After a busy day of shopping at the mall, eating Panda Express, and worrying about my unborn baby’s lack of movement, JJ, Lyd and I sat down to supper around 7:00 pm. As we began eating, my contractions started up again. I didn’t think much of it, because I had had contractions off and on almost continuously during the previous four weeks. But as our supper went on, I noticed that my contractions were seeming to be coming regularly, and each one seemed to be a little stronger than the previous one. By the end of the meal, the contractions were still coming, and now they were starting to have some real power. I couldn’t ignore these contractions; I HAD to pay attention to them! I looked at my husband and said, “I think these contractions are finally It. It’s time to go to the hospital.”
With that decision made, JJ and I swung into action. Our first priority before we could leave for the hospital was to make sure our almost four-year old daughter Lyd was taken care of. For the previous four weeks, I had had a friend from church on-call to take care of Lyd at a moment’s notice. As Murphy’s Law goes, this happened to be the one weekend that she had an out-of-town committment. I had managed to piece together babysitting via some neighborhood moms, but the various moms were only free at certain times. It was a haphazard schedule, to be sure, but I was thankful to have friends who were willing to help me out. So at 7:45, I called the friend who was on-call that night, and she immediately headed over to our house to pick up Lyd. Meanwhile, I went upstairs to pack an overnight bag for Lyd, something I hadn’t thought to do earlier. I worked as quickly as I could between contractions, and I moaned as low as I could, held onto the nearest solid object, and swayed my hips back and forth during contractions. (I remembered what my doula with Lyd’s birth had taught me – moan low, don’t scream high.) Lyd witnessed me having a few strong contractions, and while I didn’t want to make a lot of noise in front of my daughter, I couldn’t help but let some moans out. After each contraction finished, as Lyd was still looking up at me wide-eyed, I would say something like, “Momma’s body is working really hard to open up a path for the baby to come out, isn’t it?” When my friend arrived at 8pm, I hugged and kissed Lyd goodbye, telling her that the next time she saw me, I’d have a new sister for her.
With Lyd out of the house, it was just my husband and myself. My hospital bag was packed; after totally overpacking for Lyd’s birth, I had packed much lighter this time. I paced around downstairs, moaning through stronger and stronger contractions. I got the urge to poop, so I headed to the bathroom. As my intestines cleaned themselves out (something that often happens in labor – it’s the body’s way of clearing everything out of the way to make as much room for the baby as possible), my husband was on the phone with Treesa, our doula, letting her know we were leaving for the hospital. When Treesa asked JJ where I was, he told her I was on the toilet. I remember Johnold asking me, “Treesa wants to know if the baby’s head is coming out,” to which I irritatedly responded, “No, I’m just pooping!” Treesa had 20+ years of experience as a doula, plus she was a student midwife. She (as well as my OB) had suspected that my labor would go fast, and practical Treesa didn’t mince words in her efforts to make sure that everything was okay.
After bathroom matters were finished, and Treesa was on her way (she had a longer drive ahead of her than we did), I remember waiting by the garage door, wondering what was taking my husband so long. It turned out he was still packing upstairs. For some reason, he packed more stuff than I did! After the baby was born, he told me that had he known how fast my labor really would go, he wouldn’t have worried about packing anything but would have just gotten me to the hospital. Although, honestly, I didn’t realize how fast my labor was going either. I knew I had been walking around for a few days at six centimeters dilation, but still, you never REALLY know.
Finally JJ was ready to go, and we got into our trusty black Saturn, me in the back seat sitting on a garbage bag (because my water still, amazingly, hadn’t broken). We set off for the hospital around 8:30. It was a Friday evening, and it happened to be the first rainy night of the season. (In northern California, it only rains in the late fall, winter, and early spring.) The first rain makes the roads VERY slick, due to all the oil that has built up on the asphalt during the previous months. So, JJ had to be extra careful when driving. Of course, the moaning wife in the backseat didn’t help his concentration much! And, to add one more piece of excitement to the evening, the red “check engine” light came on during our trip. That light had come on more than once lately, but he had thought it had been fixed. So, JJ was very annoyed to see the light come on again – while driving his laboring wife to the hospital in the rain! My valiant husband decided to continue on anyway, but because he didn’t want me to see the light and get scared, he held his hand over the light as he drove. So, keep that picture in your mind: dark outside, raining lightly, slick roads, engine light on, wife in VERY active labor in the back seat.
Halfway through the 15 minute drive to the hospital, my husband suddenly slammed on the brakes and yelled a few choice words. Apparently, the car that we had been following for some time, which was driving markedly under the speed limit (in a residential area where passing is not allowed), had cut my husband off in some way, almost hitting our car. With this near-accident, I discovered something to be true that I had only ever read about in childbirth books: Even in the midst of a strong contraction, it is possible to be scared so forcefully that your contraction stops immediately. I was at the peak of a contraction when the near-accident occured, and my contraction abruptly paused for a few seconds. Thankfully, the angels were looking out for us, and no accident occured. Within a few seconds, my contraction resumed, and JJ returned to his one-handed driving, determined to get me to the hospital while not letting me know about the red check-engine light. Throughout the rest of the trip, I continued to have strong, active-labor contractions.
We made it to the hospital in one piece and with the car (and my water bag!) intact. JJ parked in the 20-minute parking right in front of the hospital door. I managed to heave myself out, still contracting like crazy, moaning, and in pain. JJ helped me walk slowly into the hospital, and we made it to the elevator without alerting the entire first floor of the hospital to the fact that a laboring woman was passing through. 😉 When we got on the elevator, I remember that an older chinese gentleman also came on with us. I was moaning through another contraction, but so relieved to have made it to the hospital, and I remember him smiling gently at me and saying something along the lines of, “You’re almost there now.” We made it to floor three and Obstetrics, which thankfully, was located right by the elevator. I didn’t go politely to the desk to sign in, but instead I headed straight for the childbirth rooms, louding announcing over my shoulder to the nurses at the nurses’ desk, “I’m going right to a room – I’m six centimeters dilated.” I found out later that the nurses were confused; there weren’t sure if I had said “six centimeters” or “six minutes apart.” 🙂 But, they’re labor nurses; they didn’t take anything personally, and they didn’t fuss about what I was doing. They just got right to work.
When I noticed that the first room on the right was open and ready for an occupant, I headed straight into it. In the back of my mind, I was pleased to see that particular room open, as it was the same room in which I had given birth to Lyd almost four years prior. I was glad to be able to bring my second child into the world in the same room. We arrived at the hospital around 8:45, and the biggest excitement of the night was about to begin…
Read the next part of J’s birth story: the baby comes out