“Make sure you keep the car filled up with gas,” my husband warned me. I could go into labor with my daughter any day now, and the drive to Presbyterian Hospital was roughly twenty miles from our house in the East Mountains.
“Of course,” I reassured him, having every intention of honoring his request.
The baby’s due date came and went. Two days before, at the doctor’s office, I had been dilated to one centimeter. I suspected my midwife of giving me that “one centimeter” pronouncement out of pity. During my eighth month of pregnancy I’d had constant contractions, but as soon as September had rolled around all the contractions stopped.
I knew that second deliveries could be very different from the first one, but I didn’t think it would be that different.
I’d started going into labor a week before my first daughter’s due date. However, she must have changed her mind once we got to the hospital. After twenty-seven hours of back labor and three hours of pushing, Haven Grace was born. She may have been a week early, but she took her sweet time making an entrance into the world. This time I wasn’t going to rush to the hospital only to labor in a hospital room when I could just as easily labor at home.
Thus, the night before Vivienne’s birth, I’d slept on the couch because of contractions. There was no use in my husband and I both losing sleep. I heard him rustling around in the kitchen the next morning, but I was too tired to mention that I might be in labor. Besides, if I was, based on my last experience, he probably had time to go to work, play a round of golf, and then leisurely make his way home.
He left for work. I took Haven on a walk. We live on a hill, so our walk included a few inclines and declines. Haven wanted to be carried. One of our neighbors wanted to chat. Growing increasingly uncomfortable, I slowly made my way back home.
Still in a bit of denial about being in labor I called my husband and asked him to come home. It felt a little like admitting defeat. Except I’d begun to feel a bit frantic, walking to the couch for relief from the contractions, then back to the bedroom, pacing like a wild animal.
Our amazing neighbor, Monika, stopped by at the very moment that I was wondering what I was going to do with Haven. She very sweetly took our daughter over to her house.
When Chris came home I couldn’t even talk between contractions. I remember looking out the window at him as he loaded the car, heard him swear when he saw the gas gauge on empty, wanting to call out, “You should wear comfortable shoes!” He might be on his feet for hours in dress shoes. But I couldn’t get the words out.
I had to stop twice from our front door to the car.
“How far apart are they?” Chris asked about my contractions. I had no idea. I’d been too busy just trying to get through them, I couldn’t be bothered to look at a clock. Haven’s labor had been long and arduous, but at least I’d been able to rest between contractions.
Since I couldn’t speak, I squeezed his hand to let him know when another one was coming.
They went from five minutes to three minutes during the drive to Presbyterian where I hung on to the door handle like it was a life raft.
At the Hospital
In a final act of defiance, I declined the offer of the wheelchair when we safely made it to the hospital. I made it a few feet in the door and meekly asked Chris to find a wheelchair for me.
When we got to the hospital, the nurse asked me over and over again how many babies I’d had, how far apart my contractions were.
“Tell her I want an epidural!!!” I begged my mom in between breaths. I didn’t want to miss that magical needle this time. With Haven I’d wanted to give birth naturally. About twenty-seven hours in, though, when I was ready for any kind of relief, I was informed it was too late.
My mom told the nurse, but she didn’t seem to understand the urgency. When she finally checked me, she could feel the baby’s head. She whisked me out of triage almost immediately and pushed me down the hall to delivery.
As soon as I got into bed I told her again I wanted an epidural.
“Sure, we’ll just have to give you an i.v. first. If your water breaks, though, it’ll be too late.”
Wasn’t going to be a problem. My water didn’t break with Haven until she was practically crowning 30 hours later.
They put the needle in my arm to start the drip and my water broke. I wanted to cry. But, I didn’t have a chance to feel sorry for myself because I immediately felt the urge to push.
“She has to push!” my mom told the nurse. There was some sort of flurry as the two nurses in the room rushed to call a doctor, but I wasn’t waiting. I didn’t even know what was going on or who was in the room with me. Three slight pushes later and Vivienne was born. With black hair and a bruise on her face from her fast journey through the birth canal.
“I can’t believe you didn’t ask me to stay at home this morning,” Chris admonished.
“I thought I had time.”
“And the car was on fumes.”
“Hey, we made it,” I reminded him. “And I really wanted a epidural.”