Laborious and Eager

This post was originally posted over at Flowers Round the Cross, where my co-blogger, Ute, and I really entered the blog world. I’ve been meaning to re-post it here for memory’s sake and it makes sense to post it just as my little girl gets ready to celebrate her first birthday! If birth stories aren’t your thing, please feel free to skiparoo.


It was a dark and stormy night.  Really and truly.  A dark and stormy Sunday night.
This story really begins in the wee smas of Saturday morning, 9 February 2013.  Jerked awake in the throes of a contraction around 2am, I spent the rest of the night breathing through rushes.  And worrying.  My mom had already arrived a few weeks earlier to help with all-things-baby.  My sister, however, was supposed to arrive that day.  And in my ideal perfect world, both my husband and my mom were going to be with me for labor and deliver, while my sister would be perfectly present and equipped to take care of the boys at any time of day or night.  The problem was not so much that she wasn’t there yet but, rather, that my husband was supposed to drive three hours TO the airport to pick her up.  And three hours FROM the airport to get her to her house.  My contractions were only regularish.  But they were intense.  Every twenty minutes or so they told me, “SIT DOWN! SHUT UP!”
When the rest of the house stirred, I made the executive decision that my husband should NOT drive so far (oh-and-have-I-mentioned that we only have one car, so this six hour absence not only had my husband far away but also me depending on the mercy of friends to babysit AND drive me to the hospital should “go time” happen).
We sorted out that problem…and then things started to get a little less frequent.  Still intense.  Just less frequent.  And I though, “oh dear…”
{My first photos of my baby — sent from a stranger’s phone!}


So I left for Mass. My class of Confirmation students were getting their dose of Holy Spirit that day, and I had been praying that I’d get to witness this Sacrament.  I had called ahead earlier to say that I might not make it over that day, so news of impending labor was already circulating.  There seems to be nothing like a bit of attention (even from people who love you) to make a uterus develop stage fright.

By the time I got back home, I was feeling like Chicken Little.  Doubt crept in.  My instincts told me that this was real.  But Dr. Google told me that this could go on for days.  Even a week.

With the births of both of my boys, I ended up utilizing the services of anesthesiologists.  I gave birth to my first born at this very same duty station.  It was a traumatic experience that left a bitter taste in my mouth for the hospital in Alabama.  When I gave birth to my second son, in Oregon, care was more personal and less medicine-centric (read: less“there’s-a-pill-for-that” oriented). For both, though, there was a sense of something lacking, aside from my husband, who, yes, did miss the births of both boys. (Yes.  I realize that this is likely the missing piece from both stories.)  To fill this “lacking”, I did a lot of reading during this pregnancy.  When I say I did a lot of reading, what I really mean is that I read three books. Over and over and over again.
Over and over and over again.
My sister rented a car and drove herself from the airport.  I felt guilty that I hadn’t just let my husband go get her.  “THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!!!….Oh…wait…nooooo…false alarm…”  I was full of doubt, mistrusting my instincts.  On Saturday night, the contractions were just the same as they had been that morning.  I knew I wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night.  Everyone else went to bed.  I laid awake listening to my hypnobirthing CD and breathing through what I was now trying to think of as “rushes” instead of “contractions”.
On Sunday morning, I felt renewed and refreshed.  With a boost of confidence in my body.  And I felt amazed that, sleep addict that I am, I could feel so optimistic and rested after two nights of no sleep. Score one for hypnobirthing.
Contractions.  All day long. Fifteen to twenty minutes apart. No more.  No less.  By mid-afternoon, I wasn’t feeling my sweet girl move as well so I called the on-call doc to ask whether I might get her checked out on the monitor.  I’m sure I sounded like a first-time mum.  But having sit-down-shut-up contractions every twenty minutes for 40 hours will do wacky things to your brain.
So Sunday afternoon found my husband and I driving down the road to the hospital.  We were driving leisurely.  From where we lived it was 45 minutes to get to the hospital.  To get there we had to drive PAST the hospital that my oldest son was born in. The one I adamantly was not going to. In my mental birth plan, I was opposed to an induction and Flowers Hospital.  I was aiming for no epidural.  I knew I was going to have to have antibiotics for GBS, and after a lot of internal reconciliation, I was semi-ok with that.  Everything else was negotiable.
45 minutes.
{Our first minutes together in L&D — 2 hours AFTER getting borned.}
Every time I drove the drive to my OB appointments, I wondered just how I would cope with the length of the drive while I was having contractions.  I asked my doctor just how many of his patients from our post delivered on the side of the road.  “Just one,” he responded.
We got to the hospital. I got hooked up to the monitor, only to be told (sweet relief) that my sweet girl was a “text book baby” and doing just fine.  Then I “got checked”.
1 cm.
(Note:  In my mental birth plan, I had decided that, when in active labor, I did not want to know the result of “checks”.  Too depressing.  And, from previous experience, I dialate slowly.  Since I wasn’t thinking I was in active labor, I forgot to ask the nurse not to tell me.)
1 cm.
40 hours of irregular contractions.  2 nights of no sleep.  1 cm.
No different than when I had been checked a week and a half earlier.  Prior to the check, I was thinking I’d be a “3”.  Frankly, I would have been totally happy with a “3”.
{What I felt like doing after finding out how little I was dilated.}
If Sunday morning found me in good spirits, Sunday afternoon found me in the depths of despair.  “For your sake, we hope you are in pre-labor,” the nurse said to me.  We drove home.
45 minutes. It started to rain.  “Feels like a storm,” I thought, somewhere deep inside.
I laid down on the couch, listening to my hypnobirthing CD, and tried to reclaim my calm.  We ate dinner around 7pm.
A storm rolled in.  We had a tornado warning.  I HATE tornado warnings.  Huddled in the closet with my boys and my mom and my sister (three women from Oregon may or may not get fairly nervous about tornado warnings) we prayed the Rosary, and I worked through contractions in the worst possible position (cramped, legs falling asleep, with a heavy 3-year-old trying to sleep on my lap).  By 8:30pm we had the all-clear, though the thunder-and-lightening storm was intense!  Around 9pm or so I texted a friend to wallow in despair and to get a pep talk (thanks, Steph!).  At 9:29pm I emailed another friend to wallow a little more.  At 10pm, my mom and sister headed to bed while my husband and I started a movie. If sleep is for the birds, might as well watch a movie. Up to that point, I had been handling contractions on my own.  As we started watching the movie, I asked my husband to help with some counter pressure.
Then we realized we should time these things.  About 8 minutes apart.  I think it was my husband who said, “I think we should go.”
{“I think we should go.”}
Then I realized that I needed to use the bathroom. (Hindsight: clue?) I dropped to my knees, had a contraction, and then walked down the hall.  Then I had another contraction. Then I went to the bathroom. Then I had another contraction. Then I walked back down the hall. Then I had a contraction.  Our hallway wasn’t very long.
Somewhere in that progression of going back and forth down the hall we woke my mom up to tell her we had to go and my sister to tell her it was time to “keep sleeping but you are in charge”.  I wiggled into my shoes, a passing thought wondering if I could wear my comfy Vibrams (except mine are green) in the hospital during labor… “…they would be comfy, like being barefoot, but without touching gross hospital floor, but staying on, without falling off like flip flops…

{Birthing shoes?}
I had my hypnobirthing CD on and my husband, mom, and I were in the car and driving by 10:25pm.  My mom called the hospital to let them know we were coming.  The nurse on the phone asked if I was feeling pressure.  I told my mom, “A little, but not ‘have a baby on the side of the road’ kind of pressure.”
The rain torrented.
The lightening flashed across the sky.
The thunder boomed.  Behind that fierce storm was a moon that was transitioning between waning and waxing.
We were on our way to the hospital, my husband driving 85mph.
Remember that 45 minute drive?
Days later, on our way home, I asked my husband to show me where it was that I said I needed to push. It was about halfway to the hospital. Not halfway to the hospital we were SUPPOSED to go to.  Halfway to the hospital I swore I WOULD NOT SET FOOT IN!
Ha. Ha.
Halfway to the hospital, I felt what I can only, in retrospect, describe as pressure.  Push pressure.  Somehow I verbalized that.  My mom got back on the phone with the nurse.  Who instructed me NOT to push.  Somewhere, deep in my mind, I laughed at those instructions.  Pushing, or not pushing, was not the issue.  This child was coming out, whether I pushed or not. All my practice of “mindful pooping” and NOT pushing was paying off.
{Having a baby in a car can cause gray hair…}
Water gushed.
At some point in time and place (because who can really tell when you are moving at high speeds while lying in the dark back seat of a car) I reached down and felt…
…head? cord? sac? paralyzed with fear, at that point, because I did not know.  Could not see.  Fear of the unknown and unseen made me cry out.  Not pain.  Unknown, uncontrollable, unseen.  The trifecta of things that cause me fear in life.
Someone…husband? mother?…said, “Seven minutes!  We are about seven minutes away! Don’t push!”
My pants, my favorite pair of stretchy black pants (the ones my husband hates), were still on.  My deranged logic said, “Keep the pants on. They will keep the baby in.”
“Don’t push!”
So I pushed with my feet.
Against the door.
Willing my pelvic muscles strength to hold back. 
Like I said, it wasn’t about pushing or not pushing.
As I pushed with my feet, my toes (still in my five-fingered-shoes) pushed the button and rolled the window down.
Rain and wind flew through the car.
Chaos and cool relief.
We slowed.  Flowers Hospital.  THAT hospital. (Somewhere on Hwy. 84 my birthplan lies in shreds.  I don’t need it back.)  We turned.  We curved and bumped (around the whole
hospital and over a sidewalk, I was later told – it was raining so hard that my
husband couldn’t find the ER entrance). We stopped.  As I lay in the back,
I felt and heard both my mom and husband get out of the car and run (presumably
toward the ER) shouting, “SHE’S HAVING THE BABY!!!

Somewhere, deep inside my head, I laughed and wondered why they were leaving me in the car? And, wasn’t the other hospital supposed to tell them we were coming?  And why were they leaving me in the car by myself? And where was everyone?!
Then the door flew open. A face – a blessed face – who cares who he was and why he was wearing Mardi Gras beads – he was attached to scrubs. Then another face.  And another, this one attached to a white coat.  They were confused faces; I – we – were the unexpected on this dark and stormy night.  Even ER workers need time to orient.
We had to pull the car around.  Someone drove the car to the correct spot.  My husband?  A nurse? I can’t remember.
I can tell you that fear was ebbing away.  In the absence of fear’s pain, I felt no physical pain.
“Scissors!” someone called, “we have to get her pants off.”
Somewhere deep inside – in that space of weird logic – I reacted: “You will NOT cut my favorite stretchy pants!”  Some way, some how, I wiggled out of those pants.  Someone held an umbrella over that wonderful ER doctor.
They saw head.  How much head I have no idea.  But I know that seconds later…minutes…hours…days…I think that moment is the closest that I will ever get to  understanding eternity this side of heaven…seconds later I heard a cry.  Mad cries.
Happy cries.  The sweetest cries I have ever heard.

The child born with no pushes.
I asked – or they knew, intuited, heard the words that
didn’t get spoken from the place deep inside me – and they placed Amélie Maria Margarete on my chest.  The ER doctor was exactly the man who was supposed to catch my child. I have so much gratitude for his actions and his words: “That is the best place for her.”
There, in the back seat of our car, my little girl who was mad and hungry, latched on.  Rain poured down on the both of us: the most refreshing shower I’ve ever had.
My husband’s sweatshirt got laid over the both of us.  Keep her warm.
Towels?  Clamp?  Scissors? Gloves? All these things were lacking in the first few moments after her birth.  Then there were towels,  in abundance, to make up for their initial
lacking. Cord was cut, and I knew she would be wisked away to the nursery.  A dark parking lot on a dark and stormy night is no place for a newborn, they say.  My
husband went with her; they left, those two, my sweet, sweet girl and my hero husband, driver extraordinaire.
The security cameras tell that she was born at 10:45pm on Sunday, 10 February 2013.  Her birth certificate says 10:30pm because we had no clock in the car once the keys were out of the ignition.
{Baptism Day –  six days old}

My daughter’s name is Amélie.  Her name means “industrious, striving, work, rival, laborious, eager”.  Her name, decided before my husband and I were married, tells her story more succinctly than her verbose mother.  After 45 hours of industrious, laborious work (work which hadn’t been evident only 5 hours before), she was fiercely eager to enter the world.

My daughter was born in the backseat of the car on a dark and stormy night.  She was born on the feast of St. Scholastica, twin of St. Benedict.  St.  Scholastica is said to have prayed for a storm in order to be able to spend more time with her brother – and moments later a fierce storm broke out, a storm so intense that St. Benedict couldn’t
return to his monastery and the twins got a few more precious hours together.
My daughter’s birth amazes me.  I am amazed at how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. How amazingly made are mothers. How amazingly made are babies.  I am grateful for God’s work in my life and how he shows his love and providence for us in things both great and small.  I am grateful for the way we learn how to trust.  That when we let go and let God, miracles abound.  I am grateful for the small life that breathes on my chest right now and for the lives that bustle around me in this house we call home.  I am grateful for our small soul in heaven, surely interceding for us as we sped along that wet, stormy road…with no seat belt…  I am grateful for the Love that permeates our lives, making sense of all the chaos that surrounds us.



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