It’s go time! All of the intense cellular work, sleepless nights, swelling, backaches, attempts to drink enough water, doctor’s appointments, cups filled with pee, lab draws and hormonal/emotional struggles are about to pay off. I’m beyond ready to meet my tiny nugget of joy, count his tiny fingers and toes and gaze longingly into his smooshy, reddish face. Let’s shoot this roller coaster into its final climactic surge and hit the ejection seat button! Look out hospital staff, here we come!
It’s approximately four o’clock in the morning and I hear a gentle, faint sound attempting to wake me up…my enthusiastic husband is calling my name ever so softly and rubbing my back. He’s awake, showered and completely bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He is having a hard time controlling his emotions and is about ready to explode with excitement. Gotta love him for being gentle with me and attempting to keep me calm while holding everything together; it’s like having your own personal zip-tie handy just when you need it! He knows I have a hard day ahead of me and lots of new experiences to conquer. I couldn’t ask for a better support system or advocate. Let’s do this thing!
The voyage to the hospital was brief and uneventful (no traffic at that hour!). Got the car parked, bags unloaded and commenced the waddle into the hospital to check in. Did I mention I haven’t had a lick of food since before midnight? I’m absolutely famished and there won’t be anything but ice chips in my near future. Once we arrive on the labor and delivery floor, we are asked to wait briefly while our room is readied by the nurse and her student. My thoughts immediately drift back to when I was a nursing student, taking my mind off of all things labor. I do love a good distraction. Squirrel! Our nurses Teresa and Abby bring us to the room and ask that I get on a scale. Oh no, not this again. I didn’t want to look at the number but somehow I did…how can that be right? Then my sweet, excited husband who has been eating all the things right along with me requests to mount the scale…same number! We had a great laugh!
Teresa and Abby get me settled in the bed, place my IV and urinary catheter and initiate the pitocin. Pitocin (or Oxytocin) is the hormone which sets the body in motion to begin the labor process. My body, however, is lacking in this particular hormone so I need help or he’s never coming out. Clearly, my ejection seat is a dud. The dose is based on weight. I’m huge right now so the dose is high. The nurses then escort my main man to sign the must-have epidural paperwork just outside the room.
My delivery doctor isn’t on shift yet so I’m greeted by another doc from the practice whom I’ve never met. He seems nice enough and he’s very calm; I like that because I’m the complete opposite of calm right now. The doc decides it’s time to rupture my membranes (or what most people understand as water breaking). All of a sudden, the Pitocin causes an extreme contraction. When I say extreme, I mean it lasted three whole minutes and I couldn’t breathe. My blood pressure shot straight up and my baby’s heart rate dropped significantly due to the stress. I was panicking, crying and gasping for air. All of this and I hadn’t even been seen by the nurse anesthetist yet so absolutely no pain meds were onboard. The Pitocin was immediately stopped, I was dumped on my head (into a position called Trendelenburg) to promote increased oxygenation, I was given an oxygen mask and the nurses were set to prepare me for an emergency cesarean section. But the doc wasn’t fully convinced and he was still cool as a cucumber. All of this happened while my loving, supportive husband was completing paperwork!
The crisis passed, but all of the scary things the nurses teach you about in Lamaze were ahead of me. I remained with my feet elevated above my head and the oxygen mask on while I listened carefully as the doc explained about the scalp and placental monitors that were going to be inside me after the epidural was placed. I was so scared; the kind of scared that is hard to mentally cycle out of. The doc stayed with me and held my hand while I received the epidural. I have no pain tolerance to speak of and it took about three times as much Xylocaine (the injectable used to numb the skin atop the spine) to suppress my pain receptors. The Xylocaine injections feel like being stung by a thousand bees! The epidural was placed (while I sobbed) and it worked…sort of. The spinal catheter had a slow leak so its bandage had to be changed often which meant I had to be rolled over regularly. Talk about annoying. I couldn’t even help because I was completely numb from the waist down! Finally, I was pain free and the placental and scalp monitors were in place so everyone could keep a better eye on our progress. My delivery doc replaced my calm, cool, new-found friend and I was content to be in coast-mode for awhile.
I tried to be in coast mode (I despise being idle!) but despite the epidural and being fully numb, my back was killing me. My dutiful husband made about 100 trips to the nurse’s station microwave to warm up my lavender and flax-filled back pad that I had brought from home. He’s a good egg. He also put on a soothing acoustic guitar and smooth jazz mix of music he had made himself for me. I didn’t have much to do except wait for the nurses to keep coming in to ‘check’ me. Gotta love being ‘checked.’ My body procrastinated until about five thirty in the evening and then it was time…finally! I was fully dilated and having regular contractions (although I couldn’t feel a thing!). Seat belt on, it’s time for him to catapult out into the world!
Kimberly Fisher, RN/BSN is Healthcare Program Manager for JourneyLabs. A graduate of the University of Florida College of Nursing she brings nearly a decade of experience with a background in adult (ICU/CCU) and neonatal critical care (NICU), patient advocate work in the managed care space and in pharmacy tech.