On the evening of February 28th, 2018, I began experiencing contractions with my fourth baby.
I wasn’t due for ten days, and my previous baby had come on his due date after twenty-one hours of labor, so I didn’t think much of it.
The contractions were inconsistent, but strong. They were so strong, in fact, that they kept me up the entire night. I would have several that were ten minutes apart, then they’d space to fifteen minutes, and then thirty, and then back to every ten minutes, and then to forty minutes, and so on and so on all through the night.
The following morning, my contractions were still strong, but even more inconsistent. I remember being thoroughly convinced that this was going to be my life for the next week or two until the baby came.
My poor husband had the job of comforting me through the sobs of “I’m not going to sleep for the next two weeks!” and “I won’t be able to do anything until this baby comes because I’m just going to be contracting off and on for forever!” I wholeheartedly believed this was my fate.
As the evening of March 1st rolled around, about 24 hours after my contractions had begun, I told my husband to go to bed while I “sat up contracting all night again.”
I turned on The Office and plopped on the couch for what I expected to be a long, uncomfortable night. By 7:00 pm, my contractions had become consistently ten minutes apart, on the nose. They were never any further apart, but they never got any closer, either.
Just before 2 am on Friday, March 2nd, I had the contraction to end all contractions, followed immediately by the burst of my water breaking. Now, this is where I made the biggest mistake.
Despite the fact that water was streaming down my legs, I was still not convinced I was in “actual” labor.
So instead of making my way upstairs to wake my husband and head toward the hospital, like any sane person would do, I instead made my way to the bathroom and figured it was a good idea to start timing my contractions, that were clearly now coming much closer together than every ten minutes.
I am honestly not sure how long I was in there, because I lost all concept of time. I gripped the counter and hung my head low as I tried to breathe through each contraction while simultaneously timing the duration of each one, and how close together they were coming.
After who knows how long, I finally decided it was a good idea to inform my husband. I hobbled up the stairs into our bedroom and whispered: “Dan, I think my contractions might be three to five minutes apart . . . Oh, and my water broke.”
You know in the cartoons, when a character is awoken from a deep sleep, and they go from lying horizontally on the bed, to a standing position, with nothing in between? That’s the best way I can describe how my husband reacted.
As he grabbed his phone to call my mom to come watch our other three children, I yelled: “Not yet! I wasn’t able to time my contractions properly, so don’t call my mom until I know they’re actually coming every three to five minutes!”
Dan began timing and, after a few contractions, informed me that they were coming about every minute. I was in full transition.
Dan frantically called my mom and told her to come as soon as she possibly could and, immediately afterward, began Googling “How to Deliver a Baby,” doing his best to avoid a video search.
I decided to take a shower while I waited for my mom to arrive. It seemed like a logical thing to do at the time. After only a couple minutes in the shower, however, I suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to push.
It wasn’t until this moment that the sense of panic set in, and I thought to myself for the first time: “This is it. We’re not going to make it to the hospital.”
I screamed from the shower that the baby was coming, and Dan hastily yelled back from the other room: “You can’t have the baby here! I don’t know how to deliver a baby!”
This revelation was not at all shocking to me. I informed him that I would wait if I could, but that didn’t seem to be an option.
This is it. We’re not going to make it to the hospital.
Dan helped me to the bed, because my knees had completely given out at this point as I actively began pushing, and he dialed 911. I don’t have a solid recollection of what was going on around me at this point, but I could see Dan pacing the floor next to me, and I could faintly hear the dispatcher’s voice on the other end of the phone: “Tell your wife to get on the floor.”
Nope, that wasn’t going to happen.
“Okay, tell your wife to roll onto her back.” Okay, fine, I can do that.
“Now,” the dispatcher continued, “hold the baby in until the paramedics arrive . . .”
I have never looked into the eyes of someone who believed their life was about to end, but I believe the look on Dan’s face probably came close.
As he neared the bed, he whispered: “The dispatcher told me to do this . . .”
For the record, I’m not really the swearing type, but this seemed like an appropriate moment to drop my very first “F bomb.” Dan quickly returned to the phone call and said, “Yeah, that’s not happening.”
I pushed for only a few minutes longer, and right before the baby was out, three paramedics and three firemen rushed into our bedroom. A couple more pushes and our sweet Benjamin Joseph was born.
They placed him on my chest, and I looked up for the first time to see six men standing around the bed, some with looks of shock on their face, others pale and motionless.
A minute or two after Benjamin was born, they began asking me where we kept our towels and blankets, since they had brought nothing with them. I directed a few to the linen closet down the hall, and others to the basket of clean laundry in the corner of our room (boy was I glad I had kept up with the laundry that week).
One fireman elbowed his partner and exclaimed jovially, “This is why I’m single!” and another sheepishly asked if he could use our bathroom. Yes, the post-birth experience was not at all what I had anticipated.
At this point, the paramedic who was presumably in charge asked me what was supposed to happen with the placenta. With my first pregnancy, I delivered twins via Cesarean Section, and I honestly could not remember what had happened with my previous vaginal birth.
The paramedic stated bluntly: “Don’t ask my opinion because you think I’m a professional. I honestly have no idea what to do.” I reluctantly said we could wait and see what happened before heading to the hospital.
I was still experiencing incredibly strong contractions, and when I asked the paramedic if I was supposed to push with each one, he responded hesitantly, “I’m not sure, but I think so.”
We waited another forty-five minutes, and with each excruciating contraction, I pushed, but nothing happened. It was at this point that we collectively agreed I should be brought to the hospital.
A snow storm had dumped about six inches of snow that night, so the fire department plowed our driveway and walkway to allow for the stretcher to be brought through.
They hoisted me on to the stretcher, crossed my arms and strapped them down so I wouldn’t fall off, and then slid a bed pan underneath me “just in case I delivered the placenta in the ambulance.”
It was just after 4 am when we took off in the ambulance: Benjamin wrapped tightly in Dan’s jacket to protect him from the frigid night air, and me strapped tightly to the stretcher, still feeling like I was in labor.
The ride to the hospital was apparently treacherous, though I had no idea at the time. We were told later that the road conditions were so horrible, we had been sliding through stop signs and intersections, and fish-tailing the entire way.
Thankfully, we made it safely to the hospital, and were immediately brought to triage where Benjamin was put under warming lights and his heart rate closely monitored.
The doctor on call delivered the placenta, with quite a bit of tugging, and I finally felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
Before leaving, the paramedics left us with these words: “None of us have ever delivered a baby before. And now, thanks to you, we all got to experience the golden goose of 911 calls!” I told them I was happy to have provided such an exciting night on the job.
After a few hours, all the doctors and nurses left the triage room, and Dan and I finally had a moment to ourselves.
This moment, more than any other, stands out vividly in my mind. We sat in silence for a minute as the gravity of the night’s events slowly began to sink in. And then, as if releasing a flood of emotions that we had no idea what to do with, we started to laugh.
Maybe it was a release of built-up stress, or maybe it was because we were simply too exhausted to speak. But in that moment, no words seemed able to properly capture the way we felt, and so we laughed.
I was exhausted and Dan was exhausted; and yet we were overwhelmed by a sense of joy and gratitude that our sweet little boy had arrived safely into this world.
But in that moment, no words seemed able to properly capture the way we felt, and so we laughed.
Just barely over a year after Benjamin’s birth, on March 15th, 2019, we welcomed our fifth baby into this world.
When I arrived in triage that evening, my contractions were inconsistent but strong, exactly as they were the night I gave birth to Benjamin, and so they decided to admit me (which turned out to be the right decision, as our sweet Ava Margaret was born two hours later).
As soon as I was admitted, the midwife asked what my birth plan was this time around. My response? “Make it to the hospital, and I haven’t thought much beyond that.”