Three Countries, Three Hospitals, Three Stories: Part 1

The middle-aged girl with the lazy uterus

In the end, I went into labor. Maybe because I changed the sheets on our bed, or because I made scones and had a friend over, or because Jason cleaned the office. I’m pretty sure it was because he cleaned the office. That, and my third cup of raspberry leaf tea.

I woke up at 3am on Thursday, after dreaming I was having some pain. Turns out it wasn’t a was a contraction. Maybe.

After waiting around for a while to make sure it was the real thing, we gathered up the boys and dropped them off at a friend’s house. We arrived at the hospital shortly after 8am.

While I was familiar with the location of the hospital, I had not set foot in it. In keeping with our tradition of winging it, I decided against informing myself about the location of the birth unit.

And our ignorance showed. We emerged from the parking garage elevator, and walked out onto the main floor of the hospital, where we got on the wrong elevator…headed for the parking garage. The medical personnel walking out stifled a laugh. They took a look at my gut, announced ‘6th floor’ and pointed us in the direction of the (clearly marked) correct elevator.

We got to the sixth floor, where additional strangers took pity on our ignorance and pointed us to the correct ‘unit’. Not so clearly marked, I must say. I saw a heavily pregnant woman standing at a desk, getting checked in and figured we must be in the right place.

I took a modicum of satisfaction in noting the woman had a bump that was larger than mine. The satisfaction waned, however, when I found out the woman was carrying twins.

After another jaunt downstairs for paperwork, we were sent back upstairs. They admitted us, fortunately, because if they had sent us home ‘to wait’, I may have chained myself to the triage bed in protest.

We were introduced to our attending nurse. I liked her immediately, despite her obviously pushy nature. Apparently she is a former midwife, highly supportive of natural deliveries. It figures I’d get assigned a pushy epidural hater the one time I actually thought a needle in my spine sounded like a good idea.

After reviewing my medical history, she sent me to shower for about an hour. I think it’s something to do with hot water and contractions. I don’t really know. But I was getting pruny. And bored. Finally, around 11am the doctor handling deliveries came in and introduced herself. She also seemed like a very nice person. She announced I was 5cm dilated. And offered to break my water. Because apparently my labor was taking a little too long for their liking.

I’d spent nine months telling anyone and everyone that I did not want my water to be broken again, because after the Hen’s birth, I swore I’d never do that to myself again. (And, I swore, if I did have my water broken, I’d get an epidural.)

But, at this point we’d already been at the hospital for 3 hours. The Gort was due to start Kindergarten at noon. I’d half expected to be ‘done’ with the whole thing in time for Jason to run him over to the school for a bit. Sensing hesitation on my part, Nurse Pushy stuck her head in my face ‘let’s have a baby!’ she urged me on.

Suddenly, I understood the pressure of those fraternity drinking games.

And, so, my water was broken. And I steeled myself for the horror to come. The Hen was born roughly four hours after they broke my water, and that time I was only 3-4 cm dilated.

Around noon, nurse P waltzed back in the room and announced she was going to lunch. She instructed Jason to time my contractions for two periods of fifteen minutes, roughly 12.15-12.45.

And that’s when the going got rough. All of a sudden there were contractions every two minutes. Supremely painful ones. Nurse P had left a canister of ‘laughing gas’ by my bedside; ‘fifty percent oxygen and fifty percent nitrous oxide’ she’d announced. (I think). I put the mask on my face once, and inhaled. It smelled terrible, and I felt claustrophobic. It reminded me of my failed experiment with the TENS machine in London during the Gort’s birth.

‘I want an epidural’ I told the professor, thinking he’d run out into the hallway and find the anesthesiologist. Instead, he said: ‘no you don’t, you can do it without one.’

Will the contestant with the actual uterus in labor please stand up? Thanks for playing Mr Johnson and Nurse Pushy. You can go home now.

A sub-nurse came to check on me, and saw that I wasn’t quite as ‘stoic’ as two hours before. ‘I’d really try the gas,’ she encouraged me. So I did and, though it did absolutely nothing for the pain, it provided a nice loopy feeling…sort of an ‘I’m about to implode with pain, but man my head feels woozy’ feeling.

Only caveat, apparently the person in labor is supposed to hold the stupid mask while inhaling and exhaling, not her labor coach. To prevent the woman from passing out, I guess. Which makes sense, for people with regular labor coaches. But if you’ve ever seen Jason in action as a labor coach, you’d know that he was quite up to the task of holding the mask over my face.

It seems 13 years of marriage to a woman with extraordinary non-verbal facial cues has more than adequately prepared him to be a labor coach. He can look at the way I squint my eyes and know exactly what I need. Which is supremely useful since I spend most of labor with my eyes shut, unable to ask for anything.

Sadly it’s a gift he only seems to have when I’m in labor.

Laughing gas or not, I still had my wits about me. And heard everything the professor and the nurse were saying about me. ‘Is the contraction over,’ she asked him. ‘Must be,’ he replied, ‘she stopped crushing my fingers.’

‘She’s got a lazy uterus,’ the nurse informed the doctor later on.

‘I’m right here!’ I wanted to say. But didn’t.

Around 1pm they determined I was 9cm dilated and at 1.18 the B3 Bomber emerged into the world. Superman style, with his arm extended above his head, apparently.

An hour or so later, after everyone was settled, the nurse looked over at us. ‘So, are you going to go for a fourth, try for a girl?’

‘No,’ we replied, in unison.

‘Yeah,’ she agreed. ‘You are 35.’

As she took leave of us, she kissed me on the cheek and pronounced me superwoman. ‘All woman should do labor that way,’ she praised.

Whatever. I wanted an epidural.

4 thoughts on “Three Countries, Three Hospitals, Three Stories: Part 1

  1. Yes, superwoman you are! (“Ek sien haar wen, want haar naam is vrou en moeder”)
    Just wonder what the opposite of a lazy uterus would be – a diligent or industrious one?

  2. “Superman style”, I like it!!! Good job, Nicola! You are awesome! I never even toyed with the idea of doing it without an epidural!

  3. Ha – Jason’s promised me an epidural for my 36th birthday…but maybe I’ll defer to my 40th, I don’t think laughing gas will get me through the big 4-0…


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