I was going to be pregnant forever.
At nine days past due, and with a huge winter storm barreling down on us, I was thoroughly convinced that I would be the first person in history whose baby just refused to come out. I’m sure most moms in late-stage pregnancy have this thought, but I was definitely right.
My sweet mother-in-law had been in town for a week, my mom had traveled in a few days earlier, and my husband’s aunt had even made the drive in.
But just like that watched pot that never boils, this watched uterus never contracted.
The days ticked by and on Thursday afternoon, I went to (another) midwife appointment, where I was dilated to 3cm. This felt like huge progress! By the time I went to bed that night, contractions, though still mild, were coming about 15 minutes apart. I went to sleep, hoping to be woken in the night to get this show on the road.
Then… Nothing. Again. By the time I woke up on Friday, cramps were gone, contractions were gone, and I was totally annoyed.
With the predictions of a big winter storm coming, my mom and I headed out to the grocery store to stock the fridge, settling in for a slow weekend. As the snow started coming down, we walked a few more laps around the mall and then drove home, where I took a nap and my mom started dinner.
After dinner, I started having what I thought were really terrible gas pains. By about 8:30, I confined myself to the bathroom to deal with these “gas pains.”
Since the pains were extremely intense right from the beginning, I didn’t think they could be early labor contractions, so I didn’t bother timing them. If I had to guess, they started at about 7 or 8 minutes apart, and very quickly became more frequent. I alternated between sitting on the toilet, leaning over the sink, and spending time in the shower, trying to cope with the intense pain, and pressure.
In retrospect, I probably should have figured out I was in labor when I had to sink to my hands and knees in the shower, but somehow I was still convinced that this would pass and wasn’t really labor. All those people who said I would definitely know when it was the real thing?
Finally, around 10:00 p.m., I thought things might be lightening up, so I headed to bed. But the second I did, the contractions returned with a vengeance.
It was at this point that I finally accepted I might be in labor, which now seems ridiculous because I could barely walk or talk at all.
My mom suggested we walk around the kitchen to work through my contractions, so I headed downstairs. We started timing contractions at 10:20, and they were already two and a half minutes apart and lasting a minute each.
I started to panic a little bit, because in my mind I thought I must still be in early labor, and there was no way I would last another 10 to 18 hours of this. Since the contractions had hit so hard and so fast, I didn’t feel like I had a chance to develop coping rhythms or work with them, and with so little time to rest in between it took all I had to just make it through.
I assumed I was the wimpiest mom in history, since I couldn’t even handle these “early” contractions.
As my mom rubbed my lower back and my husband held my hands, I tried to focus on the prayer intentions I had collected prior to labor, but I was mostly really worried about having to endure this for several more hours.
Unlike me, however, my mom very quickly recognized that this was much more than early labor. While she continued to coach me, she told my husband to move fast. He threw some of our things in the car and started brushing off the eight inches of snow that had fallen on the car.
My mom sat next to me and continued to rub my lower back (she later told me she was leaning into it with her elbow and all her strength, though I could only feel a light rubbing).
As my husband powered through the snowy roads, muttering prayers under his breath, I just tried to continue breathing through each contraction. Some were more successful than others.
Our stressful drive continued as we began to navigate through the local college campus. All of a sudden we came to a quick halt.
Right in the middle of the street was a group of drunk students having a snowball fight.
Really? Right now.
Poor husband about had a heart attack, but he did an amazing job keeping his cool and the drive to the hospital only took about ten minutes longer than usual.
Then, suddenly, I started to feel a lot of pressure and thought “oh no.” I reached down and, sure enough, I could feel the top of the baby’s head.
Not wanting to panic anyone in an already scary driving situation, I didn’t say anything and just focused on doing everything I could not to push this baby out in the car.
Thankfully, we arrived at the ER entrance about a minute later and my husband grabbed a wheelchair for me and my mom took the wheel to park the car.
I managed to somehow climb out of the car, and I felt the baby drop even lower. I closed my eyes and focused on not pushing with all my might.
Apparently, I looked a little too calm because the nurses at the Labor and Delivery station later told me they didn’t think I was in labor. They even made me change wheelchairs once in the ward. Nothing like having to switch chairs with a baby hanging halfway out of you to make you detest hospital protocols.
They got me into a room and told me I could keep wearing the robe I came in with (as if changing would be happening anytime soon… ha!). As the nurse left, I stripped down (all modesty had left the building and would not return for quite a while) and got myself into bed as quickly as possible.
I turned to my husband, pointed to the crowning baby, and said “this is the baby’s head.” I’ll never forget the look of wonder and amazement on his face when I said that.
My husband was so busy being amazed at what he saw that he just stood there.
So I had to quickly follow it with, “THAT MEANS YOU NEED TO GO GET SOMEONE!”
He started calling down to the nurse’s station and they immediately jumped up and ran into our room. Everyone quickly got things set up and got a fetal heart rate monitor on. It was so comforting to hear baby’s heartbeat going strong, as I was worried the fast and intense contractions could be stressing him out. He handled them like a champ, and with my mom holding one hand and my husband holding the other, my baby finally came.
All I heard about labor was that pushing would be a relief, but that was definitely not my experience. Pushing was really tough and the ring of fire is no joke. At a certain point, I truly wanted to give up. At that moment, I was hit by the realization that I needed to surrender to what was happening and trust that I would be taken care of, and that the only way out of the pain was through it.
I kept pushing, and 16 minutes later our Elias Ambrose arrived, just ahead of the doctor! I was completely overwhelmed and overjoyed that our son was actually here.
On that crazy winter day, the snowstorm had dumped a total of 24 inches on our area, and all the doctors and nurses were snowed in at the hospital with us. My dreams of Chick-Fil-A after the birth were dashed, as none of the local restaurants were open for a couple of days and the hospital almost ran out of food.
Thankfully I survived a near-catastrophic birthing situation by safely arriving at the hospital just in the nick of time. It was a crazy, unforgettable night, but my baby came into this world safely and that’s all that really matters.
With my next child, if I mistake labor for gas pains again…somebody pinch me.