7 pm. They put me on oxytocin to kickstart this labor. After the drip and some monitoring (baby's fine), we walk the halls. There's not much hall to walk. Everyone stares at me. And it is cold! I have to wear the hospital gown/hat/slipper combo with my green striped underwear hanging out for all the world to see. The nurses grumbled because I was wearing underwear. Seriously? The surgery wing is so short that I'm doing laps of about thirty steps before I have to turn around, and there's a couple of guys (videographer and assistant) hanging out in the hallway as I walk up and down...no underwear? Give me a break...a girl needs at least a little privacy!
8 pm. No change, though they do give me antibiotics…
9:30 pm. No change. Walking the single hall is awkward, especially with those slippery stupid feet covers.
10 pm. I've been having actual contractions, finally, and the birthing team laughs when I cheer: "It actually hurts now!" Since I'm at about 6 cm, they decide to break my waters and wow. Things change. Fast. I sing through the contractions (as planned), which are powerful. Painful, too, but not so much that it takes my breath away. I'd asked them to put the epidural line in earlier, but the doctors wanted to wait, afraid that it might slow my labor down even more. But now, I warn: "If you're going to give me an epidural, you better do it now, because I'm not going to be lying still much longer."
I say my safeword (pickles) so they know it's okay to give me the drugs at the same time. These contractions are coming so fast that I can't get my breath in between them, and by the time they're putting in the epidural, I'm having regular contractions. Horrible. I'm terrified of jumping from the pain and becoming permanently paralyzed. The epidural was THE worst part of the whole birth (and no disrespect to my excellent anesthesiologist!). I don't think I'll do it again.
As soon as the line is in, the assistant doctor wants to "check my dialation in a contraction."
"Then do it NOW" I snap. She checks and gets a weird look on her face.
The room explodes in a burst of frantic energy. They weren't prepared for things to happen this quickly; I was at about 5 cm when they started punching the epidural into my back! Maneuvered into the one position I was hoping not to be in, the classic feet-in-stirrups, my body rebels. I'm having a hard time pushing like they want me to because I want to be upright. Throughout all this, I'm conversing with both my husband and the team. Two languages. "I can't believe I'm still speaking Portuguese!" comes out of my mouth and we all laugh.
Someone sticks their face in mine and tries to get me to open my eyes, breathe with them. A lightning flash of pain bursts through me, and it is going the wrong way. I think maybe I cursed at my doctor. Oops. "TAKE IT OUT! STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING NOW! I DO NOT WANT IT."
(Later, I discover they were trying to catheterize me to relieve some pressure. I guess the epidural wasn't working yet as I could totally feel it.) A part of me that is still lucid and not primal is seriously pissed off as I realize that all the pain of the epidural is for naught, and I'm going to get the full force of these birth pains as originally planned, because the drugs aren't going to have time to work. Because I am pushing. At the very end, I swear, there was someone pushing on my stomach, as though the baby were a zit you could pop out with the right pressure! (Ick. I'll make sure to tell them never to do that again if I have another baby in Brazil.)
The atmosphere in the room changes around push four. Something is wrong. I try to feel the baby's head, and they slap my hand away. I'm confused. Either something's wrong or they really didn't listen to me when we discussed our birth plan. I want to catch my baby! I'm being coached in breathing, told not to arch my back, which is sort of out of my control at this point, since they don't have me in a good pushing position anyhow.
My doctor says the dreaded E word-episiotomy-but I don't care. She can do whatever she needs to to help this baby get out already! The pressure is out of this world. This last contraction doesn't come as fast as the others...everyone is agitated...and my husband's voice changes. It takes on a commanding, take-charge-panic-mode tone that I've never heard before as he tells me to push. This is it. I need to do this now. NOW.
And so I push. I can't push any harder but I do. And there is this whoosh and G slides out...but he doesn't come to me. He doesn't go to my husband. He's whisked away. Oxygen. I see blue. Vance hugs me...there is no cry...all of a sudden, my doctor holds up a giant squishy thing. "Want to see the placenta?" she asks, in a distraction technique that doesn't work well, but is kind. Bizarre, but kind. Someone says something about a cord. Short. It was around his neck. So tight. They cut before he was even out and were getting ready to pull him out with forceps..."he just needs some extra care..." and then, finally, we hear a tiny, wobbly cry.
"That's my baby!" I sigh with relief.
I'm allowed to hold him, but only for a few minutes. We don't see baby G again for five and a half hours.
FIVE AND A HALF HOURS!
Once the birth is over, the drugs kick in and my legs are totally numb. Great. I'm stitched up, forgotten at the nurses station and finally taken to the room where neither my husband nor I can sleep. The hospital won't let me go down to the nursery, not even to see the baby, let alone hold him. We are frazzled and anxious despite everyone's reassurances. When G finally comes to us, he's tiny and bruised and yet perfect. Vance crawls into the skinny hospital bed with me, and we are a family of three, holding each other tight. The night nurse might have thought we were the oddest people ever, but as we shuddered away our fears in that family embrace, all the stresses melted away and we were able to sleep...a comforting end to a life-changing day.