The Nice Man With the Big Scary Needle

Photo courtesy of Amin Ashaari

I don’t care if your middle name is Kumbaya; the car ride to labor and delivery is anxiety-inducing. A million fears bubble to the surface — fears you have been actively suppressing for nine months, fears that you know are irrational but can’t help obsessing over.

What if my baby’s cone head never goes back down? Will I have to learn French and pray he has the same facial features and comedic timing of Dan Aykroyd? What if that purple goo never washes off him? Will he have the right number of fingers and toes? I only know of one six-fingered man, and he killed Inigo Montoya‘s father. What if the murder gene resides in my child’s misplaced sixth finger?

And then, of course, there are the real fears — the ones that are in the back of every pregnant woman’s mind, the ones too scary to write down even now.

The teachers in my mommy-prep classes would ask us ladies whether we had any fears. No one talked about the cone head anxiety or those terrifying unmentionables. Rather, the No. 1 fear mentioned, without fail, was of the epidural.

I assumed most of these mommies-to-be feared the nice man with the big scary needle because it was something tangible to wrap their other, more devastating fears into — projecting their nervous energy into a fear they could cope with.

I was not like these women. I had been able to keep my fears at bay without funneling them into something like the epidural. That is, until the car ride, when I, too, joined the bandwagon of trypanophobics. I tried calming myself down, telling myself it was silly to fear a needle, even a python-sized one.

I was wrong.

The not-so-nice man with the big needle was called in to administer my epidural once my contractions were coming two minutes apart. Without warning, he plunged the monstrous syringe into my spine. I screamed out in pain. But it wasn’t my back that killed; it was my left hip.

“Why would your hip hurt?” the anesthesiologist snapped.

I wanted to scream, “I don’t know, man! You’re the doctor!” But then I remembered he was holding a stake. Best not to tick him off.

Dr. Happy looked for a place to stab me. Again. In went the needle. I screamed from the pain in my hip. Out came the needle.

We did this little dance for 20 agonizing minutes.

After the anesthesiologist finally successfully laced into my back the IV tube that would administer my drugs, he said, “I don’t appreciate that you took me double the time it usually takes.”

Yeah, well, it was no picnic for me, either, bub!

I never wanted to see Dr. Friendly again, but an hour later, I still was flailing from side to side, crying out, “Why aren’t the drugs working?”

Dr. Sparklepants eventually re-entered and insisted that the drugs were working and that I was being a big baby. He reluctantly administered another bump to my epidural before leaving the room.

I still didn’t feel any relief. I thrashed around until a nurse noticed that my IV had been pulled out from all my squirming.

“Well, you need that IV in ya if you wanna feel somethin’, honey,” the nurse said, sticking the IV back in. Ah, instant relief — to the left side of my body.

The nurses laid me on my right side, hoping gravity would correct Dr. Smile’s failings. But before the right side of my body could go numb, it was time to push. The next thing I knew, I was looking into my son’s eyes.

They say women don’t remember the pain of childbirth, because if we did, we’d be too afraid to do it again. I don’t remember much of the pain from pushing, but I can tell you what I do remember.

I remember pulling my crying baby up onto my chest. I remember feeling surprised that in that moment, I was not afraid. I didn’t care about his cone head. I didn’t care that he was covered in purple slime. I didn’t count his fingers and toes. I wasn’t afraid of the unmentionables, because in that moment, he was perfect.

The ladies were right to place all their fears into the big needle. There is no point in worrying about things you can’t control, especially when the odds are that your baby will come out perfect and healthy as mine did. The epidural, however, is another story.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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