by Andilyn Jenkins
“If you’re paying for a first class ticket, would you ride in coach until it’s time to land?”
I heard this beautiful summation in Delivery with my second child. I had learned from my first experience that if I planned on getting an epidural, I may as well enjoy it through the entire laboring process, particularly because my babies come fast.
By the time the anesthesia kicked in at Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho, the windows were dark and the hallways quiet. It was probably well after midnight. Other than being unable to move, I was in heaven. For the first time in nine months, my back wasn’t shooting pains through my sacrum, and I felt calm. For me, anesthesia was like the Popsicle your mom gives you after working hard in the yard all morning. I put in my nine months, and I would be putting in many more in recovery. But at that moment, I was comfortable. And I was going to enjoy every minute of it.
The nurse came in and checked my vitals and the baby’s. Then she suggested we try and get some sleep. Ha! I couldn’t believe I was in the throes of labor and my nurse just told me to take a nap. This anesthesia thing defied all my perceptions of how labor was supposed to go.
Aaron made up the chair-bed, and I closed my eyes to sleep, which proved difficult seeing as I both couldn’t move and was too afraid to mess up all my cords. Soon, Aaron was snoozing. But I lay there with closed eyes, feeling the waves of contractions squeeze my abdomen and release. The pressure and release felt like a ticking clock, counting the seconds until my little girl arrived.
All the comforts of home . . .
I’m not sure if I woke from the pressure or because I never truly fell asleep, but a little less than an hour later, I felt like my pelvic bones were being pushed apart.
“Aaron, honey, wake up.”
“What’s wrong?” Aaron roused.
“No nothing. I just can’t sleep. I feel all this pressure. It’s like the baby is pushing her way out,” I explained, knowing that would sound ridiculous because she was in my uterus. Not between my legs. But that’s what it felt like; I couldn’t explain it any other way.
Aaron laughed. “Well, honey, she probably is.”
“What?” I replied, both confused and in awe.
The nurse must have heard us talking because she took the chance to come in and do checks again. I filled her in.
“Well I was going to wait an hour after we started pit., but now I’m curious. Let’s check you out,” my nurse replied, putting on gloves. “Oh—well, you’re at a nine, and hey, your little girl has some hair!”
“You can feel her head?!” How was that possible? Her fingers were shorter than mine.
“Oh yeah,” she replied, smiling. “I wasn’t expecting you to bear down quite so soon, especially since this is first,” she explained while readying the room for delivery, “but often when women get epidurals, it can actually speed up the labor because your body relaxes and the contractions can do their work without your pain getting in the way.”
Our nurse said goodbye and left, and in came the next shift’s nurse. She finished prepping the room then collected towels and mats and brought them to a table on wheels next to my bed with various buckets and tools. Then she drained my bladder into a plastic bag, while I felt like a mix between Lloyd on Dumb and Dumber and a sponge when she pushed on my lower abdomen to squeeze everything out. Oh man, labor was weird.
“Alright, you’re contractions are really starting to pick up. I think it’s time we get Dr. Watson in here,” the nurse announced, and she walked out the door. And for the first time I felt like I needed to push.
The nurse came back in and explained the process. “I will stand on your right side. Dad, you stand on her left side. We’ll hold your legs in a crouching position like this, and you can push your feet against our hands. Now, I’m watching your contractions here. When I say go, you take in a big breath, and hold that breath while I count to ten and you push. You only push while I’m counting. Got that?”
“Sounds good to me,” I said while my abdomen fluttered with a feeling I recognized as stage fright.
“Okay, here it comes. Go.”
Breathe. Push. Push. Push. Push.
“ . . . 7, 8, 9, 10. Nice job. Relax. Make sure you relax between pushes.”
We went through three more contractions before my frustration voiced. “Can I get a mirror?” I thought that question would be too embarrassing to ask, but the fact was I couldn’t feel my muscles because of that glorious anesthesia. And I had no idea if I was doing anything but sit-ups.
“Of course you can!” She whipped one out of the closet in seconds. Then she came to the root of my problem and suggested we turn off the anesthesia so I would feel more in control. I agreed.
After a few more contractions, Dr. Watson joined us. And finally, the mirror and the lack of anesthesia combined, and I finally felt progression. And pain.
Breathe. Push. Push. Push. Scream. No screaming—hold my breath. Push. Push.
“Great. Great. Here comes another one. Go. 1, 2, 3 . . .”
“You’re amazing, Andi. You’re doing great. I see her head. Push. Push,” I heard Aaron’s voice over the counting. Her head? I had been pushing so hard, my eyes were closed.
Breathe. I felt like I was doing sprints, not able to catch my breath before the next heat.
“Okay, this is the money push. You ready to give it all you got? Breathe, and go. 1, 2, 3 . . .”
Push! Push! Plop. Ah!
“That’s a head! Okay, last one! Breathe, and go! 1, 2, 3, . . .”
“She’s almost here, Andi,” Aaron encouraged with misted eyes. “You’ve got this.”
“9, 10, push, push! Done.”
Dr. Watson plopped an Indian-skinned baby with Asian eyes, blue lips, and thin, brown hair on my chest and handed Aaron a pair of scissors. “Dad, would you like to do the honors?”
Aaron snipped once, but his hands shook over the thick cord and he had to snip again. Then Aaron came in close over my shoulder and kissed my forehead. “You’re amazing,” he whispered as we cradled her close for a few more seconds before they stole her away for her bath and APGAR tests. Aaron followed while Dr. Watson tended to me.
“Dear,” Aaron called from across the room, “she looks like an Evelyn.”
“Okay,” I replied. That’s all I needed to hear.
After her bath, we attempted breast feeding, and then called in two anxious grandmas and my older sister. We introduced Evelyn Toni Jenkins, born at 4:57 a.m. on September 10, 2010, 7 pounds 7 ounces, 19.25 inches long. Then Aaron handed her to my mom, Evelyn’s namesake, Toni, whose birthday was three days away. In my family, Evelyn was grandchild number two.
Then Teressa, Aaron’s mom, had her turn holding her sixth grandchild. And after, Kristin took the last turn, cradling Evelyn on top of her own about-to-pop baby bump. Each woman swayed back and forth while peering in on little Evelyn’s long fingers and alert, navy-blue eyes. Her button nose was mine. The curl in her wet hair came from Aaron.
Around 6:00 a.m., the nurses sent our family home, and I sat in a wheelchair holding Evelyn to our recovery room, where all three of us promptly fell asleep after a long day’s work.
Boy, was I tired. The adrenaline wore off by this point.