After two hours of active labor, I almost had my second baby in our truck, and barely made it to the hospital bed. Experiencing natural birth was life-changing for me. Here’s the story.
PS. It’s a bit longer than a blog post!
On the evening of January 2, 2014, my daughter said to my belly, “Baby, come out and play with me!”
This baby girl was already 6 days late, if you think due date means anything.
Hours later, I started mild contractions. Everything had slowed down by morning. I went to have a non-stress test has planned, since the baby was now a week “late”.
My placenta and the baby looked great; the contractions were labeled as uterine irritability.
I asked the nurse, “What do I do now?”
“Just keep waiting.”
My doula had told me, “Rest while you can.”
I lay down for a nap with my daughter about 1:45pm, but woke up with an intense contraction. I walked it off in silence. Thirty minutes later, I’d had four pretty solid ones and I was having trouble staying silent.
My doula, Shirley, called me as I’d been texting her about my progress. Thankfully her level-headed math determined the contractions to be 7-8 minutes apart. She advised me to go to the hospital. If my water broke, I’d have the baby.
With gritted teeth, I texted Joe and said not to panic, but we needed to go to the hospital and please come home from work. NOW. I may have added a few expletives. It was 2:15pm.
By 3:00 pm, Joe was home, changed and ready. Before walking out the door, I had to sit down through another contraction because I could not walk. My sweet child now knew that something was astir.
With the calmest face possible, I told her I was going to the doctor because the baby was going to come and play with her. I had been with this darling girl all but one night since her birth.
I knew in that moment that the precious two years I had spent with my firstborn were over, forever. And there was so much grief in this good-bye to her.
So, it was all I could do to keep it together as I climbed in the truck where the clock said 3:12pm.
From the road, I called the hospital at UCSD Hillcrest, which was 40 miles away. A minute in to my conversation with the midwife on call, I gave the phone to Joe because I could not talk through my next contraction.
“Her contractions are about 6 minutes apart. It’s her second baby,” and that was all he needed to say.
Despite the distance to UCSD, I chose to birth with their team of midwives at the Birth Center for natural birth again. I loved my experience there with my firstborn. My midwife fought to keep me from having a C-section, and I delivered vaginally. Though I did have an epidural during the last half of that birth, and it was amazing, I decided to attempt a natural birth again with Natalie.
Yeah, maybe I’m crazy, because birth is truly excruciating. But there are advantages to having a natural birth.
The bottom line for me was that one can never know how the birth will go; I wanted to do it naturally, but I knew there were many reasons why it might not happen. At UCSD, my midwife team would support me no matter how my birth unfolded, always using minimal interventions.
Which is why we now had to drive 40 miles in Friday afternoon traffic on the I-5 South!
I remember it was 3:18pm that contraction had started on the phone with the midwife. It lasted until 3:26pm.
8 minutes of a little piece of hell.
I braced myself in the passenger seat and recalled what one of the midwives told me.
“Surrender to the pain. It’s like a wave. Let yourself be taken under. Don’t fight it. It will bring you back to the surface.”
In my thoughts, I went to the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The wave was huge, it pulled me under, and I let it. It was dark and painful.
With my first daughter, I had felt like a victim of the pain. I wanted some to rescue me, to give me an excuse to quit.
Now, I knew the pain had a purpose and that only I could allow my body to work with it. I had to be the one to figure out how to face it. No one could do it for me or take it from me.
The contraction stopped and the sweet relief came. Signs for Encinitas passed by. Joe called the hospital to arrange for a wheelchair transport from the curb to the birth center.
When we saw signs for Solana Beach, my next contraction began.
I started reciting a Bible verse I had chosen to help me with the fear of pain I had before the birth. It was from Isaiah chapter 43, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the waves will not overcome you. Do not fear.”
I prayed this. I saw the wave take me under. And under.
And it did not stop.
Sitting became intolerable. I knelt on the truck floor and put my head down across the seat. Feeling the need to yell, I opened my mouth. And groaned like a mother!
The truck slowed suddenly. We were merging on to the 805 South with bumper to bumper traffic. Joe stopped and started, while I desperately squeezed the seat of the chair as my contractions continued non-stop.
“God, please help me. Give me a break. Please,” I prayed in to the gray leather of the truck seat.
Briefly, I was gifted a few moments of clarity and rest. Looking out the window, the 805 sat full and heavy with cars.
Then, I felt a ton of pressure on my rectum.
“Joe, get me those towels.”
I thought I was going to have a bowel movement on the beach towel, in a truck cab, in front of my sweet husband. But, there was absolutely no holding back to pressure that mounted on my rectum.
Now, I was screaming and groaning and clawing at the seat. More pressure on my rectum, so intense and uncontrollable. But no unlucky bowel movement.
In my exhausted brain, dots started connecting. No break between contractions. A feeling I needed to push.
“Joe, you cannot sit in traffic! I’m going to have this baby in your truck! Move!! Call 911 and tell them it’s an emergency!!!! Just DRIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And this is when Joe’s Hollywood career started. He threw on his four way flashers, slammed his fist on the horn and squirmed across five lanes of traffic to the shoulder. The stopped cars flew by us as he accelerated to 80mph.
I repeated Isaiah 43 and felt like an alien had taken over my body. With every wave, I thought I wouldn’t survive. But I was still alive.
My Cobra pilot warrior-husband-turned-actor navigated the interstate shoulder, exiting onto the 163 towards Balboa.
But he muttered that he had taken the wrong exit. At this point, the scenery is fuzzy to me. Joe said he escaped several near accidents weaving through the city blocks to the hospital.
A crazing burn sensation came with a brick load of pressure and—my water broke.
“I CAN FEEL HER HEAD!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed. I literally could feel her head. I was holding my baby in!
“Get me to the ER! She’s coming right now!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed louder.
We were two blocks from UCSD. Joe turned the wrong way down a one-way street, almost taking out two cars AND an ambulance.
At the hospital, Joe pulled me out of the truck, barefoot, on the wheel chair that was waiting. My escort had a British accent. I screamed at Joe not to leave me, but he did, to get the bags and leave the truck with the valet.
The British guy was walking so slowly.
“Can’t you move faster?!?!?!?!” I hollered.
Folks, I was THAT lady, howling, being wheeled through the lobby of the hospital. I could not control what I was saying or doing.
When we arrived on the fourth floor of the Birth Center, he started running while I groaned, barely able to sit. We made a 10 second stop at the admissions desk and they waved me right through to a room.
The nurse said, “We’ll get you in the tub!”
Yes, I thought, I want that now. A tub full of hot water. A water birth.
“But I can’t stand up!!!!” I yelled.
But she pulled me up on the very corner of the bed. All I could do was move on to my hands and knees.
The intensity of these last few moments is exactly how I’ve read other births described. I was in agony and exhilarated all at the same time. Never before have I been so focused and uninhibited, following what my body was telling me without choice or question.
A volunteer came in with a cool smile. She held my face with both hands and said, “Look at me. You can do this.”
The burning pain in the birth canal overwhelmed. I groaned again and pushed. The pain intensified exponentially. I just wanted this thing out. I screamed and pushed hard, two more times.
I don’t remember when I realized that my new baby had been born.
I was in shock. The nurses were telling me I needed to lie down, but I didn’t want to move. I screamed that I couldn’t move. I felt that if I moved, I would start hurting again.
Then, Joe was there, helping me. Everyone moved my legs and got me in an awkward laying down position. The nurses were trying to take off my pants, which they had yanked down to my thighs before my baby popped out. They wanted to put her on my chest, but I remember yelling I didn’t want to move my arms. They placed her on the top of my thigh and belly, to get the warmth from my skin.
The calm volunteer came to me and coached me to take deep breaths. Joe stood over me, and I screamed at him that his breath smelled. Poor guy.
I was intoxicated. But sober. I could say anything that came to mind with no inhibition.
It was amazing!
Slowly, slowly, I came back to earth from my out-of-body birthing.
The nurses registered me, while my doula Shirley arrived and took over getting me calmed down. Shirley moved the baby up to my chest. How grateful I was to feel so alive and cognizant of my newborn presence, as opposed to the fog I felt with my first baby. She was tiny and kind of purple and new.
Joe was there then. He told me he had missed the birth, just catching the end as her feet came out. He said he was proud of me.
That meant a lot coming from him, because it takes a lot for him to say it.
I realized I was proud of myself and my body. I did it. And I felt it.
All the stories I had read were right.
Though I had felt the total agony of birth, the extreme high of fully experiencing how capable my body was beyond worth it.
Some part of me that had always been a victim to physical pain was annihilated that day. I emerged from the scene truly empowered.
But, I would never have done it if I hadn’t been confined to a truck cab. Bring on the Demerol!