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Charlotte's Story

What can you do in seventeen minutes? Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom without commercials? Run two miles at a good clip? Eat a meal, or in Andy's case, microwave a meal and then eat it? Have a baby? Because that's what I did. You heard me right. I birthed a baby in seventeen minutes because I am a machine. I am a machine! I am a baby birthing woman of steel. I am not much of a bragger and you may recall that I was never good and never bad at anything. I have no particular achievements to tout, academically, physically, professionally or otherwise except baby birthing. I'm really good at this and I'm pretty darn proud of it and I'd like to brag about it to you now. This is Charlotte's birth story.

For the first four or five months of my pregnancy with Charlotte, most people forgot that I was even pregnant. This does happen to you with multiple pregnancies. I never forgot that I was pregnant. Morning sickness heart burn and frequent bathroom trips helped me remember my condition during the day and the night. Yet, as a family, we were very busy and always on the go and months flew by as my belly grew bigger and bigger. During the spring semester, Andy and I took on too much work and went nearly insane when we tried to juggle all this work while caring for Caroline during her 6 weeks of random illnesses. It didn't help that the staff in my department consisted of me and one other person, both of us part-time and no maternity leave substitute in place. My children, biological and advisees, needed me and the bulge between me and them didn't lessen that need one bit. No students, I did not have the baby last weekend and then show up here on Monday to process your paperwork!

I assumed that I'd have the baby early. All women have their second baby early, right? That's why I started to get very anxious during the days leading up to my due date. I started to get more anxious when I heard the good news for every other mom had a due date near mine and in some cases, weeks after mine. I continued my routine each day, but brought my lap top home each night and left a cryptic out of office message about what to do if I did not respond to an email within 72 hours. I went to the gym. I prayed for a week of good health in our house and the chance to put my feet up for a few hours.

The night before my due date, Caroline's temperature suddenly sky rocketed to 103. The attentive mother hen, Andy, thought she was having difficulty breathing and of course it was Friday night. We spent three or so quality hours in the ER, located directly below the birthing center. After a long night out we were finally home with a sleeping kid with a viral cold and some Chinese food, from the only restaurant open past eight in our town. We'd joked with the hospital staff as we left, "See you tomorrow!"

I woke up the next morning and got the extra rest I'd been craving. Caroline, exhausted from her ER adventure, slept in while Andy and I watched 17 Again (Hmm- coindidence?). Mid-movie, I went to the loo and did a double take when I noticed a trail of blood in the toilet. I came out of the bathroom and told Andy what I'd seen. My husband, the man without emotions, stood up, hugged me, smiled and said, "We may have a baby today!" I couldn't think about it or wish it too hard. A baby! On my due date! Could it really happen?

I started to keep track of the contractions as the morning progressed. The feeling was so familiar and everything was happening just as it had with Caroline. I walked through back cramps which arrived ever forty minutes or so for several hours. Caroline woke up and was still running a temperature. We dosed her as directed and tried to occupy her.

My friends Amy and Maria had planned a due date picnic at the local playground and a little fever and some periodic cramps weren't going to stop us from going out. Around 2pm, Amy stopped at our house on the way to the playground and I told her my news. "You should call the birthing center," she warned me, although I thought making the call was not necessary yet. I followed her advice, however, and called. The nurse took my name and warned me that it could be days before it was time to come in and to call back when I felt like it was "time."

It was unusually hot that day and it felt more like July than early May. At the playground, the kids played and ate and I timed my contractions quietly. I co-parented with my friends, taking turns pushing kids on swings, handing out snacks and making potty runs. During one particular run I noticed a change in my contractions. I had one on the way to the car and one on the way back to the playground. I wasn't timing at that moment but was pretty sure that was two within five minutes. I chatted with a few friends on the way back to gather my things. I told Amy and Maria that Caroline was tired, which she was, and that it was time to go. I called Andy, who was in town running errands, and told him to come home and help with Caroline. I called our friend Teresa, who was going to help me labor at home, and told her to come on over. I told her I couldn't promise anything but she could at least come for a few hours to keep me company.

It was 4pm and it takes seven minutes to get from town to my house. I had two intense contractions while driving home. Caroline screamed from the back, her fever symptoms exacerbated by the heat and play. I breathed though the contraction and carried her in the house. I bent over in pain and she threw her cup of liquid Motrin at me. I swore in my head wondering why it was taking Andy and Teresa so long to arrive. I fed the cats. Andy got home and I ordered him to give Caroline a bath and to call Maria to pick her up. More contractions came and I had no time to time. Teresa arrived and I apologized to her for being in a bad mood. It was almost 5pm. I tried to walk out a contraction and had a stabbing pain and fell to the ground. Water spurted down my leg and I tried to get up as Caroline came down the hallway. I didn't want her to see me but I wanted to say good bye to her. It felt like an eternity before Maria arrived and Andy installed the car seat in her van. While Teresa washed my soaked underwear in the sink, I sat on the toilet and told her to call the birthing center. I could barely get the number out through clenched teeth. The pain had changed. I needed to push and we needed to go. I needed to push and we needed to go!

Andy and Teresa assisted me to the back of the car. I don't think I put on a seat belt because my body seered with pain and I went between curling up in a ball and spreading my whole body out sideways on the seat. I vaguely recall telling Teresa that my head felt like it was spinning because was possessed. I fought the urge to push. Roughly seven long minutes later we pulled up to the ER/birthing center door. Teresa offered me a wheelchair but I had no time to sit. I buried my face in Andy's chest and he moved me toward the elevator. Some idiot of a woman held the elevator door and chatted with another woman. I growled. She let the door go. I contracted steps from the birthing center door and Andy asked if I wanted to stop but my feet kept moving. The nurse greeted us at the door and started rambling and asking me stupid questions. I looked down and said, "I need to push." She looked down, saw the blood gushing to the floor, saw the sweat on my brow and ushered me to the nearest bed. I ripped off my dress and pushed.

The nurse reassured me that she had delivered a baby on her own before. (I did not know it at the time but the midwife on duty was actually taking a nap and she was being awakened.) Moments later I heard a voice behind me offering instruction. Andy told the midwife I was concerned that I'd be sent home if I wasn't fully dilated.

The midwife responded. "I can see the baby's head. She is not going home." At this point I'd somehow managed to get on my side and Andy held my leg at my knee. Teresa, who'd parked the car, was beside me, fanning my head with a cool cloth. I asked her to remind me to breathe. I looked up at Andy, panicked. This hurt so bad. I couldn't do it. I gripped his finger hoping I'd pull it off and it would maybe stop my pain. I screamed as loud and long and hard as I could. I pushed. My body burned. I was sure they were lying to me and that the baby was not really going to come out when I pushed. But, she did. There she was, all gooey and sticky and red-faced and absolutely beautiful. The midwife put her in my arms and I cried tears of exhaustion and joy and my heart filled with love and pride. From the time I walked into the birthing center to the time of her birth, 6:07 pm, seventeen minutes had passed.

It takes me 24 minutes to run two miles.

Comments

That is an amazing story! Thanks for sharing.

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