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Four Minutes Flat

Do what you have to do

Three days past my due date, our mothers and their nervous energy overcrowding our 1200 square foot condo, tons of labor-inducing wives’ tales tried and failed, we placed a desperate call to our midwife. “I’m on-call tomorrow, stop by and we’ll see what we can do.”

Next morning, we journeyed optimistically to the hospital, eager to meet our first child. I’d been 2 cm dilated since week 32, so the past two months were about prolonging the pregnancy to 40 weeks. Now, almost 41 weeks and still 2 cm, we couldn’t get this baby out! Our midwife tried a little cervical massage here, a little Pitocin there…12 hours later, my cervix progressed, but was holding tight at 5 cm.

Our mothers had joined us at the hospital, following our ‘birth plan’ to be there for delivery. This 200 square foot windowless birthing room made our condo seem palatial. Doubt crept in, were we rushing things? Unlike many nouveaux parents, we did not want a cesarean, did not want to induce. Yet, here we were, Pitocin dripping hypocritically into my veins. Nursing shifts changed, still no baby.

I was in need of some space and some food, unrealistic wishes at this juncture. The epidural was the perfect time to clear the room. The nursing aide offered me one last trip to the bathroom before the epidural took. The pee flowed, and flowed, and flowed. As I stood in a massive puddle, we finally realized that my water broke. She seemed concerned about my unending flow, whereas I was simply, quite literally, relieved! After 18 hours of inactive laboring, this baby was on his way. Transferring me into bed, she told me not to worry about soaking it, then rushed to find the midwife and my husband.

The midwife was performing a vaginal exam when my husband returned moments later. Her melodic, soft-spoken voice delivered the unnerving update: she could feel the baby’s nose with her hand. “Wow, that’s great,” I said, “should we get our moms back for delivery?” Her tone remained calm, reassuring, yet her dialogue sounded flustered, confused: “A face presentation? That can’t be, let me check again…” Instantaneously, she barked “Get The Doctor,” thrust her forearm into my canal, hopped aboard the gurney and delivered rapid-fire instructions: “GET AN O/R…keep those mothers out of here! I can feel the nose AND the cord, it’s prolapsed!” then calmly to me, “don’t panic, everything will happen quickly; your husband can’t go with us, but we’ll get you through this.”

I was stunned to be sprinted across the hospital, the midwife still atop and inside of me, more Siamese twin than medical professional. Her hand alone kept the baby’s head from crushing the umbilical cord, protecting his oxygen supply, staving off possible brain damage or even death. The hallway walls blurred as we raced into a frigid operating room. Medics were in high gear, attaching monitors, positioning surgical equipment, testing whether my epidural had taken. It had not; I felt seven of the eight pokes. My shivers became convulsions as my body revealed the panic I desperately wanted to hide.

A nurse reassured “the surgery has to be ice-cold, sterile, we’ll get you blankets.” I couldn’t hear anything else over my chattering teeth and racing thoughts…birthing classes warned all hell will break loose if there are complications (remain calm, they’re supposed to move at lightening speed)…my fighter-pilot husband’s advice when we went skydiving to conquer my fear of heights (take it one step at a time, don’t think about jumping out of a plane, just focus on wearing your gear, walking to the tarmac, taking a step forward). I quieted these thoughts to a single mantra (you’ll be alright, little guy, they’ll get you out safely). The anesthesiologist leaned into my ear “We have to get the baby out now. I’m trying to put you ‘under,’ but if we don’t have time and you feel the cut, I’m so sorry.” I responded, “Do what you have to do,” then added, “tell my husband I love him.” With that, my world went black.

Hours later, I groggily reunited with my husband in a recovery room and kissed our healthy son for the first time: sweet, delirious joy. We learned it was a mere four minutes between the face presentation discovery and delivery – our medical miracle. Think of that next time you brew a pot of coffee.

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