I was tired, itchy, and sore. For weeks, I had been waking up in the middle of the night, slathering on as much lotion as possible in the hopes of calming down my inflamed skin, which seemed to have turned on me. The doctors labeled it “hormones.” I labeled it annoying. After falling down seven steps in our home due to slippery feet from all that lotion, bruising my tail bone, and having the consequent emergency non-stress tests done, I was looking forward to an end to it all. When I reached 39 weeks and my doctor asked if I wanted to be induced, I was ecstatic and ready.
This was a huge change from my thinking during my previous pregnancy. With my daughter, I was determined to go as naturally as possible, let things happen in their own time, and try to get by with as little extra “help” as possible. When my daughter wound up being late and an ultrasound showed my fluids were low, I was gently prodded to have an induction. I cried, but eventually resolved to change my thinking if it meant extra safety for the delivery of my little girl.
We were expecting a son this time around. As I left for the hospital, I clutched my bag with both hands, stood over my daughter’s little toddler bed and cried once more. Tears fell for the joy she’d already brought us, for the change that was coming our way, the nervousness of a hospital stay, and still a bit of guilt over the decision to induce early.
Upon arrival at the hospital, I was provided with the standard drab hospital gown and asked a series of questions by my assigned labor and delivery nurse. I was surprised and a little amused when after sending my husband on an errand, she asked if I had ever been abused. Had she gotten a glimpse of my black and blue behind?! I laughed, rolled my eyes, and explained that it was from a recent fall down my stairs. Little did I know, apparently falls are something of a serious issue in a labor and delivery ward. She frowned, explained that I was going to have to be considered a “fall hazard,” and promptly slapped large red signs on not just my patient file but on the outside of my room’s door. My husband returned from his errand, noted the sign on the door with much amusement, and ran out with his phone for a picture. My nurse, meanwhile, stepped out and had returned with a pair of the ugliest bright red slipper gripper socks and was prompting me to put them on. I was having some doubts, as I was not used to being labeled incompetent and more importantly, because I knew they would cover up my new, fun pedicure. We finally agreed on keeping them by my bed, “just in case,” me using the excuse that my feet were already hot.
I was quickly hooked up to an IV, and began the Pitocin pump. My doctor had warned me the process might make for a long day, so I plugged in my laptop, pulled up Hulu, and settled in, prepared to catch up on some missed television episodes. My brother even stopped by to visit, as my sister-in-law, who sees my doctor too, was also (surprise!) having a procedure done that day. It reminded me a little of a movie, with a shared doctor running between rooms at either end of the hall. We joked about this for a while and he teased me for refusing to wear my hospital-issued socks.
Eight hours later, my brother and sister-in-law were long gone, and I had had my fill of choosing shows and movies and surfing Pinterest (with a 2 year old I don’t often get to do this at home!). I was growing pretty uncomfortable and having trouble concentrating on anything besides the pain anyway. My tech geek husband, meanwhile, was loving watching the hospital monitors. He was doing a stand-up job of alerting me when each new contraction was coming and going. I, however, was starting to get cranky, as I was pretty sure I could tell this on my own, and was not particularly sure I wanted to know in advance anyway. Throughout the day, he proved to be an awesome shoulder to lean on though.
Within the hour, I had asked for and received my epidural, but could still feel a lot of pain. When I mentioned it to the nurse, she called back the anesthesiologist, who gave me another shot of the meds. When she returned later to evaluate my progress with a pelvic exam (6 cm!), she was amazed to see me still wincing in pain. Another anesthesiologist quickly arrived to give me a third shot of juice, and I slowly became more comfortable.
Four hours later, I was 8 centimeters dilated and the comfort I had felt earlier was gone. This was disconcerting to a girl who after finally giving into an epidural with her first child, had slept until a nurse woke her to begin pushing. In an attempt to keep my mind off of the situation at hand, I got on my cell phone to call my Mom, who was very surprised to hear from me. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking because I could barely speak, let alone carry on a conversation during that time, but Mom knew what I needed and helped talk me through some of the pain. My husband was also a champ, helping me breathe, and holding my hand through it all.
Although it had not been long since I was last checked, as I hung up the phone, I felt a huge urge to push, so I sent my husband running for the nurse. She came in, examined me as I gritted my teeth and braced myself, and then she paged my doctor. It was time to push! I had never been so grateful to hear those words, or so scared for what lay ahead. I was told to try not to push (in my pain, this feat struck me as quite comical) and that breathing out in short puffs would help. So there I lay, puffing like it was my job, and praying that my doctor would not be held up.
Some people cry, yell, or scream when they’re hurting, but I tend to be one who internalizes most of it. On the heels of a teenage roller blading accident, my dad once let me sit with a broken arm in the middle of the street while he “finished sweeping out the garage” because he didn’t realize I was hurt. Since then, I have learned to be a little more vocal in explaining my needs and wants. When my doctor (a long-time family friend) arrived, I mentioned (growled) that I thought my epidural had definitely worn off. He smiled and told me it might feel like it, but if it really had, I would be a lot worse off. I wasn’t so sure.
So I began pushing. Very quickly I decided it was not the experience I had been hoping for, and resolved to continue like my life depended on it. Pushing this time around was much different and more tiring than it had been last time with my epic epidural and pre-pushing nap. I felt myself quietly losing hope for a fast delivery as I recalled pushing for quite a while with my daughter. This time, when offered a mirror to watch my progress, I refused, as I didn’t think I could bear to watch the baby begin to appear, only to disappear again at the end of each contraction. Last time the nurses told me when contractions were coming and to start pushing. This time, I was the one announcing their beginning and calling the troops in for duty. If I hadn’t been so busy, I might’ve been amused by the turnaround. At one point, my encouraging husband said something along the lines of “I know you’ve got more in you! Keep pushing!” prompting me to break my silence long enough to glare at him and yell “I AM PUSHING!!!” Both he and my doctor just stopped and stared at me. I braced myself and got back to work, getting my second wind. In the past I had worried about the “burning” sensation that people say comes at the point of delivery, but this time I was praying for it. I wanted it to be over, and I was ready to fight to get there.
Fifteen minutes later, my 22 inch, 9 pound 8 ounce “little” bundle of joy made his debut, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt so much better! Looking at my baby, I also chuckled with my doctor, realizing that at least based on his appearance, I no longer needed to feel guilty for inducing. Holding my beautiful little guy in my arms for the first time, this fall hazard couldn’t help but fall once more, and hard. William Thomas was perfect in every way and while I had already loved him for some time, I fell head over heels. He made our family complete, and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to his big sister.