My due date for my first child was in late August. I somehow survived all of a brutal Washington, D.C. summer. And that was with a diagnosis of borderline gestational diabetes. No carbs for the last four months of pregnancy. And yet I enjoyed pregnancy in the later stages. I was huge. So huge that sometimes people who just gasp when they saw me. My short stature only compounded the look. My doctor told me that I had all the risks that normally warrant a C-section but I didn’t want one. We compromised with an induction.
My husband and I got to the hospital bright and early. My doctor met us there and started the induction. Without getting into the nitty gritty of it all, there are a couple of invasive things that are done and I happen to be unbelievably ticklish. Like, when I get a pedicure, I can barely keep my foot from kicking the poor salon technician. I’m ticklish in many ways. This was interpreted as me having an exceedingly low pain threshold, which actually isn’t true.
At some point I was getting an epidural and I was prepared for it to be painful when they stuck the needle into my spinal cord. But actually it wasn’t. I didn’t flinch or anything and everything seemed to be great. They asked me some questions about how it felt and we were off to the races. But as they increased the pitocin or whatever was being put into me to speed up the labor, the pain was pretty significant. I made mention of it and they said that the epidural would take care of it. A little while later, I made mention of it again and they said I should be fine. A little while later, I complained again and, exasperated, the nurses told me that this was as good as it gets and I needed to buck up. I was having a baby. If the epidural wasn’t taking care of the pain, nothing would. Many other women had gone through this and said the epidural was great, and so on and so forth.
To make a very long story short, about two hours after the epidural was put in, I was literally crying out to God for help. Now, I’m a Christian. I pray daily. I only do it out loud if I’m doing it with family before meals or sleep or I’m in a church. But I was pleading — out loud — with God to deliver me from the pain I was in. At this point, some technician checked my epidural and gasped — it had been put in wrong and I was basically receiving no pain medication on top of having artificial augmentation of labor. That’s one thing. But then they had the audacity to ask me why I hadn’t told them I was in such pain. Were they freaking kidding me? Now, I had a perfectly good experience at the hospital overall and, in fact, most of the staff were fantastic. But I couldn’t believe they asked me that.
I had to redo the epidural. Immediately, the difference was obvious. Some kind of warm druggy sensation spread through my body. The anesthesiologist, for what it’s worth, gave me specialized treatment for the duration of my visit and personally managed my pain. He felt so very bad about what had happened.
And once I had my beautiful baby girl, that unfortunate episode sort of floated away. But I learned that the hospitals aren’t always the best at determining whether your pain is serious or not, particularly if you are unsure what to expect when it comes to labor and delivery.