Wednesday, 14th December 2005.
I woke up that morning with a feeling of anticipation. I was already 4 days overdue and had waited anxiously everyday for the last three weeks for my contractions to start (I had imagined every possible scenario, from going into labor in church during one of my pastor’s rousing sermons, to being alone at home and causing my husband to have an accident rushing home to me). I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks and was getting really tired of the emotional roller coaster that I was on. My anxiety was heightened by the fact that my mother had taken to calling me everyday to ask if I was in labor.
That morning, I was on edge because my doctor had decided to induce my labor – I was scheduled to check into the hospital that evening. I spent the whole day puttering around the house, checking and re-checking my bag to make sure I had everything I needed. Finally it was five o’ clock and my husband and I left for the hospital.
At the hospital, I was quickly checked in and a nurse came in to explain the procedure to me. In lay terms, they were going to insert a string thing into my uterus to soften it overnight and then come in at 7 a.m. the next morning to give me the medicine that would induce my labor in IV form. The nurse also mentioned that on rare occasions, the string thing actually caused labor to start all by itself; it could also cause me to have cramps. A friend had informed me that I would not be allowed to pee for 6 hours after the string thing had been inserted so I had stopped eating and drinking at 12 noon to avoid any additional discomfort. Secretly, having peed every hour for the last four months, I wasn’t sure I could last that long regardless. I was therefore glad to hear, on getting to the hospital, that I only needed to suspend my bodily functions for an hour.
I was put in a room, an IV of antibiotics was started (because I was strep B positive), and I was hooked up to a machine that would track my contractions and my baby’s heartbeat. At about 7 p.m., the string thing was inserted into my uterus. I am now convinced that except for maybe a colonoscopy, there is nothing more uncomfortable than being induced for labor. Picture a whole hand shoved into your “you-know-where” while a big watermelon is in the way and you can imagine my discomfort during the process. At this point, my husband started fidgeting, for reasons beyond my comprehension – considering that I was the one enduring the ‘shove past my watermelon’. He asked if it was okay for him to go home and come back in the morning. My mouth said “sure, if you want to”, but my mind said, “make one move and you’re dead”. Obviously he heard my mind, because he decided to stay but his nervous pacing made me wish I had sent him home.
About ten minutes after the insertion, I started having cramps. I had elected not to have an epidural, and my husband counseled that I should wait as long as possible to have pain killers, so I decided to bear the pain for a while. After an hour, I was itching to go to the bathroom; at that point another nurse came in and told me that I had been misinformed; I actually had to wait two hours to ease myself.
At 9 p.m. I finally got to go to the bathroom. I was then allowed to eat, which was extremely good news to me at this point because I hadn’t eaten in 9 hours. I eagerly feasted on stewed beans and bread, which we had brought from home (I had been admitted in the same hospital before, and I had tasted the food, hence my preparedness). By 10 p.m., the cramps had become almost unbearable so I asked for painkillers. To my chagrin the nurse asked me to wait for thirty more minutes so that the antibiotics could run its course first. By 10.30, I was groaning in pain. The nurse advised me to go to the bathroom first so that I wouldn’t have to stand up while I was receiving the painkillers. At this point, I made another profound discovery – labor pains get worse when you stand up. It took all my will power to walk to the bathroom and sit on the toilet seat. As I began to do my business, I was overwhelmed by the urge to throw up. Out came the pot of stewed beans I had woofed down earlier. Now, if you’re not from Nigeria, you may not know what stewed beans looks like but I can picture all the Nigerians reading this cringing as they imagine a bathroom floor overflowing with regurgitated beans. It briefly crossed my mind that I should feel remorseful for creating additional work for the hospital staff but by then, I was in too much pain to care.
When I got up from the commode, my husband made me stand over the sink and splash water over my face, one, two, three times. I finally snapped at him to leave me alone because I needed to lie down – the first of many sharp remarks before the night was over.
I finally got the painkillers and drifted off into oblivion. Actually, scratch that; I drifted off into partial oblivion because ever so often I woke up groaning. My husband, who passed the time playing computer games on a laptop he had brought along, would then interrupt his game to hold my hands for a few minutes and say, “breathe babe”. I had refused to attend Lamaze classes. I didn’t think I needed classes to learn how to do something that I’d been doing for twenty-eight years of my life. So in response to my husband’s urges I relied on my instincts and just took deep breaths and let the air out slowly. I found that the deep breathing actually helped to minimize the pain.
I must have fallen into a deep sleep though, because suddenly around 1:30 a.m. I felt my husband shaking me and talking to me. Or at least I think he’s talking to me because his mouth is moving but I can’t seem to understand what he’s saying. Six years ago, I was in an accident and had to be operated upon. Three days after the operation, I was still sleeping off the anesthesia – I tend to overreact to any drugs that make me sleep. Anyway, after repeating himself about five times, I finally understood what my husband was saying – “wake up, it’s time to push”. I looked around in a haze and saw my gynecologist and several nurses examining me. The doctor started to talk to me but I could barely make out her words. Two nurses held up my legs and then I heard the words “push at the next contraction.” It turns out pushing a baby out is exactly like going to the toilet – only more intense. Three contractions later, my baby is screaming her lungs out. Ironically, that’s when I started to cry. My insides felt like something massive had just been violently ripped out of me (which it had). I was incredibly fatigued too. My husband held me and comforted me for a few minutes and then went to look at the baby – a girl – who cried for thirty minutes non-stop – a harbinger of things to come.
Finally my baby was put in my arms. I had heard it commonly said that the minute you hold your baby in your arms you forget the pain of labor and an emotional bond is immediately formed. I’m ashamed to say, it didn’t happen that way for me. I was glad to have her, but I had no overwhelming motherly feelings when I held her. That came later, as she and I got closer.
Still in a medicine-induced haze, I vaguely heard the doctor telling me that I had some tears and she would have to stitch me up. She then proceeded to poke me with a needle for another fifteen minutes. At this point I’m ready to sleep off and can barely stand the prodding and poking going on. I was sorely tempted to give my doctor a good kick in the head. Eventually, it was all over and I was wheeled along with my baby to a private room, where I promptly fall asleep and stay that way for about 7 hours. The picture my husband took of me in my sleep told the whole story – my head was rolled back, my mouth wide open, my hands and legs sprawled all over the bed. I had just survived a once (or twice, well maybe thrice) in a lifetime ordeal – a picture is truly worth a thousand words!