A Birth Story from Aya Amurjuev

December 21, 2011

My husband and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I was fatigued and nauseous and huge, but in spite of my condition I wanted to get out and do something. It was a wintry March evening and the chill kept us from venturing too far from home. The night before our anniversary, we visited a tiny Middle Eastern eatery, where we consumed the greasiest plate of shawarma and fries ever made. Afterwards, our families gathered in our one-room apartment, where we shared a double fudge chocolate torte and toasted our marriage with sparkling grape juice.

The next morning, I awoke at six am with the worst stomach pain I had ever experienced. I shook my husband awake and told him I felt ill. He said that he didn’t feel too great either, and we would never eat at that restaurant again. He dressed for work while I writhed and moaned under the covers.  Before he left, he turned on some music for me to listen to (“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim) and joked, “If you feel like having the baby today, try to hold it in till Sunday.” It was Friday morning. We are Jewish and neither of us felt like spending Shabbat in the hospital. I laughed and said that I would try. I was not worried in the least. I was certain that my discomfort had been brought on by the unwise combination of grease and chocolate I had consumed the night before. Nothing I was experiencing felt remotely labour-like, and besides, it was three weeks before my due date.

My cavalier behaviour reflected my general attitude to this pregnancy, which was something between ignorance and denial. According to our religious tradition, I did not get an ultrasound to confirm the baby’s gender, nor did we buy a single item of baby gear in advance. I did not make a birth plan or hire a doula. I did not have a hospital bag packed. I didn’t even look up the directions to get to the hospital. I was under the misguided impression that all first babies are born at or after 40 weeks gestation, and after at least 15 hours of labour. I was woefully unprepared, but I thought I still had plenty of time.

I bravely hauled myself out of bed, got dressed, and started cooking in preparation for Shabbat. After about ten minutes, I collapsed back into bed in tears and called my mother. I told her I had food poisoning and I needed her help. She came straight over, and by the time she got there, I was firmly ensconced in the bathroom, vomiting. She stroked my hair and rubbed my back and raced to clean up the bathroom while I rested. Immediately she realized there was no way that she would be able to cook anything for me, so she called my mother-in-law and told her that I was sick, and could she please bring some food over because I wouldn’t be able to make dinner. She also called 911, explained the situation, and asked them what to do. They asked if my water had broken or if I was having contractions. When my mother said no, they told her to make me drink water when I wasn’t vomiting and stay home.

Meanwhile my mother-in-law had arrived. She and my mother discussed how to transport me to the hospital. I was still utterly unaware that I was in labour. The sole conscious thought overwhelmingly dominating my brain was that I would never leave that bathroom. The abdominal pain was excruciating and the only position that afforded me some relief was sitting on the toilet. I announced that I would not get into a motor vehicle under any circumstances and I was planning to stay in the bathroom forever. My vision was blurry and my hearing was almost gone. I could sort of hear myself screaming as my mother-in-law massaged my back and my mother knelt in front of me, telling me to breathe in and breathe out.

The breathing helped a lot. The pain lessened slightly and I focused the sum total of my consciousness on my mother. “What are you saying?” I shrieked. “I can’t hear you!” I could barely hear her as she coached me through my breathing while calling 911 again. The dispatcher told her to get me onto a bed. I refused to leave the bathroom. My mother-in-law ran out to meet the paramedics and somehow my mother wrestled me onto the bed.  I heard my mother yell, “I can see the head!” Over the speaker-phone, the dispatcher told my mother to push the baby back in. My mother panicked and threw the phone to the floor. I could hear the dispatcher shouting for my mother to pick up the phone as my mother was telling me to push. I screamed louder and longer than I have ever screamed in my life, a theatrical echoing scream like the heroine of a horror movie. I felt a liquid gush and as I geared up to scream again my mother told me it was a girl.

I started laughing. At that moment the firefighters burst into the room. They cut the cord and covered my trembling legs with blankets and did a lot of other medical stuff that I didn’t look at. The paramedics came soon after that and everyone bustled around trying to look busy and heroic but there wasn’t much to do since my mother had caught the baby all by herself. I’m told that I was handed my daughter immediately for skin-to-skin contact and I nursed her, but I have no recollection of that whatsoever. The paramedics marked down the time of her birth as 2:30 pm.

My husband stumbled into the bedroom in a daze. He rushed to my side and kept asking me if I was okay. I was laughing with tears running down my cheeks, shouting, “I did it! I had the baby!” He nodded solemnly. The firefighters asked him if he was ready to hold his daughter. He sank into an armchair and gently gathered our baby girl into his arms.  Later we would joke that she enjoyed the previous evening’s double fudge chocolate torte so much,  she couldn’t wait to be born and get some more. My darling Dora, the sweetest 6 pound 7 ounce anniversary present ever.

Story from Aya Amurjuev. Print found here.

P.S. — Here’s a story of a baby arriving during a camping trip.

Note from Design Mom: throughout my 6th pregnancy, I posted reader-submitted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family. My baby is hardly a baby anymore — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at gabrielle@designmom.com.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yen December 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

I don’t know why but this story made me simultaneously laugh and cry at the same time! I love this image of Aya in the bathroom convinced it was food poisoning and the two moms rushing around trying to help. Great story.


2 the emily December 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

I have read every word of every birth story you’ve posted–I love them!–but this is the first one to make me cry. I don’t even know why, but this is the sweetest birth story to me. Congratulations to Aya and her husband!


3 hyzen December 21, 2011 at 8:50 am

I agree, I love every one of these (and a lot of them make me cry!), but there’s something wonderful and special here about having the two mothers on hand (all by themselves!) to take such good care of this amazing, strong new mother! Congratulations to Aya and her family!


4 Peggy December 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

wow… what an arrival with all the important people already there to welcome her! fascinating somehow `;)


5 Barchbo December 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

I love this story! So sweet and unexpected – but exciting! Yay!

PS: I thought I was the only person to burst into laughter right after delivery. Thanks, Aya, for making me feel less alone!


6 Lizzi December 21, 2011 at 9:23 am

I love these stories, and this one is easily my favorite so far!


7 Christina @ Sweet and Lovely Life December 21, 2011 at 9:44 am

Wow, wow. This story is beautiful….and so special. I love the photo at the top of the post — it’s a good mantra to keep in mind for all things (unexpected pregnancies included!)


8 Heather in NYC December 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

Glad I’m not the only one laughing and crying! What a great story!


9 Jenn S December 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

the link to the camping trip story doesn’t appear to work


10 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

Sorry for the bad link! It should work now.


11 Ayme December 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

That was a great story!! What a great sense of humor~


12 Miss Stovetop December 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

Loved it! So brave of you, Aya! I came on my parent’s 12th’s wedding anniversary, but in the usual, boring way ;)


13 Ivonne December 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Lovely story!


14 Amanda December 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Oh my word, humans (especially women) are incredible creatures.


15 Carina December 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Such a beautiful story. I made it as far as our local french post office before I was taken by surprise, and very unprepared.


16 Katie December 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm

That is fascinating! And, as I got very, very sick to my stomach during labor, I can definitely understand believing it’s food poisoning if you’re not thinking baby is on her way!


17 Amanda Nicol December 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

This birth story is by far my favorite. Congratulations Aya!


18 Gail December 22, 2011 at 4:06 am

You are so lucky to have both your mothers so close! I love reading this, it made me laugh and cry, and it has been nearly 28 years now since I labored!


19 Bri December 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

I realize this post sounds strident, but the link to the camping story truly horrified me. This baby was not “born on a camping trip”, the conditions this child were born into were no less than 3rd world- dirty, and cut off from help or skilled birth attendants. We know that delivering in a third world country (Afghanistan, Sierra Leone) carries a high risk of maternal death about 2 out of every 100 births (UNICEF, 2000), with perinatal mortality rates known to be even higher. Publishing this link is actively encouraging a culture in which the mother’s birth experience is placed far higher then the child’s survival, shame on this family and on you for glorifying their neglect. They were lucky, not smart or blessed by god.


20 Amanda March 10, 2012 at 8:51 pm

This is one of the few times I’ve laughed and cried at the same time. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.


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