A scream that the baby is coming. Tires squealing out of the driveway. Racing to the freeway. Running red lights. Barreling towards the hospital at 100 miles an hour. Throwing the car keys at the ER valet. Getting rushed to a hospital room. Nurses scrambling and the doctor rushing in mid-push.
These things aren’t supposed to happen during labor. The birth of a baby isn’t usually a crazy emergency situation…or, at least, that’s what they tell us in all those birthing classes. But it can happen like that. I know, because it happened to me.
It’s a good thing I didn’t have a birth plan for my baby boy. Because no amount of planning could have prepared me for what happened the night my son “E” was born. My son was born on October 14th, his initial due date, at 11:27 pm. We arrived at the hospital at 11:20 pm. Want to know how that happened? Read on:
Knowing that my doctor would plan an induction if I went past my due date, I spent the week leading up to 14th trying out some natural induction methods. The past few weeks had been filled with a surge of Braxton Hicks contractions and I felt optimistic that I could go into natural labor before the doctor broke out the pitocin. So, I visited my acupuncturist/chiropractor. I ate eggplant parmigiana and pineapple. I went for long walks and
bribed seduced my husband. A friend of mine swore by the breast pump to kick-start things, which I tried the morning on October 13th. Later that afternoon, I visited a reflexologist for an hour long massage. By that evening my contractions were coming along more steadily and intensely, but never painfully. I didn’t think much of it since I had been dealing with pre-labor signs for weeks.
The morning of the 14th, I had two appointments – one with my OB/GYN and another with a Maternal Fetal Health Clinic. Due to my elderly maternal age of 35 and Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension, I had been deemed “high-risk” and had been monitored with NST and ultrasound exams twice a week since early September. My doctor checked me and I was barely dilated nor effaced, which wasn’t a total surprise. I was barely dilated with my first son 90 minutes before he was born. We discussed my previous labor, which we had discussed many times already, and talked about the plan to induce the following week if the baby didn’t arrive on his own. I then headed to another floor for my NST exam. The nurses noticed a decrease in the baby’s movement. I had felt him several times that morning and even during the exam, but their concern had me worried. After a discussion with my doctor, they scheduled me to go to L&D the next morning for further monitoring. I knew there was a good chance that they would keep me in L&D and induce me at the first sign of a problem. I silently begged my body and my baby to get things rolling.
I was home by 1:00pm and started timing my still relatively painless contractions. The Dude had stayed home from work that day and my mom stopped by to watch the Monkey. We took our dog for a long walk, which got the contractions coming a little more consistently and intensely. By 5:00 pm, my mom had left and I was getting restless so I decided to go to Trader Joe’s with the Monkey. While waiting in line to check out, a woman with three small children started chatting me up. A contraction came during that time and she must have read my expression because she asked if I was in labor. I replied that I didn’t think so because the contractions didn’t really hurt. She gave me a look as if to say “uh, yeah you are!” and wished my luck. When I returned home, the Dude decided to run out and grab us some Indian take-out. By the time he returned at 7:00pm, I felt things were moving more quickly and that we needed to visit the hospital. When he pulled the car in the drive way, I yelled out to him to leave the car there and not bother pulling it into the garage – we were going soon. While the Dude quickly ate, we called his mom to come over and watch the Monkey. She was there within minutes and we took off. We arrived at the hospital at 7:30 pm.
The admitting nurse checked me and I was at 2cm dilated and 60% effaced. My mom had met us at the hospital since I thought for sure things would be moving quickly. The contractions were coming along between 2-4 minutes apart and had become stronger and somewhat painful. I walked around the halls with the Dude. I would brace myself against a wall during a contraction while he massaged the pain in my lower back. The nurse checked me again after an hour. No change. My doctor stopped by at that point and could see that I was in pain and the contractions were coming on more regularly. She ordered a shot of Demoral to take the edge off and then told me that I should go home and labor for a few more hours and then come back. She also told me that she would probably see me later that night or early the next morning but, because I was still at 2cm, they couldn’t admit me yet unless I was in a serious amount of pain. My contractions were painful, but not unbearable, however the Demoral did nothing for me except make me a little woozy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the contractions, but I thought I could at least go home and be comfortable while I labored. I joked about getting some Krispy Kreme donuts on the way home as a last calorie-busting hurrah before starting my post-baby diet. The nurse kept asking me my pain scale number and mentioned a few times that she thought I had a high tolerance for pain. I thought it was a weird comment since I was only at 2cm but, looking back, I realize she was trying to clue me into saying that my pain level was higher than I said so they would have to admit me. I wish I had.
We left the hospital at 10:30pm. I would be giving birth in less than an hour.
A block from the hospital the contractions were rapidly becoming stronger and painful, but they were still manageable. Considering we live so close to the hospital, we still decided to go home and wait it out a bit longer. Big mistake. We got back home and I went upstairs thinking I needed to use the bathroom. The contractions had become so powerful that I remember thinking that I could actually be in the transition stage of labor. I could do nothing but moan in a primal tone and brace myself during each hit. Between contractions, I sat down on the toilet and quickly realized that I didn’t need to use the bathroom after all – the pressure I was feeling was the urge to push! I screamed for the Dude and he rushed in to help me pull my pants back on. I yelled that we needed to go back to the hospital and fast – I didn’t want to have my baby on my bathroom floor! His mom heard the commotion and asked if she should call 911. The Dude yelled back no as we rushed out the door and into the car. He opened the passenger door as I ran to the back seat. There was no way I could sit upright. As he peeled out of the driveway, knowing that he was about to drive much more recklessly than usual, he asked in a somewhat panicked tone for me to put my seat-belt on. I yelled back “DRIVE!!!” which he did both dangerously and beautifully. Thankfully, it was late at night and there were very few cars on the road. We arrived at the hospital at 11:20pm.
The Dude threw his car keys at the ER valet, who caught them as if he had seen this situation a few times before. A wheelchair came out of nowhere and they ran me to the elevator to head to L&D. I could only half-sit because of the pressure, so I held up my body on the wheelchair arms. The ER was filled with people and I could see a few nervous faces. A woman called out, “looks like it’s time – congrats!” The wheelchair attendant, a teenage volunteer, happily talked about how this was his favorite part of the job. The Dude asked him to pick up the pace and that we needed a room fast. We got to L&D admitting where I could no longer sit down because I could feel the baby in the birth canal. I yelled “the only thing keeping this baby in is me keeping my legs closed!” An off-duty nurse heard the commotion and waved us all into an empty room. At least 8 other nurses rushed in at that time and I somehow got onto the table and out of my pants. My doctor was nowhere to be found so the nurses yelled out that they were ready to deliver. The instinct to keep my legs closed was overwhelming, probably because I was in shock about what was happening, and I remember a few nurses prying my legs open. I yelled out “wait, I need an epidural!” and everyone laughed. One nurse replied, “honey, you’ve done the work already – the baby’s head is here!” The Dude was looking down at me, telling me that it was time and that our baby would be here soon. I focused on him and his words. The urge to push became incredibly intense and I looked down to see my doctor arrive as I pushed for the first and only time. I felt the baby rapidly descend from my body and out of my womb, a feeling I vividly remember with my first son. An incredible and euphoric feeling that is unlike anything else in the world. I didn’t feel any pain, only relief and awe. I was still wearing my own shirt, so they laid a blanket on my chest and placed my new baby boy on me for a matter of seconds before they rushed to check him. The Dude later told me that immediately after I delivered, they gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg to reduce the chance of hemorrhaging. I don’t remember that. The entire chaotic scene was a blur of activity with nurses running around and my doctor yelling about how she couldn’t find me.
I was in a state of surreal shock. I heard the baby cry, which made me happy to hear, but I didn’t feel anything else at all. I could not wrap my head around what just happened. The past hour had become the most intense and crazy hour of my life and it was hard to believe that my baby boy was here and in my arms. When my first son was born, I immediately burst into tears of joy after his birth. With this experience, the shock didn’t wear off until the following morning, which is when I finally became an emotional mess. My boy was here. He was healthy and safe. Looking down at his beautiful scrunched up face with folded down ears and a crease around his forehead from the birth canal, I whispered that I would do it all again in a heartbeat for him. For the rest of my life, I would do anything for him.