For part 1 go here: The Longest Labor Part 1
For part 2 go here: The Longest Labor Part 2
It took the Pitocin about an hour to kick things into full gear. As that hour ticked by my contractions became stronger, more intense and unbearable. By the time 2 hours had passed I knew that I needed an epidural. As much as I wanted to do this naturally I just couldn’t. I think part of me wanted to punish myself by feeling the pain. Another part of me wanted to feel the pain because it was the last thing that IKL and I would do together. But all of that was now out the window and I begged the nurse for an epidural.
Because I had planned to do a natural birth I had never discussed, or thought to ask the doctor about pain management. Imagine my panic when I was told that the hospital I was now settling into full blown labor in did not offer epidurals. The nurse said, “I’m sorry honey, we don’t do epidurals in this hospital because we are Catholic.” To this day I am not even sure if there is truth in that but I took her at her word. I have looked into a little and there are a lot of forums on the internet with people asking if Catholic hospitals offer epidurals but no definitive answer. One forum I read had someone stating that the Catholic religion thought a woman was supposed to feel pain during childbirth and to take that pain away was a sin. And once again I was subjected to God’s almighty punishment for getting pregnant outside of marriage.
My doctor was a sweet man. He was younger and Hispanic and had a very genuine and nurturing bedside manner. The last 5 hours of my labor he checked in on me to make sure I was doing okay five times. He would rub my back and encourage me. When I missed my postpartum appointment a few weeks later I received a personal handwritten letter that I needed to sign for. It stated that he was concerned for my well-being and that if I was worried about the money for the appointment I shouldn’t be because he would see me for free. That’s just the type of doctor he was. I’ll always remember him and the generosity and kindness he had given to me.
By the third hour post-Pitocin I had fallen into what I call “the glaze.” It’s that transitional period when you are almost fully dilated and ready to push. Your body has endured so much pain that it almost goes into a type of shock. It was during this “glaze” time that I decided I wanted to describe to myself, in words, what this felt like so that I would remember it later on. And, in my head, I said, “It feels like someone is hitting me repeatedly in the back with a metal baseball bat.” I knew it was almost time. I laid in the bed, my eyes glazed over, the pain becoming part of me. I no longer fought it. I let it come in waves and rode those waves.
A nurse came in to check my progress and was disappointed to see that I was only at a seven. She suggested getting me on my hands and knees to help move the baby down. I complied. Seconds later I felt a burn and had the urge to push. The pain was so intense it was hard to speak in anything above a whisper. My body was also so very tired. I had been up for so long. I tried to tell the nurse I had to push. My mom and J were talking to each other and I couldn’t seem to get louder than them. I grabbed J’s shirt and pulled. He bent down to hear what I was saying. He told the nurse, “She said she has to push.” The nurse laughed a little and said, “I don’t think so, she’s only at a 7. I just checked her a minute ago.” I started to moan. A deep, guttural moan. One that said my body was built to do this and regardless of whether or not you thought I was ready to push I was pushing. The nurse put on a glove and started to check me. Instead she felt a crowning head. She screamed, “Oh no honey! We can’t let you deliver the baby like that! We have to get you on your back!” I didn’t want to move and I was totally fine with delivering a baby on my hands and knees. It actually felt more productive. I really had no say so, though, and was flipped onto my back for the pushing. I was told not to push because the doctor needed to suit up for delivery. This I managed to hold back and he came just in the nick of time.
Pushing wasn’t something that took long. The first one I was told to slow down because the doctor wanted to prevent me from injuring myself. I didn’t listen. The second push delivered IKL’s head. Again I was told to slow down. This time I listened. I heard the doctor tell the nurse that I was going to require a lot of stitches and to push Demerol into my IV because it would be painful. I started to protest but the drugs were already pushed. I am glad he did, though, because I spent an hour being sewn back together and even with Demerol it was pretty painful.
My third and final push brought relief from the pain my body had been enduring. The third and final push ended my longest labor to date. The third and final push brought a new kind of pain. The third and final push brought my little girl into this world.
And she was there. I could see her. She wasn’t crying and no one put her on my chest. The doctor said, “It’s a girl! But you already knew that, didn’t you?” They rustled her a bit, got her crying. She went into an incubator and was taken away to the nursery. She was gone within minutes of entering my world. I asked J to please go with her to make sure she was okay. My mom stayed with me while the doctor continued his work on the damage that I had done from pushing so hard and so fast. I still have scars…wicked ones. They always remind me that I didn’t dream it all up.
Oh I wanted her so badly. So so badly. J brought her back into my room a few minutes after the doctor had finished. He told me her height and weight. She was all clean and had the gooey eye drops in her eyes. He placed her in my arms and for the first time she was with me but outside of me. I didn’t cry. I didn’t smile. I didn’t show any emotion at all. I was scared that if I wasn’t numb the levies would break. It would be done and over. I had to stuff it all down so that I wouldn’t devastate my very soul. I held her for a while and then asked J to take her so I could rest. He brought her back to the nursery.
I was moved to my recovery room where I would spend the next 2 days. J called IKL’s adoptive parents. He let them know her stats and that it was a girl. He said they were very happy and wanted to know when they could come. I told him I didn’t want them at the hospital because it was MY time. He relayed the message. I fell asleep for a little bit and awoke to find J standing above my bed smiling and crying. I thought he was going to tell me there had been a miracle and we didn’t have to go through with the adoption. I asked what it was and he said, “I had no idea. No idea. I’m so sorry I was so mean to you when you went into labor.” My hopes crushed, but the sentiment still quite sweet, I took his hand and told him it was okay. He really didn’t have any idea. I spent every waking second with my IKL in my arms those 2 days. Part of me was hoping that J would say, “I don’t think we should give her up.” On the final day I managed the courage to say, “Do you think we could please keep her?” J responded, “I don’t see how. We don’t have anything for her and we don’t have any money. I let it go and said he was right. Over the next 48 hours I dutifully pumped breast milk for IKL. I wanted her to have the best start in life and I knew the antibodies she would receive from my breast milk would give her a better chance than if she had had none at all. I couldn’t bring myself to actually breast feed her because I was told it would be too hard to say goodbye. And it would have. But I’m pretty sure it would have increased the chances of me not saying goodbye at all. I’m also pretty sure that’s why I was advised not to.
The social worker came a few hours before I was to be discharged. I had to sign some paperwork for temporary custody of the foster family so they could take IKL home. Everything was explained to me and my court date was given for TPR (termination of parental rights). Rides were arranged to court and all the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. The discharge nurse came next while she was giving me instructions on how to care for myself after childbirth. I was given a gift certificate for Pizza Hut because (as the nurse said) all the new moms get one. Just because I was leaving without my baby didn’t meant I couldn’t leave without some free pizza. She asked if I wanted to say goodbye to the baby and I said that I did. The nurse brought her into the room and said to just buzz her when I was ready. She then left me alone with IKL. J was getting the car loaded and pulled around. I unwrapped her from her snug little blanket and looked at her toes, memorizing them in my mind. I took pictures of her with the disposable camera I had been lucky enough to purchase before I went into labor. I studied every inch of her tiny precious body. I put her face next to mine and whispered into her ear that I loved her so much and that I hoped she would never forget me. I told her how sorry I was. Tears were welling up in my eyes. I just kept repeating, “I love you baby girl. I love you. I love you so much.” And then it was time to go.
I was told they were going to get the wheelchair to wheel me down. You know, like they do with all the new moms while they hold their babies. The thought of sitting in that wheelchair without my daughter in my arms made me want to crawl out of my skin and scream. I told the nurse I would walk. She tried to convince me otherwise by saying, “Oh it’s no bother really!” I know she was trying to be nice but she was seriously off base about the reasons I did not want to be in that wheel chair. Finally she got the point.
It was the longest hallway I ever walked down after the longest labor I’d ever had. I couldn’t do it without crying. It was as if my soul could feel her being torn from me. The further away I got the more painful it became. Tears streamed down my cheeks and hit the floor while I walked. J put his arm around me and tried to comfort me. I wasn’t wailing or making any noises. Just these big tears hitting the floor. When I was finally in the car I told J about the gift certificates to Pizza Hut. It was very weird. He was driving while I wailed and cried for my baby. And in the middle of my meltdown and tears I mention Pizza Hut gift certificates. J and I paused and laughed a little. He asked what I wanted to do and I said, “I want to go to Pizza Hut.” I managed to hold it together long enough to make it through a meal there. I kept telling myself I would see her at the foster home so it wasn’t goodbye forever. I even managed to keep it together when the waitress noticed our “new baby” gift certificates and said, “Congratulations! Did you have a boy or a girl? What did you name her? I bet you’re excited to get home and start your new life with her!” I just nodded and agreed. Inside I felt like I was dying. When we were finally home J started a bonfire in the yard for me. We sat in each other’s arms for hours by that fire. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I was silent.
It was over. The pregnancy, the birth. She was gone. And that day I was born. The BeeMom me. The me that would mourn the loss of my daughter everyday of my life in some way or another. Maybe this is the longest labor after all.