When my son talks about Ultimate Frisbee Tournaments, my brain hears: “So this player ran down the field and dove and caught it and then he threw it and then another player ran down the field and dove and caught it and then we scored and then the same player ran down the field again and then yada yada…”
When my husband regales me with horse stuff, I TRY to listen, but I hear this: “A horse ran to the field and I ran after it and made it run circles until it got tired and then I went to the barn to get the other horses and they ran to the field, so I ran after them and made them run circles until they got tired…lather, rinse, repeat.”
So when I share a birth story, I’m very aware that to some of you it sounds like: “She had a contraction, so we walked and then she had more contractions and dilated to 4 and then she had more contractions, so we walked some more and then she dilated to 5, ad infinitum.”
But I’ve got a birth story to share, and I promise it won’t sound anything like that.
Birth Mama was only worried about two things:
- Transporting the 40 miles to the hospital in the dead of winter, and
- Staying calm, relaxed and peaceful. (She had been very stressed and anxious the last time, and did NOT want a repeat.)
The Call came just after midnight. Contractions 10-12 minutes apart, she is ready for me. I threw on clothes and hit the road, stopping only to fill my empty gas tank. Six blocks from their house, her husband calls (NEVER a good sign), “Steph, we are at 4 minutes apart, we need you now.”
Seconds later, I let myself in the side door. Hubby starts loading things into my van. I find her laboring in bed, eyes closed, internally focused. I remind myself: she wants calm, relaxed, peaceful. I rub her gently across the back, listen to her moan, and discern that contractions are MUCH closer together and we are not going to have a long, slow labor at home.
Holding her hair back and doing my best Julie Andrews’ impersonation (who once said about herself, “Sometimes I’m so sweet, even I can’t stand it.”) I whisper, “You’re doing so great we need to go on and transfer.” Inside my head, Gilbert Gottfried is shrieking, “OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS TOO FREAKIN’ FAST!!!”
The next contraction finds us squatting in the driveway. Her mom asks, “Are we going to make it to the hospital??” Calmly I smile and hear Julie Andrews say, “Most certainly we are going to make it!” (Internally, Gilbert panics, “probably not until AFTER the baby comes out, but we’ll definitely make it!”)
Now the 40-minute drive…and though I could drive crazy fast and get us there in 30, there is a laboring woman on her knees in the place of my center console, so safety has to take precedence.
Through all of this, I am pretending to be cool as a cucumber. Driving 80 mph, talking over my shoulder in my best Mary Poppins voice, “You are doing such a great job! Practically perfect in every way. Take a deep breath through your nose and blow it slowly out your mouth. Goooooood.”
With every mile, contractions are growing more intense, and suddenly she responds to one of them with a screeching dolphin-call. I speak in a soft, low tone, and quite possibly with a British accent, “Remember what we talked about. Keep your throat relaxed. Bring your voice down low. Moan it out. Remember: LOW.“
From the floor behind me I sense the beginning of the next contraction…her throat tightening, her shoulders rising, her voice starting to squeak with the pain…and the next moment I will forever remember as one of my Favorite Things (“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and labor contractions…”) She brings her dolphin screech down to a deep Darth Vader growl, and for the next 45 seconds I hear, “low low low low low low low low low low low low…” as she literally chants the word “low” through the entire contraction!
Now I become a living GPS, with a slow, lilting voice.
“Only 10 more minutes and we’ll be there.”
“Three more contractions and we’ll be at the door.”
“Just a spoonful of sugar and the baby will be out.”
Maneuvering the parking lot like Speed Racer, swerving around parked cars and cigarette-smoking nurses, I zip to the front door, jump out and grab a wheelchair. After some chair-not-working-and-what-do-we-do-about-the-bags confusion, the four of us glide through the deserted hospital corridor, up the elevator and into Labor and Delivery.
It is 2:02 a.m.
“We’re here to birth a baby,” my Julie Andrews voice tells the desk nurse. And even though we are pre-registered, the nurse asks for insurance cards and social security numbers and due date and Groupon Coupons, and a request for laboring mama to get on the scales.
Clearly, they are not understanding, so Gilbert makes an appearance outside of my brain, “Ladies! THIRD baby here! Doesn’t matter what she weighs as she will weigh 14 pounds less in a very few minutes! We need a room STAT!” (I try to speak their language, you know).
Finally sensing the urgency, one of them calls, “Room 4!” and in we go. Birthing mama stands up out of the wheelchair and grabs the bed as I instinctively take my place behind her. A splash hits my shins and runs into my shoes. “My water broke! My water just broke!” Why, yes, yes it did.
She lays down as we get her lower half undressed, feet still dangling off the bed. Dr. M. commands, “Let’s get you all the way up in the bed.” Before hubby and I can even get the head of the bed raised, one nurse is trying to get her shirt off, because apparently it’s critical that she wear pale blue cotton to push out a human. Another nurse is trying to velcro straps around her belly. Seriously?
I politely ask them to “get real”, just as she is hit with one MASSIVE contraction – her feet and head on the bed, the rest of her body imitating the St. Louis arch. She looks wide-eyed at me and declares,“I’m on my back! I’m on my back! I don’t want to be on my back!” I understand completely, and assure her as SOON as this contraction is over, we’ll get into a better position. Before I finish my sentence, Dr. M. announces, “We’re crowning and…yes……..THERE she is!”
And Gilbert Gottfried screams, “WHAT THE…???”