Journal Entry: Paige was born in the 1 o’clock hour on the thirteenth. I cut her umbilical cord and I was the first one to hold her. I wish I could find the right pieces to put together my feelings.
The television sitcom Full House plays in the background. It’s accompanied by the sound of the blood pressure cuff squeezing Ruth’s arm. The air is a combination of alcohol and something offensively sweet. I fidget in what the hospital tries to pass off as a bed, but is nothing more than a glorified chair. My discomfort is made worse by my growling stomach and the television’s pungently cheesy dialogue.
It’s past midnight and I haven’t eaten since lunch the day before. Ruth has received her narcotics and exists in a hazy half-sleep. I stand up to search for a vending machine and the phone rings.
“Lynn? It’s Carole.” Her voice is a time machine that pulls me into the past, to another call a few months earlier.
“Ruth’s baby is due next month,” Carole had told me. “Ruth needs a ride to the hospital and someone to stay with her. David’s back in prison and I can’t do it because CPS has placed Payton in my custody.”
“I’d love to help out!” I tell her, selfishly.
Now Carole asks how Ruth is doing.
“She’s okay.” I look at Ruth’s pathetic, lone body lying in the bed. An sour taste fills my mouth. Why don’t you come see yourself?
The door opens, followed by the rough sound of wheels squeaking. It’s the anesthesia nurse. “I need to go,” I breathe, relieved for the excuse to get off the phone. “Ruth is getting her epidural now.”
“Oh… Okay,” Carole says sadly. “Tell her I love her!” she adds desperately.
“I will,” I reassure her. But I forget my promise when I see Ruth’s eyes widen as they fall on the enormous needle. I don’t care how many narcotics she has coursing through her veins, it won’t be enough to numb her fear.
Kim, the nurse, instructs Ruth to put her legs over the side of the bed, bend over and keep her back rounded. Ruth cries and I and hold her hands tightly. “It’s all right, Ruth. It’ll be over soon,” I coo.
I feel Ruth’s fear and remember my reaction to the epidural needle. Having grown up with heart problems, needles were just part of going to the doctor. But the epidural’s size and girth made me panic; one wrong move, by either the doctor or me, could result in paralysis. I was terrified.
The anesthesiologist inserts the needle quickly. Ruth’s shoulders relax as numbness flows through her lower back and legs. The nurse and I help Ruth swing her legs back onto the bed and she drifts back into a painkiller fog. I sit down, my growling stomach forgotten. My racing mind won’t stop chattering and I hover over the brink of sleep all night.