So I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you the story of the Donnas.
Donna 1 was my nurse at the beginning. I started at 5 centimeters and walked for hours and ended up at 7. This is when they told me to stop walking and chill in the room, which I was more than ready to do. Donna 1 is so sweet! She hooks me up to the monitors, assures me I’m doing swimmingly, and says to come fetch her if anything comes up.
Maria and my mom frequent the room, which I said before that I didn’t plan on, but ended up being amazing. They are support for Derick and good comic relief for me. Well, this is when things start to escalate….quickly. The contractions start to get intense and I’m so tired that I’m dozing on my feet in between them. After 4 hours we notice we haven’t seen a single hospital employee (and it’s seriously a ghost town), so we call for Donna 1 over the push-button. She assures us she’ll be there ASAP. 45 minutes go by and no Donna 1. We call again. Again she assures us she’ll be there ASAP. 30 minutes goes by and no Donna 1.
See, if it was busy that night, I’d totally get it. But Donna 1 told us that it was us and one other family (who, incidentally, went to the same school we did and who I am friends with on FB), so I’m not fooled. Also, we can smell popcorn and hear the nurses laughing hysterically at the nurses station the whole time we’re calling for them.
Donna 1 shows up and tells me in no certain terms to calm the fuck down. I want to murder Donna 1. I ask her to get the doctor to check me, pretty please. She says no problem, he’ll be here ASAP!
45 minutes. No doctor. No Donna 1.
We call again, are assured again it’ll be any minute. Any minute goes by and nothing. Maria holds Derick back from going Goodfellas on Donna 1 and I continue to well, scream. I can now see the monitor and it keeps rising. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. I’ve now been awake and on my feet for 4 days now.
The doctor and Donna 1 show up. They check me. It’s been 36 hours now. I’m still dilated to 7cm. I start crying- I can’t do this. He again gently suggests an epidural. I think about relenting but think how incredible a failure I’ll be and how utterly disappointed everyone will be in me if I succumb to the witchcraft that is medically-assisted childbirth.
I hem and haw for about an hour until I decide my child will forgive me and I call for the epidural via Donna 1….again. She assures me the anesthesiologist will be there ASAP which I don’t believe in the slightest. But he comes! He’s here! OMG!
Here’s where I forgot I was supposed to worry about the epidural, so I manage to cram 9 months worth of worry into the 10 minutes it takes him to set up. And then it’s over before I realize he’s doing anything so I count myself lucky that I managed to convince myself I’d be a drug-free birth mother.
When I was in high school I had stomach ulcers because I took advil on an empty stomach. The pain was such that I was in the hospital and they gave me morphine. I so vividly remember being in pain and feeling that beautiful rush of relief flow through my body and thinking I know why people are addicts. In fact, I don’t blame them.
Epidurals are wonderful, beautiful, self-sacrificing, sanctimonious, charming, enticing things that were sent to earth by God to help women in dire need. I’ve never been more humbled by anything than I was by that drug.
I can sleep now, and my mother in law comes in and talks to me and we talk about how beautiful epidurals are. How lovely they are in nature and how wonderful a gift they are to humanity. I take a long nap and then when I wake up they check me and tell me I’m magically ready to push. When the hell did that happen?
I’ve always been a dreamer, and I dreamt for years of this moment, this moment I’d finally push my baby out and hold her and fall in love. And now it’s here. It’s so incredibly surreal. Maria is there and my mom is there and Derick is by me and he’s so amazing and I’m so lucky. And I push, and push, and push. For 3 hours I push.
At this point Donna 1 seems annoyed with me. I’ve been on my back, flat, for 3 hours and I’m only making a bit of progress. The doctor suggests forceps because I’m so tired and Donna 1 mentions super casually that that doctor in particular has his ‘own set’.
Who has his ‘own set’ of FORCEPS? Does he carry them around? Show them off at parties? ARE THEY SANITARY?
Donna 1, that bitch, assures me they’re not contaminated and says I’m ready to push but OH YEAH she’s leaving. For some reason even though I hate her I start to get weepy. She ushers in Donna 2 and Donna 2 already looks awesome.
Donna 2: the Twister of the Labor and Delivery Unit. She thanks Donna 1 sweetly and ushers her out, closes the door and goes “ok it’s GO TIME.” She changes my position, makes a call and I’m not kidding within 2 minutes there are 6 medical professionals in that room. The doctor walks in and turns on what we named the Search Lights. They’re on the ceiling and huge and I can only imagine the sheer amount of carnage they illuminated.
So I push and I push. Mom and Maria are there but I only see Derick. He’s cheering me on and holding my legs and kissing my sweaty forehead and I know he’s the only person I want to do this with. Her head is here, this is so weird. Derick’s screaming and my mom is screaming and Maria’s crying and I don’t know where I am. Her shoulders, her legs, her feet. The doctor pulls her out and puts her on my chest.
The world kind of stops, and she looks at me. She’s purple and slippery and warm and at first I don’t recognize her. And then, I do. I know her.
It’s over. She’s here. She’s HER.
12 weeks later I look back and think about that day, and how amazing it was to have those hours with my parents in our neighborhood, those hours walking with Derick in the hospital and talking, that time with my mother in law in the labor room, those moments laughing with my sister and crying to my mom, and that one incredible moment where I saw Norah and I looked up at Derick and I knew. We’re a family.
I finally know what love means, and it’s so much better than I ever dreamed it would be.