“Can I push longer?” I asked, gasping. They had already counted to ten, the nurse and my husband, Zach, each holding one knee. I took an extra sip of air at seven—they didn’t know this; I was supposed to hold my breath and bear down all the way through to the count of ten—so I could push a bit longer. I needed to. That wrinkly gray head, slick with wet swirls of hair, needed to come out.
“You can if you need to, Grace, but remember to rest.” The nurse patted my leg. During the thirty seconds before the next contraction hit, she put the oxygen mask over my face. “Breathe,” she whispered in my ear.
An hour earlier the epidural wore off just around the same time the Pit drip kicked in with a force that knocked the air out of me. “We need another cocktail,” the nurse shouted into the intercom.
It seemed like an eternity before the anesthesiologist slid next to me, colorful pendants hanging from his neck almost brushing my cheek. Each contraction still grabbed me in the back first, then the belly and strangled me. Whatever he shot into me didn’t make much of a difference. But, that head kept me going and I bore down with all my might, feeling stronger and weaker than ever before.
“Go, Grace. Go, Grace. Push. Push. Push. Go. Go. Go.”
I was a racecar driver. My pit team was cheering me on. I was about to finish the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the Iron Man Triathlon. I was Woman hear me roar.