Today is my 4th daughter’s 13th birthday. For a while there I only had one teenager in the house. Now we are back to two. Not only does it mark the day she becomes a teenager, but it is the day she gets a Facebook. (getting a fb before 13 goes on the “no” list). Lord help me as I try to convey to her why a duck face is a bad choice. These are the things my mother never had to worry about.
By now you are wondering about the baby in the van and guessing that she was that baby and you would be right. Back before I knew better, I let my registered, hospital-delivering midwife plan a day to induce me by “natural” means and nothing went as planned from there. It is the birth story I rarely tell because it ends the conversation, like I am trying to outdo everyone. Rarely can a woman beat it, though it should never be a competition. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it is funny in retrospect.
The plan was simple and great. Come in for an exam and a “stripping of the membranes”. If you don’t know what that is, just be glad and keep reading. Then I would go shopping and eat some lunch. Then she would check me to see how things were progressing. Then I would go home (almost 30 minutes away) and take a shower, grab my bag and come back to check my progress four hours later. Sounds like a perfect day doesn’t it? After that second check, we would get in the van and drive up the mountain from Forest City, where her office was, to Fletcher, where the hospital she practiced in is. That’s about a 40-minute drive. There the baby would be born, of course.
Well, my husband and I got through the having lunch part and then went shopping at Wal-mart. I remember standing in line to pay and thinking I was hurting a little now. Good! Things were progressing. At that first check at the two hour mark, it was determined that I was progressing more quickly than she thought I would. To this day, I can’t imagine why she thought a 4th baby would take all day, but anyway…I wasn’t going to get that shower and my bag. The only thing was, I thought I needed the camera that was in my bag. Back then, ya know how you had one camera and it had film and batteries and you didn’t take it with you everywhere? So, I called my sister to get my bag and then drive the 30 minutes to the office. We would head up the mountain when she arrived.
While she was grabbing my bag and getting lost all over Forest City ( no gps or cell phones back then either) I was in terrible pain on an office exam table, bad enough to ask for some IV drugs to take the edge off. All my midwife friends are screaming right now, but please don’t fuss. I know better now. After I was relaxed and waiting, my water broke on the exam table. Due to my IV drugs, I was pretty chill about this. Strangely enough, we continued to wait on my camera to arrive for too long after this. Finally after nearly an hour, we decide to go on to the hospital.
During this time, my husband called to check on our other kids, 10, 6, and 3, who were staying with my mother. After many rings, the phone was answered by the 3 year old, Emma. He asked her what was going on and she replied, “Grandma is broken.” What do you mean broken?!? She answered, “broken like a toy.” Funny now, very alarming then, except to me, because I’m on drugs. Turns out, Grandma had broken her ankle playing soccer with them and had to send them to fetch Grandpa who was working on their broken air conditioning. This means they needed a new babysitter and everything, all while my water was breaking. Almost a separate blog by itself. Anyway…..
When they tried to get me to the car, I knew I was in transition – the ugly part of labor where things are really getting rough. I was thinking, it’s too late, this won’t work, but too relaxed to convey that to everyone else, and really, what were my options at that point? I got in the midwife’s van, passenger’s seat, and my husband followed in our van with the practical thinking of needing our van when we left the hospital later.
Only minutes after we started up the road, I got the urge to push. I’ve always said that I could never blow through the urge to push. Turns out I can. For nearly forty minutes. The midwife started flying up the mountain while my husband is behind her, none the wiser, thinking she makes this trip this way every time. It was a long blurry trip with the kind of exaggerated breathing you only see on TV birth scenes. As the sign for the hospital came into view, I started to feel a new sensation. The OB term is “crowning”, but when you are fully clothed, it presents as the feeling of your clothes moving away from your body.
When I felt this sensation, I threw off my seat belt and put my seat back. Meanwhile the midwife is asking, “What’s happening, what are you doing, is she coming?” I felt “coming” was the wrong word considering and I answered, “She’s here!” At these words, I peeled my pants off and plopped my feet up on the dash, stirrups style. We were rounding the curves of the longest winding drive to any hospital anywhere while all this was going on. She had an emergency cell phone that she decided to finally use at this point, to have ER staff waiting and ready for us.
When we arrived at the curb of the hospital ER parking lot, they pulled up a wheelchair for me to ride in. So cute that they thought I would be able to sit in a chair with a baby’s head in the way. So they lined the seat and the floor and just let what was happening happen. At one point I looked up to see about 12 lab coats with heads, competing for a space in the windshield so they could watch. My husband had parked and run around to help me out of the van, only to see that our baby was being born then and there. Once I relaxed, it took something less than what could be called a push, and the baby was out, being suctioned and clamped and plopped onto my belly.
I don’t remember being put on a gurney, but I do remember riding on one with my baby, who was too shocked to give the good solid cry we all wanted to hear. They took her away from me, one of the many things I would have never allowed if I knew then what I know now, and I waited to hear that she was fine and ready to be fed. Eventually she ended up in my arms where I could hold her and tell her I was sorry for all I had put her through.
Today she is spending her birthday morning teaching a 5-day club for children in low-income housing as a part of her summer mission for Child Evangelism Fellowship. She is a very competitive child. We tease her that she was trying to beat us all to the hospital. She’s a great softball player, gifted teacher, and big sister to the two children I had after her – in the water of a birthing tub, in a hospital with low lights and calm and quiet. One adventurous birth is quite enough. I don’t share my story often, but it is fun to read about a woman who had her baby in her yard or in a car and think to myself, been there- done that.