When the anesthesiologist walks in, relief is palpable. My husband stops impotently rolling a water bottle up and down my back for counter pressure, which is a relief to him since he pressed so hard he pulled a muscle in his arm, and I see an end to the excruciating pain, which is a relief to me for obvious reasons.
“Your timing was great!” the anesthesiologist says. “I can fit you in really quickly before my c-section.”
Call me crazy, but ‘quickly’ was not an adverb I wanted to describe the insertion of a needle into my spine.
I grit my teeth.
My husband edges to the other side of the crowded room to stay out of the way.
“Do you feel like you’re going to pass out?” the anesthesiologist asks my husband (and not me, who actually might pass out).
“Nope, I’m good,” my husband says.
The anesthesiologist gets his needle out. “How about now?”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel like you’re going to faint, just lie on the floor.”
I am writhing in pain. Life-altering pain, like my uterus is twisting out extra water. The anesthesiologist waits for my husband to confirm, again, that he is not going to pass out.
I hear various plastic packages shredding open. This is it. This is it. I just need to get through this one last contraction and it’ll be over.
Buzz. Buzz. What is that sound?
Buzz. Buzz. “Dr. Jerkface speaking.”*
(*Names changed to protect innocent, etc.)
“No, I can talk,” he says and I am hit by another contraction. I curl into the pillow on my lap and squeeze my eyes shut. I try to remember the absolutely useless bullshit breathing techniques we learned in birthing class. I could barely use those techniques to get past the pain of holding ice in my hand for a minute. I don’t know what the hell they’re supposed to do now.
The anesthesiologist continues talking into his phone. “Blahblahblah something, something, lots of unimportant things.”
So, I take it back at this point. Really quickly is the perfect adverb for an epidural. Please wrap it up. I stop breathing. Or at least, I stop forcing myself to breathe. Breathing only makes it worse. Everything makes it worse.
The anesthesiologist chuckles. Either pee or amniotic fluid squirts out beneath me as he chuckles, so now I am sitting in a puddle of an unknown bodily fluid. Ha. Ha. Also, now the grilled cheese I ate before labor (genius idea, btw) decides to come up.
My nurse holds a bag in front of my face as I regurgitate fried cheese and the Tums I took to prevent regurgitating. A nasty mix of fruit and butter and cheddar.
My husband sits down on the floor, because there are no chairs and this is taking forever.
The anesthesiologist pauses his conversation. “That’s right. If you’re going to faint, you should probably lie down all the way.”
“I’m not going to faint,” my husband says.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” the anesthesiologist says, then goes back to his conversation. “Right, she did what?”
The contractions are getting worse. I have now had four more than I thought I would have to have. My mouth tastes like vomit and sitting up is making me want to die. Pick a focus object. Focus on that object in order to ignore the pain. Just kidding. None of that works and I hate everything.
“I guess I better finish this up and then head down,” the anesthesiologist says.
Yeah. I guess you better, buddy. Another contraction. Five more than I needed to have, because Dr. Jerkface couldn’t get off his godforsaken phone.
I think he finally does something. I can’t tell. Too. Much. Pain.
“How’s your arm?” my nurse asks my husband.
“It’s fine.” He rubs it like it’s not fine. I start to wonder if the staff is there for him. If he is going to get shoved into a wheelchair and leave me alone here a la Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky on Full House.
“He might pass out,” the anesthesiologist tells the nurse. “That’s why he sat down.”
“No,” my husband says. “I’m fine. There was no where else to sit.”
Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. That is all I can think of. Pain. Pain. I’m going to vomit some more.
So I vomit some more.
Finally, the anesthesiologist places the epidural. Slowly. I thought he said ‘really quickly?!!’ Pain relief washes over me. Each contraction is a little less awful than the last.
I want to thank him, but he’s hovering over my husband.
“How are you feeling?” Dr. Jerkface asks my husband.
“Are you OK?” the nurse asks my husband.
Maybe I should call to thank him while he’s in with his c-section. Maybe then he’ll have time to chat.
Finally, a contraction comes and all I feel is tightening. No pain.
(photo: Icons Jewelry/ Shutterstock)