Since I was almost 35 years old for my first birthing experience I was considered high risk back in the day– 1978 was the year– almost ancient history in the medical world. Anyhow, because of that, I chose to go with a well-reputed physician in Washington D. C. instead of one in Fairfax County, Virginia where I lived. This doctor was associated with Washington Hospital Center in D. C., the same place they took President Reagan when he was shot. So it was a well-equipped thoroughly up-to-date hospital, where I thought I’d be better tended if complications from my “age” arose. I asked Dr. X ( he shall remain nameless) if he, himself personally would attend me at the birthing, and he gave me an unequivocal nod. So I relaxed. But here’s what happened: my wonderful husband, Bob, and his cronies at work agreed that since I was normally always late for social events, chances were I’d also most likely be late for my first baby’s birth. What kind of male logic this involved, I can’t guess, because they were wrong. I was actually a week early. So when Bob decided to take a business trip to Toronto during that week, using that male logic as a basis for his absence, my coach, i. e. Bob who had taken Lamaze classes with me in preparation for the experience, my coach, was duly absent, and stuck in a blizzard in January in Canada. Duh, what do you expect around that time in Canucks-ville? Add to that mix, the following: at 6am (5am Toronto time) when I called his parents house where he was staying during the business trip, his very sleepy mom answered, ” Who? Who is calling? Who? Elaine, who? Oh Elaine.” Finally she handed the phone over to Bob who said he’d try to get a flight out. Would be nice, I thought as the contractions tightened my abdomen.
Coach gone, my neighbor, a lovely Navy wife with three kids of her own took pity on me, and drove me with my two pillows and prepared suitcase in hand bumpety-bump bump in her MG sports car to the hospital, a distance of 15 miles, or so, as snow fell down all around us. Once there, the receptionist directed us to the ongoing Lamaze class. Did I appear that calm? The contractions and consequent pain were already contorting me. That I remember! After further discussion and wincing, she directed us to the maternity/delivery ward. Once there, another surprise awaited me. Doc X was not going to deliver the baby. One of his partners was on call and would attend. Silly me for not understanding that. Plus, here’s where it got even more challenging. Since it is a teaching hospital associated with George Washington Medical School, a resident and an intern would be doing all the pre-delivery work, which might have been okay with me except the one assigned had no bedside manner seasoning and told me point blank,”Ah, so you are planning on a natural birth are you? Let me tell you that you’ll be experiencing some of the most horrible intense pain ever, so I do not recommend it.”
Of course, by then I was already experiencing difficult prolonged pain every five minutes which was made worse by Bob, my coach, missing the event, and by my neighbor who in trying to help me with the controlled breathing began to hyperventilate and needed attention herself. She said it was because the experience was bringing back all her birthing memories/nightmares. Plus, add to that; periodically they were giving me updates on Bob’s whereabouts. “He’s made it to Buffalo where he’s hoping to get on a plane” and comments like, “Does her husband even want to be here?” I was beginning to wonder myself.
Somehow during the 12 hour process, which is apparently very normal for a first birth, they shot me up with demorol. It only made me drowsy and hardly capable of directing my focus to a natural birth. My neighbor was encouraged to leave, since her hyperventilating was not helping me, and the word was that Bob was now only a couple hours away. At some point thereafter, I remember hearing Bob’s voice saying,” Is that my wife?” He was referring to the moaning noises coming uncontrollably from my room. Someone answered him, “Yes, that’s her.” “Oh”, he said sounding surprised, and weak. Well, miracle of miracles. Bob had arrived precisely 30 minutes before the actual birth. By then the “natural birth” was totally out the window. In the last hour or so a female Doctor administered an epidural, which by then I approved with alacrity, since I could no more control my body’s pain by deep breathing than I could control a speeding train by blowing on it. I begged for anything to stop the pain. She took awhile to get the needle in my back because she said it was very muscular, an unintended consequence of my yoga practice, we figured out together, but once it took, and I could no more feel the pain, I relaxed and smiled as Bob held my hand. But the epidural also took away my ability to push the baby out, and so the doctor used forceps to help pull him out. And blessedly for us, a healthy seven plus baby boy entered our world. All’s very well that ends very well. But nothing in the process went according to my plan. Again, the universe was telling me something.