So there I was in the hospital, ushered into a room where I looked around and tried to believe that this is where it would all happen. I changed into one of their lovely gowns, as directed, with nothing kept on but my stripy blue Penney’s socks, which are now my lucky giving-birth socks. (Except that I have two pairs and nothing to distinguish the one pair from the pair that stayed at home and missed all the excitement.) I had brought two pairs of fluffy socks especially for the hospital, because for some reason socks are always on the list of things to bring, but I never used them. The ones I had on did just fine and I became more and more attached to them as the day went on. Genuine Irish socks, I thought, to have my Texan baby in.
The night-shift nurses were nice but not hugely competent. They said that since my membranes had ruptured, they had to start an IV to give me antibiotics to prevent infection. I knew this was fairly spurious, but also par for the course given the hospital, so I tried to ask for a heparin lock, which would enable them to take out the IV if it wasn’t needed. I think they agreed, but it didn’t seem to happen that way. The sweet but very young second nurse blew out two of my veins trying to get a decent IV site before the first nurse came back and saved the third place, on my right wrist. That was almost more painful than the labour. Almost. Someone checked me and said I was 90% effaced and 1cm dilated. I’d been 70% effaced at my regular appointment earlier in the week, so that wasn’t too surprising. And I was told that Dr T was on his way, though it wasn’t till around 5.00 am that he showed up. He breezed in, told me that they’d start me on Pitocin at 6am so that I could give birth within 24 hours of the membrane rupture, and tried to breeze straight out again.
“I really was hoping to avoid the Pitocin,” I said, mustering all my diplomatic skills.
“You’re from Ireland, aren’t you?” he said. “This came from there, you know.” He was talking about active management of labour, the brainchild of Dublin doctors in the 70s, and bane of the lives of midwives and other natural childbirth proponents.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” I parried weakly as he disappeared into the far reaches of the hospital corridors. Given my insider knowledge of Dublin traffic and Dublin weather and Dublin house prices, I think I’m well qualified to say that its provenance doesn’t guarantee its efficiency.
Happily, that was the last I saw of the good Dr T, who is perfectly nice but not the person I had chosen to see me through childbirth, though he’d examined me a couple of times when Vivienne missed an appointment due to some other inconsiderate woman going into labour just when I was meant to be seen by her. At 6.00 am Nurse A was about to hook up the Pit and I was asking whether Dr T hadn’t said 6.30. Nurse B bustled in and said that Vivienne had just rung and said I could have any clear liquids I wanted, could get up and move around at will, and wasn’t to be put on anything till she got there and spoke to me. Hooray – a reprieve! I broke out the blue Gatorade in celebration.
At 7.00 the nurses changed shifts and my new nurse turned out to be the lovely Linda, who I’d met when I’d been admitted for pre-term labour with cramps at 35 weeks. Vivienne arrived around then too, and the dynamic of nurses and midwife versus hospital policy and the doctors was really interesting to observe over the rest of the morning. Vivienne said that they’d wait and see if my contractions strengthened on their own before starting the tiniest bit of Pitocin they could get away with, just to keep the doctors happy. I got up to use the bathroom and, since I was unhooked and relatively free, I took the chance to spend some time bouncing on the birthing ball, given that I’d gone to the trouble of bringing it and all.
I tried B’s phone but got no answer, and assumed correctly this was because he was on a plane and hadn’t wanted to wake me by ringing earlier. Vivienne checked me again later, I suppose around 9am before they started the Pit, and said that the bouncing was definitely bringing the baby down. I resolved to do some more in a while. They put on “just a whiff” of Pit so that they could tell Dr T I was on it if he asked, but they were anxious that nothing start moving too fast before B got there. I didn’t think there was any chance of that, since the contractions were still really mild. He rang at 10.00 or so to say that he was in Houston, on his way to the second flight and that he should be with me by 11.30.
Vivienne brought me some Home & Garden magazines, because the one thing I hadn’t remembered to bring was a book, and I didn’t want to turn on the TV. She said she was remodelling her house and had lots of recent issues. They weren’t very interesting, but I flicked through the pages and it passed the time. I asked was there any chance I could have some breakfast, thinking that if I had to go all day on no food I might just get weak and wobbly, which would hardly help with the pushing. Again, I knew this was strictly against hospital policy, which said nothing but ice chips for labouring mothers, but Vivienne and Linda put in a request for a “non-solids” meal for me, in the hopes that I might get some oatmeal. By the time it arrived, though, it was the lunch menu rather than breakfast (of course, in hospital lunch happens at 11.00), so it was some fairly nasty and only vaguely warm creamy chicken soup, juice of some sort, and an over-sweet vanilla pudding thing. Still, I ate as much of it as I could manage because I knew the calories would stand me in good stead.
And so it went on through the morning, with the bouncing and the sitting in bed and the getting up to use the loo, and the machines intermittently bleeping and constantly thumping the baby’s heartbeat, and the feeling fairly trapped by the lines to the IV and the monitors, but that was just how it was. When I was sitting on the ball I could watch the numbers on the machine and see what my contractions were doing, but the numbers really didn’t seem to bear much relation to the strength of the contractions, so I ignored them after a while. The good thing about the monitor was that I didn’t have to time my contractions. The bad thing was the hooked-up-ness and the way the top one pressed into my tummy and was uncomfortable. The baby’s heartbeat was perfect the whole time – Linda said it was magnificent and that if all the babies were like mine her job would be a lot less stressful. I smiled smugly because of course our baby was perfect.