SWEET KRISTEN (an excerpt from PUSH)

A small excerpt from “PUSH Labor & Delivery from the Inside Out
By Catherine Stack N.D., C.N.M (Naturopath & Midwife)
It is the end of my very long shift.  Not a bad day, just long. I am ready
to go see my dad in the assisted living facility around the corner where every once in awhile I will bring him a tiny Jim Beam bottle.  I love to watch the reaction of his face when he twists that cap open and smells its nectar. You’d think he was smelling a field of lavender. His face lights up,I see happiness.  His alcoholic past has brought him to a life of dementia and a 4 second memory. He is a good dad, was a good dad. It is so sad that the rest of his life will need to be spent in this place, a nice place, and the people are wonderful.  I lie to him everyday telling him he is coming back to my house in a week or so. It has been over four years…. I’m such a liar but he still loves me so.
Back to Kristen.  My shift ends at 7:15 pm.  It is 6:45 and a very uncomfortable girl rolls through the labor wing doors.  Something is familiar but after twenty seven years, that is not unusual. The charge nurse reminds me that this was the girl that lost a baby about 3-4 years ago.  It was their first baby. They held that baby for more than twenty four hours before they could give it up. If I recall correctly, she wanted to be discharged and taken from the room before we removed the baby. This is never easy but we do try to accommodate in any way we can.  Kristen was rolled into room number four. The intern was already in checking her. She was eight centimeters and her water just broke. I knew her doctor lived forty minutes away and would not likely make this delivery. Kristen was calm and sweet to a fault. Amazing for a woman who had been through what she had.  She masked the pain ripping through her body in the sweetest way possible, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I would really like an epidural please.” The reality of the situation was that was not a possibility. By the time we had anesthesia in the room, sat her in a very uncomfortable position and washed her back,that baby’s head would be working its way out.  By the time she got numb, she would have been delivered by ten minutes. Not an easy conversation to have, but there was no time for Kristen to get her epidural. Dad was standing in the corner, petrified. Could you even imagine his helplessness? Combine this with a traumatic past experience and I’m sure it is almost too much to bear. Unfortunately, there was little time to focus on him.  One of her biggest concerns is that she did not want to tear and therefore need stitches. I told her that because it is not her first baby, we had a great chance of keeping her intact if she followed our voice and did not panic. This is not easy to do without the help of an epidural, but for some reason, she was calm and I knew she would do just fine. Less than ten minutes and four contractions later, Kristen gently pushed out a seven pound, four ounce baby boy, perfectly.  As far as stitches go, Kristen tore very minimally and actually could have gone without stitches. It has been my experience that just a few stitches to bring tissue together will expedite the healing process tenfold. I gave Kristen the choice. She asked, “What would you do?” I replied, “I would take two tiny sutures.” She did and within a few moments was feeling so well she could have gone home. For me, the job comes full circle. The saddest moments eventually see joy. How is it that I get to be there twice? It is for me or is it for her?  Either way, it is a gift and I will take it any day. 

Life comes full circle.  Kristen was an amazing example of beauty and strength.  These are the deliveries I don’t want to forget. In rereading my notes and draft copy for this book, I find it funny how often I refer to deliveries as “the most beautiful”, and yet, had I not written anything down, I know I would not remember.  This was a very sad realization for me. How many beautiful deliveries am I not remembering. I bet hundreds. But maybe this is not to be my memory, this is one for the family unit that I was made part of. I am honored.


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