i reminded brian to exit central expwy at forest. i reminded brian to not turn into the wrong parking lot. i reminded brian to unlock the car again to get the massive cardboard box out of the backseat that contained the cord blood collection kit. he was turning into a sitcom dad-to-be. it was endearing. but once we were in the maternity ward and i was being handed a gown the size of a sheet in a color and pattern far exceeding my expectations of ugly and being asked to leave a urine sample in the bathroom, it was time for my angst to begin to shine.
we had an amazing nurse with us through the whole experience: maryann. she was a petite woman old enough to be my mother. she was reassuring and told me i was doing a good job after i threw a fit while she inserted the first IV of my life. she promised to inject it with something good before any more needles were introduced.
maryann went to a meeting and a younger nurse temporarily took her place. she left to go check on my relaxation medication.
my experience at medical city included an impossibly large parade of personnel and i'm pleased to report that my interactions with them were 99.9% satisfactory. above and beyond even. but don't worry... i'll illuminate the .1% intent on muddying those waters.
enter: the phlebotomist.
i had to have at least five vials drawn. four alone were required for the cord blood collection kit. don't ask me why. she walked in and i joked with her saying it was going to be a lot easier for her than it was for the nurse who put in the IV since they were about to give me some drugs. what i said apparently didn't register because she was, how you say, dim witted. i could immediately see the light doth not shine brightly in her attic. she began trying to tie the elastic around my arm as brian and i looked at each other and said "uhhhh". i followed this up with "no... they're about to come give me something before i have the blood drawn". she said in her dim witted way "naw... they would have to give you a pill and that would take 30 minutes to work." i vollied back with "uhhh" followed by "no... they said they're going to put something in the IV. she just left to go get it." phlebotomist looked all pissy and put out and the nurse came back in. phlebotomist begrudgingly went away. alas, whatever they gave me didn't seem to have any effect. so they gave me more, but still nothing. phlebotomist came back and took out her irritation on my arm. bitch. it fucking hurt. probably because she was stirring the needle about in my arm. i know i took a photo of the bruise left that is only just now almost gone at 2.5 weeks later, but can't find it now to save my life. poo.
i was now in an even bigger panic considering i was feeling absolutely nothing from the two injections and the epidural team had been summoned. omg omg omg. i couldn't do it without being drugged!
nurse maryann came back from her meeting and told me she was shooting me up with a little something called Stadol ("morphine+demerol", says the internet) just as the epiduralist was queuing up with his tray of god knows what which i tried very hard to avoid looking at along with two helpers who i also tried to avoid looking at and all the while i was apparently avoiding looking at the epiduralist because the only thing i remember him saying to me during his lecture was "look at me... look at me" which i did for all of four seconds like i was in the middle of one of those uncomfortable relationship talks when you're too despondent to look at your significant other even though he keeps saying "look at me... look at me".
as someone whose experience with drugs is limited to a couple of fistfuls of doobies and a hit of legally-administered demerol long ago, i can liken my experience with Stadol to the first time i got drunk at age 16. even though i had only consumed two bartles&james wine coolers, i was stumbling and falling down drunk. my brain didn't know how to process the experience. i was a mess. and so it was with Stadol. they had me sitting on the edge of the bed, but i was becoming too incoherent to argue that the alternate position of curled up in the fetal position on the bed would behoove us all. my vision began doubling up and my speech began mumbling up as one of the many nurses who had appeared out of nowhere placed brian in a chair behind her and she took over as my support system. we embraced and i tried to tell her i wasn't ready... that i was going to fall over as she patted me and consoled me with a blur of motherly words. the anesthetic stung and i'm pretty sure i cried before we settled in to let it work and i was reduced to a half-conscious blob capable of only the lightest of rhythmic moans. but i was roused enough when i was told they were going to begin. as expected, i jerked in the beginning, but only once. i was frightened i would become paralyzed if it happened again. i felt like a miniature 70's era pop-it was being squished into my nerf-like spine. i could feeling nerf-like sensations shooting down my right leg. they insisted i push back against whatever it was that the epiduralist was doing. though this seemed highly counter-intuitive to me, i tried to acquiesce as much as possible.
then i was slathered in what sounded like sheet after sheet of tape.
after the parade of mysterious medical personnel filed out to giggle in the warm waves of my passing humiliation, i was left to descend even farther into my Stadol fog. somewhere in there, a urinary catheter was inserted relieving my compulsive need to sit on the toilet and a vaginal heart montior which rested on the babies head was threaded in (no worries... it wasn't the kind that is actually stuck into his head). so i was beginning to resemble a puppet with medical strings at this stage.
i was concerned the epidural wasn't working because i could still feel my legs. so i spent some time periodically thrashing my legs about in the bed to test the waters and try to ease my panic. consciousness began to pull away along with my ability to form words and push them out of my mouth. i saw evelyn enter and pass through the eye of my fuzzy fog carrying flowers which i would only realize much later that i had seen. brian hovered to my left and evelyn to my right as i mumbled and mumbled and tried to tell them i thought a cat had jumped up on my bed. but really, on a good day... i think i see cats jumping on the bed. we have six. chances are there is a cat jumping on the bed.
brian's mother must have also come back at some point and eventually, my parents showed up. i was becoming somewhat more coherent by the time my sister, niece, and nephew arrived and was happy just drifting in and out of painless slumber for hours as visitors took turns playing scrabble or mancala or staying glued to the contraction monitor in order to issue blow by blow reports of the movements of my uterus. i didn't mind this so much until i was pretty far along and could actually begin feeling the contractions. nurse maryann promised this was a good thing so that i could feel enough to push.
so the blow by blow really began getting on my nerves and my repeated requests to cut it out were largely ignored until i started getting snappy. yes... i know that was a big one. did you see the look on my face?
the Stadol was basically out of my system by early afternoon and, at some point during one of her many trips in to rotate me from side to side, nurse maryann mentioned i could always just press the button. button? what button? no one had mentioned i had an inject-at-will button hooked up to my epidural drip. well then, push the button we did. two, maybe three times. this might not have been such a grand idea since it was all while lying on my right side and apparently the medicine flows with gravity and, though it's supposed to leave your system within an hour or so after removing the catheter, i couldn't fully feel my leg until the following morning.
so the contractions were increasing and apparently so was the girth of my cervix. at some point, nurse maryann said something about trying to push as she began ushering people out. they each looked at me with an air of wist in their eyes as they began filing out. it was then that i asked "wait... aren't they coming back?" the reality of the pushing wasn't really setting in. the pain relief granted by the genie epidural had made the whole experience so surreal.
okay. so we're going to push. i can't remember if the lower half of the table was removed for this or not. but the picture i had in my head of the crowning and birth consisted of low lighting and a host of medical professionals and brian in scrubs awashed in blue paper sheets. not a room letting in the bright sunshine of the afternoon, brian in his first-date shirt and a single nurse. i was perplexed.
but up came the stirrups anyway and my dead legs were loaded on to them. when the next contraction began rolling around, nurse maryann instructed brian to push my left leg up by the foot while she took charge of the right. i was instructed to begin pushing. as i could feel nothing, i decided to try pushing by making the face that you inevitably see people making when they push while i was commanded urgently by both attendees to push and i was congratulated on a job well done. i informed them they should really let me know if i was pushing because i didn't have a clue either way if i was and i certainly didn't want them patronizing a poor job on my part with ill-gotten pushing praise. i accredit my success, at least in part, to the lack of instruction telling when to quit pushing. as a result, i pushed for a really long time and as i was halfway through my exhale, nurse maryann would be saying "okay now deep breath.. push!" i began wondering when i would pass out due to a lack of oxygen.
though with my first push, i admit i did feel some tremendous pain which i felt i couldn't continue pushing through. it was the stabbing pains of heartburn racing up through my chest and into my neck. brian, always at the ready, fed me two tums which did the trick. after a couple more contractions and pushes, i was informed that i had pushing abilities surpassing women on their third or fourth delivery. always the over-achiever.
the baby had begun to crown right away and i could feel the top of his head sitting there in between contractions. a very odd feeling to say the least. but i wasn't panicked and i even tried to steal a glimpse in the mirror on the far side of the room, but a soap dispenser or something was strategically in my way. nurse maryann pointed out to brian how the baby had an impressive head of hair as she twirled a lock from his crowning scalp around her finger.
nurse maryann made another call downstairs to dr culpepper to tell her to step on it. step on it she did and before i knew what was happening, there she was looking like she was preparping for a hasmat procedure in her big, blue paper robe and her large, plastic eye visor. we pushed a couple more times and after a total of 15 minutes of pushing, his head squished out and what felt like a small freight train quickly slid out after it. holy crap! that was it?!?
i suppose that's when i saw a flash of him and i felt like maybe i should tell dr culpepper she might need to root around in there a little longer because i wasn't convinced she'd pulled the right thing out. how could this tiny, little boy be what i had been communing with through my belly all this time? you mean... there was an entire person up in there?!?
to be continued...