She’s Here

“What can we do for you?” asked the woman at the information desk at Stillwater General.

“What does it look like you can do for me right about now?” I growled as R ran back outside through the automatic doors to park the car.  “I’m in labor!”  I said far too loudly.   Shouldn’t any woman with a huge belly and a freaked out expression be a rather obvious situation in a hospital at 11:30 at night?

It had all started two days previously at my regular OB appointment.  My doctor had noted that my blood pressure was high, and considering I always had extremely low blood pressure, he was worried about the possibility of preeclampsia with my now full term pregnancy.  He’d scheduled me to to come into the hospital the next day so that the nurses could start the process of inducing labor. The first step would be to ready my cervix for labor, and then the following day, to start pitocin.

I’d gone to the hospital after dropping Zachary off at a friend’s for an overnight stay.  They hooked me up to the fetal monitor and started the process; apparently, the drug that was administered (shall we say delicately) topically could sometimes start contractions on their own.  I had hoped this would be the case; I’d been induced with Zachary’s birth after arriving at the hospital with contractions and a closed cervix.  The pitocin had brought on more effective, painful contractions that had taken over twelve hours to ready me for the birth.  I had hoped, somehow, to find an easier way with my second child.

After several hours of monitoring, the nurses unstrapped the monitor and told me to go home and get a good night’s sleep.  I was supposed to come back around 7 in the morning for the pitocin, and by then these drugs should have worked their magic and my body would be ready.  Frustrated, I had gotten dressed and R had driven me back home to our empty house.

But just about at the same moment I was removing my Hot Pocket from the microwave (it was 9pm and I was starving), I felt the first contraction hit me like a bolt of lightning.  Just like you saw on TV, the unmistakeable feeling of labor.  Before I could finish my meal, another one hit, and I knew we’d be headed back to the hospital.

I went to lay down on my left side, to see if the contractions would slow with relaxation.  But they kept coming, harder, until I finally yelled to R that he’d better come in here to time them.  He called the doctor and the hospital, who advised me to stay home until the contractions were five minutes apart.  By eleven thirty, they were, and we headed back in the same direction we’d came from just a few hours before.

The nurses moved quickly at my obvious distress and got me into a wheelchair, one on either side, pushing me towards the elevator. I vaguely remembered that a nurse once told me you can tell how far along a woman is in labor by how few inhibitions she has.  I knew I must be pretty far as I stood in the middle of the hospital room and allowed myself to be stripped and dressed in a gown.  By the time R returned, looking slightly scared and green, the doctor arrived and informed me that I was six centimeters dilated and past the point of being able to have an epidural.

The pain was white hot and made me want to jump out of my skin.  Everything I remembered from Lamaze didn’t work; I couldn’t relax or focus, I couldn’t do anything but grip the side of my hospital bed and moan with every painful contraction.  They were coming even more quickly now, every minute or two, and I wasn’t sure how I would make it through the birth.   I couldn’t imagine how I didn’t remember how awful this was; how had I coped with this before?  I couldn’t think of anything but the awful, awful pain and how it took over absolutely everything.  I squeezed my eyes shut, panted, squealed until finally, finally, the doctor told me that it was nearly time.

Three pushes.  That was all it take to get past the searing feeling of being broken in two.  And then suddenly, it was all over.  My daughter was placed on my belly, my husband reached to cut the cord, and everything became quiet and clear and beautiful.

“Oh my God,” I gasped.  “I am so sorry,” I said, looking around the room at the audience assembled.  “It’s really late at night, and I probably woke up the whole floor.  I am so, so sorry.”

Laughter erupted around the room.  “It’s a quiet week.  There’s hardly anyone on the floor right now, so don’t worry,” one of the nurses reassured.

I looked up at R, who still appeared rather green and had the remnants of horror still evident on his face.  “What do you think?” I said, looking down at the brown haired baby in my arms.

I could see his lips tremble as the tears flowed freely from his eyes.  “She’s beautiful,” he answered.  “Melinda is absolutely beautiful.” He reached down and kissed her, and then me.

I breathed in, and out.  “She is,” I answered.  “She is.”

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