Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Speedy Baby James: A Birth Story

I have distinct memories during this pregnancy of three separate people telling me that the second birth is much faster than the first. They weren’t kidding.

They tell you labor is never how you expect it to be. With John I imagined a horribly long, unpredictable labor, and it ended up being a textbook labor that only lasted 12 hours. With James I was expecting the same experience except perhaps shorter. Ha. There was almost nothing about this labor that mirrored my first.

This birth can pretty much be summed up as “Zero to 140.” With zero being me sitting on my bed watching an episode of Veronica Mars while having mild contractions and 140 being the speed in kilometers per hour the cab was going down the Danish interstate about an hour later; me in the backseat trumpeting at the top of my voice, "I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB! I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB!"

The morning of my due date Michael and I got to sleep in until 9:30a because my sister Rachel had arrived two days before and took care of John when he got up at 6:00. Rachel and I made plans to stop by the mall before my midwife appointment at 1:00p. I started feeling a little crampy around 10:30 or 11:00 – around the time we started our half-mile walk to the mall.

We had lunch at Amager Centret and then walked a few blocks over to the midwife’s office. Camilla (my regular midwife) was on vacation so I saw her substitute. We had a brief talk about how Danes handle post-dates; at 10 days post-date you go to the hospital for a vaginal check and then at 14 days post-date they induce. Then she palpitated the baby who was still right-lying – and told me she could still move the head a bit which indicated it wasn’t quite engaged – typical of second pregnancies. She estimated James was about 3900 grams – or about 8 pounds 8 ounces.

We were planning to stop back by the mall on the way home so Rachel could go to H&M, but John had a diaper blowout so we headed home. I was kind of glad because I was feeling more crampy and uncomfortable. We got home at 2:00p and I was happy to see Michael was already back from the library where he had been working on some dissertation changes. John and Rachel both laid down for a nap. I was pretty sure at this point I was having true contractions that were going to amount to something later. I puttered around for a bit folding laundry, putting a few last things in my hospital bag and checking email. Michael was encouraging me to lie down but I told him I didn’t feel like it, so we settled on watching Veronica Mars while he insisted on timing my contractions. So we watched two episodes back-to-back; when I felt a contraction starting I would tap him on the leg, he’d start the stopwatch and then stop it when I tapped him again. We never paused the show though I started to ask him to put counter-pressure on my lower back at some point during the second episode.

Around 4:00p, John was up from his nap and, even though he wasn’t being disruptive, I really didn’t want to be around him in anticipation of the harder contractions to come. Michael and I moved into the bedroom and watched another episode while Rachel entertained John in the living room. Toward the end of the episode, I had to close my eyes and focus during contractions. Once the show ended close to 5:00p, Michael told me the contractions were floating around 45-60 seconds long and 5-6 minutes apart. Two weeks before Camilla told me to call in to the clinic when contractions were about 60 seconds long, 5 minutes apart and had been that way for about an hour. I decided to call in, though I thought it was a bit premature, in part because I felt like we needed to leave. The clinic picked up and told me to call the Hospital because they were so busy. This perturbed me, surprisingly not because I was so interested in doing the whole Danish birth clinic thing, but because I had this nagging feeling we really needed to leave.

I spoke with a hospital-side midwife who suggested that we wait another hour, though she made it clear we could come if we felt we should – just that we should call again before we left. I hung up the phone and immediately had two much stronger contractions much closer together that I moaned a bit through. I told Michael it was time to go and he immediately called a cab. I remember trying to give John a hug and kiss – he was playing with Rachel’s iPod and ran into the bedroom to show me. Then I called the midwife back and told her we were on our way.

I stepped into my Crocs and decided to use the bathroom before we left. While I was sitting there I felt like I needed to pass gas and then suddenly my water broke with a small pop and I realized that what I was really feeling was an urge to push just as I launched into a huge transitional contraction. Michael called out that the cab was there. I yelled at him to shut up. He came to the door and asked what was wrong. I expressed at the top of my voice that I was having a contraction, roared loudly and cried that I didn’t want John to see me like this. Michael later told me that he rolled his eyes at Rachel to let her know I was just freaking out and not to think anything was wrong.

I was completely torn by the strong urge to not move and the equally strong urge to get to the hospital as fast as we possibly could. But I hustled into the calf-length, black wool London Fog coat my friend Robyn gave me – the only coat that somewhat covered my baby belly – and charged down the stairs toward the cab. I called out for the cab driver and Michael to hurry and launched into another mind blowing contraction right as the wheels started to roll. It felt like I’d been picked up by a tornado.

The next 20 minutes are fragments of memories – holding myself off the seat with my arms and leaning toward my right side because it hurt too much to sit; waiting endlessly for the cab driver to turn left onto Amagerbrogade dodging bikes and two lanes of rush hour traffic; Michael patting my leg and telling me to relax; my expressing every thought that came into my head at the loudest possible volume; WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; a car driving slowly and then stopping in the middle of the road blocking us; the cab driver honking insistently; between contractions my praying that God would make them move and get us to the hospital; the cab driver jumping out the car and telling the driver the situation before the punk finally drove off; blazing down the interstate; MY BODY IS PUSHING THE BABY OUT; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; I CAN’T STOP IT; Michael telling me that I’m doing a great job and we’re almost there; the contraction stops and I think "Yes, we will make it. Everything will be ok"; I drop my head back on Michael’s shoulder and see the most beautiful piece of Copenhagen sunset sky; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; OH GOD; I reach down and can feel the baby’s head crowning; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; IT’S RIGHT THERE; Michael calmly telling me that’s good because the stretching will keep me from tearing - we’re almost there - here’s the exit - you’re doing a great job; I struggle to follow my Bradley labor training – low pitched roars, allowing my body to do it’s work – yet doing so only seems to make the baby advance even more quickly down the birth canal; THE BABY IS COMING; I feel the ring of fire and pull off one of my pants legs and half of my underwear; I FEEL THE HEAD; the baby’s head is out and my palm is around it; the cab suddenly pulls up to the maternity wing of the hospital and the cab driver jumps out and runs in for assistance; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; GET SOMEBODY; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; Michael looks over and sees James’ head and shoulders, realizing for the first time what I was getting at when I said "The baby’s head is right there," then jumps out of the cab to run around to my side.

In those few seconds alone, I was suddenly gripped with the notion that I needed to push the baby out IMMEDIATELY and voluntarily pushed for the first time. James plopped out onto my coat just as Michael opened the door on the other side. Michael picked him up and handed James to me, and to my immense relief he immediately started to cry. I could see from the light in the cab that he was pink and healthy, and he quickly calmed.

A nurse entered the cab behind me and rubbed James with a towel and piled more towels on him to keep him warm. They brought a stretcher to my side of the cab and helped me maneuver around my coat, the part of my pants that were still on and the umbilical cord. We were rolled down the hall into a delivery room, with me holding a quiet James close as I watched the ceiling tiles pass above my head and sighed a huge sigh of relief. Relief that James was fine; that labor was over; that we were in the competent hands of medical professionals.


Ten days before James’ birth I read a fascinating blog post from a Brooklyn midwife about how the taxicab birth narrative can shape other women’s childbirth plans. Everyone seemingly has a friend of a friend who has given birth in a cab and it can fundamentally form their choice of homebirth or hospital birth, how they prepare for labor and delivery, etc. To be honest, I am somewhat compelled to tell this story in so much detail because I feel the need to justify the fact that I DID end up having a baby in a taxicab. I consider myself to be fairly ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding and being prepared for childbirth; from taking independent childbirth classes to reading extensively about birth to having experienced an unmedicated childbirth once before. Yet I was still surprised by the overwhelming force that is childbirth; unpredictable, powerful and unharnessed. And its ability to go from nothing to something in the blink of an eye.

But I also should say that as much as I was overwhelmed by the speed and uncontrollable force of James’ arrival, I sit here days later still unable to be "traumatized" by the experience. It was extremely uncomfortable bouncing along in the back of a cab during transition and my body’s involuntary second stage pushing, but being knowledgeable about the birth process helped considerably in my ability to control the one thing I could control about the whole experience – my reaction to it. It helped me focus when I was frantic. And I had some notion of what was normal and abnormal about delivery that gave me some peace of mind that James was ok even if he was exiting my body at 140 kilometers per hour.

I am a little sorry that I missed out on trying the labor tub. Not sorry enough to wish that I had been in labor much longer though.


Anonymous said...

OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!!! I Cannot tell you how impressed I am. You now have the distinct honor of having the hands down coolest birthing story ever!!


Anonymous said...

Can I read this to my classes so they will really understand that what I am telling them is important and they DO need to know what is happening so they don't freak out?

I am glad you had such an easy birth and that everyone is fine.

Wish I could stop over and see your new little guy! Having two boys is just the best!


David said...

Just WOW!

Rebekah said...

Elizabeth - feel free to share this with your classes. I hope it's helpful!

I wish you could stop by too! I keep thinking about you because I am having the exact same nursing issues this time too, though they are much less problematic since I can just apply the same advice you gave me with John and the issues are already starting to resolve.

Judit said...

You were fantastic. Good for you. YES YES YES to the importance of being prepared for, and owning your reaction to, whatever curveball birth throws you! (By the way that cab-birth-narrative post by brooklynmidwife is one of my favorites ever!) Congratulations again!

Rachel said...

You are freaking amazing.

Rachel said...

P.S. I just told my whole office your story and they think you are freaking amazing too. Anne said "Oh, I want to have a baby now." I cursed, and said "I am seriously adopting all my children." And Jenn said "Oh me too." Joe said, "In Denmark? Well that kid will never be President." Then ensued quite the citizenship discussion. And other discussions about strange places women have given birth. Everyone should work in my office. Seriously.

Karen said...

I must say, Rachel, that my reaction was just like yours!

First, Rebekah, you are freaking amazing. And then, I'm reminded that I'm really glad I'm adopting; because I don't think I could handle a childbirth experience like this with as much composure and grace as you did. Kudos to you, mommy!

Anonymous said...

Rebekah, you're my hero.
-Elizabeth F.

Nichole said...

Holy Cow!!
That is one heck of a birthing story!

I'm COMPLETELY impressed by you!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Rebekah and Michael!! That is a great story that James will carry with him for the rest of his life! I mean, who else do you know who was born in a Danish taxi-cab?

Esther L.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness I love hearing birthing stories!.... Your story made me cry!!! The experience of having a baby is amazing and a miracle! You are so blessed with your new little baby boy!!! Congratulations!
~Jessica (Talbert)Ballman

Aileen said...

It's been said before, but I'll say it again: WOW. Well done, Rebekah!!! Quite a lesson in listening to your body...

Anonymous said...

I asked Angela on Monday night at Bible Study how your labor was--easy? long? short? since she said she had talked to you for a long time that day. Her reaction was "easy???? no....TOO easy!" When Angela told me the gist, I kept saying "you're kidding me...no way!" Anyway, thanks for posting the details..Nate and I both enjoyed reading the story!

Anonymous said...

wow!!!!!!!!!!!!! that is about the only story I know that actually would make me want to have another baby.....I know...I'm strange. I love childbirth....but don't love the first year as much..so I'm done:)
Congrats. I'm so glad you told the story in so much detail. It was fantastic. You are a great writer too!!!
can't wait to meet James, the taxicab baby:)

Anonymous said...

I'm a friend of your Bradley teacher and I just wanted to say congrats on a job well done! Loved reading your story too. May you continue to enjoy your new (speedy) arrival!

Jackie said...

Wow! I came to your story through Mother Tongue. I'm so proud of you. I love that you were knowledgeable enough to retain your composure. I wish all women could be so informed. Natural childbirth is an amazing thing to experience when your body just takes over. I am glad I got to do it in a hospital, though. You rock!