Note: Fair warning — it’s a long story. Also. Times are estimated because I wasn’t really looking at the clock. I just know I woke up around 2:30 AM and Lia was born at 3:15 AM.
September 15th, 2004, 2:30 AM- I woke up with really bad cramps. I thought they were just diarrhea cramps from the castor oil I’d taken to try and get labor started.
2:45 AM- I realize they are not diarrhea cramps. They are contractions. And they have now turned into super, incredible amazingly hard contractions. I had my first child without any medication and remembered that the contractions hurt pretty bad at 5 cm, so I think I am about 5 cm and go get in bed to do my hypnobirthing (a deep relaxation technique to help reduce the pain of labor). I told Matt (my husband) I was in labor and for him to start timing the contractions for me. I would tap his arm once when they started and once when it ended. Every time I tapped him it would wake him up and he would say “Oh it wasn’t even a minute long” and fall asleep again. (Later he told me that he was just trying to count to 60 in his head.)
Finally the contractions are so hard I can actually feel and see my belly jerking or crunching as the muscles contract. I tell Matt, “I am in so much pain. Call the hospital and tell them to have that epidural at the door. I don’t know how I can even get to the car it hurts so bad.” He says “You’re okay,” and kinda rubs my arm a little and falls asleep again. In his defense I have to say that when I was talking it was in a very calm quiet voice, because in hypnobirthing you try not to tense up at all. Not even your eyebrows. I knew that if I lost concentration I would be in way more pain. I looked and sounded very calm, almost sleepy. So he thought I was just fine.
2:50 AM- I am ticked at Matt for not listening to me. Plus I am super scared because of this intense pain and I think I still have 6 more hours of it. I ask Matt to help me get ready to go. He doesn’t move (I had false labor a couple times the week before and he just thought this was another one of those).
3:00 AM- I get so ticked off and can’t control myself any longer and I say, “Fine I don’t need any help! I’m only in labor and dying and I can do it myself!” and I rip the covers off and start moving as fast as I can for the bathroom. That got his attention! Again I told him to, “Call the hospital and tell them we’re coming,” and “I don’t know how I can get to the car in this pain.” I get to the bathroom and think I should go to the bathroom before I go to the hospital. I sit down and start another contraction and it is so intense that my legs shot straight out in front of me. I still think I have a couple more hours of this.
3:01 AM- I hear Matt talking on the phone saying our address and how old I am. I’m wondering, “Why he is even telling the hospital those things?” (Later I find out he was talking to a 911 operator, not someone at the hospital) “All he needs to do is to tell them to tell the doctor we are coming in.” But before I can yell at him to just get to the point, my body is overcome with this super intense pressure and I can’t talk or breathe. I grabbed the side of the sink terrified. My body had never done that with Abe (my first baby). I didn’t know what was going on. But then I felt “the burn.” Most of the ladies should know what I’m talking about here. I realized that I did not have any hours left. The baby was coming now!
3:05 AM- I tried to tell Matt but I couldn’t get my breath. He is still talking on the phone. I finally get a little voice back and tell Matt, “She’s coming. She’s coming out.” The phone is not cordless so I hear him trying to make it over to me and telling the operator, “She says the baby is coming, but I don’t think she is.” Then he turns on the bathroom light and sees Lia’s head starting to come through. He tells the operator that she is indeed coming and the operator says, “stay on the phone.”
He can’t reach me and stay on the phone at the same time. He chucks the phone and gets to me just as Lia’s full head comes out. At this point I remember everything calming down a bit. I wasn’t in pain anymore. So we were just sitting there trying to gather our thoughts. I asked Matt if the cord was around her neck. He said no, but then he checked a little harder and found that it was wrapped around her neck. Later he told me that due to all the pressure the cord was so, so hard to get off from around her neck that he was just pulling on that thing! He got the cord off her neck.
3:15 AM- Lia is born! And she is breathing! Hurray!
3:16 AM- I am sitting on the toilet looking at this beautiful baby in my arms, wondering what just happened. Matt gets back on the phone and tells the operator the baby is okay. We wrap her in a towel and try to figure out what the heck is going on. And just oohing and aahing over her. She was so sweet. We found out later that she was 8 lbs 10 oz. So beautiful!
3:19 AM- I am buck naked so Matt tries to put some grey sweat pants on me but the placenta hasn’t come through yet so we decide no pants.
3:20 AM- The paramedics arrive. There are ambulance dudes and fireman there. Three of them cram into our tiny little apartment bathroom and stare at me. Naked and holding a baby on the toilet. They ask me if I’m bleeding. Duh. They just stare. I am still holding Lia and I am shaking. I feel like I should say something to them so I tell them, “I was just sitting here and I had a baby. Will you please take her? I’m afraid I might drop her from all this shaking.” So they let Matt cut the cord and take her away.
Matt called the only friends we had, The Sanchez family, to see if Sarilu could come over and pick up Abe so we could go to the hospital. Sarilu had been an ER nurse for a long time so when she saw the baby was still not dried off and wrapped up warm she told them, “Get that baby wrapped in a space blanket,” and then she had to leave. They didn’t wrap her in a space blanket. I remember one of them saying “She looks kinda blue,” and the next one answering, “Don’t worry she’ll pink up at the hospital when they dry her off and rub her a bit.” I wish I could have been thinking clearly, because I would have just taken the baby from them and done it myself.
(No more time line because I have no concept of time or much else at this point).
I still have not delivered the placenta but one dude says “Well, let’s get you to the hospital.” I’m still buck naked and I am trying to stand up. Finally one of them notices I need a little help and grabs my arm to help me up. Then he waits for me to sta
rt walking out the bathroom door. (Sorry this gets a little gross). Problem. My umbilical cord is just dangling there dripping blood on the tile and I don’t want to get blood on my carpet. So I tell the paramedics this. One of them glances around and then pulls one of my towels off the rack and says “Straddle this”. I do. “Let’s go,” he says again.
Problem. I’m still naked. There are all kinds of lights flashing outside. “I don’t want my neighbors to see me naked.” One of them leaves to go find me something to wear. He returns with this dark green, really short, satin robe that I have not even seen for a long time. I put it on just happy not to be naked. And then out the door we go. No help. Just me waddling out into the cold, September Colorado night with no shoes or socks, a nighty, and a towel between my legs trying to make it down the flight of stairs to the ambulance.
If I had been able to think clearly I would have done things a lot differently. I think my husband and I were in a bit of shock and we were just doing what the guys in uniform told us to do. I had to stop 2 times on the stairs to have 2 more contractions. I was just shaking and gripping the rail. Matt was busy with the baby or else he would have been taking really good care of me. These paramedics had no idea what they were doing.
When I get to the bottom of the stairs I start to cross the sidewalk to get in the ambulance which is 10 feet away. However, the paramedics then decide it is too dangerous for me to walk that 10 feet, put me on a stretcher and then put me in the ambulance to go one block away. Ladies, you know how after you have a baby the nurse rubs your belly. Well these paramedics do that to me and they each take a turn learning how to do it. I kept telling them that it really hurt and that I needed a break. They just told me to take another breath. I wanted to hit them. I arrived at the hospital in my sexy little green robe and immediately the nurses ask why the baby is not in a space blanket and whisk her away.
I was taken to a super small room past the broom closet and was left alone there for a long time. I was covered in blood and really, really, really thirsty. Finally someone came in, and I asked for water, but couldn’t have any because they were putting me on pitocin to try and get me to deliver the placenta. My doctor came in with crazy hair and I thought I woke him up so I say, “Sorry I woke you up,” and he says in a dazed voice, “You didn’t. This is like the 15th baby I delivered tonight.” After his work is done, placenta and all, he leaves. The nurse says she’ll get me some water but then leaves.
I was alone, and had patches of blood on me for a long time. Wondering how my baby is doing and what the heck just happened. Matt was with Lia and she was having a hard time. She was only around 95 degrees when she got to the hospital and was low on oxygen. She had to go to the NICU and Matt stayed with her until she was settled. I am so grateful that he would stay with her when I couldn’t.
In hindsight we wish we had never called the paramedics. Matt could have done a better job, and drove us one block for free. But happily (so happily!) at the end of the story we had a healthy baby and a healthy me. Plus a really great story to tell. : )
(For those who are curious, I had my next two daughters at home with a midwife attending. With Hazel, labor started when my water suddenly broke and thirty five minutes later I held her in my arms. Olive’s birth was very similar. It started with my water breaking and thirty minutes later I held her in my arms. I am so glad I was at home and not out in public!)
From Danika Gunn of LoGunns.