- The Two Longest Minutes
I went into labor on a Monday afternoon. I wasn’t uncomfortable, but my contractions kept coming and very slowly, growing stronger. The next day, my water broke and I was admitted into the hospital. I communicated my hope for a vaginal delivery without pain medication, knowing that an epidural increased the risk of a C–section and other complications. Yet while we waited for our son to arrive, my nurse repeatedly asked whether I planned to get an epidural. I answered no each time she visited, but the constant questioning wore away my confidence and I eventually consented.
When the epidural was administered, my blood pressure dropped immediately. I was hot, nauseated, and sure I would pass out. I was given IV fluids and an oxygen mask, and spent many of the remaining hours of my labor nauseated and vomiting.
After the epidural, my labor slowed so I was given Pitocin. I remember this as the moment when I felt that I had lost control. My sister had experienced a serious uterine rupture after being induced with Pitocin so I knew in my gut that this was not the best thing for me and my baby, but did not know that saying no was an option.
My labor progressed and on Wednesday morning I was finally dilated to 10 centimeters and ready to push. I had no feeling following the epidural, so I felt no urge to push and couldn’t tell whether my efforts were strong or effective. After an hour and a half, our medical team announced that the baby had crowned, but a moment later the energy in the room shifted. I was told that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and the cord needed to be cut at the perineum. Then, suddenly, my medical team was aggressively manipulating my body. They were pumping my legs and pressing on my belly. More personnel poured in and my partner and my mom were suddenly crowded out of sight from my bed and I was told that I could not stop pushing. This was my first baby so I assumed that all of this was normal.
Two minutes after crowning my son was finally delivered, but he did not cry. I frantically asked why he wasn’t crying but got no response. I had multiple conversations requesting that the baby be immediately placed on my chest for skin to skin after birth, but now he was silent and being whisked across the room without explanation. We suddenly realized that something had gone very wrong.
At this same moment I had the urge to push for the first time and delivered the placenta. I had experienced a second degree tear so my doctor began to stitch me up and as he did there were sudden cheers. The baby was breathing! He was measured, placed in his dad’s arms, and 30 minutes later he breastfed for the first time.
He weighed 8 pounds, 13.5 ounces and was 21.75 inches long—quite large considering my 5’ 2” frame. In the dizzying time immediately after birth, I remember them mentioning that his right arm didn’t have full range of motion. His face was covered in bruises and the blood vessels in his eyes had burst so that there was almost no white to his eyes. Otherwise, things seemed normal. He slept, fed, and pooped.
I, on the other hand, was in a lot of pain. Sitting up was a nightmare and my entire pelvic region ached and throbbed and was extremely swollen. I was given Vicodin for pain and my nurses filled baby diapers with ice to create cold packs. Those cold packs were my only relief.
Afterwards, it was unclear to me whether the birth we had experienced was normal. I remember asking other moms why no one had ever explained how my pelvic floor would ache for weeks after [End Page E4] birth, but no one seemed to relate to this experience. I shared that his birth had felt like an event that happened to me, and that I hadn’t been an active participant. After learning that...