When I was pregnant with The Hare, we received some frustrating news at the beginning of my 30th week. Labor pains I had experienced off and on for a few hours were indeed productive and I had started dilating. It wasn’t really a surprise, given my previous pregnancy (Easter Baby), but difficult to hear, just the same.
Once we were admitted to the hospital, I only half-listened while the doctor went over information about delivering preemies. Since DW was a first time dad and had not experienced my first delivery, he hung on to every word. We held hands in silence while I was hooked up to monitors, drugged to stop contractions, started steroid shots for The Hare’s lung development and received a catheter. This doctor meant business.
My mother-in-law came to Michigan right away to take care of The Tortoise. DW let work know that he was not coming in any time soon. For a full week, Big D stayed at the hospital as much as humanly possible, sometimes even taking showers in my sterile hospital bathroom, eating almost every meal with me and sleeping in an extremely uncomfortable “hide-a-bed” chair every night. When he did manage to go home to spend some time with The Tortoise, his mother would come to the hospital with magazines for some girl time. After a week of complete hospital hosted bed-rest, and two rounds of steroid shots, the doctors felt secure in letting me go home as long as I had help and promised to stay in bed for at least another 5 weeks. We just needed to get to week 36.
DW went back to work while our moms exchanged places for a few weeks. I felt so helpless having other people run my household and play “mommy” to The Tortoise. We had only been in Michigan 10 months but the amazing group of moms through our church’s MOPS program started bringing meals three days a week for our family. They also scheduled rotating play dates for The Tortoise and brought bundles of magazines to help the boredom. I had never experienced such generosity and support from almost complete strangers, let alone this much help for 5 straight weeks! It was one of the most humbling experiences.
Let’s now pretend it’s April 15th, 2002 around 11:00 pm. I am trying to watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” over raucous snores beside me. It is hard to get on a normal sleep schedule when you are practically in bed 24 hours a day. Today marked the end of my 36th week of pregnancy and my mom had just gone home that afternoon. DW’s mom planned to come back out in a couple of days and the stress of “holding her in” had finally started to subside. I had been close to 50% effaced and dilated to about a 4 for the last 5 weeks. The Hare had also already dropped before I had even come home.
My right hip was starting to feel numb. I shifted over to my left side when suddenly I had an urge to pee and even thought I felt a leak. (Don’t laugh! It’s a common and unfortunate side-effect of having children.) DW was sound asleep.
“I can do this on my own,” I thought slowly dragging myself out of bed. The walk to the bathroom felt good. My leaky bladder stopped and in fact, I found that I had nothing to give once I finally made it to the commode.
I gingerly went back to bed.
For 30 minutes, every time I turned to one of my sides, a slight trickle of fluid would escape, but as soon as I sat up it would stop. Obviously, I just needed to watch T.V. sitting up! Maybe The Hare was pushing on my bladder. But by the time “Everybody Loves Raymond” was over, faint contractions I had been experiencing for 5 weeks, became more deliberate and harsh. It suddenly hit me that this pee-pee problem might be my water leaking and that the baby’s head was blocking the fluid whenever I sat up.
I decided to wake DW.
“Honey,” I said rubbing his arm, “I think we might need to go to the hospital soon.”
Snort, snort, sniff…”Huh? What?”
“I said we might need to go to the hospital. Soon.”
DW sat straight up.
“Like how soon? Like right now soon or we have a few hours soon?”
He was visibly alarmed and trying to shake off sleep.
“Yeah – well…probably a right now kind of soon.” I winced.
He threw back the covers and started to get dressed. But then paused.
“Are you having contractions?”
“But you can talk through them, right?”
“I seem to but..”
“Well, then that’s good, right? The book says you aren’t close to labor until you can’t talk through them anymore.” He slowed down a little.
I started to laugh – “Yeah…except that I’ve been “in labor” for 6 weeks already! Plus, I think my water broke.”
DW’s eyes got wide as he felt around the sheets expecting a large wet spot.
“Why didn’t you wake me earlier then?!”
A painful wave began hitting me, surging from one side of my body to the other. I took a deep breath until it was over.
“I wanted to finish my show, that’s why.”
We called our neighbor to stay with The Tortoise; it was now after midnight. Ms. Teri came flying in through the back door, out of breath, exclaiming “I’m here! I’m here!”
It took a few minutes to maneuver between contractions and I was having more trouble talking through them by now. One last trip to the bathroom dislodged my mucus plug. Now I started to panic, remembering that once my water broke with The Tortoise, labor was only about an hour. And I wasn’t really sure if or when my water had broken this time. DW saw the fear on my face but remained completely calm.
Our 20 minute drive to St. Joe’s Hospital only took about 15 minutes. I am thankful and amazed that police didn’t pull us over for running most of the red lights. Poor DW would have benefitted from earplugs too. The contractions were pounding my body in quick successions and I was definitely not being very quiet. He decided that dropping me off at ER was our best option, because by now I felt like The Hare’s head was about to plop right out if I moved in the wrong direction.
A very young male nurse opened the passenger side door.
“Miss, you’re going to need to step out of the car.”
“I CAN NOT STEP OUT OF THE CAR.” I was curled in the fetal position, clutching my stomach, working through another contraction.
“Really, miss, you can’t stay in the car. You need to get in the wheel chair.”
“I STILL CAN’T STEP OUT OF THE CAR”
DW ran around the car, picked me up and put me in the chair, still in the fetal position.
“I’ll meet you inside as soon as I park the car,” he whispered in my ear, “I love you.”
The nurse scooted hastily inside, visibly frustrated.
“You really shouldn’t worry. ALL first time moms think they are about to deliver and it turns out they still have hours to go.”
“I’M NOT A FIRST TIME MOM!” Seriously? “AND MY FIRST DELIVERY ONLY TOOK AN HOUR!”
By now it was about 12:40 on the morning of April 16th. Another searing pain and I let out a loud moan.
“Miss, you really need to be more quiet. You’re freaking out the other ER patients.”
“WELL, I’M A LITTLE FREAKED OUT ABOUT THIS HEAD STICKING OUT OF MY BODY!”
Arriving at labor and delivery, the nurse told the staff that I was under the impression that the baby was coming soon. Gee, I don’t know – perhaps the colossal contractions hitting me less than 2 minutes apart and a small person practically dangling out of my body might have given me that impression. Everyone just kept moving so slow. No one seemed to grasped the fact that I was going to give birth any minute in this stupid wheel chair.
Apparently my doctor was out of the country, of course, and both on-call doctors were busy. I hoisted myself onto the delivery table, still in my street clothes. My wheel chair cheaufer left the scene as I was assisted by another, much more sympathetic female nurse. But while she was helping me with my pajama bottoms, her eyes widened.
I’ll be right back, ” she gasped running out of the room, practically running smack into my out-of-breath husband as he entered. We heard her yelling down the hall,
“I need a doctor stat – the baby is already crowning.”
“SEE!! I TOLD YOU I WAS ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY!” I shouted.
A staff doctor dove in and with the help of an awesome nurse I gave three huge, grunting pushes and out she came. The Hare joined us at 12:59am on April 16th.
“Is that it?” DW asked bewildered. It all seemed like a dream.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it.” I said.
DW and I just stared at each other in disbelief. From ER door to delivery it had been 19 minutes. I almost had her in the parking lot. Then the moment became even more surreal when this angel was placed in my arms. My first daughter had been whisked away to NICU and it was hours before I got to hold her.
But this…this took my breath away, but in a good way.