Not the Same

This one was not the same.

I’d been through labor twice before, and this one just didn’t feel the same.

With Zachary, I’d entered the hospital ten days late, in early labor, not dilated at all.  The doctors had administered pitocin to speed things along, which led to quickly strong contractions that lasted and lasted for thirteen hours after I’d walked through the hospital doors.  There were no epidurals offered, and a few shots of Demerol hardly helped the pain. Finally, blessedly, the doctors had wheeled me to a delivery room (standard, they’d said in 1989) and I’d delivered after about forty minutes of pushing.  Zachary was healthy from the start, though doctors had told me later his cord had been loosely wrapped around his neck.

With Melinda, doctors had intended to induce me on my due date.  They’d sent me to the hospital the day before to administer topical drugs to ready my cervix for the process.  Less than an hour after sending me home for a good night’s sleep, I found myself in full blown labor.  I was pushing my daughter less than two hours after returning to the hospital, again without the benefit of an epidural.  They’d given me something not quite as strong as Demerol to help with the pain, but since Melinda arrived with exactly three pushes, it didn’t really make sense to do anything more.  I’d delivered right in the room where I’d labored, and the doctor told me again after I stopped cursing out my husband there had been a cord issue as well.  Her cord had been wrapped around her neck twice.  But it was a side conversation amidst her lusty cries and high Apgar scores.

Now here I was in the hospital with my third labor (but as I often remembered, my fourth pregnancy).  I’d come in on the morning of my due date, pleased to hear that I was already in mild labor and about 1.5 cm dilated.  This signaled, perhaps, an easier road with pitocin than I had previously remembered.  But as the pain grew quickly and my body seemed to not respond well to the intense contractions, I worried.  I couldn’t imagine I’d already been at this six hours and was still only three centimeters dilated.  This felt harder, worse, more desperate than I remembered my other labors being.  I begged my nurses for the relief of an epidural, even though the thought of a needle in my spine scared me. They cautioned me that I should be hydrated with IV fluids first, and that would take an hour.  Wild eyed, I told them I was sure I couldn’t survive another hour in such a state.  R blanched as they relented, and left the room for the procedure.

The morning passed in a blurry haze as the pain left but my blood pressure dipped, just as the nurses had predicted,  The IV was opened up full bore as I saw scary numbers register next to me on the monitor:  42 over 29.   But suddenly out of the fog came the resident’s voice telling me that I was dilated and that I could push.  A flurry of activity occurred as doctors and nurses broke down the bed and pointed my attention towards the mirrors above and across to watch another life enter the world from my body.

One push.  The doctors and nurses yelled “Stop pushing!” and I panted against my body’s urge to finish the job I’d started.  I looked up to the mirror and saw that the head had emerged, but something strange was also visible.  Something purple, and huge was wrapped around my son’s neck, three times.  I tried to register what this might be as the fetal heart rate monitor dipped and dipped, throwing off alarms next to me as I looked around the room, puzzled and worried by all of the concern.  I watched as the doctor cut all three layers of the umbilical cord from my child’s neck, freeing him from the noose they had created.  “Push again” was the heated command, and I pushed the second half of his body easily out.

Michael was quickly whisked away to the waiting warmer, and I elbowed R to go and make sure he was OK.  My doctor was still busy with my own body, kneading and pushing and pulling while I felt nothing due to the effects of the epidural.   My gaze alternated between my husband and my doctor, trying to ascertain from both of them whether or not this was going to be a blessed day or a horrific one.  At nearly the same moment, they each gave me a thumbs up.  I heard a cry erupt from the baby warmer across the room, and I exhaled a sigh of relief.

“That was a close one,” confided my doctor as he started stitching me up.


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