By Crystal Stranger
I don’t want a Cesarean. The young surgeon tells me from behind his cold blue eyes that my body just isn’t going to fully dilate on it’s own. It’s for the baby’s health and I have no other choices remaining.
After an effortless pregnancy, this extended birthing struggle has taken me thoroughly by surprise. I never had a day of morning sickness, and barely looked pregnant until the two weeks before labor started. Contrast that with eleven days of continuous labor, four times being admitted to the hospital, then a full day and night of trying to induce stronger labor with medications. Yes, it is time for this baby to come out. A wave of pain washes over me, and the room turns black.
I scream out for the midwife to take the catheter out, it hurts too much. “The catheter could not cause such pain,” she says, and checks my dilation. Her probing fingers still inside me, she looks up with a shocked expression. After being barely five centimeters dilated for the longest night imaginable, the baby’s head is now crowning, although there is still a lip. She runs across the room to grab the surgeon, who coincidentally had just come in to check on surgical preparations. By the time he walks across the room and checks me I am fully dilated. My little angel is pushing her way out.
A loud beep comes from the monitor next to me. Everyone in the room freezes for a moment and stares at the computer screen. Panic sets in. The surgeon starts yelling at all the nurses in the room. He is a surgeon, not a delivery room doctor, but he takes charge as if he has carried out hundreds of deliveries.
An oxygen mask is pressed forcibly over my face, ostensibly to quell my screaming. The midwife tells me the baby’s heart rate has dropped to nothing and they have to do an emergency delivery. They hastily convert the hospital bed to a delivery apparatus. Poorly so. One leg’s stirrup is loose and my foot is flailing around threatening to hit the nurses running hither and thither.
The surgeon coaches me to push. My mom starts singing spiritual songs in her off-tune way and tells me to be calm. Wrong thing to say. How am I supposed to be calm right now? Seems condescending to me somehow. I know I’m probably being utterly irrational but I detest her more than anything in the world at this moment. She is my mother, I feel really awful to hate her. But still I tell her to shut up and just let me do this.
The first push does nothing. The second push and the baby’s head comes halfway through. It is stuck in the birth canal. I’m stretched so far open and everything seems so still. Someone pressed the pause button and all the crazy motion in the birthing room is frozen while waiting an eternity for the next contraction. The third push and her head comes out entirely, all the pain is gone. What a relief! The fourth push combined with a gentle pull by the doctor, and her body is fully out.
What is that purplish thing with dark curly hair? I guess that is my daughter. It’s not reasonable to think I’ve given birth to a giant raisin. The umbilical cord is draped around her neck and her little hand is gripping it, pulling it away from her throat. Was it choking her? She is gasping for air. She hasn’t cried. Is she ok?
They whisk her away and I continue to worry about her as the midwife sews me up. Seven stitches are all it takes to repair being ripped open like a seam of a too-tight evening dress. My best friend shows me the bruises from where I was squeezing her hand mercilessly. I hear an iPhone making noise from somewhere, buried in the disaster zone of a bed. My boyfriend, an officer on a ship in the North Sea, has been talking with me the whole day and night. He has been just as supportive during the pregnancy as if the baby is his.
I wish there was some way I could believe he was the father. But he isn’t. The father wanted nothing to do with me or the child once he found out I was pregnant. He’s a surgeon. Leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth about doctors. Ironic now that our baby was delivered by a surgeon. I’m so grateful I didn’t have the C-section surgery. The phone keeps making noise. I want to talk to him, but I can’t handle talking to him right now.
They bring my baby back in the room. Synne I will name her. It means ‘gift of the sun’ in Norwegian. The nurse pushes her up to my breast to drink. She looks up at me with her big blue eyes as she eagerly takes the nipple and pulls on my breast with her little hands.
Crystal Stranger is a freelance writer and tax specialist who lives in Hawaii when not travelling the world with her infant daughter.