instructed, extending an arm toward a dark hallway. My husband and I eagerly followed him through the locked doors, and into the maternity ward. They showed us to our room, and our nurse was already there, prepping the machines, wires, and everything else that would be hooked up and attached to me. Technology beeped and buzzed all around us as she handed me my stylish hospital gown.
“Take everything off,” she said, smiling. “Even your underwear.”
I did as I was told, stripping down naked, all except my socks. There was NO WAY I was taking my socks off. They would have to pry the socks off my lifeless feet to get those. I glanced up at the clock. 5:35. OK. We were making good time. I wasn’t even in any pain yet. The nurse hooked my belly up to one machine that monitored the baby’s heart rate. It was steady and good, so she removed the device that was looped around my giant stomach.
“I’m feeling some cramping in my lower abdomen…kinda like period cramps, but not too bad. Are those contractions?” I asked.
“No,” She said. “I don’t think so.”
She continued fidgeting with the wiring, and started asking me a list of ridiculous questions like, “does your husband beat you?” and, “do you use street drugs?” I wondered if the people whose husbands DID beat them answered those questions honestly.
She continued asking me ridiculous questions, and I just tuned her out. My mother had arrived, and she kept telling everyone that would listen about how “women in our family go quickly!” I asked her to please stop saying the same phrase over and over again. I knew that. I didn’t need to hear it four thousand times.
My mother, eating her donut and loudly slurping her coffee, instructed me to get up and walk the halls. I put my blue fuzzy slippers on and began my trek throughout the halls of Saratoga Hospital. My husband’s parents had just shown up as well, and they were sitting in the dimly-lit waiting area reading People magazine. I waddled over to the threshold of the waiting room, peeked my head through the door, and said hello. They were beyond excited and were going to stay as late as they needed to. I began to feel some discomfort as I stood talking to them, grabbed my stomach, grinding my teeth for a second, leaving mid-sentence. I continued my walk through the halls with my mother trailing me repeating her new catch phrase,
“Women in our family go very quickly, you know?”
“Yes, mother, I know,” I replied back. “please stop saying that.”
We wandered back into our little room with the beeping machines. I glanced at the clock. It was around 6:30 am. When was this going to start? I was having a few moderate to severe period style pains, but nothing to really call serious. I sat on my uncomfortable bed and felt the scratchy, starchy sheets underneath my bare butt.
“Oh, shit!” I yelled. “Shit, shit shit! Aaaaaah! This does not feel good.” I was having contractions, I knew it. My nurse begged to differ.
“Here, honey. Let’s put the monitor on you to check the baby’s heart rate.”
She hooked me up to that same machine again, told me I was not having any contractions, and promptly removed the machine.
“Uh…well…I’m in pain, over here. Can you check me or something?” I asked, begging her for salvation with my big, brown eyes.
“Aw, honey…you’ve got quite a ways to go, yet. We’ll check you in a little while.”
“OK.” I replied, annoyed. I let out a huge sigh, and she left the room.
“Uh, you guys, I am in pain here.” I reiterated. My mother and husband looked at me with doubt. The nurse knew what she was doing. I did not. They were not about to take my word for it.
Gradually, the pain got worse and worse to a point where I could no longer walk around my little room. I sat in an uncomfortable stiff-backed blue chair, stomping my feet on the floor with each contraction. My mother was standing next to me timing them.
“Uh, your contractions are two minutes apart,” she told me. “I’m gonna go get that nurse again.”
I made my way slowly back to my bed, and sat on the edge. It was beginning to become all too real. I tried everything I could think of to stave off the pain, but nothing was working. I began to sob, blubbering uncontrollably. This was not what I was expecting. Where the hell were my drugs?!
The nurse came back into the room, gave me a quick once-over with her eyes, and hooked me back up to that stupid machine.
“Nope,” she said. “You’re still not having any real measurable contractions.” She restated. “My shift is over for the day. It’s 7am, and Paula will be your nurse for the rest of the day. I will be back around 7pm tonight, so I will see you then!” She said with a smile, waving and exiting the room. By now, I was getting to the point at which I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. I was a strong woman, but I had no clue how strong I really was. I was about to find out.
My new nurse, Paula came into the room. She was a stern-faced, slender woman with her nice blonde hair pulled loosely back in a clip.
“Hi,” she said dryly. No smile, no fake interest…nothing. “I’m Paula, your nurse.”
“Paula, I am in, like, serious pain here.” I said to her, tears drying on my face, rocking from side to side in my bed. The pain was bad enough now that crying was out of the question. Anger was beginning to set in. “Can you please check me?”
She put on a pair of latex gloves. They made that snapping sound that you hear in the movies when doctors pull them onto their hands. As she reached up and felt my cervix, all I could feel was an enormous amount of pressure radiating from inside my body. It felt as if the pressure was getting too much, and I would explode all over the room, and pieces would fly everywhere, covering Paula’s mean face, and that ridiculous machine.
“You’re four and a half, maaaaaaaybe five centimeters.” She stated. “Do you want an epidural?”
“No, she doesn’t,” my husband interjected.
“YES! Yes I do, please. Let’s do that.” I gave the final say, and that was that. Paula the nurse made the calls to the anesthesiologist and Dr. Cutler and began prepping me for my epidural. She inserted an IV into my left hand, and when she turned it on I had an awful stinging and burning sensation on my hand. It felt as if I was in a mobster movie and someone was putting out a lit cigar on my hand go get me to crack. I began to have another gut-wrenching contraction. I looked back to my wrist and letting out an “OW!”, then looked down at my belly only to let out another cry. I rolled back and forth from side to side of the bed, feeling as if someone were twisting my organs, stopping, then twisting even harder.
“You need to calm down, ma’am.” Paula said, letting out a sigh and rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, honey, you need to relax.” – my idiot husband.
I said nothing back to either of them, closed my eyes, and tried my hardest to breathe through these awful, twisting, burning contractions.
“Drink this, please,” Paula demanded, holding out a small cup that looked like a brown, tiny single-serve coffee creamer. I asked no questions, and breathing heavily, snatched the cup out of her hand, threw it into the back of my mouth, and tossed the empty container back in her direction. I had no time for this. I didn’t even know what was going on. I did know I felt like my internal organs would fall out any minute. The pressure was building, and I began to see stars, so I kept my eyes closed. I exhaled with force as much as I possibly could. I couldn’t see straight, let alone think straight. How long has it been? I looked up at the clock. About 7:15. WHAT?! It had only been about 15 minutes. That was it. I needed those drugs stat. Isn’t that what the doctors say? STAT.
“Where are my drugs?!” I half-yelled, half-cried to Paula.
“They’re on their way,” she snapped back at me. I could just see what she was thinking. It was written all over her face. Here’s another one. Some first-time little bitch who needs to toughen up. She’s only halfway there and she’s already throwing in the towel. This is going to be a long day.
Somewhere in my half dream-like state I heard that foreign voice reign through the room. Oh, God, there he was. FINALLY. Dr. Cutler had arrived to save me from all of this torture.
“So, we’re going to have a baby!” He said. So cliché. I was already annoyed with him. He put my legs up into the stirrups and checked my cervix.
“Nine centimeters, fully effaced.” I heard him say to the staff that stood around my wide open legs.
“WHAT?!” I screamed. “No! You can’t make me do this!” I shot straight up, swung my feet over the side of the bed and pointed to my lower back. “You can’t make me do this without drugs! Get it in!” I pleaded. “HURRY!” As soon as my feet hit the floor and my body was upright, I had the most overwhelming need to push I’ve ever had in my entire life.
“Oh my God, I have to push.” I said, eyes wide open, mouth about to hit the floor. I can only imagine the look of sheer horror that was on my face.
I felt the doctor’s hand on my shoulder, easing me back down onto the bed. He checked me once more, and said, “It’s time. It’s time to have a baby!”
“No!” I begged. “Please! You can’t make me do this! You can’t make me!” Then, all of a sudden, my body gave one involuntary push and I knew there was no chance in hell I was going to get that epidural. They instructed me to grab behind my thighs, inhale, and push as hard as I could.
I knew that. I watched all of those shows. I knew I was doing it all wrong. I didn’t care. I tried for a brief moment to come back into myself, to get a hold of some kind of reality, to buckle down, and take it like a woman. Women have done this for thousands and thousands of years, I thought to myself for a fleeting moment. I can do this. I don’t have a choice. I had been writhing around on this awful bed for what seemed like hours. My voice was raspy from screaming.
“You need to relax and focus, honey.” my husband said, putting his hand on my shoulder in, what seemed to me, to be false sympathy.
“Fuck you!” I screamed. “And fuck you, PAULA!” I looked at her like a raging bull, eyes huge, nostrils flared. She looked back at me with a look of sympathy and guilt. I remember hearing her confess to the doctor that she had just checked me no more than 15 minutes ago, and she thought I was nowhere near giving birth. Now, here I was roughly 20 minutes later, pushing a human being out of my vagina with no drugs because some know-it-all nurses didn’t believe I was in pain. Paula’s attitude toward me quickly changed. From then on, she was much more pleasant and helpful. I suppose taking someone for a wimp, and then realizing they really are in as much pain as they say they are must be a wake-up call for a nurse. I guess most people over exaggerate their pain. I wasn’t. She knew that now.
“I can see the head!” everyone in the room said at once.
“I am going to make a small incision.” The doctor said. Like it really mattered at this point. I saw the scissors get closer to my most sensitive areas, and I felt the cut that he made. It felt like using a brand new pair of metal scissors on a fresh piece of construction paper. I was in so much pain, that it felt almost relieving when he made that incision. Almost.
After that, the baby had settled. I was no longer having contractions, and I was no longer in too much overbearing pain, and I was able to just lay there, half-dead. I was blacking in and out of consciousness. They all kept urging me to push, but I had almost nothing left to give. I was out of steam, exhausted, and every inch of my body hurt. I was done. I lay there for a few moments, refusing to push anymore. I remember glancing at the clock. 7:36. Really? It seemed like I had been there for hours…maybe days. The next 25 minutes were me lazily pushing, trying to get this alien out of me. The initial shock of the pain had subsided, and I was left with a feeling like I had been beaten with a baseball bat from head to toe. You’re doing this all wrong. I said to myself again. I knew then and there that if I wanted to get this show over with, I had to search inside myself and find the strength to just do it. Just grab my tired legs and push as hard as humanly possible. I had already been pushing for about 40 minutes; I couldn’t handle much more of this.
I inhaled deeply, held my breath, reached above my head and grabbed the rails on the side of the bed, and put every ounce of energy I had left into pushing. I could feel the pressure in my face as my blood vessels were popping. Then, I felt it. I felt everything. It felt amazing. It was the most relieving, relaxing feeling I have ever felt in my entire life. He was out, he was screaming, and he was OK. It was all over. The entire past nine months was over. I let out a sigh of relief that I am still surprised didn’t blow the roof off that hospital.
“It’s a boy!” the doctor proclaimed. I have no idea what his face looked like, so don’t even ask. This guy was a cliché machine, I thought. Couldn’t he come up with some other way of announcing it? “8:06 am! How much do you think he weighs?” he asked me.
“Six pounds, something…” I said back with the hugest sigh of relief, not really caring about his question. Did he not just see what I did? Why would he ask me questions like this right now? “Is he OK?” I asked.
“He’s great!” My husband said, pacing back and forth between my bed, and the table they had the baby on.
That was it. It was over. They placed the baby on my chest, and I was too tired to even cry. I held him close, leaned back, closed my eyes, and took a few deep breaths. “Can I have some drugs NOW?” I asked. The answer was a resounding “no” since I was planning on breastfeeding. Oh, well. At least I tried. It was all over, and I had done it. My mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and said,
“You did it, kiddo. See? Now you know you can do anything.”
“I have never, in the entire time I have been in OB, ever seen anyone go that fast,” the doctor said, astonished. My mother, ruining the heartfelt moment we had just had, replied;
“I told ya, women in our family go very quickly.”