Tuesday, August 7th was one of the longest days of my life. I was given the epidural at around 11 AM. Prior to that, I was allowed one last shower. I remember thinking, “This is the last shower I’m going to take while pregnant.” It’s also a good thing I showered, because by the time I was done having Emory, I smelled horrible. My left underarm smelled as though I carried a tea bag full of sliced shallots in its moist crevice. It was as awful as the previous sentence.
While I showered my mother and husband went downstairs to get some breakfast. I was starving, but wasn’t allowed to eat. (Although, I did sneak a solitary grape, which was more torturous than pleasurable.) By the end of my labor, I would have gone about 43 hours without food. I realize that’s not too big a deal but an empty stomach proved much worse for my heartburn, which peaked on Tuesday evening and by the time it came time to push, I was begging for Pepcid.
I spent Tuesday getting pumped full of Pitocin. Or so I thought. The day nurse and I quickly became friends. I asked her questions about other labors, about working there, about birth. We talked about where she was from, where she lived, and about her family. Every now and again she would ask me a question the importance of which I underestimated.
“On a scale between 1 and 10, 10 being the most painful, how would you rate your pain?”
I would answer unsure each and every time. “A five? I dunno. A six maybe?”
Had I know the significance of that question I would have been a lot more conservative with my answers.
Truth be told, it was really hard to assess pain with the epidural. I could feel pain but I had no idea how intense it was. Worse than that, I had no idea how intense it would become. How is it really possible to rate pain when you have no clue how painful level 10 will be? I failed at this. Looking back, I should have answered with much lower numbers.
At roughly 3 PM the doctor returned to break my water. By that point I had been on the Pitocin for about 4 hours. My cervix was to be readying itself for childbirth. When she broke my water, I could feel the warm liquid fall around my butt and thighs, but I didn’t feel any pain. The feeling of water oozing out of my crotch every time I laughed or coughed or moved, felt gross. All I could do was lie there and let it fall into the pads below me, which were changed several times in the first hour and a half. At that point, the nurse decided there wouldn’t be much more all at once, an assumption that was far from true. I kept oozing and oozing.
I waited a while before complaining, but I couldn’t take it anymore. “I really feel wet down there. I really think more just came out. Can you check?”
She would change the pads, which were covered in amnionic fluid, and replace them with fresh ones. Fifteen minutes would pass and I’d feel another burst of liquid. I’d wait, and when I could take it no more, say something once again. After several times of this happening, she finally conceded. “You do seem to have a copious amount of amnionic fluid.” Maybe that’s why I was so large toward the end of my pregnancy. We thought Emory was going to be a big baby, but in all actuality, I think he just had a larger jacuzzi.
The doctor came to check on me a few times just to make sure I was doing OK and wasn’t in too much pain. The head anesthesiologist, a small Indian woman who wore a large button with the word “PAIN” on it with a red X through it, came in to see me several times as well. At one point she lectured me on not using the button to trigger my Fentanyl drip.
“You have a needle in your back,” she said. “You might as well use it for the pain.”
Truth be told, I didn’t feel all that much pain, which was a fact that would later come back to haunt me.
Finally, at around 9 PM, the doctor came in to give me a cervical exam. The exam itself was a lot less painful because of the epidural. But the same epidural that brought me both a state of well-being and a fairly pain free vaginal exam, would be the very thing to blame for what happened next.