It’s cool, and I’m scared as I look around the room to make sure I have everything. I’ll be gone for three days at least, depending on how well things go.
We ride down the long, quiet road in silence. We’ve only really known each other for eleven months.
What do I say? I want to share my fears but I don’t want to hear, “You’ll be okay. You’ll do a great job. Don’t worry.”
“Babe, I’m scared,” I confess. “What about you?”
“Well, yeah, I’m nervous too,” he replied.
I hear the slight stress in his voice. Not really sure what it means, I ask, “What are you nervous about? I have to do all of the work.”
His smile is a sheepish one, indicating that he knows I am right. I fall silent again, thinking about this job I have to do that I have never done before. It’s extremely hard for me to feel comfortable doing something that I have never done before.
The twenty-minute ride seems like an hour or more, even though there is hardly anyone on the road. The red lights stop us to allow invisible cars to pass. We finally reach our destination and enter the cold, quiet, uninviting place. Everyone looks so “official.”
I am thankful that I don’t have to be here alone; however, I am beginning to reconsider the previous invitation given to his mom. I slowly but eagerly trade my street clothes for the designer gown that reveals any secrets you think you have by closing in the back with three measly strings that tie in a bow.
After I don my designer gown, I am offered the dreaded enema. Because I don’t understand that this is an option, I prepare my mind for the invasion. It is at this point that I realize that this whole experience will be an invasion of my body and anything I consider private. As I lie there allowing this stranger to “take care” of me, my thoughts wonder.
How will my life be different? Will this child get all the love and attention that he/she needs? Will my husband be the father that I would like for him to be, the father he needs to be?
“Ms. Riley, we have to get you ready. Once we hook you up, you will not be able to get up until after the baby gets here. So do you need to potty or anything before we get started?” Another stranger has come to direct my life. I have no choice; I just do as I’m told.
As I am adorned with my hospital jewelry of wires, monitors, and a painful IV, I again allow my mind to drift. What is he doing watching Golden Girls? I am about to start this journey that I can never return from, and he is watching Golden Girls! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY COACH! COACH ME!
The nurse starts the drip. Then I wonder, How do they expect me to work with all of this stuff hooked to me? What’s next? What is going to happen? What will I feel? How does this work?
After about fifteen minutes my stomach starts to tighten. Oooh, I wonder if that was a contraction.
I hear the theme music to Designing Women in the background. I close my eyes to focus on my central job. Again, my stomach tightens.
“Excuse me, was that a contraction?” I inquire.
I lie on my side and close my eyes. I want to concentrate on not being so tense when the contractions come, and I can’t stand to see him watching TV when I am about to go through the most challenging time of my life. Plus, I’m starting to get angry, and I know that I will never be able to relax if I continue to watch him.
The doctor appears at the door. The tall, handsome, Southern man peeks in and decides to break my water.
“How ya feel?” he asks with a grin.
“I’m okay,” I report.
“Well,” he informs me, “you’re doing fine. I will see ya some time tonight.”
“Will it take that long?” I have to know.
“Well, this is your first child. In my experience it’s gonna take a while. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a few hours to check on you. I have two cesareans today and another scheduled induction. I’ll be around all day, just in case.
Humph, I don’t plan on being here all day and all night. This baby and I have an understanding. I refuse to be in labor for a long time. When will I eat?
The contractions are slow but productive, so I am told. What that all means I haven’t a clue. I am just lying here, anticipating my contractions and trying not to be tense while they are happening.
Then I hear his voice, “What does this mean?
I open my eyes, and there he is sitting in front of the monitor, looking interested. If he is not, he’s doing a really good job convincing me.
After a brief explanation of things he needed to know about the machine, I hear the sweet yet dreaded words from him. “Okay, you are about to have a contraction. Get ready. Breathe; breathe. There you go; you can do it. It’s almost over. Keep going; keep going,” he coached.
I like this; when I know that the contraction is coming, it doesn’t hurt as much. I can concentrate on other things to let it work its own magic.
The pain keeps coming, and it hurts. I’m crying now. It’s really hard to let the contraction work. I hate the contraction. I finally begin to feel pressure. I think I have to poop. I keep thinking, I will not poop on the table. I will not poop on the table. Little do I know, that is the “pushing sensation.”
“Do you feel the need to push?” The nurse surprises me because I don’t know she is there. My eyes are still closed, and I wasn’t feeling the whole contraction thing.
“Um, no, I’m not feeling any pressure, but I do feel like I need to poop,” I reluctantly admit.
Oh, how embarrassing!! I hate this. I’m lying here spread eagle for the whole world to see. Everybody feels the need to “check” me every hour, and when did she get here? I didn’t realize what would be going on in this room when I invited her to take my mother’s place. People I know and people I don’t know invade my privacy just like it’s nothing.
“Let me check you again.” Her voice is different this time. I can’t tell why, but she sounds a little scared.
You’re supposed to know what you’re doing. I shouldn’t hear fear in your voice.
“Are you sure you don’t feel the need to push?” she inquires.
I shake my head.
“All right, let’s try; when you feel the next contraction, lean forward, and give me a push.”
Okay. Here we go no, to the part where I have to work. Everything else sort of came naturally.
I roll over and get comfortable on my back and anxiously await the next contraction. Then it eases into existence, and I know it is time to push. I don’t have a clue of “how” to push. Usually, there is an object, and you brace yourself behind the object and push. However, here I am, trying to expel something from within.
As the contraction creeps in, I lean forward, take a deep breath, and strain with all my heart. Jerome is timing me to the count of ten, which feels like a count of fifty because every number is drawn out for an actual second. Only making it to a count of four, I shoo him away and pant, out of breath.
“You’re counting too slow!” I growl, eyes closed and teeth clenched. His mom steps in and takes charge.
“Come on, one, two, three, four,” Ms. Ivy sounds like she knows what she is doing. At this point, I don’t care who counts; I don’t care who checks me, nor do I care who catches a glimpse of my private life.
Here it comes again. I am ready!
“OOOOHH, I’m ready to push!” I shout.
The nurse is back at the monitor, checking our vitals. I hear Jerome’s worried voice. “Should we get the doctor? I mean, I can see the head.”
“Ummm, let’s see,” she says, half to herself. “Okay, don’t push; I’m going to get the doctor.” She doesn’t sound very calm to me.
Do you think it’s a good idea to leave a woman in labor strapped to a table with any one other than someone who could actually deliver a baby? Besides, the doctor said he wasn’t coming back.
Then he walks in, calm, cool, and collected. The expression on his face tells me that he really didn’t expect me to give birth until this evening, if not later. Ha, I fooled you!
“Wait, wait, wait! Don’t push until I tell you. Give me that shirt!” he almost yells, but I could tell he is trying to sound composed. I know the opposite is true when his feet move quicker than his body, just like a cartoon character that has just realized he’s late.
“Okay, I need two good pushes from you. On the next contraction, let’s go.” Now he has taken over the coaching and given the proud poppa the opportunity to observe. I am in so much pain I don’t care what is going on, who is there or how the baby gets out as long as he is out. It is in that instant that Mother Nature takes my hand and guides me into the land of motherhood. She doesn’t say a word. She gingerly guides me to a land from which I will never return.