“You’re going to hate me in about three seconds,” my obstetrician said before he began counting down from three, his hands positioned over my stomach. On two, he and the nurses that were holding me down began pushing. The room filled with my screams as they began to manually push the blood from my abdomen.
At least, that’s how my husband tells the story to the nurse by my bedside. She has been popping in and out of the delivery room for the past hour to check on my vitals and monitor my contractions. He’s telling her the story of what happened last time I was in a delivery room. The time that giving birth almost killed me.
In December 2014, I had my first child, a beautiful baby girl. I was pregnant for 41 long weeks and due to a medical necessity (gestational diabetes), I was induced. An induction is a lengthy process. When you are induced as a first-time mom, it can be even lengthier. My doctor’s original estimation was that it would be at least 36 hours before I was holding my baby, with true labor at least 18 hours away yet.
At 5.30 p.m., I was given a suppository, a menu for the cafeteria to order dinner and strict instructions to get some rest. I was in for a long couple of days. At 6.30 p.m., after checking and rechecking my vitals, the labor and delivery nurse laughed and quietly told me that I was in labor. Again I was advised to get some rest, but who can sleep knowing that in a few short hours, you are going to meet the person you’ve waited your entire life for?
For a while, everything went perfectly. My water broke on its own. I didn’t require any additional drugs. My labor had begun in earnest of its own accord, the suppository falling out when my water broke. Time seemed to both speed up and slow down while I waited for permission to push. I was anxious and excited, but I wasn’t afraid. Suddenly the room filled up and once more my obstetrician was with me, only this time he was wearing a gown and a mask. “It’s time,” he said with a smile that touched his eyes.
I pushed for three long, hard hours before it began to seem like something might be wrong. An oxygen mask was slipped on my face as the nurse told my doctor that the baby and I were in distress. “The baby is posterior,” said the doctor. “Call the NICU!” And then, “Get the vacuum!” With one last big push, my daughter entered the world, and she did so without a sound.
She was blue and lifeless, the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. She was quickly untangled and passed off to the NICU team. My mother followed her and watched as the doctors and nurses worked to resuscitate her while my husband remained by my side.
I remember my mother’s face appearing from behind my doctor’s shoulder. With tears in her eyes, she told me my baby girl was OK, she was breathing, and she and my husband changed places. I could hear him talking about names and who she looked like. One of the NICU nurses asked for his phone and took pictures of him in front of our daughter as they continued to use a face mask and bag to pump oxygen into her tiny lungs.
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It would be a little while longer before I would see her face for the first time. My husband held her up to me as I was sewn back together. She was perfect and well worth the lifetime of waiting. The room had cleared out and we were alone as a family for the first time ever.
Then came the pain, followed by confusion, and finally help. Nurses rushed back into the room followed shortly by my doctor. I was hemorrhaging. My uterus was filing with blood and they had to drain it and stop the bleeding.
So it was on two that my doctor pushed, and my husband’s story had begun. He and I took turns telling her about how it would be almost a week before I was released from the hospital. How I required injections of clotting agents and blood transfusions. My veins collapsed and I fainted while trying to get from my bed to my wheel chair. We were telling her because we were sure it was all going to happen again.
At 2 a.m. on the morning of April 20, I woke up to go to the bathroom. An hour later, I was in labor. This time, I was afraid.
“I have to tell you something,” I said to my husband as we drove to the hospital. “On the desktop of my computer there is a file with your name on it…” He kept his eyes on the road as I told him everything it contained: our mortgage, our banking information, my wishes for burial if something should happen to me.
He already knew all of it. We had spent the past nine months discussing it and planning. It took a bit of the air out of the pregnancy. With our first, we talked endlessly about names. This time, we discussed what would happen to our toddler if I needed another extended hospital stay. Last time, I excitedly packed everything I could possibly want into my hospital bag. This time, there were just advanced directives tucked alongside nursing tops. At night as we lay in bed, we used to imagine what the delivery would be like. This time, with our toddler sleeping soundly between us, I quietly reminded him that I was an organ donor.
And then, at approximately 9:45 a.m. on April 20, our second daughter was born. She came into this world pink and screaming and so full of life.
She was perfect, and so was I.
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