What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I was nearing my due date when, at 6p.m. on a Friday night, my water broke. Thankfully, my husband and I had already scheduled the babysitter that evening to go on our last date before baby number two arrived. So much for squeezing in some couple time before we became a family of four.
My obstetrician warned me that the birth of the second child can go much faster than the first, and directed me to go straight to the hospital the moment I had any signs of labor. This wasn't my first rodeo, so I wasn’t nervous. We put our son to bed just like it was any other night. Heeding my doctor’s warning, my husband kept pointing to his watch as I dawdled and made small talk with the sitter.
My husband finally rushed me out of the house and drove us to the hospital less than five miles away. On the way, I started timing my contractions. Could this be? My contractions were already four minutes apart. At the hospital, we went to the triage room and waited for a nurse to check my cervix. I was shocked when she told me that I was five centimeters dilated and my contractions were coming every two minutes. I had no idea I was that far along. My doctor was right--things were progressing very quickly.
The nurse asked me how much pain I was in. My contractions were tolerable and I wasn't keeling over in pain (yet), but I told her that I wanted to get an epidural right away because I didn’t want to miss my “window.” I had seen birth videos where the woman tells the nurse that she doesn't want an epidural and labors for hours in pain. At the very last moment, she begs for an epidural, only to be told, “Sorry, it's too late for you.” My nurse reassured me that wouldn't happen, saying, “Don’t worry honey. We don’t have any window period. You’ll get your epidural.”
Once in the delivery room, the nurse prepped me for the epidural and went out to call the anesthesiologist. By this point, I was squirming in pain.
The anesthesiologist arrived and before he got started, the nurse did one last check of my cervix. She said, “Honey, you’re at ten centimeters. It's time.” All I managed to say in a weak and pleading voice was, “Epidural?” She barked back, “There’s no time for an epidural. You’re going to push and this baby is going to come out.” So much for her “no-window” policy. To say I was unhappy would be a severe understatement.
She shooed away the anesthesiologist and yelled down the hall, “I need a doctor in here to catch this baby!” A blurred image bolted in, a plastic gown was thrown on, and I grabbed my husband and pulled him tight against my body. I never knew I could scream so loud. Push one and the baby’s head was out. Push two came the baby’s shoulders. Push three and the baby was out. My husband thought I had cracked his ribs from squeezing him so hard.
My daughter was born into this world at 10:10p.m., ten days earlier than expected. She certainly was in a rush to get here. I never thought I would survive giving birth without an epidural, but crazier things have happened.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?