August 29, 2007

Annie's Day, Part VI

When your mother woke up again she was instantly screaming in pain. This wasn’t like any of the noises that I heard her making earlier in the day. This was full on wailing. She was crying out to everyone in the room that the pain was too great, and that there was no way for her to continue. She wanted it to be over. She had been on the Stadol for about 45 minutes now and there was not way to go on as we were. Your mother was curled up in a ball on the floor of the room, as tight as a drum. There was no way to unfurl her, no way to ease her pain, no way to get through.

With every contraction her distress only increased. They were passing only because she didn’t have a choice. You weren’t going anywhere and labor had essentially come to a standstill. When the mother’s body isn’t relaxed there is no way for the baby to progress through the birth canal. Everything comes to a halt and the labor can drag on for hours. We all knew that the next contraction would only be more difficult than the last and I was beginning to fray at the ends.

When it came, your mother let out a cry that still breaks my heart today and the memory will always fill me with remorse. It was more than crying out. It was guttural howl that stopped time. Your grandparents heard it down the hall and everyone was frozen in place. People cry to release tension or cope with pain. This wasn’t coping; it was an end to an arduous day and a plea for help.

Kim, Joann and I walked over to the corner of the room and none of us really needed to say anything. We all knew that it was time for the anesthesiologist to administer an epidural. I don’t think that the idea of a giant needle even crossed your mother’s mind anymore and she would have said yes immediately. However, an epidural is a pretty significant medical procedure and the anesthesiologist is required to empty the room and very clearly state the facts about the process. Two pieces of information really stood out in his speech: First, that one in every ten epidurals does not work and has to be administered again, and secondly, that there can be complete loss of muscle power and the nervous system. Only when all of this reassuring information is given can everything proceed.

This moment was easily the most ridiculous part of the day. You will run into red tape all over the place in your life Annie, but this was bullshit. I would love to see the signature that mom threw on that paper. It was the last thing I witnessed before being hustled out of the room and it was one hectic jerk of the pen across the paper, nowhere near the bottom line, and certainly not legible. Who knows if something had happened if it would ever stand up to a malpractice suit, but the husband should simply be given written permission to consent and then sign when appropriate.

I was told that the epidural would take about ten minutes and that I would be allowed immediately back in when it was done. I was left to face our families in the waiting room. They all expected basic information from me when I felt like I had just been watching my wife die for the last hour. I didn’t want to see any of them. Most of them understood this and kept their distance, but not all. Let me state this again…Kim Collins saved my life that day. She was beneficial to your mom, but she was absolutely critical to my survival. She kept everyone at bay and held me because all I needed was to be reassured and soothed. There was no way to stop me from crying, but with all of our loved ones there, hers was the only shoulder I wanted to cry on.


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