I work in an OB/GYN clinic – so I hear a lot of stories about women giving birth. You’ve probably heard some of the same – you’ve got your traditional “she gave birth in the car on the way to the hospital” story; the almost unbelievable, “I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was in labor” story; and the one that makes every woman cringe – the “I was in labor for three days” story. I always feel fortunate I didn’t fall into that last category – probably because I have what the pioneers would call, “good childbearing hips.”
With my first baby, I decided I was tired of being pregnant and so I took some castor oil to hurry things along. I did clear it with my doctor first, who told me that if I was ready to go into labor, I might – but if not, I would just have a bad case of diarrhea. Several hours after dosing myself, I headed for the hospital – in labor and with a colon that was as clean as a whistle. I’m not sure who decided that a whistle would be the epitome of cleanliness – in fact, it’s just the opposite! Whistles are generally full of spit, germs, and, if you are unlucky, debris from half masticated snacks. However, I think you get the idea – I was several ounces lighter and ready to drop another 8-9 pounds or so once my daughter made her appearance, which she did, just four short hours later.
With daughter #2, my doctor decided to induce labor. I was hoping for a Valentine’s baby, but the doctor nixed that idea, because he had a golf game scheduled – so on February 15th, I entered the hospital and, three hours after having my water broken with what looked like a crochet hook for giants, she made her dramatic entrance. After experiencing a natural childbirth with daughter #1 and deciding that kind of pain was totally ridiculous, I had asked for an epidural with daughter #2. The anesthesiologist did his business and my OB doc told me cheerfully that, “you’ll be playing cards in just a few minutes” – totally pain-free. He was a dirty, stinking LIAR! First off, I don’t like playing cards in general – so why would I be playing them in the delivery room? Second, because of a huge scar that extends from my shoulders to my hips (that’s another story), the epidural medication never made it to its intended target. After screaming a few choice phrases at the anesthesiologist (okay, maybe more than a FEW), I was punished when the doctor decided that my baby needed some help and proceeded to shove some giant salad tongs into my hoohaa – using them to grab her by the head and yank her out – breaking her tiny collarbone in the process. Asshole!
Daughter #3 apparently liked the womb and was in no hurry to come out. My water broke at work early one morning and I was told by my doctor’s office to head into the hospital, even though I was not having any contractions. I waited in the lobby for several hours for a room to become available and then waited some more in my hospital bed – and still no contractions. Finally, they decided to hook me up to an IV and deliver some medication to start my labor. It did – but the contractions were only painful enough to be annoying and no progress was being made. When Doc left to pick up the kids from school and deliver them to the babysitter, I asked him to pick me up something to eat, as I was starving by that point. When the nurses heard, they quickly put the kibosh on that idea – telling me I could only eat ice chips. I was naïve – I figured my loving husband would suffer along with me, but when he returned and kissed me, I could smell the burgers and fries on his breath – traitor!
Once they cranked up my medication and my contractions finally started in earnest, I was faced with a quandary: deliver naturally again (since we already knew an epidural would not work) or try something new. Ever the optimist, I gave my consent for the “something new” – and immediately wondered if I had made a horrible mistake as the doctor approached me with two syringes topped with gigantic five-inch needles (what IS it with the GIANT tools used during childbirth?). The doctor explained that he would be putting those needles up my vajayjay and injecting the anesthesia into my cervix, which would then numb my uterus. He explained I might still feel some pressure and perhaps a tiny bit of pain, but mostly I would be pain free. He forgot to add that the pain free part would not start until AFTER the excruciating pain of being stabbed with enormous needles was fully experienced. The anesthesia worked – kind of. Everything felt pretty numb, except for one, dinner plate sized area on the right side of my abdomen. Every time I had a contraction, it felt as if a large mole was attempting to dig its way out of my stomach – not that I’ve ever witnessed a large mole digging – but those creatures have super long claws – so if they WERE digging out of your stomach, I’m sure it would hurt like a mofo. With the contractions now serious about torturing me, daughter #3 made her debut within four hours.
By the time I had baby #4, my son, I felt like an old pro. When I went into labor that morning, I refused to go to the hospital until I had eaten a large, satisfying breakfast (there will be no starving today!) I had made my peace with the fact that this was going to be a natural birth, whether I liked it or not, so there would be no crushing disappointments when anesthesia did not work. I felt calm and confident – and ready to pop this baby out. That lasted until I had to pee.
I started to get out of bed to go to the restroom, only to be stopped by two student nurses who had cheerfully informed me earlier that they would be giving me their personal attention until their shift ended at 2pm. As I attempted to stand up, both nurses held up their hands to block me, informing me that since my water had broken, I could not get out of bed because there was a danger of umbilical cord prolapse. They urged me to get back into bed and one of them brought me a bedpan, telling me I would need to use it instead. They positioned the bedpan under me and then they stood, one on either side of the bed, and watched me intently. After about five minutes of this, I let them know that I would not be able to pee with an audience. They both smiled widely and bobbed their heads in unison, turning into my personal pee-pee pep squad: “You can do it!” “Just think of WATERFALLS!” “Just pretend we aren’t even HERE!” They then took up their bedside vigil again, with wide eyes and the occasional supportive nod.
It took me about another five minutes before I blew. I threw off my blanket and wiggled off the bedpan, handing it to the nearest nurse as I stood.
“No, no! You need to get back into bed!” Implored student nurse one.
“It could be DANGEROUS!” Exclaimed student nurse two, “Our supervisor told us so!”
I leveled my best mean mom look at the two of them, “Then you’d better run tell your supervisor that I’m going to PEE in the BATHROOM – because unless you tie me to this bed, that is EXACTLY what I’m going to do!”
I did my business in the bathroom and was not surprised when no cord came tumbling out. The delivery went pretty smoothly after that. I was a bit concerned that I would have to give birth with my pep squad staring intently at my nether-regions and offering positive affirmations — but my son, bless his heart, saved me from that fate by stubbornly staying put until just after the student nurses ended their shift at 2:00pm. He’s cool like that!