In the middle of the night, when I am trying to feed two babies bottles and pump and watch Food Network before it goes to horrible paid programming at 3 a.m., I often think back on my time in pre-term labor (PTL) and delivering my little girls. I thought it would be good to expose the truth about child birth (without grossing everyone out). Here goes:
#1: lying liars! the epidural DOES hurt!
I was most concerned about getting an epidural. I know several people with botched epidurals and the dreaded spinal headache. I hate headaches. Of all the stuff that happened to me in the hospital over the course of the 12 days I was there, the headache and neck pain I had from lying in the horrible hospital bed was what made me cry. Yeah, that’s right, pushing babies out was less upsetting to me than the headache from the hospital bed. That says a lot about the hospital beds, right?
Anyway, I digress. The anesthesiologist was annoyed that I was concerned about his skillz putting huge needles/catheters into people’s backs. I think he would’ve given himself an epidural to show me that it was “no big deal, yo” – except that since it is hard enough to scratch your own back, much less stick arm-length long needles in your back. (Note: I do not know the exact length of the needle… but I’m pretty sure it was arm-length). Let me tell y’all, I felt everything. I felt the numbing shot. I felt the catheter going in. I even told the nurse, “OH my gosh!! PAIN! Shooting down my legs/back!”
But once it was in, I had about an hour or two where I was pretty comfortable and didn’t feel anything. Until I felt EVERYTHING. After about 2 hours on the epidural, I started saying, “I think that’s a contraction.” and Frank would look at the screen and say, “Oh, yeah, that was a contraction.” And then I started breathing to get through the contractions. I told the nurse that I was feeling the contractions. That I knew where my cervix was. OH-Heavens to Betsy-I knew exactly where my cervix was and what it was doing and it WAS NOT PRETTY! I emphatically told the nurse: THE EPIDURAL WAS A LIE!!!
Which is when the anesthesiologist returned, annoyed, to up the meds. He left and I looked at the nurse and told her that THE EPIDURAL IS NOT WORKING!!! She looked confused and concerned – how could this magic medication not work?? Now, as someone who would have foregone the epidural with a single baby delivery, I wasn’t as upset about the pain as I was concerned that if something went wrong in the delivery, they were planning to use the same catheter line to deliver the pain medication for the c-section. And if I felt a contraction, I was pretty sure I would feel the knife cutting for the c-section!!
Turns out, the epidural stopped working because Ellie’s head was in my cervix, blocking the medication from getting to me. Her head was in my cervix because it was time to push! And no, I did not need a c-section. Phew!
#2: lying liars! that is not pressure – that is PAIN!!
Thing one really bleeds into thing two: the problem of pain in a hospital full of pain medication. I found that in the hospital they try to treat all of your pain – no matter what it is – to make you as comfortable as possible. This is done mostly so that while in the throes of transition (the really painful part of labor), that you do not scream like a demon and scare the poor girl in PTL down the hall. When pain cannot be addressed with narcotic pain medication, an epidural or some other such pain relief medication, you are actually experiencing pressure. For example, when I was feeling pain in my cervix, I was actually experiencing intense pressure. When I felt the epidural catheter being inserted into my spine? You guessed it – that was just pressure.
#3: wait, how many gauze pads did we use?
Once our sweet baby girls were born, swaddled and whisked off to the NICU for evaluation and admittance, I was left on the operating table to get put back together. I will not bore (or scare) you with the details, except to say that I remember listening to the doctor counting off ten clean, sterile gauze pads. He used them to… um, do stuff… and then he counted eight used gauze pads.
He counted the gauze pads again…. and again… And then a nurse frantically started ripping through all of the linens in the soiled linens container. And another nurse started shuffling through the items on the tray. And the doctor started looking through a pile of sheets at the end of the operating table.
“Everything OK?” I asked.
“MMmhmmm,” said the doctor absently, counting the gauze pads again.
“Missing a few pads?” I asked.
“MMmhmmm,” replied the doctor.
Not to worry, they found the missing two gauze pads.
I’m just glad they counted.