I remember my excitement when the labor-and-delivery nurse examined me and declared I was 4 centimeters dilated, the minimum amount for admittance into the military hospital where I would give birth to our second child.
“It’s happening!” I whispered to my husband. Within moments we were taken to a small, low-lit room and handed a hospital gown. The nurse wished me luck and left. It was the last I would see of her.
I climbed into the hospital bed, assisted by my husband. He had missed the birth of our first child due to deployment and was set to deploy again in a week, and he watched as monitors were hooked up around my belly and I was given an IV. Machines beeped. The TV in our room was switched on and we were left to rest and wait.
An hour passed before anyone came back to our room. Our new nurse, whose name I’ve long forgotten, informed me that it was a busy night in labor and delivery, which was confirmed by screams that could be heard from down the hallway.
Thankfully, my contractions were still mild, and hardly perceptible except for the waving lines on the screen. Within a few moments, our delivery doctor, a lieutenant commander I’d never met before, came in to introduce himself and give me an exam. As his gloved fingers were deep in my cervix, he told us that he’d need to break my amniotic sac to move my labor along.
While he prepped the long hook, the anesthesiologist entered the room and asked if I wanted an epidural.
“Yes!” I practically yelled. My first labor had been so much smoother after the spinal tap that I knew I wanted it again with my second.
“Hmm,” he said. “You don’t really seem like you’re in enough pain. You have to prove you actually need it.”
Was this asshole really asking me to perform labor?
“Um, OK,” was all I managed to reply. In that same second, the doctor inserted the long wand deep into my vagina and expertly tore my amniotic sac, causing a cascade of warm fluid to run down my butt and legs and on to the hospital floor. As so often happens, the breaking of my water abruptly changed the intensity of my labor from “manageable” to “total death grip.”
Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was still in the room to witness the sudden shift in my pain level and said an epidural order would be placed.
Almost an hour later, my epidural was finally ready. I had gone from relaxing and watching television to screaming at my husband and doctor to shut up while they were talking. The pain was so much worse than it had been with my first baby and I felt as if my insides were ripping apart while being cooked with hot coal.
The anesthesiologist, we were told, was busy with another patient, and so my epidural would be given by a corpsman, a young, mousy blond woman who seemed totally nervous.
She instructed me to sit up and face the side of the bed while arching my back. The task felt impossible between the violent contractions, but with my husband’s help, I was able to get situated so sweet relief could be administered.
I felt the thick push and tear of the heavy needle into my spine, and winced in pain, only to hear the corpsman tell us she’d missed. “I just need to try again,” she said.
She proceeded to miss two more times, and each time I felt like my lower back was being sliced apart.
Finally on the fourth try, she succeeded and then said “I only have 45 minutes worth of medicine here, sorry. Hope you deliver soon!”
It took 15 minutes for the pain to subside, and sadly, 30 minutes later the painful contractions slowly returned.
The pain reached exponential levels. I screamed out for help, but the only person who came was a janitor who was concerned something was wrong. I begged my husband to shoot me, believing a bullet in my body would be an act of mercy.
The nurse returned, stuck her face in mine and yelled “You need to shut up! You’re scaring other patients.”
I was in too much pain to register what an awful bitch the nurse was. Instead I tried to muffle my screams and tears. I was told it was time to push, but not all the way… just enough to get my son’s head positioned for delivery. I pushed and felt a strange sensation. Right away I knew I had pooped.
“I just pooped,” I told my husband and the lieutenant commander.
The Navy doctor smiled and shook his head. “No you didn’t,” he said. “You just think you did, it’s normal.”
I tried to explain that I was certain I pooped, and that somewhere between my swollen, pregnant butt cheeks was a mess that needed to be cleaned, but no one believed me. I refused to keep pushing until someone checked, and finally, to humor me, the doctor slightly lifted my butt and saw I had been right all along.
The epidural had now completely worn off and it was time to push again — and also too late for me to get another dose of pain relief.
As I bore down with each delirious contraction, I felt an intense fire-like sensation near my rectum. “Something’s burning!” I screamed between deep breaths.
“You’re OK, just keep pushing,” the doctor said.
Once my son’s head had cleared the birth canal, nurse bitchy-face asked if I wanted to see him in a mirror.
“Just get him out of me!” I yelled.
I felt the final deep tug of my son’s body escaping my own and breathed a sigh of exhausted relief. He was absolutely beautiful, and fucking huge.
“Wow, you’ve got a nine-pounder!” the doctor exclaimed.
Once I delivered the placenta, the doctor explained that I accidentally tore — third-degree tears, to be precise — and would need several stitches. Bloody, aching and exhausted, I nodded OK.
“Sweetie,” my husband said, concerned. “The whites of your eyes are all bloody.”
The nurse looked at my eyes with her tiny flashlight and confirmed my husband’s findings. “You must’ve burst the blood vessels while pushing,” she explained. “It’ll clear up on its own.”
She left the room, and soon, everyone was gone. I cherished the quiet time with my husband and new baby boy.
After an hour, however, I grew concerned. I was still lying in soiled, bloody sheets and had dried blood and fluids all over my body. “Isn’t anyone going to clean me up?” I asked.
I also had to go to the bathroom. My husband walked around the hospital trying to find someone to help us. Finally, a new nurse popped her head in and assured me someone would be there soon.
My husband held our son and I maneuvered out of the bed and towards the bathroom on my own. “That’s it babe,” I said while slowly walking. “I’m done having babies.”
“I don’t blame you,” my husband replied.
And true to my word — I never had another baby. That traumatic experience was the only birth control I needed.