“On a scale of 1-10, where would you rate your pain?” the nurse asked me.
“Ummm. a 7.” I answered, somewhat sheepishly.
“So you need something for pain right now?” She quipped with one eyebrow raised dubiously.
“Well, not exactly. I’m not in pain…at this moment, in between contractions. But when the contractions come, it is a 7. I guess I can wait a bit longer. ” Wow, way to make me feel like a drug-seeking addict.
“Why don’t we wait a little bit and see what happens then?”
My water had broken spontaneously at home at around 1:30 AM, and after talking with my OB, I had leisurely made my way to the hospital since I wasn’t all that uncomfortable yet. The contractions were strong but not exactly regular, every 15-20 minutes.
A couple of hours later, I was still sitting quietly in triage, waiting for a room on the Labor & Delivery floor. I seriously think they had forgotten about me since the interval and intensity of my contractions had not really changed. I was still in relatively good spirits, checking my iPhone, updating on Facebook and Instagram. At one point, I even light-heartedly joked that maybe I should try to give birth this time without an epidural. My husband, being the more clear-headed of the two of us during those moments, quickly reminded me that when it came to pain, I was a bit of a wimp. I strongly agreed.
With my 2 previous pregnancies, I had had similar experiences, where I had irregular moderately painful contractions, spontaneous rupture of membranes, and then out popped a baby relatively quickly after that. The big difference is that during the 2 previous pregnancies, I had the courage and foresight to ask for an epidural relatively early in the process, explaining calmly to the staff that even though I didn’t look that uncomfortable in pain (yes, the pain is only a 5, but I want the epidural now, please), I would much prefer to have everything in place/within my control before chaos ensued, even when multiple nurses asked if I preferred to wait until the pain got “worse”.
This time, I’m not sure what happened. Somehow I felt too silly asking for the epidural again, despite my desire to be in control of my pain.
Perhaps the nurses forgot about me, nobody came in to ask about the stupid 1-10 pain scale again. Perhaps they assumed that experienced physician-parents like us would be more assertive about our own medical care. Perhaps things were super-busy and crowded upstairs in labor&delivery and there were no beds available. Perhaps my husband was making me laugh a little bit too much for people to take us seriously. But around 4:30am (about 2.5 hours after being registered), suddenly the contractions seared through my body every 3-5 minutes. At that point, I looked at my husband straight-faced and said, “I’m having this baby now. I don’t think the epidural is going in. The window has closed. ” He took one look at me, stepped into the hallway, flagged down the nurse and apparently told her, “You better hurry because the last time she looked like this, we had the baby in the next 20 minutes.”
What happened next was a bit of a blur. Suddenly, I was slid into a wheelchair, rushed into the elevator (I remember squeezing the arms of the wheelchair and praying that our baby wouldn’t be born somewhere between the 1st floor and the 8th floor), assisted into the hospital bed. I vaguely remember the floor nurse doing some charting on the computer, asking me questions about healthcare power of attorney or drug allergies. The whole time, I was muttering, “umm. I need something for pain. oww. oww. oww.” Meanwhile, another nurse was poking me and explaining that in order for me to get an epidural, I needed to get an IV placed before they called for the anesthesiologist (still not sure why they didn’t do all of this during the 2 hours that I had been waiting downstairs!).
Then I heard one of the nurses say, “Ok, IV is in place, call for the epidural.” And I screamed through clenched teeth, “Nevermind. The baby is coming out NOW!” And with one push, my baby entered the world at 5:20 AM, 10 minutes from the time that we had gotten off the elevator, 30 seconds after the IV was placed. My husband, ever-the-joker, squeezed my hand as they placed our beautiful healthy crying screaming baby boy on my chest, and asked me with a big grin, “So, when are we having our 4th baby?”
No offense to the nurses or pain specialists out there, but that 1-10 pain scale? I really really despise that thing.