Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
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Pitocin, since it is regulated artificially by a nurse and an IV drip instead of the natural feedback mechanism of your body, can do strange things. Contractions double peak and Shannon's uterus is wrenched like a boa constrictor.
Why did we want a baby, again?
The Pitocin started at 9:00 pm. It's 4:30 am now. The doctor walks in and pulls on her non-latex gloves. She reaches in to Shannon as I hope desperately for news of major progress in there.
"Her cervix is four centimeters dilated. Maybe four and a half."
After seven and a half hours of Pitocin-intensified labor—not to mention the 16 hours of natural labor—that's all?! That's the size of a ping-pong ball. We need a Bocce ball.
The news is devastating. Working on 2 hours of sleep and a slice of toast, Shannon is pale and absolutely defeated. My coaching mantras for the last few hours have been met with helpless sobs of "I can't do this" or "I just want it to end." The broadcast heartbeat that sustained us earlier has been drowned out by moans and desperate pleas.
We finally agree to a low dose of intravenous Fentanyl, an analgesic that will hopefully take enough of the edge off the contractions so Shannon can get some rest.
Trene helps her back into the electronically adjustable bed because she now has to remain reclined as a precaution against potential side effects, which include 'dizziness' and 'difficulty walking.'
I slump into my own hospital bed and am asleep and dreaming immediately. It feels so good.
I wake three minutes later to sounds of distress as Shannon writhes in bed, apparently unaffected by the pain medication, except that now she is stuck supine, in her least comfortable laboring position. I stay in bed and try to talk her through the contraction from across the room. I want so badly for the medication to work so I can have a nap. I want her to get rest too, but the prospect of having a nap is so alluring that for a few minutes I try to convince myself that me getting rest is more important than anything else because, if her dilation is any indication, this labor is nowhere close to being over and she is going to need me alert during the pushing stage.
I stay in my bed listlessly reciting relaxation prompts until a few minutes later Shannon settles the matter by stating unequivocally, "I need you to touch me."
I get up. My caresses do help her relax a little more but she is still in great pain.
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Two hours pass and the doctor checks Shannon's cervix again and reports that there is little to no change in dilation. She tells us to consider an epidural because, at the current rate, by the time we reach second stage labor Shannon may be physically incapable of pushing. And if a C-section becomes necessary—they have started hinting that it is a likely possibility—Shannon's exhaustion will make the surgery more dangerous and her recovery more tedious.
As the morning sun filters through the Venetian blinds, we reformulate our plan, in subdued tones:
"What do you think, love?"
"I think we need to do it. You'll be too exhausted if this lasts another 10 hours."
Our doctors are wonderful about leaving the choice to us. There is some concern about the risk of infection in Shannon's uterus since her water broke over 24 hours ago, and they gently make their opinions known, but, since Shannon doesn't have a fever (her temperature did go up for a while but quickly came back down with increased fluids) and since all signs continue to point to a healthy and vigorous baby, they are willing to let us labor how we want.
After notifying the doctor of our decision, they discontinue the Pitocin while we wait 40 minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive. The contractions subside quite quickly and the relentless intensity of that dark night finally starts fading in the muffled morning light. We both lie down and rest.
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In times of crisis, once your emotions know they don't have to be strong anymore, they unravel. Tears pool in my eyes as I begin hearing again that crrmp crrmp crrmp. They are tears full of meaning. Tears for the pain of my wife. Tears of relief that it is diminishing. Tears of remembering what we are doing all of this for. Tears of exhaustion.
Despite my exhaustion, my mind is still racing and I want to soak it in. I grab my laptop and check for comments on our blog. I read them to Shannon and I get choked up with every one, amazed and grateful for all the amazing people that care for us. We both doze off, heartened.
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Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9