This is part two of a very long story describing the birth of Norah A. Babysaurus. If you’re feeling up to it, start with part one.
When we took a tour of the hospital’s labor and delivery center a few months earlier, we realized that the most convenient time to arrive would be on a Sunday between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., because there would be ample parking available and we wouldn’t need to be escorted through all the locked doors. And I can’t help but take a little pride in having made it well within that window.
What they didn’t mention during the tour is that if you arrive in labor and delivery between 6 and 7 in the evening, the nurses will be getting ready to change shifts. What this means for you, the laborful one, is that you will start with one nurse, who will have you change into a hospital gown, make you pee in a cup, ask you questions, hook you up to the fetal monitor, check your cervix, and gently break the news that you’re only at 2 centimeters even though you’ve already been in labor for nine hours and were at 1 centimeter to begin with. Then she sweetly informs you that standard procedure is to wait an hour to make sure you’re actually in labor before admitting you, but since you’re a week overdue and have been having regular contractions since this morning, she thinks you’ll probably get to stay, so try to make yourself comfortable and can she get you some juice or water?
And then in that hour, as you’re slowly sipping your giant cup of ice water, gracefully enduring your contractions, trying to remember how far along you have to be before you can have that epidural, but still trading jokes with your husband as he fields excited phone calls and text messages, the nurses change shifts. And the new nurse — ohh, the new nurse — comes into your room after that hour to check your progress and admit you to the hospital, you’re certain of it. Only instead of checking your progress and admitting you to the hospital, she tells you to take your giant cup of ice water and drink it all, then fill it up and drink it all again, while you roam the hallways of the Family Birth Center for two more hours, and then she’ll see how you’re doing. She wants make sure you’re not just dehydrated, because you’re not acting as if you’re in too much pain.
So you walk slowly through the hallways with your husband as your contractions continue to get more intense, doubling over against the wall in pain with each one, stopping back in your room every half hour to pee because you’re (still pregnant and) probably not dehydrated. Finally, she catches you on your 1,314,522nd lap and tells you to go ahead back to your room. “How are your contractions?” she asks. “Much worse, thank you.” “Go ahead and lie down so we can check you,” she says. So you lie down. Suddenly, you feel your stomach turn. All you’ve eaten today was pancakes and half a bagel, and you just drank a LOT of ice water. “I feel a little nauseous,” you say casually. Your stomach turns again. “I feel a lot nauseous,” you declare, darting up to a sitting position as fast as a 41-weeks pregnant woman in labor can dart so that she can vomit into a bag and not on her pillow.
What they also failed to mention on the hospital tour or in childbirth class or in any of the pregnancy books or websites is that it’s possible for your nurse to get caught in the middle of a passive power struggle between your doctor, who’s just returned from his weeklong vacation halfway around the globe, and the well-meaning-but-overly-interfering doctor-on-call. For instance, your doctor, who is brilliant and kind and brilliant and the only reason why you had hoped to go into labor a week past due, may call in the evening to check on his patients. Your heart skips a little with joy.
The nurse will tell him that you’ve just arrived, that you are probably in labor and not dehydrated, but you haven’t been admitted yet. Then the nurse will call the doctor-on-call to let her know that your doctor called and will take over, thank-you-very-much. Then the nurse will come back into your room to let you know that your doctor called, but the doctor-on-call said that your doctor had just flown back from Lebanon and has surgery first thing in the morning and, despite the fact that he explicitly said he wanted to be in on it, the doctor-on-call has instructed the nurse to leave him alone and call her instead. And we can admit you now.
So after helping you switch to a room with better cellular reception, the nurse begins asking the first of 679 admission questions. She skillfully times the asking of each question with the start of each contraction, and seems to match the complexity of the answer with the contraction’s intensity. “Have you thought about what birth control you’ll use?” she asks. Childbirth! you think, but all you manage to say is “no.”
Finally, she starts you on an IV and offers you Nubain, a narcotic which can slow labor but will take the edge off the pain, and might make you a little drowsy. To which you say YESSSSS, because you’re exhausted and you’re only at three centimeters and each contraction feels like your gut is being crushed between a Mack truck and a humpback whale and THERE ARE NO BONUS POINTS FOR ENDURING PAIN. It’s around 10 p.m., but it feels like… like… time? What is time? Your eyelids begin to feel heavy and your head drops to the side as you breathe a sigh of temporary relief. Although the nurse is astonished at how quickly and how strongly you react to the drug, you and your husband are not (seeing as you can only take DayQuil at night), and finally you feel able to make a courtesy Facebook post,
In labor, at hospital, happily drugged. Time for a “nap.”
and drift off into a light sleep.
A very light sleep. The nurses at the nurses’ station talk loudly throughout the night, which is bad for sleeping, but good for overhearing when your doctor finally calls again to find out why he hasn’t received any updates on you. You’re pleased as punch to hear the nurse call the doctor-on-call to inform her that no, she is to call him despite his having just returned home and having to perform surgery in the morning. The wild life of a bachelor obstetrician! And in between what are now, again, painful contractions, you feel a warm, fuzzy sense of gladness and relief because now you know you haven’t endured a whole extra week of pregnancy for nothing.