Photo by Cynthia DermodyThis is the tale of a totally clueless, unprepared, first-time pregnant woman (me), who never cracked a baby book and accepted every drug and medical intervention offered her, and it still ended up okay ...
Saturday, May 3, 2003, Westchester, New York. A week before my due date. I wanted paint for the nursery that still wasn't finished. Technically, it wasn't even started. I figured paint was a good place to begin. Pale green, since we still didn't know the sex. A week was plenty of time for my husband to drag out the tarps and brushes. Little did I know.
On the way to the paint store, I felt what I knew had to be sharp and sudden contractions. It was only then that I realized they'd actually began hours earlier that morning. They'd been only little pings at that point, so I wasn't sure ...
Now I was pretty sure.
The baby won't care what color his bedroom walls are, I said. Plus, I'm in grave agony, so let's skip it. My husband drove us back home, where I attempted to garden and move around as much as I could because it made the pains subside. I figured it was all a false alarm and went on with life.
6 p.m., City Limits Diner, White Plains, New York. I'd just finished a burger and crispy fries and started in on my strawberry rhubarb pie when the contractions hit again with force and vigor. That kid was a sugar fiend even in the womb. We left for home, but not before I finished the pie. That would have been such a waste.
The pains got worse by the hour, but they were still pretty far apart. The doctor told me to hang tight at home. So I put on my pajamas and went to bed. It was more like, I lay down on the bed and foolishly thought I'd be able to drift off through little knives stabbing me in the stomach.
11:30 p.m., my living room. I called the doctor again, was granted clearance to depart even though the contractions were still only 15 minutes apart. Typical me, I had nothing packed. I had no idea what to toss in my hospital bag so I packed ... nothing. I left with the clothes on my back: sweats, T-shirt, sweatshirt.
After insurance cards and paperwork, I was wheeled to a room and hooked up to monitors. To help with the pain, the nurse asked me to do some of the breathing I learned at Lamaze class, to which I responded, "What is Lamaze class?"
She gave me her best crash course, but it still didn't work. You would never guess I was only two centimeters dialated. I was convinced that baby was squeezing its big head through my pelvis that very moment. But nothing was flowing, except for the Demerol.
Several hours of delerium later, it could have been weeks for all I knew, I was moved to a delivery room. The last thing I remember before blissfully passing out again was those ugly orange chairs. Couldn't they have picked a more pleasing color?
5 a.m., Sunday, May 4, Delivery Room A. My schoolteacher husband was grading papers at the table next to the window. He's very efficient with his time. The sun started to come up. Still nada happening with me, so I sent him to the diner around the corner, where he had a feta cheese omelet for the first time. To this day it's still his favorite breakfast. He took the baby name book with him. Figured this was a good time to come up with a possible name or two.
An hour or two later. Either the Demerol began to wear off, or the pains intensified to the point of overpowering a heavy duty narcotic. Which means they were really bad. Being that I was still operating on half a brain, the next few hours are a bit fuzzy, but I remember another shot of something -- pitocin? -- and begging for the epidural before things progressed to the point that my doc would say it was too late. The anesthesiologist stabbed my back once, maybe twice. Sent from heaven, that man.
It didn't take long to hit ...
And hit hard. He gave me too much epidural for my body weight. Not only did I not feel pain, I did not feel ... anything. I'd never had an epidural before, but I was pretty sure someone having a vaginal delivery wasn't supposed to be completely paralyzed from the waist down. Maybe he got me mixed up with another patient having a C-section?
When the time finally came, a nurse grabbed and supported one of my lifeless legs and my husband took the other one while my doctor assumed the position. The nurse kept telling me to push, which is a strange thing to say to a person with no muscle control in the lower half of her body. I couldn't understand how ... or what ...
12:38 p.m. The doctor broke my water, but I didn't sense it. The whole thing was more surreal than painful. Honestly, I just lay there, very confused, not feeling a thing. It's still a mystery to me how the doctor got that 7 pound, 6 ounce, 21 inch long human being out of my body. Certainly with no help from me. But somehow, with a little snip from an episiotomy, she did.
No, the birth was not perfect by some people's standards, but my son was and that's all that mattered. As well as that warmed up blanket they throw over you at the end. Boy, did that feel good.
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