I spent the first part of the evening walking and soaking in the whirlpool. About midnight, the contractions made me scream for the first time. I remember walking around the hospital room, leaning on GoodMan, when I felt a bad one starting. I grabbed his shoulders for support, my knees buckled, and everything kind of went hazy. When my vision cleared, I was screaming in his ear and he was yelling for help from the hospital staff.
I begged the nurses for drugs. Anything to stop the pain that was gripping my body for the minutes-that-seemed-like-hours that the contractions were lasting.
They couldn’t do anything until I was dilated to at least 3 centimeters. I was at one and a half, then two, then two and a half. Then it seemed like everything stalled. For two hours, I didn’t dilate at all, but the contractions seemed to be getting worse and worse. They gave me a mild pain medication that did nothing but soften the edges of the spasms.
Finally I fell asleep, my exhausted body just couldn’t stay awake. I remember that the nurse told me that she would check my dilation at 3:00 AM, and if I wasn’t dilated to where they could administer the epidural, that they would give me some morphine and send me home.
Fuck that, I mumbled at her. This baby is getting delivered today.
3:00 AM. I’m woken by the feeling of someone probing between my legs. It’s a sign of how often I’d been checked out that this didn’t even surprise me.
What did surprise me, was when I saw the nurse’s expression of concentration break into a smile. “You’re four centimeters,” she told me. “We can give you the epidural.”
The anesthesiologist was a big, red-haired, burly bear of a man. He turned my heavily pregnant body on its side effortlessly. He told me what was going to happen: that he was going to place a needle at the base of my spine with which to inject the medication that would numb me from the waist down. I needed to make sure that I didn’t move, because there was the potential that I would be paralyzed if I did. Did I understand?
Hell, yes, just give me the goddamn drugs.
I felt the cold swipe of the swab on my skin. I felt the two-inch needle pierce me and sink in. I saw GoodMan’s eyes squeeze shut – he couldn’t stand needles.
I felt it punch through the cartilage in my spine, and I jerked. Every muscle in my body tightened and spazzed out at once, it seemed.
The entire room gasped at the same time, one collective sharply indrawn breath that screamed in my head.
“Oh my God, I messed it up, I moved oh my God oh my God, I’m sorry I’m sorry…” I couldn’t even think, I was terrified.
The anesthesiologist stayed calm. He spoke in my ear, with his needle still buried in my back.
“2N, you need to calm down. You need to relax. I need you to relax. Don’t move, just relax your muscles, okay? Just relax, that’s it, just take a deep breath, calm down, that’s it, that’s it, relax…”
Finally I did. I don’t know how. I just know that finally, I breathed. Finally, I felt the soothing numbness spread from the base of my spine, through my tortured hips and abdomen, and down through my legs.
With the anesthesiologist’s voice still murmuring in my ear, I slept.
I woke up three hours later to being fitted with an oxygen mask. The nurse told me that your heartbeat was erratic, and they were concerned that you weren’t getting enough oxygen. It crossed my mind to be concerned, but then the oxygen overload kicked in and I spent the next twenty minutes pretending that I was Darth Vader, telling you that “I am your moooooother”.
Then I slept again.
I woke up to GoodMan telling me that my mother was in the waiting room and the nurses were telling him that the doctor was on his way. It was time to push this baby out.
Next: chapter twenty-two.