Thursday, February 22, 1996. Six days past my due date and the baby shows no sign of wanting to leave the safety and comfort of my womb. I am in the throes of a severe sinus infection and I am miserable. My nose is so sensitive; it bleeds each time I blow it. I am retaining water with the efficiency of a camel, yet I face the indignity of producing a dribble of pee every time I cough.
I am so sexy, I can hardly stand myself.
I call my OB to complain about the injustice visited on me by not being allowed to take anything stronger than Tylenol; can she not see that I am dying? She laughs at my discomfort but instructs me to go to the hospital for an induction nevertheless. My whining powers are rapidly becoming legend.
Hugh is a whirling dervish of anxiety and excitement. He calls the aquatic facility where I work to let them know that the next item up for wager in the office pool will be the time of birth as the date is a foregone conclusion. Hugh calls his mother who plans to start the three-hour drive as soon as she hangs up the phone; she hopes she will make it on time. I secretly hope she will not. It is 11:55 a.m.
Checking into the hospital is a breeze as we have pre-registered and our paperwork is in order. We are assigned the only birthing suite in the entire hospital. The end is in sight. It is 12:30 p.m.
We make ourselves comfortable in the birthing suite. Hugh flips through the channels on the television. My mother arrives. The doctor stops by to make sure that I am comfortable and prescribes a humidifier for my congestion. No drugs for me, just warm mist. I do not care, in a matter of hours I will have a baby. It is 1:00 p.m.
A nurse swabs my cervix with a gel to soften it and to encourage dilation. She hopes, aloud, that we will not have to deal with the Pitocin drip. I second that emotion. It is 1:15 p.m.
Hours pass and the only discomfort that I am feeling stems from my sinus infection. I am blowing great gobs of green mucus, tinged with blood, from my nose, my head is pounding and the coughing continues, unabated. It is 3:30 p.m.
Hugh and my mother play Uno and eat hamburgers from McDonald’s. I only get liquids, chicken bouillon and green Jell-O. This sucks, but! In a matter of hours, I will have a baby. The nurse checks my progress and finds…none. I am hooked up to a monitor and it shows that I am, in fact having contractions, tiny, irregular ones. Emily, my mother in law arrives. It is 3:45 p.m.
Hugh and I walk the halls. We debate names, settling on nothing, save for the fact that, if it is a girl he will do the honors, if it is a boy, I will. The nurse does an internal check. It hurts and I wish that my uterus would fight back but, I am dilated to two! Progress! My doctor stops in for a visit; she has just delivered a baby boy. I am excited to think that I will be next. It is 5:00 p.m.
Emily and my mother leave the hospital for dinner. Hugh eats hospital food, chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and the ever present green Jell-O. I sip on spoonfuls of beef broth, which, oddly, starts to taste of copper. Hugh, a horrified look on his face, informs me that my nose is streaming blood which has fallen into my broth, polluting it. I burst into tears. It is 6:30 p.m.
Shift change. My new nurse re-adjusts the monitor. The contractions have stopped. More tears. The nurse calls my doctor who decides that a good night’s rest is just what I need. She orders a Pitocin drip for eight a.m. and prescribes more Tylenol. The nurse pours more water into my humidifier, places a moist, warm pad over my sinuses and bids me sweet dreams. It is 8:05 p.m.
The phone rings. It is my staff wanting to know if the baby’s birth weight and sex are still up for grabs in the office pool. Hugh tells them that, at this point, everything is fair game. Our mothers return from dinner. I have a coughing fit that leaves the sheet soaked with urine. I cry some more. Emily decides to call it a night. My mother rubs my feet and calves with peppermint lotion. The Tylenol is kicking in and I begin to get excited again; by noon, tomorrow, I will have a baby. My mother leaves for the night. Hugh falls asleep on the pullout sleeper. I try to sleep. It is 10:30 p.m.
The nurses come and go all night. I develop a slight fever. The nurse calls the doctor. The doctor says to keep an eye on it, if it does not break by morning we might as well go home and try again in a few days. I am too exhausted to cry. Hugh sleeps like, well, a baby. I think I hate him, just a little. It is 1:40 a.m. on Friday, February 23.
The fever breaks. A sleepless night has left me exhausted but excited, in a matter of hours, I will have a baby! More broth and Jell-O. The lactation specialist stops in for a chat. My doctor checks me. A nurse inserts an I.V. and takes some blood. To my credit, I do not pass out. The Pitocin drip is turned on. Suddenly, it seems so real. I feel the dull edge of panic; in a matter of hours, I will have a baby. Holy crap. It is 8:00 a.m.
Mild and irregular contractions begin. Hugh and I enjoy watching them on the monitor. It is so cool! My mother arrives. I chat on the phone with my sisters and friends. My dad arrives; he sits on the sofa and reads the paper. I ask him to save it for a time capsule, a historical record of the day of my baby’s birth. Hugh and I walk the halls and play Uno. I begin addressing the envelopes for birth announcements. It is 11:30 a.m.
My contractions are gaining in length and intensity yet remain irregular. Emily convinces Hugh to run home for a shower and a bite of lunch. Although we live six blocks from the hospital, I am reluctant to let him go. The nurse checks my progress. I am only dilated to three. I send Hugh home. My mom and dad keep me company. It is 11:40 a.m.
The monitor spikes dramatically. A contraction that leaves me as shocked as a mugging victim paralyzes my entire body. It lasts forever. Even the nurse is impressed. My progress is checked. I am dilated to seven. My mother’s fingers fly as she dials my house. Emily answers and informs my mother that Hugh is still in the shower. My mother insists that Emily send him back to the hospital right NOW! Emily argues that there is plenty of time. My mother tells her, in no uncertain terms, that she will get Hugh out of the shower; his wife needs him, now. It is 12:01 p.m.
Hugh arrives at my bedside. The contractions are regular, intense and, according to the nurse, highly productive. My body is one giant Charley-horse and I have trouble focusing on my breathing. In a gesture of love and support, Hugh strokes my cheek with his thumb. I bite him. Hard. It is 12:17 p.m.
Contractions. Breathing. My dad leaves the room. Emily sits on the sofa and watches television. Hugh and my mom practice breathing with me. I roll onto my side and grasp the metal bar of the hospital bed. I feel nauseous, but I do not throw up. My Dad comes back into the room to tell me that a friend of the family has just checked in and is laboring in the room next-door; she said to tell me that she would get even with me for taking the only birthing suite in the hospital. I laugh. It is 3:30 p.m.
The contractions are unbearable and I have not dilated any further. I beg for the epidural. The doctor agrees and the anesthesiologist is called in. I am rolled onto my side just as the whopper of all contractions hits. I temporarily leave my body. The view from above is quite humorous. Just as the anesthesiologist prepares to stick me, the phone rings. It is my best friend, Jules; she is calling from the aquatic facility to check on my progress for the office pool. Several people are eliminated from the running. The lifeguard who chose March 1 as the delivery date is starting to sound a bit too smug for my liking. The epidural is complete. It is 3:36 p.m.
The epidural fails. My legs are numb from the thigh to the toes. Contractions are still felt. Crushing, grinding, blinding pain. Hugh demands a second epidural. The anesthesiologist produces a waiver form the likes of which we have never seen. Although the list of possible side effects is thought provoking, the next contraction seals the deal. Hugh signs the release form. The nurse has to roll me physically onto my side as my legs are effectively dead and I cannot do it myself. The anesthesiologist goes in slowwwwly for the next poke. I feel a small popping sensation in my pelvis and I say “OH!” The anesthesiologist jumps, the needle mere fractions of an inch from my spine. Liquid gushes between my legs. “My water just broke!” I exclaim. It is the undoing of the anesthesiologist; he is shaking visibly from the fright that I have given him and Hugh orders him out of the room for fear that he will cause one of the umpteen complications listed on the waiver. It is 3:45 p.m.
The nurse checks my progress and I am dilated to ten! Hallelujah! The nurse changes the bedding and encourages me to “bear down” with each contraction to help bring the baby’s head down into the birth canal. The doctor comes in and starts to scrub up for the delivery. I am seized with sudden panic. This is happening. NOW. Hugh and I pant and blow. It is 4:00 p.m.
The nurse instructs me to place my feet in the stirrups. I cannot move my legs; they are still under the influence of the epidural-gone-wrong. Hugh and my mom each ease a leg into a stirrup. My dad sticks his head in the door to let me know that our family friend is dilated to eight and is doing well. Our babies will be born on the same day! It is 4:15 p.m.
I am instructed to “push”! My older sister once told me that it felt good to push. I push. My sister also once told me that I was left on the front porch by gypsies. My sister is a liar. I continue to push. It is 4:45 p.m.
I push. And push. And push. A flower deliveryman strolls into the room and sees my nether regions in all their naked, pushing glory. I do not care. I keep on pushing. The phone rings. It is Jules calling for a status check. I ask Hugh to hold the phone up to my ear. I tell her that I applaud her recent decision to remain childfree. It is 5:20 p.m.
Push. Pant. Blow. My dad sticks his head in to let me know that our family friend’s revenge is complete; she has just delivered a nine-pound baby boy after a mere four hours of labor. I ask him to give them my regards and I wearily flip them the Bird. It is 5:31 p.m.
Push,push,push. The doctor is growing tired of the stubbornness of my offspring, as am I. My mother continues to encourage me. Jeopardy! plays on the television followed by Wheel of Fortune. I concentrate on Vanna’s unnaturally white teeth and I push. The baby is stalled in the birth canal but its heart rate never falters. The monitor picks up the unmistakable sounds of hiccups-an everyday occurrence for this baby, but an unusual thing to have happen during delivery. It is 6:45 p.m.
The doctor pulls Hugh aside and I hear the dreaded “c” word bandied about. I plead for one last try at a vaginal birth. I know that I can do it. A nurse suggests that we try a catheter, I have not used the restroom in hours and, there was, after all, the “liquid” part of that liquid diet. The doctor agrees. The catheter is inserted and what sounds like forty gallons of urine is emptied from my bladder. Things start to move quickly, then. My legs are starting to shake off the effects of the botched epidural and I experience “pins and needles” in addition to the contractions. I notice that, with the pushing, is another sensation; I literally feel the baby moving down the birth canal and into my pelvis. The doctor does a quick and small episiotomy. I push and, in one precious “whoosh”, my baby enters the world. It is 6:50 p.m. on Friday, February 23rd.
It is a girl.
Suddenly I feel absolutely no pain. I feel, in fact, like the most powerful creature on the planet. I have given birth. I did that.
My baby, my daughter, gives a lusty wail as she is held up for my inspection. She is perfect. She is beautiful.
She is still beautiful.
Happy birthday, baby. You were so worth the wait.