August 30, 2007

Annie's Day, Part VII

Outside the labor room I just couldn’t gather myself. I wasn’t able to last more than a minute without shuddering back into sobs. The ten minute procedure turned into 15 and each minute was filled with fear. Fear of your mother’s dying. Fear of your dying. The abject fear of living without the two of you. I desperately needed to get back in there, but I’m not the type to bust through doors. I’m to the type to wait and suffer. See, patient even in the face of tragedy. That doesn’t sound like such a virtue, does it?

Kim and I were at last let back into the room at 4:30. You had been in labor for about seven hours now and I was prepared for the worst. What I found instead still surprises me. Your mom sound asleep with a look of peace on her face that I rarely see. She was a whole new woman and I had hopes of her finally getting over the hump and pushing you into the world. Joann told her that I was back in the room and she told me that she didn’t feel any more pain. This was different than the woman who was stoned on Stadol just a half an hour ago. She was completely lucid and ready to go.

Sadly, this lasted for about five minutes when a doomed look replaced mom’s peaceful one and she started to panic again. She told Joann that the epidural didn’t work and that she needed to get “the Needleman” back in pronto. I laugh when I think of her nick name for him in the midst of all she went through. We still call him “the Needleman” now. That name will be easier for you to pronounce than anesthesiologist anyway.

Joann though, wasn’t sure that your mother’s assessment of “the Needleman’s” work was accurate. She decided to do an internal exam first to see where you were. In the middle of mom’s exclaiming that she needed another epidural, Joann gave her some great news; it was time to push, “the Needleman” did his job, mom was ten centimeters dilated, you were now on the literal doorstep.

A few pages back I explained the idea of pain relief, but not a total numbing of the body in order to have a more participatory role in your labor. In the old days the mother was not even given an epidural, they took it one archaic step further. Women in the time of your great grandmother were put under general anesthesia and then woken up after the baby was born. It’s hard to imagine it today, but they wanted to spare everyone the ordeal of labor. I won’t lie to you, it was definitely an ordeal, but the kind you appreciate, learn and grow from. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

So here we are, the last hour of life before Annabelle Harper Poulas and Mom was not yet mentally ready for the final push. Joann and Kim needed to explain again that while the pain was in fact decreased, the mother needs to feel some pain in order to have the ability to push. Incidentally, your uncle Louie, Grandma Kathy’s first child was delivered via forceps because her epidural was so strong that she was physically unable to feel when it was time to push. Fortunately, everything worked out fine, but when you’re older you can tell Uncle Louie that you know why he’s bald.

The time on the clock over the bed now read five o’clock. The epidural was administered 30 minutes ago and you were making great progress. I should pause and set the scene for you now as your introduction to the world was very well attended. Mom was in the bed working harder than I’ve ever seen her work. I was holding her right leg, Grandma Liz was holding her left leg, both of us supporting mentally, but also in the manner of stirrups. Your Aunt Dani was behind me voicing encouragement and getting a vivid lesson in the value of birth control. Kim was the quintessential coach, willing mom on and directing her pushes. There was also one nurse in the room feeling totally left out of the process and generally acting as the foil, and lastly (for now) was Joann, decked out in all her sterile blue medical garb waiting to bring you into the world.

I could never do that last half an hour justice, but a few things vividly stick out in my mind: Your mother bathed in sweat, her lips purple and flush with blood from squeezing every muscle in her entire body toward one central, focused point. Seeing your head, still some four inches down the vaginal canal, inching, no, imperceptibly pulsing towards me. Every triumphant push inevitably resulting in an agonizing slide backwards. The look of love and fear on Liz’s and Dani’s faces as the monitor showed your heart rate casually dipping below 60 beats per minute and none of us knowing what that really means, but knowing full well the meaning of Joann’s pointed orders and alert, pensive face. And at the very end, when your head crowned, white from having all of the blood constricted from it, a staff of doctors rushing into the room to ensure that your fading heart was rescued before it was too late, the realization that you were actually real.

And finally, finally Annie, you in my arms, tears in my eyes, and the dawn of a new life.


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