I managed to get a few hours sleep, even with the nurses coming into the room periodically to check on me through the night. The contractions began shortly after I swallowed my second dose of medication, at least that’s what the doctor told me when she came to check my progress as she made her final rounds around 5 a.m.
“Still no change,” she said, shaking her head. “You still haven’t dilated passed two centimeters, but you’re having some pretty steady contractions. You’re still not feeling any pain?”
“No, not at all,” I said, shaking my head.
The doctor stood watching Cadence’s vitals on the fetal monitor for a moment.
“I can’t wait to see this little girl of yours. The ladies have been talking about her all night out at the nurse’s station,” the doctor said, meeting my gaze and smiling. “She’s the most beautiful baby we’ve ever seen on the monitors. That little heartbeat is as steady and strong as we ever get to see. Some of these other babies have us running in and out of the rooms all day and night worrying, but not your beautiful girl. She’s keeping us very happy out there!”
I smiled and rubbed my hands above the fetal monitor strapped to my belly. “Thanks, I can’t wait to finally see her too. It’s nice to hear she’s doing well in there. I’m just hoping she hasn’t gotten too comfortable in there!”
The doctor laughed. “Oh don’t worry about that. She’ll come out one way or another! Are you sure you’re okay? And you don’t need any pain meds?
I declined, and the doctor left me to rest. On the couch beside me, Steven slept soundly.
My breakfast tray was delivered at 6 a.m., and I couldn’t decide whether I was excited or slightly depressed that I was still being fed at regular intervals, but it didn’t stop me from devouring everything on the tray. I even ate the oatmeal, and I hate oatmeal.
I turned on the television and watched a bit of the local morning news and Live with Regis and Kelly, before breaking out my crossword puzzle book. Steven woke around 9. A bit more color had returned to his face, and he admitted he actually felt a little better. Discovering that he had no clean clothes left in the suitcase (everything he packed had been completely sweated through during the worst of the colitis flare up), Steven decided to make a quick run to Target for a change of clothes.
Shortly after Steven left, there was a knock at the door.
“Yoo hoo! I’m heeeere! You can go ahead and have the baby now!” called my sister Kassie as she charged into the room. Momma Dawn followed, laughing.
“You’re freakin’ crazy!” I laughed.
“I’m not kidding,” Kassie stated, plopping her computer bag and purse down on the couch. “I took off work to be here today, just so I could watch my little niece Cadence being born. I’m ready, so let’s do this already. Stevie’s already sick, so he’ll probably end up passing out, and I’m his back up, right?”
Momma Dawn just shook her head. “You better quit saying that,” she told Kassie. “I’m pretty sure you’re to blame for Stevie’s colitis. You spent all these months praying to be the one in the delivery room, and now Stevie suddenly got sick? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Kassie’s mouth fell open in shock.
“Mom!” she cried. “That’s a terrible thing to say!”
“You know, Sis. I think she might be right,” I said, taking Momma Dawn’s lead. “You are going straight to hell. I can’t believe you prayed for my husband to get sick!”
Momma Dawn and I giggled as Kassie loudly defended her innocence.
For months, Kassie had been begging, pleading, insisting, and even downright demanding that she was going to be in the delivery room when Cadence was born. She’d even come along to one of my check-ups to formulate a game plan with my doctor. I’d relented enough to tell her she could be in the room while I was in labor, but reiterated often that as soon as it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of pushing and actually delivering the baby, she was going to have to retreat to the waiting room along with everyone else but my husband. But Kassie is not the type to just give up, and when she found out that the doctors planned to start me on Pitocin if the current round of oral medication didn’t put me into active labor, she went ahead and took the day off work, certain that I was going to deliver before the day was over. Armed with her laptop, her cell phone, and a purse full of snacks, she was ready to wait it out.
A little over an hour later, Steven returned with a bag of new clothes. He apologized for taking so long (since the Target is only a few blocks away), and told us that apparently the Target employees had taken one look at him when he shuffled in the door wearing his full hobo outfit, and assumed that he was a homeless person looking for something to shoplift.
Still a little disoriented from the medications, it took Steven awhile to find everything he needed. He’d picked up a package of socks, a couple pairs of boxer shorts, and an ASU t-shirt, but was having trouble finding a pair of pants. He didn’t want jeans or slacks or anything with a tight waist, since his abdomen was still pretty tender. He’d been wandering around for about 20 minutes, trying to find a pair of sweatpants or pajama pants or something, when he realized that he was being followed and carefully monitored by two Target employees. Embarrassed, he approached one of them, explained that he had been in the ER, and that his wife was now in labor and all he wanted was a change of clothes. With a sympathetic smile, the young man helped Steven pick out a pair of black wind pants with an elastic waistband. Freshly showered and dressed in his new clothes, Steven almost looked normal again.
The hours ticked by slowly, broken up only by the nurses coming in and out of the room to check my progress. While the contractions continued to increase in duration and intensity, I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Around noon, a nurse informed me that I wasn’t going to be taking my final dose of medication. My contractions were too strong and too close together, but I still wasn’t dilating. The doctor wanted to give me an hour or two to rest, and then they were going to start me on Pitocin.
“Once we start the Pitocin, things should really get moving,” the nurse assured me. “Pitocin always does the trick.”
Kassie smiled excitedly, yet I was skeptical. It had been 36 hours with absolutely no progress other than some very strong contractions. I was starting to wonder if Cadence hadn’t built herself a little fortress inside and was staging a stand off.
At 2 p.m., the nurses began administering Pitocin through my IV. We spent the afternoon watching the contractions rise and fall on the monitor and listening to the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s steady heart beat.
Around 5 p.m., Kassie and Momma Dawn finally had to give up and head back home, much to Kassie’s disappointment.
“You better call me the minute anything happens!” she insisted. “I’m staying at Mom’s tonight, so I can be back in a half-hour if necessary.”
I laughed. “Don’t worry, Sissy, I will.”
She and Momma Dawn gave me a hug, and then headed out the door.
Every time the nurses came to check my progress (which seemed to be every hour at that point), I cringed. I was getting sore, and really tired of hearing, “Wow, still just two centimeters. I can’t believe it.”
I began asking the nurses about the possibility of a C-Section. One of my doctors had mentioned it several weeks ago during one of my routine exams. He said he didn’t want to alarm me, but I had a pretty narrow pelvis, and he said he wouldn’t be shocked if I ended up having a C-Section. He’d given me several pamphlets describing the procedure, and told me that the best thing was just to be informed and prepared for whatever might happen during my delivery. Now, as my hospital stay was beginning to seem endless with no signs of any progress in my labor, I wondered if he had been right. The nurses said they would mention my concerns to the doctor on call.
At 6:30, the doctor arrived abruptly and informed me that he was going to break my water.
Steven and I looked at each other wide-eyed.
“But, the nurse just checked me and said I was still two centimeters,” I said, watching him pull instruments from a drawer next to my bed.
“That’s right,” he said. “Your contractions are very strong, but we’re just not seeing any other progress. I’m going to break your water, and then we’re going to up the level of Pitocin, and that should get things going here.”
Before I could protest, the doctor asked me to lie back. A moment later, it was done.
“Now, do you need anything, any pain medication, or any questions before I go?”
I shook my head. Tears had welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t in any pain, but for the first time, I was scared.
The doctor left as quickly as he’d arrived.
“Okay dear, don’t be afraid to call us if you need anything,” the nurse said, readjusting the pillow behind my head. She pressed a button on my IV stand to increase the Pitocin flowing into my veins. “I’ll be back to check on you shortly.”
“Holy shit!” Steven said after the nurse left. “What the hell was that?”
I wiped the tears away and shook my head. “I don’t know.”
“Are you okay?” Steven asked, coming over to the side of the bed and squeezing my shoulders.
“Yeah, I’m okay…I just…I wasn’t ready for that,” I explained.
“Why didn’t you ask him about a C-Section while he was here?” Steven asked.
“I don’t know…I guess he just didn’t seem like he was really keen on the idea, you know?”
“Well hey, look at the bright side,” he said.
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“The season premier of LOST starts in about ten minutes.”
I laughed. “Damn, Cadence better hold out a while longer, then!”
Steven laughed and hugged me. He moved my IV stand, and pulled a chair over close to the side of my bed, and then took my hand and held it.
Halfway through the two-hour season premier, the nurse came in to check on me.
“Do you need anything?” she whispered, noticing that Steven and I were engrossed in the program.
“No, thank you,” I whispered back.
“You’re okay with pain? You don’t need any meds?” she asked.
“No, I’m good,” I said.
“Okay, what I need you to do is to turn and lie on your right side, okay?”
I rolled over to my right. “Like this?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s perfect,” she said. “You’re having some really strong contractions, and the baby doesn’t seem to like it very much, so we’re going to try a new position.”
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
“Yep, we just want to make sure your baby is comfortable.”
The nurse stood for a moment watching the monitors, and then she turned and left.
Steven and I made it through the end of the show, and then flipped through the channels for something else to watch.
A group of three nurses came in and stood for a few moments, huddled around the monitors.
“There, do you feel that?” one of them asked me.
“No…feel what?” I asked.
On the monitor, I watched the little line steadily climb to the very stop of the screen and stay there.
“You don’t feel anything at all?” another nurse asked.
I glanced over at Steven, and then back to the nurses.
“No,” I said, not really. I placed my hands on my stomach. It was hard like a bowling ball. “I mean, if I touch my belly, it’s really hard and tight, but it doesn’t hurt or anything.”
“See! I told you!” the first nurse said to the others. The three of them laughed, and then stared in disbelief at the monitor until the line began to slowly descend again.
“Okay, well you just let us know if you need anything, okay?”
“Sure,” I said.
The three of them left, muttering quietly to each other.
“What was that about?” Steven asked.
“Dunno,” I said, shrugging. I glanced at the monitor, watching the line begin to rise again. “I think maybe those are contractions, but they’re not hurting or anything.”
“You don’t feel anything at all?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No. My back is a little sore from lying in this bed all day, but otherwise, nothing hurts.”
“Leave it to me to have all the labor pains huh?” Steven said laughing. “My wife has a uterus of steel. You could probably carry Superman’s baby, you know.”
I laughed. “You’re freakin’ crazy! I guess we better try and get some sleep though. It’s getting late.”
Steven turned out the lights and crawled back into his nest on the couch. I was just beginning to doze when another nurse came in and turned on the light next to my bed.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Are you needing an epidural?” she asked.
“Oh no, I’m fine,” I said.
“Okay, well let’s have you roll over on you left side for awhile okay? We saw baby’s heart rate dip again with your last big contraction, so we want to get her in a different position for a bit.”
“Is everything okay?” I asked. Steven sat up and listened.
“Everything’s fine right now,” she said. “We’re just keeping a close eye on the baby. We don’t want her getting too stressed out since your contractions are so strong. Okay, that’s good. Try to get some rest if you can, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
The nurse turned the light off and left.
Lying on my left side, facing the monitors, I stared at the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s heart. The number that had been so steady since we first arrived in the hospital Sunday night was fluctuating wildly. I watched the number go from 145 to 155 to 170 to 65 as the line for my contraction steadily climbed. For a moment, the number disappeared, blinked 0, then 125…140…145.
For the next several hours, I couldn’t tear my eyes from the monitor as the numbers rose and fell with each contraction. The nurses began to reappear like clockwork, every ten minutes or so, to help reposition me, and I began to detect genuine concern in their faces. I could feel the icy fingers of fear beginning to creep in.
“Has the doctor said anything about a C-Section?” I asked. “Because I’m okay with it. I mean, really at this point, if the baby is starting to get stressed out, then I am all for it. I just want her to be safe.”
“He hasn’t said anything yet,” the nurse replied. “But I am going to page him now to let him know what’s happening, and we’ll see what he says.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Seriously, this is getting ridiculous!” Steve said, as soon as the nurse walked out the door. “Something is obviously going on with the baby, and nothing is happening. I think the next time they come in, we just need to insist that they do the surgery.”
I nodded. “I’m starting to think so too,” I said. “Have you been watching the monitors?”
“Yeah,” Steven said. “Her heart rate is all over the place, and the nurses are obviously worried about it because they are in here every five minutes.”
The door opened and a nurse arrived as if on command.
“See what I mean,” Steven said..
“Well, the doctor called and we gave him the update, and I let him know what you said about a C-Section,” the nurse explained, curtly, and I wondered if she didn’t quite agree with the orders she’d been given. “He said he wants to up the Pitocin again and give things a few more hours to see how it goes, and then we’ll take it from there.”
My mouth dropped open to protest, but I closed it again.
“Oh geez,” Steven muttered.
The nurse pressed the button on the IV to increase the dose.
“Okay, now let’s have you lie on your right side again, and we’ll see how the baby likes that.”
I turned to my right, but twisted just far enough so I could still see the fetal monitor.
“Okay, she looks good. We’ll try that and see how it goes,” the nurse said. “Are you okay? Do you need anything? Any pain meds?”
“Nope, I’m okay,” I said.
“Alright dear. Just buzz if you need anything.” The nurse turned out the lights as she left.
“This is freakin’ ridiculous,” Steven muttered.
I didn’t say anything. In the darkness, I stared at the monitors. 145…145…145… My stomach tightened and the line began to rise on the screen, signaling another contraction. 148…155…162…127…77…43…22…0…0…0…