by Jaeden Knight
Thirty-two hours of labor; no drugs…and not by choice.
Contractions had hit fast and heavy. They came so close together that there wasn’t enough time to wait for Jeremy to rush home and then take her to the hospital. She had to beg a neighbor to take her. She would have been incredibly embarrassed if it hadn’t hurt so much. When she arrived, the doctors told her it was already too late for an epidural. She’d dilated too far. The best they could do would be a topical anesthetic.
The anesthetic hadn’t worked, or at least it didn’t feel like it. That much pain in such a small area was the worst torture she could think of.
Gracie cursed Jeremy for volunteering for the over time. She cursed him for doing this to her. She cursed him for never showing up; for making her do this all alone.
Thirty-two hours of contractions with no relief. She wasn’t dilated enough, her water hadn’t broken, the baby did not want to come out. She progressed just far enough that the doctors didn’t want to risk the medication, but not far enough to deliver. She was so delirious with pain that she didn’t catch the name of the drug they did give her. It was supposed to help with the delivery; make her dilate more or something. After three hours she was begging for more because it wasn’t working. Her body still struggled to deliver, but it was fighting against itself.
Hunger was gone despite that fact that she hadn’t eaten for at least four hours before she went into labor. The thirst was disgusting. Her mouth felt dry and tacky; like waking up after sleeping for sixteen hours with morning breath worse than a dog’s. Her skin was clammy from the sweat and all she wanted to do was take a shower. The nurses had gone with the baby. The doctor said she would be back to give her some percocet shortly; that was fifteen minutes ago.
Gracie tried to move to get to the bathroom and at least wash with a cool rag. She nearly cried with how much she hurt. The baby was out, wasn’t it supposed to be over? She hit the nurses button and tried to hold as still as she could, somewhere between sitting and laying down. Her muscles ached all over.
A nurse came in and took one look at Gracie and rushed to her side, trying to help her lay back down.
“No. No, I don’t want to lay down. I want to wash. I feel disgusting covered in sweat.” She wasn’t going to mention what else she felt she was covered in.
“Okay, grab my arm and I will help you to the bathroom. You need to try and urinate.”
“I don’t have to go, I just want to wash.”
The nurse was persistent, “I will make you a deal. I’ll run you a bath and try and go afterward, but you need to go.”
Every step from the minute Gracie’s feet hit the floor was an agony. Giving birth actually seemed like a distant memory. It was only five feet to the bathroom, hunched over, digging her nails into the nurse’s arm and biting her lip to keep from crying out; only five feet. When they reached the door, an eternity later, the nurse handed her a bottle with a bent plastic straw. Gracie looked at her funny.
“Trust me, sweet heart, you will need it.” She closed the door and left Gracie gripping the counter and wondering what on earth the bottle was for and why on earth hadn’t she started the bath like she said she would?
She figured she may as well go and get it over with so she could enjoy her bath, even though the thought of laying in your own filth was disgusting it was still better than what she felt now. She sat on the toilet and relaxed. The immense burning pain was enough to make her aching, sore muscles tense all over.
“Screw that,” she said through clenched teeth.
Gracie started the bath water and stood in ankle deep. The water was as hot as her poor feet could stand it, and it felt amazing. Slowly, she eased herself into the water. When the steaming bath hit her where it hurt the most she cried out and thought she was going to make her lip bleed from how hard she was biting down. She was too far into the tub now to jump back out, she didn’t have the strength left in her. Soon, the pain subsided and all her muscles relaxed. At least now she knew what the bottle with the weird straw top was for. She let herself slip into the water until all but her eyes and nose were covered.
Minutes passed by all too quickly, and soon the nurse was knocking on the door and calling something that Gracie couldn’t understand.
“What?” she called back and sat back up with more than a little effort.
“Have you gone yet?”
“Why are you so concerned with my peeing habits!”
“It’s precautionary, Grace, we need to be sure everything still works.”
“Ug, fine. I’ll be out in a minute.” There was no way in hell she was going to get back on the toilet. She took one look at the one-ply toilet paper and decided against that too. She filled the bottle with the cooled, but still warm bath water, stood up and went right there in the tub. She used the bottle to spray herself everywhere the pee ran to clean off and stepped cautiously out of the tub. The bath helped, she still hurt but not as much. She wrapped herself in a towel and opened the door.
“Yes! For crying out loud I went. My plumbing still works, but it will be a cold day in hell before I do anything other than peeing, if you catch my drift.”
Gracie hobbled over to the chair by the window and searched through her bag for clean clothes.
“You need to put another hospital gown on, and um,” Gracie looked at the nurse and followed her gaze to her unopened box of tampons, “you can’t use those for a while.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The nurse disappeared into the bathroom and came back out with a hospital gown and a big, white, plastic package labeled “Sanitary Napkins” in that sick green you usually only see in hospitals. “Complimentary.”
Gracie inched back to the bathroom, snatching the gown and the pads from the nurse. Moments later she came back out barely clothed and feeling like she was wearing the world’s largest and most uncomfortable diaper.
“Where’s my baby?”
“He’s just down the hall in the nursery. He’s been weighed, measured and should be done with his first round of tests. I’ll go check on him. Is there anything else you need?” she asked while helping Gracie back into the hospital bed.
“Yes. Drugs. Strong ones, please. The doctor said she would be back in fifteen minutes with percocet when she left right after the delivery.”
“She’s not come back?”
“Obviously.” Gracie felt momentarily guilty for being a snot to the nurse, but then figured she makes enough money and probably gets this all the time from new mothers and was over it.
Another nurse poked her head into Gracie’s room and cleared her throat. Gracie just looked at her.
“Doctor Penny said to take her to her new room. Her baby is waiting in there for her along with some pain medication.”
“Thank you.” The first nurse, to which Gracie never caught her name, put up the side barriers on her bed and started wheeling her down the hall.
“Portable bed? Awesome! You have no idea how glad I am that I don’t have to walk to take a wheelchair.”
“I have five kids, I’m sure I’ve got some kind of an idea.”
Gracie blushed and felt like an idiot, but she was still thankful none-the-less.
They swung around the corner, Gracie propped up with pillows and the mechanics of the bed searched the room looking for her baby. He wasn’t hard to find laying quietly in a clear plastic bin swaddled in a white blanket and bright blue knitted cap. A blue card was slid into a protective cover on the end of of the bin. “Baby Anderson,” it said and had his length, weight and a black inked footprint that was far too small to be real.
The nurse wheeled her next to the baby, facing a TV and the baby’s station. Gracie immediately snatched the card from the baby tub. Tiny little lines ran across the foot print. Miniature toes were dotted above the foot no bigger than the tip of her pinky finger. She put her index finger next to the print of the big toe for good measure.
“Is this his?”
“Yes, ma’am. The remote for the TV is on your right, the control for the bed is on your left if you want it higher or lower. You already know where the nurse call button is,” she said with a smirk.
Gracie’s eyes never left the card. “Can I hold him now? You don’t need him for more testing?”
“He’ll have to go in for some more tomorrow, and if you’re planning on having him circumcised, we’ll do that tomorrow as well.” The nurse picked up the sleeping little thing and placed him in Gracie’s arms.
All the pain of the last two days melted away when she saw his sleeping face, gently suckling already. She unwrapped his body and layed him on her now empty stomach, his head in the crook of her arm, and one tiny foot resting completely in the palm of her hand. She ran her finger across the instep of his foot. It was exactly like hers. This was her baby, for now and for always. Finally, it was real. The months of discomfort, morning sickness, aches and pains; the thirty-two hours of labor, the agony of postpartum adjustments. This was her baby, her nose, her hair, her ears, her adorable instep all in miniature.
She was surprised by how perfect he was, and how much she already loved him.
Copyright © 2009 by Jaeden Knight