“At least you witnessed the birth of the placenta,” I offered, smiling sheepishly at my husband, Chad.
“Yeah, thank goodness,” he responded.
One of my biggest fears leading up to E’s birth was that I wouldn’t know I was in labor, and give birth at home, in the car, or by the side of the road on the way to the hospital.
The doctors and midwives at my OB practice brushed off my concerns. “You will absolutely know when you’re in labor,” they insisted. My mother and friends said the same.
Although this was my second pregnancy, I was induced with my first, so I had no idea what to expect in terms of going into labor naturally.
At 40 weeks and four days pregnant, I went to my obstetrician’s office for my weekly appointment. Weight, blood pressure, cervical check- it was “old hat” for me at this point. As I lay in all my glory on the examination table, I begged the doctor to “get the baby out of me.” She offered a sympathetic smile and suggested a “membrane sweep” instead. I’d had an unsuccessful membrane sweep the week before, but thought it couldn’t hurt to try again.
“Go for it,” I urged.
The doctor explained that the membrane sweep would leave me feeling uncomfortable.
“You will experience cramps,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean you’re having contractions. You may even experience contractions, but they could subside after a short time, so, time the contractions if you get them.”
The doctor then explained that if I didn’t go into labor by the following week, I would be induced.
I left the appointment feeling defeated. I was sore, tired, and anxious to see my feet again. I firmly believed I would be pregnant for another week. To drown my sorrows, I did what any other almost-41-week pregnant woman would do- I went to Friendly’s with my family and ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and fries.
While chowing down, my lower back began to ache. As the meal went on, the pain intensified, but it wasn’t anything unbearable. After we’d paid for the meal, and I dropped Chad off at work, my daughter (P) and I headed home.
While driving, I began experiencing sharp pains in my abdomen- lasting for a short time, then going away (It was 12:30 p.m. at this time). I called my mom and husband and told them I thought I could be having contractions. When P and I got home, I turned the television on to distract her, and began timing the contractions. According to my “Mother’s Journal” (a little booklet issued by my OB practice), I should time contractions for at least an hour before determining labor has started.
This is the sheet I used to log my contractions.
Immediately, they were two to three minutes apart. After playing phone tag with my mom and husband for about 20 minutes, I decided to call my obstetrician’s office. Even though the pain was worsening, I didn’t want to be that woman who “cried labor” before it was actually happening. The nurse on the other end of the line urged me to line up care for P (my mom), call Chad home from work, and head to the hospital.
While I waited, I gathered the hospital bags, wrote down directions for operating the television and DVD player (for my mom), and tried to stay calm. After what felt like the interminable pregnancy, I had a difficult time believing this could actually be the end.
The contractions became more intense as I waited for my mom and husband; as I leaned over one of our dining room chairs, gritting my teeth, I began to question my initial plan of having an unmedicated, natural birth. I believe I have a high tolerance for physical pain, but I’ll freely admit, that shit hurt. I hoped there would be time to get the Epidural.
Thirty minutes after calling my mom and husband, they arrived at the house. Chad loaded the bags into the car, I kissed my mom and daughter goodbye, and we were off. The contractions were coming every two minutes, and they were powerful. I tried not to cry or scream; instead, I pushed my head firmly against the seat, and winced. Ten minutes into the 45-minute car ride, my water broke (I hadn’t thought to bring a towel along- oops). It was at this point I accepted what was happening: Chad and I were going to have our second child- today.
After we exited the highway, I began to feel intense pressure, and the urge to push. It was also at this point that we hit a “Road Closed” sign. Forced to turn right, my husband tried to find a way around the construction; we were a mere two miles from the hospital. Half a mile down the road, we hit another “Road Closed” sign.
There was no way to get to the hospital.
Chad muttered a few profanities, unbuckled his seatbelt, and got out of the car. He approached a construction worker standing near the sign, yelled something about me being in labor, and then huffed back to the car. Thankfully, we were allowed to pass.
Less than five minutes later, we arrived at the hospital. The contractions were coming continuously at this point; I couldn’t walk, so Chad quickly secured a wheelchair for me. I was wheeled in and taken into a room immediately. Chad returned to the lobby to sign me in and park the car. I leaned against the hospital bed, intermittently wincing and groaning, as a nurse tried to get me into a hospital gown. My body had taken over, and I was pushing.
“Don’t push,” the nurse said.
“I can’t help it,” I managed, “It burns.” (The “Ring of Fire” is real, ladies and gentlemen.)
“She’s pushing,” the nurse yelled.
The nurse rubbed my lower back. “Is that helping?,” she asked.
“No,” I answered. (I later apologized, telling her I’m sure she gives fantastic back rubs, I was just in so much pain, I don’t think anything but drugs would have eased the pain.)
Two nurses then helped me onto the bed, and a midwife entered the room. After taking a look down below, she informed me that “We were going to have a baby. Now.”
I began to panic. The pain was real. I wanted that Epidural, but there was no time.
Someone once told me that natural childbirth feels a lot like pushing a flaming watermelon out of your body. That person was oddly accurate.
I was instructed to push. I remember letting out a groan, looking down, and seeing my child’s head. Two pushes and a scream later, his shoulders were out. One more push, and his warm, slippery body was laid on my chest. I remember rubbing his back, and I remember the silence: he wasn’t crying.
My baby was removed from my chest and laid on a warming table. One of the nurses said something about “thick meconium,” and began suctioning his mouth and nose. After what felt like minutes, but was probably more like seconds, he began to cry.
“Is he okay?,” I asked.
“There’s a lot of meconium,” the nurse said, “But otherwise, he looks good.”
About a minute later, Chad entered the room, just as I was giving one last push to deliver the placenta. It hadn’t even occurred to me until then that he’d missed the birth; it had all happened so quickly. I entered the hospital room at 2:41 p.m., and our son was born at 2:48 p.m.
Thankfully our son, E, was/is healthy as can be, in spite of his fast and furious birth. My recovery has also been amazing; I was up and walking around 45 minutes after E was born. There was very little swelling, and only one stitch involved- the total opposite of the birth of my first (which required many, many stitches and prescription pain medication).
As exciting as his entrance into the world was, E is one of the sweetest, calmest babies I think I’ve ever encountered. At two weeks old, his favorite thing to do is stare, wide-eyed, at the things and people around him. He requires very little to be happy: warmth (especially by way of cuddles) and nourishment. My family and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect addition to our family.