When my son tells me about his Ultimate Frisbee Tournaments, it sounds like this to my brain:
"So this guy ran down the field and dove and caught it and then he threw it and they scored and then another guy jumped and caught it and then HE threw it and WE scored and then the same guy who made the first throw caught it again and then..."
When my husband tells me about horse stuff, it sounds like this to my brain:
"So the horse ran to the back field and I ran after it and made it run in circles until it got tired and then I went to the barn to get the other horses and I took them out to the back field and then I got the tractor and hauled a round bale out to the back field where the horses were running and..."
So when I tell a birth story, I'm very aware that to some of you it sounds like:
"So then she had a contraction and then we walked and then she had more contractions but she was only dilated to 4 so we walked some more. And then her back hurt but she was only dilated to 5 so we squatted and lunged while she had more contractions. Then she was dilated to 7 and the contractions became really intense and then the contractions were really close together and ..."
But I've got a story to tell and I promise, it won't sound anything like that.
She was only worried about two things:
1. Transporting the 40 miles to the hospital in the dead of winter,
2. Staying calm, relaxed and peaceful. (She, MaryKate, had been very stressed and anxious the last time, and did NOT want that experience again.)
The Call came at 12:40 a.m.. Contractions 10-12 minutes apart, MaryKate is ready for me. Foregoing my usual "I-have-plenty-of-time" shower, I dressed quickly and hit the road, stopping to fill my empty gas tank at 1:00 in the morning. I am 6 blocks from their house when her husband calls (NEVER a good sign), "Steph, we are at 4 minutes apart, we need you now!"
Two minutes later I let myself in the side door. Hubby takes my keys and starts loading things into the van. I find MaryKate laboring in bed, eyes closed, very internally focused. I remind myself: calm, relaxed, peaceful. During contractions I do my "back magic", and in-between I get her some water and put on her shoes.
I hold her hair back away from her face and doing my best Julie Andrews impersonation (who once said about herself, "Sometimes I'm so sweet, even I can't stand it.") I whisper, "We're not going to be laboring at home, MaryKate. You're doing great, but this is happening fast." Inside my head, Gilbert Gottfried is shrieking, "OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS TOO FREAKIN' FAST!!!"
The next contraction finds us squatting in the driveway. Her mom - who will be following us in her own car- asks, "Are we going to make it to the hospital??" Calmly I smile and hear Julie Andrews say, "Most certainly!" (Internally, Gilbert panics, "We may not make it to the hospital until AFTER the baby comes, but we'll definitely make it!")
Before we hit the road, MaryKate insists I teach her husband how to do "that back thing", so Lance gets a crash course in a technique I've been perfecting for nearly 3 years. Now the 40-minute drive...and though I could drive crazy fast and get us there in 30, there is a laboring woman on her knees in the place of my center console, so safety has to take precedence. Through all of this, I am pretending to be cool as a cucumber. Driving 80 mph, talking over my shoulder in my best Mary Poppins voice, "You are doing such a great job, MaryKate. Practically perfect in every way. Take a deep breath through your nose ... now blow it slowly out through your mouth. Goooooood."
With every mile, contractions are growing closer and more intense, and suddenly she responds to one of them with a screeching dolphin-call. "MaryKate..." I speak in a soft, low tone, and quite possibly with a British accent, "remember what we talked about. Keep your throat relaxed. Bring your voice down low. Moan it out. Remember: LOW."
From the floor behind me I sense the beginning of the next contraction...her throat tightening, her shoulders rising, her voice starting to squeak with the pain...and the next moment I will forever remember as one of my Favorite Things (Sing with me: "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and MaryKate's contractions...") She remembers what we talked about, brings her dolphin screech down to a deep Darth Vader growl, and for the next 45 seconds I hear, "low low low low low low low low low low low low..." as she literally chants the word "low" through the entire contraction. It is ALL I can do to keep from laughing hysterically!
Now I become the living GPS, only with a slow, lilting voice.
"Only 10 more minutes and we'll be there."
"Three more contractions, MaryKate, and we'll be at the door."
"Just a spoonful of sugar and the baby will be out."
Maneuvering the parking lot like Speed Racer, avoiding the bumps, swerving around parked cars and a cigarette-smoking nurse, I zip to the front door, jump out and grab a wheelchair. After some chair-not-working-and-what-do-we-do-about-the-bags confusion, the four of us glide through the deserted hospital corridor, up the elevator and into Labor and Delivery.
It is 2:02 a.m.
"This is MaryKate and she's having a baby," my Julie Andrews voice says. And even though we are pre-registered, the nurses respond with a myriad of questions, asking for insurance cards and social security numbers, and a request for MaryKate to get on the scales so they can weigh her. Clearly, they are not understanding, so Gilbert makes an appearance outside of my brain, "Ladies! This is MaryKate's THIRD baby, it doesn't matter what she weighs as she will weigh 12 pounds less in only a few minutes! We need a room right now!" Sensing the urgency, one of them says, "Room 4!" and in we go. MaryKate stands up out of the wheelchair and grabs the bed as I instinctively take my place behind her. I feel a splash on my foot just as she announces, "My water broke! My water just broke!" Why, yes, yes it did.
She lays down on her side as we get her lower half undressed, feet still dangling off the bed. Dr. M. comes in and says, "Let's get you all the way up in the bed." So with hubby on one side and me on the other, we pull her up in the bed. Before we can even get the bed raised, one nurse is trying to get her shirt off, another is trying to monitor her. I politely ask them to "get real", as MaryKate is hit with one MASSIVE pain - her feet on the bed, her head on the bed, the rest of her body imitating the St. Louis arch. She looks wide-eyed at me and declares, "I'm on my back! I'm on my back! I don't want to be on my back!" I tell her I understand completely, and as SOON as this contraction is over, we'll get into a better position. Before I finish my sentence, Dr. M. announces, "We're crowning...and THERE she is!" And Gilbert Gottfried screams, "WHAT THE...???"
Time of birth 2:09 a.m.