Welcome to the 6th post in a series of birth stories that will run from August through September, Birth Story Celebration. Keep checking back on Tuesdays and Fridays for new, awesome stories of the miracle that makes us parents! Today’s story is from Sharon!
Sharon is a stay-at-home mom and referee to three babies, all under the age of three. She tries to cram in time for her blog, Finding Vanilla Octopus, as best she can in the midst of all of the chaos, for love of writing and the opportunity to share her amateur photography attempts.
As with my second child, I experienced pre-term contractions with my third pregnancy from about 32 weeks on, and prodromal labor from about 36 weeks. I was hospitalized overnight with Amelia exactly one month before she was born after showing up at my 36-week appointment dilated to 4 cm and contracting every 4-7 minutes. After showing no signs of imminent progress, I was released, only to live the next four weeks in fear of when active labor would suddenly set in, since I couldn’t differentiate early labor from my everyday experience at that point. Having had a 10+ lb baby as my first, and a two-hour active labor with my second, who was smaller, I knew this third labor was bound to be quick, especially since all indications were that Amelia would be smaller than her older sister, as well. However, I never did figure out how I was going to get myself to the hospital in time to have her there once it became clear that it was “time to go,” especially with two children at home to make arrangements for.
Wednesday morning, March 27th, began much like any other I’d had in the previous few weeks. I wasn’t particularly more sore or crampy than usual; neither impossibly tired nor unusually energetic. I did note, after settling myself down in the basement with the kids, that I was contracting pretty regularly (every 4-8 minutes), but I’d long since ceased to take such episodes seriously, since they generally lasted for an hour or two before tapering off, and never led to anything.
Had the contractions slowly built in intensity, I may have paid them a bit more mind. But they continued on, barely strong enough to take notice of, never picking up in length or strength, or varying much in interval.
By the third hour, I was suspicious enough to consider mentioning them to my husband, Tom, before he walked out the door to make a grocery run with Abby after putting Michael down for a nap. For some reason, I elected not to. Why worry him, I reasoned, and further give myself an excuse to feed into my own false hope, when there was no solid proof that I should expect this morning to go differently than any other?
So, Tom and Abby set off to Wegmans, and I tried to take advantage of a brief opportunity to lie down. As I was resting, I had an unusually strong contraction, followed by a strange internal popping feeling. Startled, and beginning to wonder if my membranes had perhaps ruptured, I waited a moment, then stood up to see if I felt any leakage. I didn’t.
I did, however, begin to hear Michael stir from his nap, so I headed upstairs to retrieve him. Once I’d gotten him into his high chair, I made a move to start preparing his lunch, and was halted by a pretty impressive contraction. That one got my attention, but I was still unsure what to do. Just a couple of weeks ago, I’d had two of similar intensity, in a row, and then nothing. I decided to wait and see if another would follow. Five minutes later, one did.
Ridiculously, I was still not satisfied. Just one more, I vowed. Once it hit, and passed, I tried to call Tom. But by this time, fifteen (little did I know how precious) minutes had gone by, and at first, I couldn’t get through. Thankfully, he called me right back, and said he was in the middle of paying for the groceries, and would be right home. I was momentarily relieved, but in the next few minutes, a couple of things happened.
I tried to call my mother, so that she could begin making her not-inconsiderable way to our house to take charge of the kids, and she wasn’t picking up. Between contractions, I tried my father, who promised to keep ringing her for me. She made contact within ten minutes to confirm that she was leaving, but I began to panic, then, because I’d done the two things I knew I needed to do, and was now faced with the reality that I was all alone, and my contractions were suddenly really, really bad.
So bad, in fact, that I found myself vocalizing loudly. Somewhere in my mind, I think this was the thing that most signaled alarm. I knew that I must be pretty far along to be reacting so desperately. A near-animal instinct began to take over as I frantically tried to cope with the pain alone. In fact, as Tom walked through the door, I was on all fours on the dining room floor, wailing and stretching my arms in front of me.
Tom deposited Abby into her booster seat, and dropped to the floor to be with me. And thus began our furious dance. He ran to get a pillow for my head, then to pour some cereal for Abby, then to hold my hand, then to give Abby the graham crackers that she demanded, instead. And I wailed, and screamed, and kept insisting on a shower.
It seems silly, in retrospect, but it was of utmost importance at the time. The immediate need stemmed from my embarrassment at the thought of someone having to sit between my legs when I hadn’t had a chance to bathe that day, messy as their job was bound to be regardless. But I think, also, that I was responding to some primal resistance I was feeling to being moved from where I was. I didn’t think that I could make it to where we were going, felt terribly unsafe trying to do so, and was stalling.
I could see that Tom was getting flustered, but I was focused on my goal. As he continued to run circles around and between the three of us, I began to crawl into the bathroom on all fours. Tom told me later that he looked on in some amount of horror as I started my approach, because between the loose hair hanging over my face, my position, and the way that my pain was contorting my movements, I reminded him of that creepy girl from the horror movie “The Ring.” I still chuckle now, every time I recall his re-telling.
I have no recollection of how I got my clothes off, and barely a concept of how I got into the shower, but I sat down at the bottom while Tom used the hand-held nozzle to help me clean myself. For a few short minutes, with the warm water on my skin, I began to relax a bit. However, once I was finished, I had to figure out how to exit the tub, and the real chaos began.
I noticed that I had begun to bleed, so I had Tom find me a pad to insert into my panties. As I fiddled with trying to get a pair on, Tom was rummaging around under the sink. My awkward attempts to lift and swing my legs around, however, resulted in the breaking of my water, which started off in a smallish gush. It was a good amount, but not enough to initially convince Tom that it had happened. I was sure, though, and began to panic again.
Tom tried to calm me by assuring me that all that was necessary now was some towels for the car. But I was despairing of even getting myself successfully dressed, and began deliriously shouting out orders for pants, a sweater, a new pair of undies (I dropped the first pair in the tub and it got hit with amniotic fluid).
Cue a second burst of amniotic fluid as Tom came back with new undies and began to clumsily try to slip a pad in, at my direction. This time, he was immediately convinced. No matter, though, because my thoughts began to urgently turn to the the insane pressure that I was feeling between my legs. I had been noticing an uncomfortable amount for some time, but now, the meaning of it all was undeniable. Though I was too terrified to reach my hand down and confirm, I was suddenly certain that a head was making its way down, completely undeterred and all-too-subject to gravity as I stood there.
Tom was asking, “Should I call an ambulance?” As I tried to express agreement, all I could think to do was sit, as quickly as possible. No sooner had I done so than a head began to emerge like a blossoming flower, and I was consumed with pain. I screamed like I have never screamed before as Tom began his first attempt to dial 9-1-1. He waited. I continued to scream, even as I wondered, in an eerie, out-of-body sort of way, whether anyone would even be able to hear my husband over my screeching.
And there we each sat, the tiny seconds stretched out for an instant: I, contemplating how to help my daughter on her way into the world as her tiny head turned to the side, and her eyes searched the blinding whiteness around her- wanting to touch her and comfort her but paralyzed by my own fear and shock; Tom, trying to figure out whether he should try to dial again or leave me alone just long enough to grab my phone from the other room to use instead.
His phone offered to redial. He hit “okay.” I tried to push, with no result. I knew that I should wait for a contraction, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t tell if I was having one. Thankfully, little Amelia kept her head- no pun intended- and took charge. As I looked on in amazement, she began to rotate her shoulders to improve her positioning within the birth canal. When I saw that she had finished, I pushed again, and out she flew.
Tom, who had finally gotten the phone dialing, rushed in to guide her exit, and grabbed her up just as the 9-1-1 operator got on the line. The words came out in an explosive jumble: “Hellomywifejusthadababyinthebathtubwe’reat______!”
I don’t remember much else that was said. I know that Tom looked down at his new child, announced, “It’s a boy! No, it’s a girl!” (Those tender, swollen bits can be confusing to interpret at first glance.) I know that at some point, he offered her to me, and I was still too shell-shocked to realize that I should take her. I know that for some time, we just lay there, she and I, our bodies against each other in a magical first meeting, as Tom rushed around for a clean towel to wipe out her mouth and cover her naked body.
Soon, the paramedics flowed in- at least eight of them. I don’t know how many emergency vehicles showed up, ultimately, but there were representatives from Emergency Services and Fire and Rescue, and they were all amazing. They cut the cord, gathered up Amelia, got her safely into a very, very warm ambulance. Tom joined her there.
Then, they turned their focus to me, as I lay shivering in the bathtub and wondering how I was ever going to manage to get out of it, finally.
Ultimately, it was a good twenty minutes from the time I gave birth before I was able to make my way to standing, with assistance, and hobble my way down the hall to the living room where the cot waited, umbilical cord still dangling between my legs. The placenta finally fell away, then, as I went to sit down on the cot, and it was collected up as I was helped into position and strapped in.
My mother arrived just in time to wave hello/goodbye to me as I was loaded into the ambulance. Unfortunately, she did not catch a glimpse of Amelia, who was already safely inside. Thanks to the fact that Tom kept his head, however, she was not losing her mind at the sight of all of the emergency vehicles; Tom had called her ahead of time to warn her of what she was about to encounter and to assure her that everyone was fine.
There were other adventures ahead: an exciting ambulance ride, an excruciatingly painful after-exam due to some suspicious levels of bleeding (all resolved now), and finally, a reunion with my precious new baby at the hospital.
But we made it through. Safe, together, and instantly in love.
The original post of this AMAZING story can be found HERE.