I vowed my second child-bearing experience was not going to be like my first. During the 12-hour labor with my twins three years ago, I didn't have a birth plan. The babies surprised everyone arriving 5½ weeks early, weighing less than 5 pounds each. As a result, there was a veritable throng of people filling my labor room. Each baby got a personal neonatologist and nurses, and medical students were there too.
For my first experience having the twins, I didn't have a hospital bag prepared. I didn't have all the stuff the pregnancy books say you should have for labor, like a picture to focus on during pushing. But the second time around, things would be different. I would have my relaxation tape, one of those wooden happy-faced massagers for my back, Jolly Rancher hard candies, CDs and the video camera. I also had a birth plan.
When I reached 30 weeks, I had my hospital bag ready to go. As the weeks wore on, I kept finding more stupid things to bring, like a baby book, my kids' drawings, a journal in which to record my post-labor thoughts. I had to replace my small nylon hospital bag with a much larger steamer trunk to accommodate my growing collection.
"I want a quiet birth," I told my doctor. "Just you and a nurse, and the anesthesiologist when it's time for the epidural." I planned for everything, except my real labor. The harsh reality is that with childbirth, as with child rearing, nothing ever goes as planned. Regardless of the birth plan naysayers, I crafted one anyway, dreaming of a fuzzy, five-hankie delivery like you see in primetime dramas. Instead of what I had planned, I wound up with a scene akin to bad TV sitcoms. The birth plan bit the dust.
I started having some pretty nasty contractions five days after my due date, and let me tell you, they hurt. When the contractions were about seven minutes apart, we headed to the hospital. By the time we got there, however, the contractions became sporadic. I was only two centimeters dilated. The doctor told me I was in false labor and said we shouldn't come back until the contractions were consistently five minutes apart. Fortunately, my sister-in-law and her husband had taken the twins to the zoo for the day, so they were not home to experience what happened next.
Curled up in a ball on my bedroom floor, I groaned and clutched the rough carpet fibers. I felt like I was being pummeled internally with a medieval, iron mace. A few hours later, the contractions were five minutes apart. Within 10 minutes, I was ready to push, and I was still at home.
Scott stood frozen in place as I wailed that I had to push, and he shouted at me not to. He said he would get the car and I just howled and bore down anyway. His eyes bulged out like a blowfish. I wanted him to call 9-1-1, but he thought he could get me to the hospital faster, and literally had to drag me to the car.
In hindsight, Scott admits that he was not in complete control of his mental faculties at that moment. He actually thought we could make the 30-minute car ride to the hospital in Boston. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him driving toward the highway. Had we attempted going to Boston, we would've wound up on the evening news.
While writhing on the car floor, I screamed for him to go to the nearest hospital in the town of Framingham, about 10-15 minutes away. I honestly don't know how Scott stayed on the road with me tearing at his arm as I screeched in pain. Then I yelled that the baby was starting to come out. "No it's not," Scott said, shaking his head in denial and pushing the gas pedal harder. He pulled up to the ER entrance and dashed inside. "My wife's having a baby," he hollered to the woman at the desk. She gently shook her head at him like he was another one of those overreacting male types. "Okay sir, well you . . ." "No," he cut her off, "NOW. In the parking lot."
In less than a minute, I was pulled from the car, undressed from the waist down, put on a gurney and wheeled into the ER. The baby's head and the intact amniotic sac were protruding. After terrorizing the people in the ER waiting room with my animalistic screams, my son Casey was born less than 10 minutes later weighing in at over eight pounds. I gave birth in the ER with only a thin curtain separating me from the rest of the viewing public, with a stampede of medical personnel buzzing around me. I suppose it was better than having the baby in the parking lot.
So much for the epidural. So much for the Dave Matthews CDs, the candy and a quiet birth. And we didn't even get to use the happy-faced massager. I endured hard labor on my bedroom floor on a carpet amid Cheerio tidbits and bagel shards my toddlers accidentally dropped that morning.
Just a few words of advice: The next time you hear the stork's wings furiously flapping outside your door, you grab him by the feathers, look him straight in the eye and say: "This ain't false labor, bub. I'm gonna get my epidural AND use my wooden happy-faced massager. I made a birth plan, darnit!" Then pray the actual birth bears some vague resemblance to what you planned.