“Oh, honey. Try for about thirty minutes and if nothing happens, I will call your doctor.” The brunette-haired nurse made her announcement like she was directing a Broadway show. Her statement unraveled and I sought a way to find a meaning for her words. The air smelled of scented cardboard, and a mixture of my Eternity perfume colliding with the odor of latex. I swallowed the spit down my throat as I continued to push with a purposeful force. My inside voice said, “I am having this baby on my terms.”
I gripped the sides of the metal hospital railing, clutching them as if it would help me find a way to follow through with my commitment. Laying on the bed, with an IV poking into my veins, a flurry of strangers shuffling in and out of the room, I stared straight ahead as the chatter increased around me. My belly protruded like a mountain in the center of a horizon. The pain increased with my breath, but I kept seeking refuge in the inhale and the exhale.
This wasn't how I envisioned the birth of my child. Just weeks before, I had reiterated to my OB the importance of giving birth naturally. She nodded her head and said, “I know it is what you want. As long as the baby and you are doing well, you can push as long as you like." It had felt like a pact, and although I didn’t formulate a specific “birth plan,” our conversation seemed more like an understood contract than a flimsy promise.
I paused for moment. The nurse’s words intruded again with an added context, “Sweetheart, you’re East-Indian, right?”
I nodded yes.
“Don’t you know? Any East-Indian woman who comes through wanting a vaginal delivery eventually just goes back to the OR [Operation Room]. It will be easier for all of us. It has already been 35 minutes – I am calling the OB so we can prepare for surgery.”
She stood at the bedside. Her black eyes and folded arms across her body showed determination.
“Um, what? I talked about this with my OB. I want to keep pushing. If the baby is fine, I want to deliver my baby vaginally.” My voice had a slight shake and the meds made my demeanor appear like I was trying to jitterbug through the conversation.
Although I hadn’t slurped all the ins and outs of the available medical literature, I knew most first-time mothers needed more than thirty minutes to release a human from their body.
The pace of her words zoomed in my head, and a part of me wanted to yell,
"Aren’t you on my side? Don’t you get it? Why are you jumping to conclusions?”
Maybe she had East-Indian women in the past jockey through to the OR, but there is only one me. And she didn’t know my will. Only I knew.
Still, the nurse dismissed my plea. She grabbed the bedside phone and called my OB.
In retrospect, a few months later, I wondered what would have happened if I had caved? What if I had allowed the nurse's perspective to direct me to a decision I hadn't wanted?
“I think we should prep her for the OR. She pushed for 40 minutes and she isn’t progressing.” She made this statement as if there were something wrong with my pushing skills.
After a pause, the nurse said, “Baby’s heart rate is normal. Blood pressure on mom is good too.”
“Yes, I understand. Yes, doctor.”
She pushed the phone down with a jerked abrupt gesture. Her eyebrows furrowed, arched into her forehead, and her lips clenched together in a frown.
I heard her murmur to the others, “She wants her to keep pushing.”
Those words. Those six words offered validation. And a voice.
After an hour, my baby still wasn’t ready for a welcoming. But I kept pushing. The monitor kept pace, my daughter’s heartbeat still pulsing with an appropriate rhythm. Almost two hours later, my OB walked in and offered reassuring words and urged me to stick with the plan we discussed in her office.
Four and half hours later, I pushed. Pushed myself to deliver a 7-pound-10-ounce little girl. I pushed away the nurse who thought she knew better. I pushed “her” stereotype of East-Indian women to the periphery. I persisted and pushed to deliver my baby on the terms I chose.
In retrospect, a few months later, I wondered what would have happened if I had caved? What if I had allowed this nurse’s perspective to direct me to a decision I hadn’t wanted? The nurse likely witnessed hundreds of deliveries where her experience garnered a specific outcome.
But every situation is different. Every person is an individual. She didn’t know that my East-Indian heritage actually pushed me to try harder. In my youth, my immigrant parents urged me to speak up, especially when it meant protecting a conviction or a truth that carried an impact.
I looked for the nurse after I delivered my little girl. I wanted to say a few words about the next time she jumped to a singular conclusion when it came time to “help” another East-Indian pregnant woman by suggesting it was time to go back to the OR. We never had that conversation because she'd had a shift change. Instead, I had the discussion with my doctor at my post-op appointment.
My OB told me it wasn’t the nurse’s call to discourage or direct the protocol for a delivery. She commended my efforts to manage my emotions during the process, and congratulated me on my delivery.
I shook my head in approval; inside, I knew my will maneuvered over the nurse’s preconceived notions.
Later that evening, as I rocked my little girl to sleep, the smell of baby powder, formula, and the scent of new beginnings lingered under my nose. I looked down at my daughter and whispered a single word: “Push.”
When she is older, she will know exactly what I mean.