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Alzheimer’s for an Hour

Miriam Schweid

My speech was slow and slurred, and the midwife just patted my arm kindly, pitifully, and said it’s okay. Only it wasn’t.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

When I became a young child riding a duck, I yelled to the midwife that I’m 30 years old and completely normal. 

But my speech was slow and slurred, and she just patted my arm kindly, pitifully, and said it’s okay. Only it wasn’t. 

Each time I close my eyes to enjoy a delicious kimpeturin nap, the image of me riding atop a black-and-white dog invades my thoughts. That’s how I got my precious baby into this world. As a dog kicking and barking and trying to bite. I was completely normal, am completely normal. All it took was a little liquid in the IV line, and I was reduced to a hallucinating lunatic scaring the wits out of my husband, midwife, and nurses. 

I thought I knew what to expect when giving birth. I’d done it three times, and I could do it a fourth. It was a simple enough sequence: contractions, epidural, birth, love. But this time around, none of this worked. After months of incessant, merciless nausea and migraines, I had no veins left for an IV line to get some hydration. After consulting with our rav and doctor, we scheduled an induction. 

Then the doubts set in. I was tired of headaches, and I’ve heard plenty of stories about epidural-induced headaches. I got a sudden fear of an epidural. But Pitocin can be ruthless, and my pain-tolerance level wasn’t very high to begin with. So when the doctor mentioned Stadol, a narcotic offered to relieve labor pain, it seemed like a wonderful idea. All I had to do was close my eyes and let it overtake me. 

The first few minutes were blissful. Relief and a deep tiredness overtook my senses and I almost joined the rest of the world slumbering peacefully. That is, until my brain started fighting the medication and my subconscious started intellectualizing and resisting the effects of grogginess with… hallucinations.

Photo: Shutterstock

It started with the conviction that I couldn’t open my eyes. A rush of scenes and thoughts followed. Because I was resisting the medication, the pain was just as intense. So how does a hallucinating, mature, intellectual adult react to pain? You shouldn’t know. 

When the baby was finally born, the mazel tovs from all present were slightly hesitant. After all, the mother wasn’t really there, and my husband was afraid to make the phone calls when he wasn’t completely sure I’d be coming back. Slowly, reality merged with the hallucinations, and an hour after giving birth, I held my son for the first time. 

All that night, I cried, and in the morning, I was still crying. Crying for the mind that is so vulnerable and for all my intellectual capabilities that meant so little in the face of a little injection. My memories are vague — for which I’m grateful — and the only reason I remember anything at all is because of the few lucid moments I had during the entire experience. More than the pain of not being mentally present at the birth, was the deep humiliation and pain at feeling misunderstood.

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