Just outside the Triage doors, the maze of hallways led to very different sections of the hospital. Hang a right, and you found yourself in Labor and Delivery. Bear left and you passed by the nursery and the recovery rooms. Take a hard left and buzz yourself out the door, and another labyrinth of hallways led to the elevators, the ER, and the main hospital entrance.
“So…do you think they gave him morphine?” I asked as Momma Dawn and I stopped to peek in through the nursery windows. There were no babies to ooh and ahh over. The nursery was quiet and empty, waiting for the new arrivals.
“They might have since he was in so much pain,” Momma Dawn replied. “He was looking pretty rough.”
“Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like that,” I said, shaking my head. “I mean, he was screaming it hurt so bad.”
“Didn’t anybody tell Stevie that you’re the one who’s supposed to be having labor pains?” Momma Dawn asked.
We buzzed ourselves out the door, and made our way toward the elevators, giggling over Steven’s labor pains as we walked. We pressed the button to take us down to the lower level. We wanted to find the cafeteria and pick up a menu. The main cafeteria was closed for the night. Momma Dawn grabbed a couple bottles of water from the vending machines, and we headed back to the elevators.
We still had ten minutes before we needed to be back at Triage, so we headed back up to the main floor, and took a stroll down the long hallway that led to the main entrance.
“How are you feeling?” Momma Dawn asked.
I shrugged. “Fine, I guess. I’m a little tired, but otherwise I feel good. No pain or anything.”
At the front doors, we did an about face and slowly retraced our steps.
“So…do you think he’s watching C-Span?” I asked, still puzzled by Steven’s cryptic text message. I’d tried texting him back, but there had been no reply. “I mean, he sometimes watches C-Span at home, Lord knows why, because that channel is freakin’ boring. You think they just pumped him full of morphine and he’s chillin’ in the ER watchin’ TV? What are the odds of him actually finding us if he’s all doped up?”
We both started giggling again.
“I’m sure he’s fine, and probably feeling right as rain if they gave him some good drugs,” Momma Dawn said. “He’ll find us. If not, we’ll just have him paged.”
“Oh man, he would kill me if I had him paged on the intercom!” I said, laughing so hard I had to stop for a minute to lean against the wall. I wiped my eyes and we turned left and buzzed the door leading back to Triage.
The nurse checked me. No progress.
“Okay, looks like we’re going for round two,” she said.
The rest of the night stretched on endlessly. I tried to sleep in the hours I had to lie still in the bed, but it seemed that just when I was starting to drift away, the nurse would return and tell me it was time to go do some more walking.
Momma Dawn and I put some serious miles on those hospital hallways. Growing bored of the same old scenery on the main floor, we took the elevator up to see what we could find. We discovered that the ICU floor had the best lounge area, with large recliners, a television, and several air pot coffee dispensers and hot water for tea.
Just before 5 a.m., I excused myself to the restroom on the way back to my Triage bed after our fourth round of walking. I splashed some water on my face and leaned closer to the mirror to get a better look at the dark circles beginning to form under my eyes. I’d been awake for nearly 24 hours, and was finally beginning to feel the exhaustion creeping in. I knew the ordeal was far from over.
As I opened the door to return to my bed, I heard Steven’s voice. He was standing hunched slightly forward, talking to Momma Dawn, still dressed in full hobo attire. He was still pale, though a slight pinkish tinge had crept back into his cheeks. His eyes were half-open behind his glasses.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” I asked. “What did you find out?”
“They gave me some morphine and that helped for awhile, but it’s starting to wear off a bit, so I gotta go find a pharmacy and pick up my prescriptions,” he explained. “They said there was a 24-hour Walgreens a few blocks from here.”
“Did they say what it was?” I asked.
“Colitis? I think that was what they said,” Steven replied. “They said it was some kind of infection, and gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and some pain meds. Soon as we go home, I gotta make an appointment with a gastro-enta-something. I think it’s a butt doctor They said I need a colonoscopy. That’s gonna suck. But what about you? How are you?”
“I’m okay. Nothing happening. I think I have to do a couple more laps to see if it works, and then they’re gonna decide whether or not to move me to a delivery room.”
Steven took a deep breath and leaned over.
“Ooooh ow, okay, I gotta run and get my prescription. Are you okay here until I get back?”
I looked at Momma Dawn.
“Yeah we’re good. If I’m not here in bed, we’ll be out walking the halls,” I said. “I’ll keep my phone with me, so just call or text me when you get back if you can’t find us.”
“Ow…okay…I’ll hurry back,” Steven panted. He kissed me quickly, and then shuffled out the door, clutching his stomach.
Steven was only gone for a half-hour. Luckily, the Walgreens was pretty much empty at that early hour, so he was able to get his prescription filled immediately. Grabbing a bottle of water from the refrigerator in the back of the store, he took his first dose of antibiotics and a Percoset standing at the counter and waiting for the pharmacist swipe his debit card. By the time, he joined me back in Triage, the drugs had begun to work and he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.
Now that Steven was with me, Momma Dawn decided to head up to the ICU Lounge to get a little sleep in one of the recliners until I either went into labor, or the doctors decided what to try next. She hugged me quickly before she left.
By 6 a.m., the on-call doctor and nurses had decided that the gel just wasn’t working. Had I not already been a week overdue, they might have sent me home to simply wait it out. But, as Dr. Swarup had promised me when he scheduled my induction, I would not be leaving the hospital until after my daughter had joined us on the outside.
I was moved into one of the large Labor & Delivery rooms, and told that I could get showered and changed into a fresh set of gowns. Hot water and soap never felt so good. When I emerged from the bathroom, I saw that Steve had brought our suitcases in from the car, and was making himself a nest on the couch next to my bed.
I tried calling Momma Dawn, but her voicemail picked up right away, so I sent her a text message letting her know that we had been moved to a delivery room.
A nurse brought in a breakfast tray, and told me that the doctor would be in shortly to check my progress and let me know the plan for the day.
“Do you want any of my breakfast, babe?” I asked. Steve glanced at the tray and grimaced.
“Oh God no,” he said quickly, clutching his stomach. “I just want to sleep.”
“Well, go ahead and sleep now while there’s still time. There’s not much happening here yet,” I said, rubbing my belly.
“If it’s okay with you, I think I will,” Steve said. He flopped down on the couch and pulled the blanket up to his chin. He set his glasses on the floor beside him. I watched his eyelids flutter and slowly close. He began to snore softly.
“Wow, that was fast,” I muttered to myself.
I lifted the lid on the plate and dug into the steaming pile of scrambled eggs and bacon, then inhaled the two slices of whole wheat toast in four large bites. I wiped my mouth with my napkin, then attacked the bowl of cantaloupe and strawberries. There was a container of orange juice, and a container of cranberry juice, which I set aside for later. I opened the container of milk and took a long swig.
The doctor arrived to check on me just as I finished my breakfast and pushed the tray away. He explained that the gel hadn’t helped me progress at all, so our second plan of attack was to try a drug called Cervidil. The insert would need to stay in place for 12 hours, so my movements would be restricted to visiting the bathroom. He made sure I was comfortable and ready, and then left the nurses to prep me and administer the Cervidil.
Momma Dawn arrived just as the nurses were leaving.
“Damn cell phone doesn’t get any service in this hospital!” she complained. “I looked for you in Triage and they told me you’d been moved. So what’s happening now?”
I told her about the Cervidil, and that the plan was to give it 12 hours, and then check my progress again if I didn’t start laboring before that.
“Well if you are okay, then I am gonna head home, get some sleep, and pick up your brothers from school. You just let me know if anything happens, okay?”
“Sure will Momma,”I said. “I think we might be in for the long haul though. A nurse came in earlier and took my order for lunch and dinner, and I’m pretty sure they don’t let you eat if they think you’re going to be having a baby anytime soon.”
Momma Dawn laughed. “You’re right, they don’t, but you call me right away if anything does happen, you hear?”
“I will. I just want to try and get some sleep if I can.”
Once Momma Dawn left, I turned down the lights and was finally able to get some sleep.
The next 12 hours passed uneventfully. I slept on and off, watched TV, ate a large lunch, updated my Facebook status, watched some more TV, sent some text message updates to friends and family, and worked my way through half a dozen crossword puzzles. Nurses came and went, checking on me and writing notes on my chart. By mid-afternoon, their quizzical glances over at my hibernating husband were becoming almost hostile. At first, I wondered why they seemed so annoyed, but then I realized that they must be thinking he was some kind of junkie passed out on the couch while I endured the labor (or lack thereof) alone.
When the nurse came in to pick up my dinner tray and see if I needed another fresh glass of ice water from the snack room, I thanked her profusely.
“I’d love some more water, thank you,” I said. “My husband would get it, but he was in the ER all night, and I guess the Percoset they gave him was a little too strong for him to handle.”
“Oh goodness, why was he in the ER?” the nurse asked, throwing Steven a sympathetic glance.
“He woke up early yesterday with severe abdominal pains, and the doctor in the ER said it’s colitis. They gave him some antibiotics and the Percoset for pain.”
The nurse grimaced. “Ugh, colitis, huh? That’s some nasty business. My sister had it, and said she’d rather give birth to twins with no epidural than to ever go through that again. Hopefully your husband will be feeling better before his little girl decides to arrive!”
I laughed. “Yeah, I hope so too!”
“Well dear, you let me know if you need anything else. And let me know if you think your husband would like a dinner tray. We can bring an extra one for him if he wants it.”
“Thanks, we will.”
That nurse must have spread the word about Steven when she returned to the nurse’s station, because they all treated us extra kindly after that.
Shortly after 7 p.m., the doctor arrived to check on me.
Still no progress.
“Well, here’s the plan,” the doctor began.
Suddenly, Steven rolled over and sat up, staring over at us as though he was listening intently. He didn’t put on his glasses, so I knew that he wasn’t really seeing me or the doctor, he was just looking at fuzzy, flesh-colored blobs.
The doctor continued. “We’re going to send you out for a long walk. Try to stay out for 45 minutes or an hour if you can. Just keep yourself moving and we’ll see if that helps move things along. When you come back, we’ll check you again and see if you’ve progressed. Then, we’ll give you a pill to take. It should help get things going and stimulate some contractions. Be sure to stretch your legs well on your walk, because we’ll have you hooked up to the fetal monitors once we administer the meds and you’ll be staying put in bed. Sound good?”
I nodded. Steven continued to stare absently.
“Okay, go ahead and head out for your walk, and we’ll see you back here in about an hour.”
With that, the doctor turned and left, and I worked my way out of the bed and stood. My legs were cramped after being confined to bed all day, and it felt good to get up and stretch.
“How are you feeling, Stevie?” I asked. “Do you think you can make it out for a walk?”
“Huh?” Steven asked, staring blankly up at me, then turning to fumble blindly for his glasses. “A walk? Yeah, I think I can walk a bit. I just need to hit the bathroom, and maybe get something to drink.”
“Yeah, we can get some water on the way out,” I said, watching him shuffle past the bed on his way to the bathroom. “There’s a snack room around the corner.”
Once we headed out into the hallway, Steven began to shuffle a little faster, though he still wasn’t walking fully upright. We rounded the corner, passed the nurses station, and stopped in the snack room for two glasses of ice water.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. “Do you need anything to eat?”
“Nah, my stomach still kinda hurts,” Steve said. “What time is it anyway?”
“It’s a little after eight,” I replied.
“Eight? Eight o’clock at night?” Steven turned to look at me, as if to make sure I wasn’t lying. “Seriously? It’s eight o’clock at night?”
“Yeah, babe,” I nodded. “You freakin’ passed out for like 12 hours in there.”
“Holy moly! That Percoset kicked my ass! I’m not taking any more of that crap if I don’t have to! Jesus, eight o’clock? I just lost an entire day. How are you by the way?”
I laughed. “I’m okay. Bored, I guess, and my back hurts from lying in that bed all day. I wish Cadence would get here already, but I’m kinda glad she held out this long, since you passed out on me today.”
“Jesus, babe, I’m sorry. I just hope those antibiotics do the trick,” Steven said, rubbing his hand over his abdomen.
“Yeah, me too,” I agreed.
We made our way slowly through the hallways. By that time, I’d committed the entire map to memory, and I gave Steven the grand tour. We took the elevator down, and I showed him the cafeteria. He was still too uncomfortable to eat, but he bought a lemon lime Gatorade and took a long swig as we headed back upstairs. I walked him by the nursery, and through a crack in the blinds, we caught a glimpse of a tiny red foot being inspected by one of the nurses. We headed past the recovery rooms, and buzzed ourselves out the door to the long hallway that led to the hospital entrance.
It seemed strange to me that it was dark outside again. We’d been in the hospital over 24 hours at that point, and I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.
We turned around when we neared the entrance and headed back to the elevators. We headed up to the third floor and took a lap through the hallways, then headed up to the fourth, back to the third, back to the main floor, passed the nursery again, but this time it was deserted. After one more long walk to the hospital’s main entrance and back, our hour was up. By the time we returned to the room, both of us were exhausted from the effort.
I had just enough time to stop in the snack room for a fresh glass of ice water and visit the restroom before the nurses arrived to check my progress and hook me up to the monitors.
Still no progress.
“Okay dear, go ahead and swallow this, and then you might want to try and get some sleep,” the nurse said, handing me a paper cup with a small pill inside. “This should start some contractions. Once that happens, things could move along rather quickly, and you’ll want to be rested.”
I took the pill and washed it down with a long drink of water. Steven was getting himself situated in his nest on the couch.
“Okay, just call us if you need anything,” the nurse said. Then she turned out the light and closed the door behind her.
Steven fell asleep again almost immediately. I texted my parents, Momma Dawn, Papa Shawn, and my siblings to let them know there was still no progress, and that they had just given me a pill that was supposed to stimulate contractions. I turned on the TV for a bit, but soon found that I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open long enough to really pay attention, so I turned it off again. I settled back against my pillow, pressed the button to recline the bed, and closed my eyes.
I pressed my hands to my belly, smiling as Cadence kicked, and then pushed steadily back. I wondered if she knew it was me on the other side of that fleshy wall. More than anything I just wanted to hold her, to finally be able to see her tiny face. I’d spent nine long months dreaming about her, and now here we were, so close that I could almost feel her in my arms. I fell asleep, listening to my baby’s heart beat steadily on the monitor.