Day 8 ~ Fast and Furious: A Repeat Precipitous Birth
I am pregnant with my second child, a son, at the ripe age of 25. After the unexpectedly quick birth of my daughter, I know there was a very real possibility that my next birth could be a repeat precipitous labor. As my due date approaches, I watch and wait for any nuanced indication that labor might begin so that I might not be caught in a compromising birth situation, as I imagine I will be in dream after dream for months in advance. This time, I opted for midwife care, and when I share with the midwives my quick-labor history, they casually dismiss me. Birth pro’s: listen to your mamas.
We live in Los Angeles, far away from family, so my mama flies down to help with our not-quite-two year old. I spend many hours with her when she arrives, anxiously walking around my apartment complex, trying to put myself into labor. There is a random, unimpressive contraction here or there, but nothing to indicate any real action on the horizon.
I go to bed around 10pm, disappointed that nothing is happening, but wake with significant contractions around 2am. I time a couple of them, and they seem to be seven minutes apart. I call labor & delivery, reminding them of my history, they tell me that seven minutes apart is still a little too early to come in.
“Wait it out,” they say. “When your contractions get to five minutes apart, just come in. You don’t have to call us again.”
My mom wakes and sits with me on the couch while I breathe through hard contractions. My husband is fast asleep in the other room (I told him to sleep as much as possible in advance), and the toddler is also in her bed, surrounded by stuffed animals.
Mama times my contractions and we keep track of how many minutes are between them.
“You have got to get out of here!” she exclaims, both of us knowing that the time has arrived.
I rouse my delirious husband, and we stumble down three flights of stairs, stopping on the bottom floor because I’m breathing very hard through a contraction.
It is so intense, I can’t move during it, not even a little bit. Husband urges me on.
“Wait,” I say. “I. (pause) Can’t. (pause) Move. (double pause.) Yet.”
I wince and breathe and will my legs to move forward through the courtyard to where our car is parked. I have to stop two more times before we reach it.
I climb in and sit on the towel-covered seat (I strategically layered up a few several weeks ago just in case we had another spontaneous rupture), and my husband screams out of the parking area in our little sedan, brazenly hitting every pothole up Westwood Blvd on our way to the hospital. I want to yell at him for the dips and jarring bounces, but I can’t talk because I’m hunched over in the passenger seat, eyes tightly shut, white knuckles on the door handle with my contractions intensifying.
It’s after 3am and there is no one on the road, thankfully.
We zoom up to the old UCLA hospital building (our third child, story forthcoming, was born in the new one), which has no easy after-hours entrance for laboring women unless you enter through the emergency room, which is (of course) on the opposite side of the building as labor & delivery. We opt to park in the garage a little closer to the not-so-easy after-hours entrance, which requires that I walk through the garage, into an elevator, up a few stairs, across a courtyard, and through the hospital doors in order to reach a security checkpoint. We stop literally every 30 seconds because I cannot walk through the furious contractions. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, pause….
At the security checkpoint, I think I might push the baby out at the security guard’s feet. He won’t let us through until he receives confirmation that L&D is expecting me. A call is made.
“You can go through,” he says.
I shuffle forward as best as I can, stopping every 20 feet because of another unbearable contraction. A man asks if we want a wheelchair.
Darling husband says, “Do we want a wheelchair?”
I answer with a heavy breath, hand up on a brick wall to stabilize myself with my head down with intense focus on the pain I’m in.
“We want a wheelchair,” he says for me.
The man disappears to find one, but I say, “We can’t wait for him,” and we keep inching our way toward the elevator.
My husband is quite aware that this is about to become a dire situation. We are within 2 feet of the elevator and I stop, unable to move. He pleads with me to just step on it, but no. You must wait, kind sir. No can do.
I’m in the elevator. “What floor?” he asks. Bless him.
“Four,” I blurt out, fully pulling a random number out of thin air. He mashes button number four.
We go up and the doors open to two employees behind a desk with very wide eyes. It is a dark and quiet floor, most definitely not where babies are born. One employee whips a wheelchair around and sits me in it to navigate us to our desired location within a few minutes.
The next thing I know, we are in a tiny, fluorescent-bright triage room. A bubble-gum nurse hands me a gown with a huge, perfect smile and asks me to put it on in a sweet voice. I can’t do it, not by myself. I am resisting the urge to punch her for her perfect sweetness. They help me with the gown.
“Please lay down on the exam table, mam.”
I can’t do it. I can’t stand. I can’t sit. I can’t lay. They move my body for me. She checks and exclaims, “Oh my! She’s complete!”
At that second, I grunt and involuntarily bear down with a guttural moan that scares me. The bed starts moving out the triage door and down the hall to a delivery room. Twenty people appear from nowhere.
“Don’t push yet,” she instructs, and I’m trying but I can’t help it.
I wave off forms that have been shoved in my face. The on-call midwife is bolting through the door with no gloves on yet. There is only one person ready to catch a baby, and it is an observing resident who springs forward to catch him as I wail, scream, heave, and expel my son in two pushes.
That’s it. He’s out. Except I am hysterical, sobbing, shaking, moaning, and babbling myself through the trauma of it. I don’t remember the choice words my husband swears I used at that point. It is 4:05am.
I can’t calm down for a long time. Because I am shaking, they cover my upper body with blankets even though I’m still delivering the placenta down below.
I cry and cry uncontrollably. I can’t stop. My wrapped up son is in my husband’s arms. Fifteen minutes after the delivery, he offers the baby to me, but I’m still hyperventilating, and I tell him I can’t, I’m not ready yet. It takes me a full half hour before I can hold him.
I write this with tears in my eyes nine years later, that is how profoundly the birth scarred me; my first unmedicated, precipitous birth.
A dear friend of mine who had a similar type of birth a few years after mine said to me of her experience, “What happened to me was not ok.” I nodded, knowing well the terror and fury of the experience.
If you ever hear a woman tell of her unmedicated, precipitous labor, please, whatever you do, do not exclaim, “Wow! It must be nice to have such easy labors!”
There is nothing easy about it.
“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41: 13