I remember screaming. Not so much in pain, but with effort. More physical effort than I had expended on anything, ever, in my entire life.
About an hour and a half after I officially started hard labor, the epidural ran out. Usually they try to figure out the dose so that it starts to run out just at the time when you need to feel your hips enough to know when to bear down. So this one ran out a little early. I could feel each contraction like I was being ripped apart from the inside.
I begged. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I begged those nurses and the doctor for drugs like I was some strung out hooker needing a fix. I think I probably promised them my baby if they would just make it stop, make it stop, do something to ease the pain.
They didn’t want to, because it would mean that I wouldn’t be able to tell when to push, but they ended up doing it.
When my vision cleared and I could actually think coherently again, I found myself squatting, with my arms hanging over a bar suspended over my bed, pushing as hard as I could. There were about ten people in the room, the doctor, the nurses, GoodMan, and me. They called me “Xena the Warrior Princess” because I was yelling so loudly. Apparently there was a woman in the next room that hadn’t given birth yet and I was freaking her out.
They told me this. Like I give a fuck? I’m pushing a watermelon out of a part of my body meant for something else entirely, and you want me to worry about some woman in the next room who will probably have a sum total of twenty minutes of pushing before popping her kid out?
Get the fuck out of my face. And give me more drugs.
I finally couldn’t do it anymore. I collapsed backward, my legs unable to support me any longer. The doctor was getting a little anxious, and the nurses were yammering in my ear, telling me I needed to get back up, I needed to keep pushing, keep trying, it was almost over. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. I tried to make my muscles obey and they just wouldn’t.
The nurses hastily conferred with the doctor, and it was decided that there might be something preventing the baby from moving into the right position to be born. They brought in some contraption that was actually like a vacuum cleaner, with a suctioney thing on the end of it.
Apparently, not only were you turned over (sunny side up, as they say) but your forehead was being pushed against my pelvic bone every time I pushed, so you were going nowhere, and you needed to. Asap.
They used the little suction cup thingie, attached it to your head, and moved you down just enough so that when the next contraction came, whaddaya know? You moved right into position the way you were supposed to. With the next contraction, you were born.
I will never forget the feeling of you leaving my body. It was unbelievable. It was a relief, from both the pressure, and the pain, and the awful concern about why you weren’t born yet. I felt you slide out into the doctor’s hands and I swear, I almost cried from relief.
There was some sort of commotion right after you came out. I couldn’t hear you, and the nurses took you and immediately whisked you over to a corner of the room where they all gathered around you. I couldn’t hear them, and I couldn’t hear you, and I had just barely enough strength to ask what was wrong, where were you, where was my baby?
GoodMan didn’t know either, but he kept reassuring me and holding my hand and telling me what a good job I did. I felt so weak, it was incredible.
Suddenly the knot of people at the end of the room parted, and I heard your voice split the air for the first time, an indignant, drawn out howl that announced to everyone in the room (and in the waiting room, maybe even the woman next door) that Xena The Warrior Princess’s baby was HERE.
GoodMan left me to go take you. He was the first one to hold you close, stroke your little cheek, marvel at your little eyelashes and fingernails and toes. He kept a hold of the video recorder and recorded your first minutes in the world. I treasure it.
It transpired that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around your neck twice. This is why the oxygen mask had been necessary, why they had to whisk you away so quickly. It also happened that I had torn so badly that they needed to sew me up before I lost too much blood, so I didn’t even hold you until you were almost an hour old.
Even with my memory, it’s no problem for me to remember that moment when they brought you over, wrapped up like a little burrito, pink and blue knit cap on your head, sound asleep, and laid you in my arms.
I was shaking, I was so scared, and awestruck, and so worried that I might drop you, or hold you wrong, or let your little head flop around or something equally devastating to your little hour-old body.
You were so small. So perfect. So beautiful. Your little fingers curled around mine when I stroked my finger down your arm and into your little palm. I brought you close to me and kissed you on your bruised little forehead, and you turned your face into me and made these little noises that meant you loved me. Or so I interpreted them. I didn’t care what you were doing, I just couldn’t stop watching you, staring at you, marveling that all this effort, all that pain and drama was like nothing. It had never even happened. It was all worth it just then, looking at you, seeing the beautiful son that GoodMan and I had made.
I still look at you and think that. Sometimes when you turn to me, sharing something that you’re so excited about, that you just can’t help but tell me all about it, your little face lights up like a Christmas tree, and your big blue eyes open even wider, and you’re so earnest and so animated that my heart just catches and almost stops sometimes, with how much I love you. With the knowledge that I would do anything for you, go through anything, handle anything, do anything I need to do to keep you safe and protected. Anything at all.
I love you. I hope you always remember that.
This is the end of the official 100 Miles To Empty story. I hope you enjoyed it, and took something away from it. If you’d like, you can also have a look at the epilogue, a flashback on the crazy drive to Tacoma, and a rewrite to the first chapter, in the first person.
Thanks for reading.