A Prayer, A Car, & An Unassisted Birth on the Highway
I just love birth stories like this! Plus, it just cracks me up sometimes how hubby is the one who knows when it is time to go to the birth place when mom has lost all desire to leave home.
Enjoy this blissful, spiritual, and instinctive birth-
Six days before my due date my husband Curt and I had our "date evening". We don't usually do anything fancy, it's just nice to leave our house and toddler and spend one-on-one time together. I asked him to take belly pictures of me since I might lose my bump soon. He asked me, "Is it okay with you that I've been praying all day that the baby would come?" Sure, I thought, why not? My hips have been killing me and I'm tired of hobbling everywhere. We went to the railroad tracks down the street and he took this.
I puttered around, changed my clothes, considered painting my nails, did a fake ballet move or two, and finally called Damaris around midnight -- I had to cover my bases just in case. My contractions were 3 minutes apart, 30 seconds long and I could talk through them, so she suggested I try and get some sleep because I probably still had a long ways to go. (I told her I'd only been having contractions for about 45 minutes, since that's what it seemed like.) So far it was a walk in the park with a little belly ache. I figured I might end up having a 24-hour labor and I psyched myself up to be in it for the long haul.
I stayed in the bathroom for a while longer but then it got a little lonely and boring so I figured I'd go wake Curt up and let him in on the action. My method of waking him up was to sit beside him and hum like a loud monk through a contraction. He woke up, assessed the situation and got ready to be a thoughtful labor coach. He did just great until.. say, 2:15. I realized, gosh, these things are really picking up. In that short span of time my method of expressing myself had gone from a hum to a holler. The contractions weren't thirty seconds long anymore. During a small break I told Curt, "You'd better call Damaris and tell her we're coming if you want to have this baby at the birth center. I don't want to travel if I'm feeling any worse than I am now." I had no idea how far I'd progressed but for some reason it already felt so intense that I couldn't even fathom the thought of traveling.
After that things get a little blurry. Curt woke my mom up and they put our nineteen-month-old son Reagan in her room to sleep a little more. He'd been sleeping valiantly through my noise but it was getting pretty impossible by that point and I'd heard him fuss a little. When Curt got my mom she wondered what I was yelling about. Then she realized I was in labor, and she thought she might come talk with me a little in the spaces between contractions like you're supposed to be able to do in early labor. But I was beyond small talk.
She and Curt both wondered if my labor was really so bad or if I was just handling it horribly. I got to the point where I couldn't keep my voice low pitched anymore, the pain was tearing me up from the inside out. To make it worse, I knew everything was gearing up for me to hop into the car and ride to the birth center. There was no way that could happen. Curt came over to tell me something and I proceeded to let him know I couldn't leave. I was beyond the ability to travel.
Standing and walking would make everything more intense; I couldn't handle the thought of leaving the bed, much less sitting/laying in a minivan for 50 minutes while we traveled to the birth center. But he insisted. I don't make a habit of staunchly refusing to do something my husband wants me to do, but I didn't see how I would be able to physically handle what he was asking of me. It's not that I wanted a home birth SO badly or that everything had to go exactly one way or the other, I just knew I had to stay in bed. The pain was intolerable otherwise.
"I can't, I can't, I can't do it!!!" If I hadn't been able to manage the pain with low-pitched sounds (like I was instructed to) before, I really couldn't now with my husband standing beside the bed telling me I had no option but to stand, walk to the car and sit in it for an hour. Shrieking ensued.
Me - "Mom, tell him I can't move! My pain isn't relenting. There's no break during contractions, the pain just stays!"
Mom - "Honey, you don't want that baby to be born here. We have to go."
Me - "No, you don't understand. I DO want this baby to be born here. I want him born right here! I can't move!"
Mom - "Ok, just relax. It's ok."
If we'd known what was really happening we might have figured out this was that fun little stage of labor called "transition" when you're going from active hard labor into the pushing stage. My contractions were incredibly intense, one after the other. I was hurting so bad I was scratching and gnawing on my arm.
It felt like the agony of every contraction was too much for my body to handle. I had to push out the pain. In the back of my head I remembered my childbirth instructor saying that during the pushing stage your contractions start to feel expulsive, but surely I wasn't far along enough to start pushing. I had only been in labor for 3 hours! There was no nurse or midwife around to check me and tell me I was open enough for a baby to come through. It didn't matter, though. I had to push, open or not.
I kept myself sane by praying out loud the whole time.
"Lord please help me, Lord please help me." Repeat about 15 times. "Lord, please don't let them make me go. I can't go." And just in case there was a chance I would have to do the impossible, I prayed that I'd have the strength to go if I must. I told myself I could do this, no matter how hard it seemed. How would I do it? How would I deal with unknown hours of agony? I didn't know, but I would. God could help me.
They were working around me trying to get things ready for the trip, but I couldn't imagine the thought of having to leave. The really hard thing was not knowing how long the pain would last. For all I knew I was still in early labor, and it just. really. hurt.
Curt was trying to put the carseat in for the new baby (wasn't going too well, I heard him let out a frustrated yell) and Mom was staring at my closet in bewilderment wondering what in the world to pack for me. If they approached me to say something I still insisted I had to stay. But they finally pulled everything together, put Reagan in the carseat, lined the passenger seat with plastic for me, and came to fetch me. Curt said we had to go to Damaris or the hospital. Life was looking pretty bleak. Either of those choices involved leaving the bed, and no immediate end in sight to the awful pain.
You can chalk it up to my prayer for strength, my super awesome wifely obedience, my lack of desire to be manhandled, or the fact that I had passed through transition into the pushing stage where contractions space out a little... but when everything was ready and they came and stood by the bed and said, "We have to go." I had a moment of inward peace long enough to get up and walk out to the van.
When I realized I had to sit in the passenger seat I panicked again, probably yelled or shrieked some more, and said I couldn't do it. They reclined it and I laid down on my side to contract some more. There was a bottle of water between the front seats and I grabbed it and drank some; my throat was really dry and thirsty from yelling. I looked back and saw Reagan sitting in his carseat and realized we still had to drop him off at our friend's house before we could go to the birth center. Oh great. This was unbelievable. I shut my eyes and tried to close out the world. Someone handed me a pillow and it helped to clutch it to my face when I had to scream.
We dropped Reagan off and had been in the car for over half an hour, speeding along the empty highway. I don't know when it happened, but I started feeling as if my baby was actually descending into the birth canal. I reached up and felt - could it be? I felt something hard, but it wasn't perfectly round like I expected. It had a ridge. Was that the baby's head? Well, it sure wasn't a pterodactyl. I didn't tell Curt or my mom what I had felt, I just kept pushing.
The baby was definitely coming, I could feel my insides stretching around him. I got off my side and prepared for the struggle. He was coming fast and furious, and I was scared that if I pushed as often and as hard as I had to I might not stay in tact. I had to follow my instincts about what my body could and couldn't handle. I had been praying constantly. "God please take the pain away." and "Please make me stretch." Mom told me to relax my jaw, and I did. She and Curt both reminded me to breathe and suggested I take deep breaths. I thought to myself, "I'm breathing just fine, thank you." but I did what they said anyway.
Then the miraculous happened... my body did stretch, just like it was made to. It wasn't too much or too hard, just enough to make way for a wonderful little head to come out and make me the happiest, most RELIEVED person ever. We were still on the highway somewhere in downtown Dallas. How did this happen? Was it over already?!?! could finally breathe again. The words, "His head is out." are well etched into Curt's memory. He looked over to see in the semi-darkness that his second son was indeed making his entrance into the world. So, I wasn't being melodramatic after all! I was just, you know, having a baby!
Oh, miracle of miracles. One more push and the rest of his beautiful body slithered into my hands. It was about 3:37am. My mom was sitting behind me and she was on the phone with my nurse sister who told her to check and see if the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. It was, loosely, and she moved it. I put him to my chest and he made a little sound. "Feed him!" came the directive from my mother. (She's taken it upon herself to keep everyone warm and fed since she came to stay with us, and the new baby was no exception - hah.) There was talk of pulling over, but there was nowhere to do it and we had to get to the birth center still.
I didn't care about pulling over, all I cared about was the small, wet body safely on my chest. I had done it, I had accomplished the impossible. I survived and he survived and everything was wonderful. No one had to cut me to get my baby out, and I felt like Eve when she said, "With God's help I have borne a son."
He wasn't crying so I rubbed him down a little bit until he made noise and showed us that he was fine. Curt called Damaris and let her know what had happened, and a short while later we were at the birth center where we got to deliver the placenta. I didn't miss my midwife at all during the labor and birth, but I was glad to have her afterwards.
She examined me, gave me juice and fruit, made me an herbal bath, and helped keep me from passing out. She also provided the scissors for cutting the cord, which prevented me from having to chew it off - haha. I was sore, faint, and tired... but so happy. I couldn't have been more satisfied. I had gotten through the worst and longest physical pain I had ever felt and now I had my baby to hold and admire. Everything was perfect. We stayed at the birth center for a few hours until I felt less faint and then drove home with our tiny new family member.
I'm sooo thankful that God answered all our prayers and gave me the best natural birth ever! Some people thought I might be sad it happened the way it did, but I really don't have any regrets. Childbirth is, let's just face it, a little awkward no matter where you decide to undertake it. I will gladly take a dimly lit car in the wee hours of the morning with my husband and mother in attendance over a hospital bed under fluorescent lights with nurses and doctors I barely know running a show that can be run just as well without them. My husband's foresight in lining the passenger's seat with plastic was just the cherry on the perfect birth cake. :)