I have a long history of thinking I am my own doctor. When I was 17 years old I went off to college and stopped seeing a dentist because at that time it was in vogue to just pull everyone’s wisdom teeth on the off-chance they would grow in and cause issues. But I just KNEW if I let my wisdom teeth grow in they would push my other teeth together and close some of the gaps that I was so self-conscious of. So, I stopped going to the dentist for a few years while letting nature take care of some cosmetic orthodontics. Now, now don’t fret, I knew the importance of dental care and would periodically do my own “at-home” deep cleans which involved dental floss and paper clips (they make great scrapers for plaque removal). And, unfortunately, it worked. My wisdom teeth grew in, my teeth shifted and made me feel more confident in my smile and (the unfortunate part) my hubris for self-care was born.
Case in point, a few years ago I burned myself horribly in a rather avoidable steamer incident… I went to a Minute Clinic to ask them to prescribe me some Silverdene cream so I could dress my wounds and properly care for my burns. I had TWELVE second degree burns, they wanted to send me to a specialty burn center, but Dr. Jean held her ground and insisted on treating the burns herself.
The list goes on and on of my thinking I can be my own medical professional, so it’s entirely fair that Jason was nervous about how I’d approach labor and delivery. To his relief my doctor informed me she would be inducing if I hadn’t naturally had the baby by the due date. As a bariatric-geriatric pregnancy (I shit you not, that’s what I was labeled being fat and old) she didn’t want to risk my going past my due date. Which really was a pretty big relief.
The fact is, once I hit 37 weeks (when the baby’s lungs are pretty much developed and he’s good to go outside the womb), I was ALL ABOUT Hugh making his debut. I was done being pregnant. To this end, I started my mommy manipulation— every day I’d rub my belly and talk to Hugh. I’d tell him, “Baby Hugh, right now YOU have ALL the power and can decide EXACTLY when you want to be born, BUT if you wait too long then Dr. Carter will decide for you and you’ll be born on October 2nd. Don’t you want to be in control of your own birthdate?”
Every morning I’d go through this routine, “Baby Hugh, today is September 28th, would you like September 28th to be your birthday? You have all the control right now. BUT, if you wait your birthday will be decided for you.” I feel like he was in there like “Oh yeah, mom? If I wait then I lose all the control and my birthday will be decided for me? Challenge accepted. #IDOWHATIWANT”. They started the induction process the night of October 1st expecting him to be born on his due date the next day… Hugh arrived eight minutes after midnight on the 3rd.
Induction was an interesting process. We checked in at 8pm the night before my due date and they began the whole thing by inserting (yeah, I said “inserting”… and yeah, I mean it in the cringeworthy way you’re thinking) a pill to start thinning my cervix. Barf-gross. I know… hang in there, it gets worse. This happened a little before 10pm and by midnight they were seeing some action – I was officially in labor. Oh that’s right friends, I went into labor a little before midnight on Oct. 1st and had Hugh just after midnight on Oct. 3rd – TWENTY FOUR HOURS OF LABOR. Now the whole time wasn’t filled with searing pain and agony, I mean I DID get an epidural and it DID eventually work, but the thing people never talk about with having a baby is YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO EAT! That’s right – I was not allowed to eat. The whole time. Like that WHOLE DAY I COULDN’T EAT. When they talk about labor being traumatic, I’m pretty sure this is the part they are referring to.
A lot happened in those 24 hours but one of the things that stands out the most is the manual dilation – all I’ll say about that is the nurse, while apologizing profusely, referred to it as a “barbaric practice”. After that not-so-pleasant foray into civilized torture, I opted for the epidural. I wasn’t sure what else was in store for me, but if they were starting the day with a barbaric (read: agonizing pain) practice then I wanted ALL THE DRUGS.
Now, the next part gets a bit fuzzy – they started me on the Pitocin, a drug designed to kick labor into high gear, they broke my water, and they attempted the epidural. In all this chaos, which was unfolding over a couple of hours, a few key things occurred – 1) Baby Hugh didn’t do well with them breaking my water, so they had to mimic the fluid in the womb by basically flushing saline inside of me constantly, which means I was sitting in fluid as it continuously drained from my body; 2) Baby Hugh didn’t do well with the Pitocin so they had to take me off of it, thus stalling out the already painstakingly slow labor process (not to mention we had a few scares with both Hugh’s heart rate and mine before we were able to figure out it was caused by Hugh’s negative reaction to the Pitocin); and 3) My beautiful, magical BFF the epidural STOPPED WORKING. Like hey, am I sitting in mushy wet fake amniotic fluid that just came out of my insides? Yep. Hey, is there a tube shoved up my va-jay-jay draining my bladder of urine? Yep. Hey, does my WHOLE BODY ache in places I didn’t even know exist and we haven’t even gotten to the painful part yet? Yep. All of that. I. Felt. All. Of. That.
Eventually the head of anesthesiology was able to get the epidural working again (bless you, you cocky, condescending man) and our heart rates levelled out and after some debate, the C-section option was put on a back burner while we waited to see if I’d continue to progress naturally. At this point it was nine o’clock at night on Oct. 2nd, I’d been at this all day and was exhausted and starving. My doctor kept getting pulled away for other patients and last I heard she was going to come in and check on me at 9:30pm to sign off on putting me a position that would help speed up my labor. At 10pm the nurse let me know that my doctor was in an unplanned C-section and would check on me as soon as she could, but for now we weren’t going to do anything to speed up the process. Oh god, so hungry… so I lay there, virtually paralyzed from the waist down, starving, sitting in my own mush, tubes everywhere… and fell asleep.
At 11pm I woke up. Pissed.
“JASON! JAY-SON!!” Angry Jean.
“What? What. Are you okay? What’s happening?” Sleepy confusion.
“Turn on the light. I am all done here. ALL. DONE.” Uh-oh. This is the Jean that gets shit done.
Jason got up from the rock-hard pleather couch and groggily stumbled to the light. At which point I commenced a fifteen-minute tirade on how done I was with all of it and how I was having this baby and I didn’t care if my doctor was busy, I was ready RIGHT NOW and if it meant delivering the baby myself I would. And with my long history of thinking I’m my own medical professional, I meant it. During my tirade I remember using my hands to try to move the dead weight that was my legs and put them in what I thought would be a better laboring position. And there were several references to the fact that it was an *EXPLETIVE* hospital and I knew there were other *EXPLETIVE* doctors if mine was busy… in fact, I think a lot of expletives were strewn together. Jason just sat there like the patient, sweet man that he is… and listened. Until he saw me hit the *EXPLETIVE* nurse call button.
“Honey, you’re tired and hungry. We need to be patient. Wha—um, did you really just call the nur—um, what are you going to say, oh god…” as the nurse, quite possibly one of the nicest women on the planet, entered the room.
“Hey there, did you get some rest? What can I get you? Do you need something?”
“I am all done here. I need to be repositioned.” Somewhere in my tirade I recall referencing being at risk for getting nosocomial pressure ulcers and the hospital wouldn’t be at all happy when they weren’t reimbursed for them… a little medical knowledge is a dangerous thing in my hands. “And I just am all done with this. I’m ready to have this baby. Like, now. Like we need to do this. And I don’t mean to take it out on you, you are so helpful and nice, but I AM ALL DONE.”
She must have sensed my feral desperation because she calmly responded that she’d go find my doctor and see what we can do to get it moving along. Not long after my doctor came in.
After a quick look the doctor informed me that I had progressed nicely but that Hugh’s head wasn’t quite low enough to my cervix and I had two options: 1) I could start pushing to get him into the right position, but it would be unnecessary exhaustion and I may not be able to get him out on my own if I expended all my energy too soon or 2) I could give it a little more time, let nature take its course to bring him further down and she’d keep checking back on me. Clearly this was the option I was supposed to choose.
The room was quiet as I sat contemplating for legit about 60 seconds – a very long time in a room filled with tension and a hungry pregnant woman in labor. Finally I looked at my doctor and said:
“Okay, we can do that, we jus—”
“No. I mean I’m pushing RIGHT NOW. I’M ALL DONE HERE!!”
Jason tells me things got a bit crazy at this point. They all scrambled to get me into position, legs in stirrups – all the movies have that right – a nurse was yelling at Jason to grab one of my legs, I was yelling at him to keep his eye on the damn epidural button and as soon as it lit up green, allowing me to push it and get more of the drugs, he better push that damn button!
This all went down at about 11:55pm. The next several minutes were basically people yelling PUSH! Them to me, me to Jason. I remember being coherent enough to periodically turn to Jason and yell “ARE YOU WATCHING?? IS IT GREEN?? YOU HAVE ONE JOB – PUSH THE BUTTON!!!” I remember my doctor being very encouraging about what a great job I was doing, push, stop pushing, breathe, wait for another contraction, etc. And while I know this went on for over ten minutes it all blurred together and seemed like mere seconds.
To teach me how to most effectively push, the doctor and nurses compare it to going to the bathroom. As in number two. Yep, the miracle of life occurs with all the same muscle movements as clearing your bowels. I mention this because that is how they tell you to push – use the muscles you’d use if you were taking a shit. And don’t worry if you take a defecate, it’s really quite common. Let me tell you, at this point I didn’t give a damn if I shit on that table. I was PUSHING! BUT, because they did such a good job of relating it to a bowel movement I was TERRIFIED every time I stopped pushing to breathe and wait for the next contraction all the work I’d done would, I don’t know, suck back in like a trepidatious poo would do. This fear is what caused the issue that came next. The thing that traumatized Jason forever and successfully brought Hugh into the world.
Concerned that Hugh MIGHT suck back in, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop pushing. Everyone else relaxed their positions a bit, prepared to wait for the next contraction and, what everyone hoped would be the last big push, but I was not stopping. I looked up at Jason and by god I PUSHED. Jason saw the determination in my eyes and just KNEW. In Hollywood slow-mo fashion Jason turned to warn the doctor and nurses that I was still going when WHHOOOOSSSHHH!!! Hugh shot out of my nether regions, surprising the doctor who caught him just in time. And poor Jason, this amazing man whose only request was that he not have to watch anything from the waist down, SAW. IT. ALL.
The doctor swiftly placed Hugh on my chest and I can’t describe the overwhelming awe and emotion that instantly filled the room – I looked up to see it in everyone’s eyes and as I bent my head back down to look at this amazing creature that Jason and I had brought into this world, this miracle of life jerked his head back and SLIMED MY FACE. I mean, this is amazing and beautiful, and I’ve never felt so filled with love, BUT YOU JUST PUT ME ON MY FACE!!! I mean, seriously kid, you just smeared all my insides and vagina juices ON MY FACE. And no one seemed to notice and everyone else was still in that place I’d just been in of awe and wonder… So, I let it go and I lay there marinating in my own bodily fluids while Jason and I finally got to meet our son who, as it turns out, was in charge of choosing his own birthday.
And then he shit on me. Ahhh, motherhood.
Awkward Mama Jean
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