Disclaimer: The events of these days, while some are as vivid and personal as I had hoped they would be, most of the details of that time have disappeared from my memory. My memory of the time leading up to Mr R’s birth is like a dark room that sometimes a swinging single bare bulb illuminates as I move through the darkness to remember and to share.
I remember, I woke early in the morning on October 18th, 2006. It was my due date and I was ready to meet Mr R. I felt like we had already been through so much together. And just like clockwork, early that morning, I started my contractions. Jed was still asleep and I was alone in those first few hours, with my body, the baby, and this belt-like pain. Breathe in. Breathe out. I felt confident this labor was going to be nothing compared to the emotional trek I had made in the past 6 months.
As the morning progressed, J and I conferred and then decided to call my Dr. She requested that I come in to her office to be tested and checked. I have no recollection of the events, of why we went, of what she was testing for or any of that.
What I do know is that she sent us afterwards to the hospital. And there we waited……for 18 hours. We even tried leaving at one point, thinking we would come back when the labor progressed more, but they wouldn’t let us leave. I had heard many stories of women being turned away from the hospital because they weren’t ready but none of them prepared me to be trapped in sterile walls, cold floors and a rotating shift of caregivers and interns who seemed more interested in their diet coke and gossip than in me.
As we sat and waited, I sang the songs on my mixed cd I had brought (yes, I am that old), read magazines and sat on the birthing ball. I believe my parents stopped in for a visit. J and I walked the halls and got in the elevator but they wouldn’t let us leave the floor on our walks. So we walked in circles. From the moment of admittance, I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything. No water. No ice chips. No crackers. Nothing. I wish my brain would have known that – I would have loaded my protein shakes, energy cubes and contraband bottle of water next to my jammies and the onesie we had brought in the overnight bag. It’s funny that before a marathon people carb load but before birth, one of the most physically strenuous activities, I could neither eat nor drink. So there we were, tired, hungry, bored and trapped on the hospital floor. Yea for birth!
Sometime in the late afternoon, or so I am told, my Dr. had ordered some kind of blood tests for me. I don’t know what they were for or why they were needed. I just knew that they needed 8 vials of blood from me. Since they also needed a line for the IV, in case I needed an epidural, they wanted to use one line for both the blood collection and for the IV. Simple enough right?
I remember the first nurse. She picked up my hand and gave me a shot to deaden the area. They she tried to insert the needle. My vein rolled and the needle missed. Pain shot up my hand. I looked at her. She looked at me. Her eyes said it had been a long time since she had done this. I wanted to jump out the window. This wasn’t going to be simple.
And so it began. I have veins that “roll.” They don’t play nice and instead of laying quietly while the needle punctures them, they roll at the last minute, the needle misses and a game of hide and seek ensues in the flesh of my arm. Couple this “rolling” tendency of my veins with my dehydration and even I knew that filling all their vials was going to be quite the undertaking.
I didn’t however anticipate that is would literal be HOURS worth of undertaking. Repeated needle insert into my arms and hands ensued by a rotating army of nurses and other staff. Once or twice they struck bone in my hand digging for a vein. Often they would get the needle inserted but the blood flow would not be enough to fill all their vials so they would need to try again.
I don’t remember their faces, but I remember the feeling – I was a pesky task for them instead of a woman in labor. Most didn’t interact with me at all. Often, only at my request, would they wait while a contraction finished. I was finding it hard to handle both pains at the same time.
To cope, I sat on my birthing ball and sang songs out loud, “Take me for who I am, for who I was meant to be, and if you give a damn….” from Rent or from U2 “All the promises you made, from the cradle to the grave, and all I want is you….” The more painful my arms became, the louder I sang.
I also meditated. One thing that had gotten me off the couch and Judge Judy during the prenatal depression was twice a week prenatal yoga. An older lady would chant and tell us stories of Indian tribal legends. She burned incense and created an absolutely safe place to explore within. She was calm and kind and wise. Namaste. But more importantly, she helped me tap deep into myself, to retreat to a calm and peaceful place. This became invaluable during the later hours of “Let’s find a vein.”
Somewhere in this process, Jed convinced them to let me take a bath. We hoped that the cool water would help my swelling arms. They agreed. The bath was wonderful. It was just me and Riley again and a moment to refocus. Getting in and out of the tub was hard because of the strength of the contractions; however it was totally worth it.
The final round of needles was unsuccessful. While the bath did wonders for me personally, it hadn’t helped solve any problems. On the birthing ball, arms upturned and bruised, contractions coming and going, the final straw was about to shatter my calm. A young, cocky man walked in the room with a whole slew of nurses and said, about me, not to me, “If we can’t get it in her arms or hands, we will have to put it in her neck.”
My anger finally surfaced bringing with it some much needed personal boundaries and an ability to push back. I had tried to be very zen through almost 8 hours of these incompetent crazies poking around in my arms and hands. But the thought of them starting to poke a needle in my neck, affecting my breathing, affecting my ability to tune out while singing, and creating a completely claustrophobic scenario for me, it all became too much.
Who was this guy?? This guy who hadn’t even said hello to me or introduced himself or asked my opinion?? And he gets to decide to stick a needle in my neck? What did he know anyway?? And it’s a GUY who is telling me this? He knows nothing about childbirth! Let’s see him stick an iv in his neck, deal with contractions and have a baby!! Then he started talking about perhaps putting one in my head……..breathe in, breathe out. Contractions coming and going. This guy is a complete joker.
And then…….nothing. I don’t remember anything after that. Was I crazy? Did I yell? Was I catatonic? I don’t know. I’d like to think I simply, finally, and firmly said, No. No. I don’t want an IV in my neck.
What I do know is I didn’t get a needle to the neck. At about 10pm, someone else came into the room. Just them and me. All the crazies had cleared out a while ago. He was a smallish man from India. He looked me in the eyes and then took my arms in his hands. For the first time in many hours, I felt humanity…. like I was seen as a person – a mother in labor – and not as a task or a lab rat. He mentioned something about incompetence and in several steps he had completed the tasks. Easy. Done. Less than 2 minutes. A moment of Grace. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I closed my eyes. Now maybe we could focus on these contractions and getting Mr R. into this world……