August was experiencing record highs that year and my swollen pregnant tummy was causing the heat to seem even more stifling that it normally would. Everything I tried left me more uncomfortable than before and the only place where I found any relief was when I stood in the nursery that we had just finished a few days before. It was the heat that eventually drove me out into the soft dusk for an evening walk with my husband.
The day’s heat was just starting to break and a cool wind was driving the humidity down enough to make it a pleasant evening. As I walked, my hair flowed around my face and I sighed in frustration at a new discomfort bothering my already overtaxed body. Only 5 days until my due date and it wasn’t coming fast enough.
As I took step, I felt a twinge in my stomach and my first thought was, oh great, a new discomfort to add to the growing list, but as each block passed by, I realized that the pain was different. More concentrated, running waves across my stomach.
Still, I ignored the pain and returned home but by eleven that night, I decided it was time to go to the hospital. When we arrived there, the nurses shuffled me into a labour room and hooked the monitors up to my belly. After several hours, a nurse came into the room and said, “You aren’t really in labour yet but we would like to keep you here until the doctor comes in at nine.”
I nodded in agreement and fell asleep in my small bed as my husband, James, spent a cramped night on the chair beside me.
The next morning, I was awakened by the nurse quietly checking the monitor that had been strapped firmly across my belly throughout the night. Her reassuring smile affirmed for me that there was nothing to worry about and I glanced at James as he tried to straighten the crick that had formed during the night. The nurse smiled again and said, “The doctor will be in soon”, before leaving the room.
In the brightening room, I took in the pretty picture of a flower across from the foot of my labour bed, the wide windows overlooking a parking lot and a television hanging on its arm in the corner. Yep, this was it, a regular hospital room filled with recording equipment for my babies movements and heartbeat and full of the quiet of a hospital only just starting to wake up.
The doctor came into the room and after a small examination, he smiled warmly at me, “You aren’t in labor yet, but judging from what’s going on, you will be in labor anywhere from a few hours to a few days,” he paused, possibly for greater effect before saying, “You have two choices, we could send you home only to have you come back in a few hours or we could induce you.”
Without hesitating, I chose the latter, not even checking with my husband before making the decision. The doctor smiled again and I heard my husband chuckle as the doctor said, “I figured you would say that.”
After giving me the explanation as to what would happen, he told James that he had enough time to get home and change his clothes if he wanted to. James looked relieved to have a reprieve from the dreaded chair and quickly left to drive the short 5 minute distance back to our house.
While he was away, the doctor came in and broke my water as the nurses put in an IV for the Pitocin. By the time, James got back, I was well on my way and more than ready for it to be as quick and painless as it could possibly be.
The first hour dragged by without too much difficulty. It was hard to focus on some things, but James wiped my forehead whenever I needed it. Wires and monitors kept me in my bed and I found lying on my left side, facing James helped me get through the more painful contractions. When the second hour finally came to an end, the nurse came in and checked me. “Still only 3 centimetres”, she announced cheerfully.
I groaned inwardly, the time was only 11:00 am and my water had been broken at 9. All of my college training on birth and delivery came tumbling back, enforced by the prenatal classes that I had. I found myself checking the clock, positioned conveniently just above my eye level, and counting down the hours that I would have. The formula, one hour for every inch, echoed in my mind and I felt the panic clutch at my throat as I realized that at the rate, I would have at least another 7 to 15 hours of labour.
12 o’clock slid past on the clock, my new focus point, and I heard the nurse ask if I wanted anything for the pain. I shook my head as my husband said, “She wanted to do this without any pain relief”.
I couldn’t see her, but I’m pretty sure I heard the nurse sigh before she left the room. The contractions were coming at a horrible rate and I would only have a moment to check the clock, 12:15 ... 12:17 ... 12:19, before the next contraction would begin. They felt like they were one on top of the other and I couldn’t stop the groans from escaping from my lips.
Finally, as the clock slowly clicked onto 12:30, I cried out, “I ... can’t do this”, I panted, “I’m ... so ... sorry but I need an epidural”.
I had said it and in doing so felt my birth plan slip away from me. I knew there was no way that I could stand another 7 hours of having such intense contractions but I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t stuck with the plan. James wiped the sweat from my forehead, concern creasing his brow, “Are you sure?”
I nodded and looked back at the clock that had been giving me my play by play of the length of labor. I was wiped and I felt, more than saw, James leave the room to peek out into the hall. After a few minutes, he came back into view, blocking the clock for a moments reprieve from its tortuous journey, and said, “I can’t find a nurse”.
My groan sent him back out into the hallway and down it in search of anyone that could assist me and give the much needed pain relief I was looking for. A few more minutes and a few more contractions and he was back beside me, “I couldn’t find anyone”.
Sitting halfway up, I gave him a look of desperation as another contraction wrapped across my belly and I said, “I think I need to push”.
As the last word left my lips, I heard another cheerful voice from the door, “Did I hear the “p” word?”
A doctor, the paediatrician actually, walked into the equipment crowded room and checked my chart, “I don’t think you are ready to push dear, it’s much too early.”
James murmured that I wanted an epidural as another contraction gripped me and I was left to stare at the clock once more. The Paediatrician answered him, “She does look like she’s having a hard time. Why don’t I go and get her some nitrous oxide and then check her to see how far along she is.”
With that the paediatrician quickly left and returned with the canister of nitrous oxide (better known as laughing gas) and showed me how to apply the face mask every time I felt the need for pain relief. She then explained how all of the doctors and nurses were currently assisting other deliveries at that moment so she was going to check my dilation.
I nodded in assent as I pressed the face mask to my mouth, only to find that my slight claustrophobia was preventing me from breathing each time the mask was on.
A surprised, “oh”, emanated from the Paediatrician before exclaiming, “You’re fully dilated and ready to push.”
Relief washed over me in the seconds between contractions and the clocked clicked out a happy 12:50. With a few words about getting someone to help her move me to the delivery room, the Paediatrician slipped out of the room and James grasped my hands. The journey, filled with ups and downs, that had spanned nine months was almost at an end. Soon I would hold my baby in my arms and it wasn’t a moment too soon.
I glanced up, another contraction forcing me to push against the pressure, as the Paediatrician walked back in and said, “Can you help me move her to the delivery room? There is no one else available”, I didn’t see James’s face but I heard his affirmative before the Paediatrician turned to me, “I need you to stop pushing. You just need to wait until we get to the delivery room.”
As James and the Paediatrician unlocked the wheels and began manoeuvring the bed towards the door, I struggled with each contraction, fighting the need to push and feeling each time that I gave in to it. The hallway was a blur, my focus on the pain running across my stomach and the pressure that was building up. I felt a jar as the bed smashed against a wall and James murmured, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hit that.”
A few more shakes, several more apologies and a few chuckles from the Paediatrician, a response from my husband of, “No one told me I would need to learn how to drive a bed”, and I was in the delivery room. Before I could even adjust to the change of scenery, it filled up with nurses and the smiling doctor that had induced me only 4 short hours before.
Finally, I was able to push and although the pain was almost overwhelming, I was partly aware of the world around me; of my husband staring in amazement of the head crowning, of the nurses setting everything up for the arrival of baby and of the doctor who waited for the time when his job started. His eyes twinkled up at me as he said, “You are really good at this; you should have more.”
The nurse at his elbow laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe 5 or 6 more, I think.”
I ignored the jokes, bore down on the pain and a sudden relief filled my body as my baby was born at 1:13pm. I heard the strong cry, saw the tears well in James’s eyes and felt a tug at my heart as the doctor place my screaming baby boy on my tummy. He was here; healthy, beautiful and angry that we had pulled him from his warm little space.
After the nurses weighed and measured him, 7lbs 5 oz, 21 inches long, he was wrapped up in the blue hospital receiving blanket and handed to me. His cries had stopped, his long fingers probed the corner of the blanket, and he peered out at his new world through swollen eyes. I held him, the pain all but forgotten and I knew that a new journey had just begun.