Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Birth Story Part II, In Which I Appologize for Giving Birth

My nurse's name was Sally, and she was unflappably optimistic. When we first arrived at the hospital for our prearranged induction appointment, she had been waiting for me. She somehow made me feel like this was the most exciting thing she'd ever done. Like she had gone through her entire nurse's training and all her years of experience for the sheer purpose of helping me with this baby and, boy, was it gonna be good! She even thought the tacky hospital gown they gave me was special, "Oh look, it's a cute one!" (It wasn't, but I appreciated the thought.)

Sally was the one who explained that because I wasn't progressing at all, they would need about four doses, instead of the usual single dose, of the medication to get me into labor. And, two hours after the first dose, Sally was the one who suggested I switch to a rocking chair when I started to feel really, really sick.  And Sally was the one who showed me how to rock back and forth on my heels when the pain got so bad I couldn't remember my name. 

At the time, I thought I was just being a pansy. My doctor had explained that in situations like mine where induction starts without any signs of readiness from my own body, labor can take days. I had somehow taken this information to mean that if induction started on Sunday night, I would be delivering this baby sometime on Tuesday afternoon. In retrospect, I have no logical explanation for this expectation, but that timeline seemed firm and unchangeable to me then. So when the pain and sickness started to overwhelm me within hours of the first dosage, I just sort of thought I was a loser, unable to cope with even the most minimal part of labor. We all hear stories of women who go into labor and decide to scrub the bathroom floor before they pack up for the hospital. My own mother was one of those. But I could no more have scrubbed a bathroom floor than I could have flown to the moon at that point, and I considered this a personal failure. Also, I figured I had days of this pain yet to come and it was only going to get worse. So I looked at my mom and my husband, both doing their level best to help me feel more comfortable, and said, with every expectation that they would agree with me, "I can't do this."

And my mom leaned down to me, put her hand on my shoulder and said "If I could do it for you, Sweetie, I would. But you can do this, Jenni. You can do this." And I thought, well, she's never been wrong before. So I bravely turned to Sally and asked "Isn't it time for a second dose now?"

And Sally, wonderful Sally, was surprised that I would ask. "Oh no," she said. "You're having too many contractions too hard and too fast. We can't give you any more medicine. We might need to slow you down." Wait, what? This is it? I mean, it's happening? I think I actually said "Wait, so this is real labor, then? It's not the fake stuff?" And she told me that it most definitely was real labor. Hard labor. Not the fake stuff. And that was such a relief because 30 seconds later I was once again bending over the bed shaking so hard my husband had to hold me up and shouting "EFFFF WOOOOORRDD!" (Yes really.  In the worst pain of my life I went for "Eff Word." Apparently I didn't want to offend Sally.)

It was Sally who held my hand and looked at me over the blur of the oxygen mask and assured me that my baby would be fine if I just kept breathing deeply. Hard contractions did this sometimes, but it would be okay. My baby would be okay. And it was Sally who squeezed my fingers one last time as the monitor resumed its cheery bleeping measure of my baby's steady heartbeat.

It was Sally who suggested I get some pain medication through the IV when I still felt it was too early for the epidural. I had always intended to get the epidural, but I somehow felt it was important that I wait. I was still stuck on my arbitrary Tuesday Afternoon Delivery timeline, despite the fact that my body had gone from zero dilation to four inches in about two hours. I still felt it was important that I keep it together and be strong. So instead of getting the epidural, I began a near constant stream of apologies to everyone in the room. I was sorry for crying. I was sorry for gritting my teeth.  I was sorry another contraction was coming. I was sorry I needed my mom to help hold me up. I was sorry I was shaking so hard. I was sorry it was so late. I was sorry the nurse needed to take my blood pressure. I was sorry for needing to breath so loudly. Everytime anyone said anything to me, my automatic response was "I'm sorry!" My darling husband was flabbergasted by this behavior. Here I was, shaking so hard my teeth chattered, tears spilling down my face, obviously terrified, apologizing for having a baby. It just seemed so important that I do everything I could to make this less difficult for everyone else, and I felt like I was failing. I remember saying "I'm sorry! I'm not keeping it together very well," even as the pain medication finally kicked in.

At that point, when the pain became manageable again, everyone sort of calmed down and I insisted my mom and husband try to rest. It was after midnight, after all. So they each made themselves as comfortable as possible and dozed off. And I sat there watching them for a while. Again, feeling like I needed to make this easier for them. Like I needed to watch over them while they rested, just to be sure they were okay. I was super delirious and sleepy by this time, but I knew somehow as the medication and lack of sleep finally took me under, that this was still my sinking ship and I must captain it to the last.

It was Sally who giggled one last time on her way out the door for shift change as I slipped into unconsciousness whispering "I'm sorry..."

Next Up: My Husband Witnesses a Birth or "Everything's going to be okay. You're going to be okay. The baby's going to be okay. Your mom's going to be okay. I'm going to be okay. The nurses are going to be okay. The doctor is going to be okay. That guy in the hall is going to be okay."