Thursday, November 20, 2008


The nurse is talking when I'm released from the grip of a contraction, saying something about not being afraid to push. It's 10 p.m. and I’m not in the mood for lectures; her voice is like a gong in my ear because I’m IRRITABLE! She’s writing something down and holding my insurance card. I haven’t finished being admitted to the hospital. She lifts my blanket and examines me like a stuffed Turkey; I obviously checked my dignity at the door.

“Call the doctor in now, she’s almost at 10,” says the nurse to someone in the hall. Turning back toward me, her tone forcibly softens. “There’s nothing to worry about. You are in a hospital, not a field. We’ve got everything here to take care of you.”

Lucky me, I think. I didn't think I'd feel so panicked in labor with my second child, but my water broke in the car on the ramp of the parkway. In an effort to be completely sure I was in real labor, I waited too long to leave the house. I called my husband at 9 p.m. at my brother's house. We actually left for the hospital around 9:30 p.m. joking about natural births.

"No way am I doing that," I said. With my first child I had an Epidural. "I want drugs again," I added.

As I adjust the pillows behind my back in the Labor and Delivery room, I remember my grandmother telling a similar story about the birth of my mom.

At least I'm not getting smacked in the face and told to pull myself together right before being knocked out by "sweet air" like grandma described. I'm so glad it's not 1951 right now, but I could go for that sweet air, I think.

"I'm not ready ... I'm wearing the wrong socks and I need an Epidural," I announce as lights are being turned on over me.

I'm serious, but the nurse is laughing. It's 10:40 p.m. She doesn't understand my distress. I'm wearing the socks I only use when all the rest are in the laundry. I hate these socks because they're ugly pink, woolly and itchy. They look dumb.

"This really isn't the time to be concerned about fashion," she says. Oh, but she doesn't know me.

“Breathe! Alright honey, PUSH!” I hear someone say on the surface before being yanked down under a wave of pain that crushes me.

Then, released suddenly from the muscle contractions I shout. “Drugs. Now. PLEASE!”

The nurse is holding my hand. The doctor looks sorry for me, saying, “You’re right there, honey. You’re almost done. They wouldn’t work in time.”

Here comes another one in the middle of my next complaint.

“You’ve gotta be f****ing kidding me!” I gasp, imagining myself being dunked in ice water, like an accused witch in old Salem. No drugs, but I’m still delirious.

Now my panic is escalating because I’m not sure how much longer I can take the raw pain of birth. I dig in, and will myself to stop the whole process, midstream.

“PUSH” someone shouts.

I shake my head. NO. I’m so tired and the wrenching tight muscle spasms are flattening my voice. I grab my husband by his tie. (He didn't have time to change out of his work clothes before we made a mad dash for the hospital. Strangely, he did have time to stop at 7-Eleven for coffee on the way.) He looks pale now.

“Help! Seriously, I can't take this,” I whisper, as I’m dragged back into the mother of all Charlie horses that squeezes the wind out of my lungs again.

Under the wave I close my eyes, and think a prayer, not because I’m religious, but just plain scared. I don’t think I’m strong enough to pull off the role of Natural Birth Mom. The prayer isn’t anything formal, just, “God, please get us to the end of this safely.” I mean me and the baby.

Another ache seems to wash over my lower back and I hold my breath. I hear, “Push! She’s not pushing.” The nurse is telling the doctor on me, who is pulling on plastic gloves.

This contraction is the deepest one and, in the middle of the screeching pain of it, I realize only I can get this to end. I have to take control and get through it.

I think, “Mother of God please, help.”

Then a thought, a word I can see spelled out in my mind surfaces. REST. The wave subsides and I close my eyes and breathe. I picture the color blue, like water in the Caribbean, pure energy filling up in my muscles to finish it.

“PUSH!" yells the nurse. I keep my eyes shut, blocking her out.

“Leave her, she’s resting.” says the doctor. I close my eyes and wait.

“You got it now, honey. That’s right!” she cheers, and I feel like a horse in the last lap of a race.

Down I go again, my breath cuts off. I push back, letting go, giving up the fear of what might physically happen to me to get it done, and finally, at 11:01 p.m., a 7 lb 1 oz princess is born. She’s bright red, raging mad, fighting against change and fear, just like me. I hold my little prize. We did it.

-Picture is of my child's first breath.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Beautiful! I sympathize about the socks! I always made sure my toenails were nicely done when the time came - no matter how hard it was to do them - it was the only part of my appearance I could be absolutely in control of.

Putz said...

a picture of your child's first breath and you now only have two commentors, as witnesses, witless witnesses of this moment...take a minute and go out and shout it to the housetops

The Koala Bear Writer said...

Amazing! You capture the feelings so well here! I'm totally with you, and I think I would be even if I didn't know exactly what you were talking about from my own experience. You should get this published.

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