I squinted as the morning rays shone – too bright for my sleepy eyes. The haunting, ethereal words from Sarah McLachlan filled the car, “Hold on, Hold on to yourself, For this is gonna hurt like hell.”
My stomach sank over the irony. “Yes, I know.” I thought to myself, quietly breathing the tears away, afraid to look over at Owen behind the wheel.
I knew something wasn’t right this time around, but no matter what doctor or specialist I pleaded my case to, they still concluded that the normal ultrasound results were their best tool for prediction.
What ever happened to trusting a mother’s intuition?
Hooked up to machines and monitors with an attentive nursing staff watching as the Pitocin dripped into our systems, my baby and I were in the safest place possible.
“Why are your contractions not doing anything to your cervix?” the doctors pondered to the nurses, myself and my husband after nearly twelve hours.
So they added internal monitoring devices, and my water broke.
I started to really concentrate, working through each contraction. Then each time the wave broke, I welcomed the the blissful moment of peace and relief. The ride was familiar again, and I was calling on my past two experiences for guidance and support.
Gradually, a burning sensation started to radiate from my left side. After a few more contractions, I was sure my baby had a fork and was stabbing my belly from the inside. I told the nurse about the alarming sensations, and she agreed that labor pains were never described as such. She checked me over, finding nothing unusual, then went to find the doctor.
I rolled to my left side to soothe the burn, realizing quickly that it wasn’t going to ease up. Sickly warmth reached up my neck, my ears ringing. I needed an epidural.
My doctor returned, performing a thorough exam of me and the attached monitors, finding nothing abnormal. The burning and stabbing persisted, although I was dizzy-drunk from the epidural.
Deep concern masked over my doctors face. Our eyes met while a knowing passed between us: we were two women, inexplicably connected, balanced dangerously on the edge of a vast unknown, our fall inevitable.
The pressure of another contraction started mounting, suddenly my entire pregnant belly felt as if it were ripping open, bursting into flames of fury and fire.
I screamed out, grabbing the left handrail of my bed with both hands, raising to my elbows, “SOMETHING!” , “IS!”, “WRONG!”. Each word shot out, combusting with fear and pain.
The overhead lighting suddenly scorched the dim room and important people flood in. Time slowed, I heard and saw everything at once. I writhed on my left side, forcing my breath in and out, fighting the white light feathering my vision.
“Breathe! Breathe Salem, breathe!”, Owen was urgent, panicked.
“I AM!”, I was determined to keep my eyes wide open. The white light would not win.
This would not be how my story ends.
A split second – the baby’s heartbeat vanished.
“Code Blue – Code Blue – Labor and Delivery – Code Blue”, echoed through the halls, announcing that my baby boy and I were dangling by a thread.
The birthing bed instantly snapped back together, side rails up, locks released and I was moving.
A nurse told Owen, “You need to stay here, Dad.”
Hot tears pricked my eyes. I turned in my bed, forcing out the only three words that mattered, “I. Love. You.”
“I love you!” Owen’s voice trembling, filled with fear.
I was flying down the hall, crashing through swinging doors “Code Blue” still resonating through the speaker system while blue siren lights flashed in the ceiling.
Doctors and nurses yelled orders across the operating room. As my hospital bed slowed, I instinctually lifted myself up and slid over to the operating table, summoning every last ounce of energy into my fight.
My shoulders and neck muscles screamed in protest as my arms were yanked out straight from my sides and restrained. Beneath the blue surgical tent now, my gaze locked with my nurse as she pushed my baby back inside. Her eyes, pleading with me to keep fighting.
Owen’s voice trickled through the roar of the OR. The cool and clammy nurse’s grasp was replaced with the familiar warmth and strength of Owen’s. Love infusing between our palms, I squeezed tighter, never wanting to let go.
“Please, please just put me under.” The words barely audible as the white light flooded my vision.
::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::
Quite the cliffhanger…so I’ll fill in some blanks. My uterus ruptured during labor, baby boy was revived and recovered quickly and miraculously – he’s turning 2 in a few months, healthy – strong & happy. Me? I had lots of postpartum issues, life-threatening infections which ultimately led to a hysterectomy 6 months later. I plan to share more about this near-death, life-changing miracle of mine…but for now, I’m sharing this essay with Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary. She’s hosting a writing contest in honor of the newly released, Use Your Words: A Mother’s Guide to Writing, by Kate Hopper.