At the Hospital
The 20-minute car ride was miserable -- I couldn't lie down, couldn't lean my body into anything. The contractions took my breath away. Worry crept over me: Why hadn't my water broken? Could I keep this up? Although I dreaded medical interventions, I was eager for monitoring so I'd know where I stood.
Finally I was in a hospital gown and positioned on all fours on a bed, with a heavy and awkward monitor strapped around my middle. I was in active labor and about four centimeters dilated. The baby was fine. The doctor watched me breathe. "You need to relax at the top of the contractions. Breathe like you're jogging," she instructed. I laughed wearily. I was as likely to relax at the top of a contraction as I was to stick my hand into a flame. But I wanted to give it a try. I remembered my mother-in-law's suggestion to use visualization, and I put all my energy into remembering a day on the beach in Maui. I kept picturing that water, that beach, that sun...
"You're probably about six hours away," the doctor told me, and my heart sank. That beach was helping, but six hours was a long time to play mental games with myself. "If you get an epidural it'll be much faster. Really, you're a perfect candidate," she said. "No needle!" I replied. Sibel and Byron sprayed me down with a water mister, and I kept rocking, breathing, and visualizing.
A little over an hour after I checked in, my water broke with a loud pop. The fluid gushed out and splashed on the floor. It was animalistic, intense. I knew from Byron's silence and the doctor's "Wow" that all was not perfect. There was meconium -- baby poop -- in the fluid. The doctor explained what I already knew: "This might mean the baby is in distress. I want to hurry this up."
I'm afraid of needles, especially the long ones they use for epidurals. But I let the doctor go through the sales pitch: How good the anesthesiologist was. How quickly delivery would come if I got an epidural, because I would relax. How I'd still be able to push. I thought about my baby being scared and needing me to comfort her. And I said okay.