29 years ago from right now, I was getting a little frantic. I’d been admitted to the hospital at Scott Air Force Base the day before to deliver my first child, more than 2 weeks past the due date. Woo hoo! Tiime to make the donuts! Get this show on the road! Git ‘er done!
Yet here I was, 30 hours later, in horrible pain, and no baby. Not even close. My mother-in-law, bless her freakin’ heart, just kept feeding me ice chips and telling me not to worry. Mouth saying one thing, eyes saying another. What she really meant was that she was worried enough for both of us.
I had prepared for this whole labor & delivery thing. Read the books, practiced the breathing, packed the bags. I first realized it wasn’t going to go as planned when my sister had to tell me that I was in labor, because I hadn’t figured it out. To be fair, she IS a medical professional, and this WAS my first pregnancy, but it’s a little embarrassing when someone ELSE has to tell you “it’s time”.
Since my husband was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, my mother and mother-in-law whisked me away to the hospital. I was robed, and needled, and poked, and measured, and monitored, and advised to try napping while I could, because soon I’d have a crying infant waking me up every few hours.
No baby came. The doctor broke my water, and the contractions got stronger and closer together, but no baby came. The med student that tried to administer a “saddle block” for pain did so incorrectly, so no relief from what was now more than 24 hours of back labor.
At Scott Air Force Base in 1982, there were several women to one labor room. No exaggeration: there were women who came in after me, had their babies, and were being DISCHARGED TO GO HOME, and I was still in the labor process. The pain got worse, and I was moved into a private labor room because I was making the other laboring women nervous. I was paler than I normally am, which means I looked like an albino, and my lips were chapped and bleeding from being so dry. There had not been a damn thing in the book about this.
The night wore on, with different doctors and nurses making their rounds every so often, checking the chart and repeating the by now ridiculous advice to try to nap and remember to breathe through the contractions. I was beginning to become sarcastic and surly. (I know, I know, you can’t imagine that, but it’s true.) The contractions were constant, and spiking off the paper feeding through the machine. The oh-so-practical military nurse decided to just turn off the monitor, since it was established that I was, indeed, having strong contractions. Oh goody.
Morning came, and I was in a full blown panic. I was thinking of suing the author of the book for total misrepresentation of this birthing process. My mother had been in the waiting room since Friday afternoon when I was admitted, but wouldn’t come into the labor room because she was “too upset to see me”. Thanks, Mom! My mother-in-law, however, was a champ. She just kept talking, telling stories, making jokes, and reassuring me that as soon as I saw the baby, I’d forget that I’d ever been in labor. My mother-in-law is a liar.
We were past the 48 hour mark, groups of doctors were now stopping by, along with groups of medical students who were being quizzed on what could possibly be wrong. I was suddenly an example of something, some birthing malfunction, but I didn’t know what.
I had become pretty delirious. I remember looking at my m-i-l, and telling her with complete seriousness that I’d changed my mind. I couldn’t stand this anymore, I couldn’t do it, I just wanted it to stop. I was taking it all back: I didn’t want to have a baby anymore. The whole baby idea was a big mistake. Just make it stop. Please. I needed someone to make it stop. For the first time, my mother in law didn’t try to blow smoke up my hospital gown or distract me with something witty. With as serious a look as I’d ever seen from her, she told me that there was no “STOP”; yes, something was wrong, something was VERY wrong, but I was a going to have to see it through and deal with whatever the outcome was. She left the room, and soon she came back with a new doctor. He happened to be the Chief of Surgery, and was humoring my mother in law who he’d seen ranting at the nurse’s station that someone needed to do something NOW before her daughter in law died.
He looked at the chart, which was now pages long, and would glance up at me as he flipped one page to the next. I’m pretty sure that if you had a picture of Linda Blair in the Exorcist next to a picture of me at that moment, there would have been lots of similarities.
Without any further ado, he announced that I needed a C-section; within a minute there were people everywhere, unplugging and needling and poking and yelling instructions. I was given a general anesthesia, and within 20 minutes, that long-overdue baby made her entrance. They even X-rayed my mother-in-law’s hand after they had taken me into surgery to see if the bones had survived the 48 hours of “just squeeze my hand, honey”.
I woke up a couple of hours later, and finally got to see my first born. She was still kind of blue, and had a serious cone head, but she was alive and healthy.
Happy birthday, Miss Amanda. While I’ve never forgotten the pain of those 3 days, you’ve always been worth every moment of it.