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Labour in LA-LA Land

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Author: David Dixon, RN.

Note: Names changed to protect the innocent and the ditzy, and because her husband is an attorney. Mine has not been changed......yet.

A couple of weeks ago around midnight, I was just finishing up the paperwork from a previous delivery when the phone rang. "Hi, this is Carole Peligrini." A pregnant pause ensued (what other kind of pause would you expect on a Labour and Delivery unit?) as I waited for some enlightenment as to who the heck was Carole Pellegrino. None came. She seemed to be expecting me to know her.

Anyhow, she told me her water had broken, and should she come to the hospital? I told her yes, but she didn't have to run red lights but we needed her to come in. I then pulled out her prenatal record to see how far away she lived and whether I would have to hustle to get my previous charting done. Yes, I would; she lived two streets away.

Ten minutes later the phone rang; I expected it was the ER to tell me the mysterious Carole Pelegrini had arrived. But no, a female voice asked if she could speak to the charge nurse. Those words usually mean trouble ... and boy was I right. She explained she was the producer of a TV documentary series about childbirth and that one of the participants in this documentary was on her way to the hospital.

Yup, Carole Pelegrini.

Now I'd started the shift with 2 patients, one of whom had delivered and the other I'd sent home - prodromal labour; I now had none and my partner for the night still had 2 patients, albeit not very active ones.

I begged, cajoled, threatened, pouted, contemplated suicide, then murder - but to no avail - it was my turn to take the next patient, who would be arriving any minute ...

... or so I thought. 90 minutes later the ER called and shattered my
hopes that perhaps she had been mistaken and had only peed her pants after all. When I went down to pick her (and her entourage) up from the ER, I knew why she'd taken 90 minutes to come from less than a mile away - make-up, hair, glamorous clothes (the pants of which would need to be seriously dry-cleaned soon).

On arrival in her room, I gave her the gown and showed her where the
bathroom was. A look of sheer horror crossed her face as she saw the gown - you know, the standard, ill-fitting, well-worn, one-size-fits-none, common-or-garden variety hospital gown. "Can I wear my own?", she asks. "Sure", says I, "but you may want to consider that you're leaking amniotic fluid and it may soon turn bloody."

Well, she decided that she would wear the hospital gown after all, and went into the bathroom to change. In this 20 MINUTES (capitalized to express my astonishment), I discovered that one of the women with her was the producer.

She reassured me that they would be very unobtrusive - as the cameraman and microphone operator proceeded to lay about 50 miles of cable all around the room, and in the process using every available electrical outlet. I also got the opportunity to tell this producer that while it would be probably unavoidable for me to appear briefly in the background of some shots as I went about my business, I did NOT want any full-frontal, er, well, you know what I mean, facial shots or filming while I was giving the patient instructions, and most importantly, while I was doing any procedures.

Oh NOOOOO, no, no she assured me - and proceeded to have me sign a release - "as we do with anyone who may, however briefly, appear in a frame."

I also relished, repeat RELISHED telling all of them - the producer, the
other female (a friend), her husband - did I mention he is an attorney? - the cameraman and the sound man that our hospital does NOT allow the use of cell-phones on the premises. There was a collective pout at this, especially as I told them they had to be turned OFF at all times. I went on to explain that certain frequencies tended to set the fire alarms off, and after having been told not to, if someone caused this to happen the local fire department would send them a bill for $10,000 (true!!!!).

Finally my princess, er, patient came out of the bathroom. I was able to do a vaginal exam (I managed this quickly and caught the cameraman off-guard - by the time he'd turned his camera on and was ready to shoot, I'd done). Score 1 to David!!!

Unfortunately, she was only dilated to 1 / 80% / -1 and barely contracting. I explained to her that I would be doing some paper work, and then she could walk around until her contractions got stronger - if nothing much was happening by the morning, her doctor would probably start augmenting her labour.

Despite me having had the conversation with the producer about not being wanted to be filmed, the camera was now running. In fact every time I moved, I tended to bump into the boom mike - a contraption that looks like a large dildo with a furry condom on it.

As I do with all patients, I told my patient that I would be asking VERY personal questions, and gave her the choice of asking others to leave, and in this case turning off the camera. Nope, she wanted 'em all in on it.

First question: how many pregnancies is this for you? "First," she says.
"Oh, then your prenatal must be wrong, as it says G3, P0 - no miscarriages, then?" Well, she turns bright red, admits to 2 TAB's and then reconsiders about having the camera on.

Well, over the course of the next couple of hours, she kept jumping in and out of bed, walking the halls, being trailed constantly by the film crew, who to my surprise and horror followed her everywhere, even into the bathroom. Her contractions got stronger - or at least the acting got better. I kept thinking to myself that the Oscar season was over. Oops, cynical of me.

About 2 hours after she arrived she went to the bathroom. She was sat on the toilet and suddenly began to REALLY huff and puff - and she's crying, "Oh my God, OhmyGOD, OHMYGOD - I can feel something in my vagina - it feels like a hand or a foot."

Well, my blood ran cold and my B / P shot up to dangerous levels as I told her to get back into bed, quickly. Imagine my surprise when she jumped up and started to primp her hair in front of the mirror. I said again, "I need you in bed, NOW." Sheesh, she still continued to primp and preen - I almost had to pick her up and throw her into bed. This suddenly wasn't funny any more. I now told her that I was in fear of her baby's life and would she please stop playing to the cameras and listen to me. Of course, her husband - did I tell you he's an attorney? - all this time playing with the cameras and sound equipment was no help.

Fortunately there was nothing in her vagina that shouldn't have been there - about as empty as her head was - and the fetal heart rate was very reassuring. Unfortunately, she hadn't dilated anymore, either. But here I was, in front of all these witnesses and on camera, telling her she was 3-4 centimetres and could have her epidural now.

Despite me having said earlier that I did not want procedures filmed, I
practically had to knock the camera out of the way as I was starting her IV, it was coming so close to film my hands.

The anesthesiologist came into the room, almost turned and fled when he saw the studio set-up. Started shaking - not good when you're about to do an epidural. He also stated he did not want to be filmed. Made no difference.

The camera was at times in danger of contaminating his sterile field, it
strayed so close. This particular anesthesiologist always takes great pains to explain possible side-effects of epidurals to his patients. You ought to have seen her husband's face - did I mention he is an attorney? - light up when the anesthesiologist mentioned severe headache, paralysis, death.

Our hospital runs a very excellent childbirth / preparation course and is
well-attended by our clients; we are in an affluent area of town. Carole however must have been to director / film-making classes instead. She had not been to any childbirth classes. So, it came as a huge, HUGE surprise when I reminded her that she could not get out of bed now. Ah, chemical restraint. A wonderful thing at times.

The rest of the night went fairly OK - this was the 'boring' part. She was restricted to bed; there wasn't much to film. I was praying that she'd dilate, now that I'd given her epidural early. Just before my shift ended, I called her doctor and confessed what I'd done. He seemed surprised I'd waited so long. As it turns out, she went on to deliver at a little after 9 am, so the early epidural didn't seem to have made much difference to the progress of her labour.

So, I wend my weary, frustrated and angry self home. I have a long commute - 90 minutes on the freeway. By the time I'd almost arrived home I was a little calmer. I exited the freeway and as I approached my home, traffic was unusually heavy. I saw that certain streets were closed off, and as I neared my house, I had to take long diversions. This took me wayyyy longer than usual.

The reason the streets were closed?

They were making a @#%$ing movie in my neighbourhood.

Ah, Hollywood.


Submitted: 14 September 2004 © David Dixon, RN.

2 May 2016 | Copyright Andrew Heenan | | Privacy