A Birthday Story.

I was 35 weeks, 1 day along in my pregnancy on June 3. At my appointment that morning, my OB-GYN nonchalantly announced that I was 1 cm dilated, and I would deliver in a few weeks.

Shock and awe registered immediately. I couldn't deliver early. My husband and I were closing on a house in a week. After doing some work on the place, we were moving in at the end of the month. There wasn't any room at the apartment for baby stuff, so I had planned a shopping spree for after the move-in.

There wasn't supposed to be a baby until my due date. I was supposed to have MORE TIME.

I protested. She said I might go longer, but it was doubtful. I'd better get ready.

I made a frantic call to my husband in the parking lot. I could barely get the words out. I think I was crying. He very calmly said it'll be okay. But, MORE TIME. I need MORE TIME.

The next morning, my back hurt and I couldn't sleep, so I moved out to the living room around 4:30 am. I caught up on all my Tivo'd shows, and catnapped a little, and around 8:30 I was thinking about doing some packing when I felt a tremendous POW in my belly. Suddenly, something was leaking down there, and my stomach hurt. I raced to the bathroom, and sure enough, whatever was leaking was red. I freaked out. What was happening?

I got the doctor's card off the fridge, grabbed my hubby's cell phone, and on the way back to the bathroom, I threw both items at him (he was still asleep) and said in a very trembly voice, "Call the doctor, tell her I'm bleeding."

Turns out an on-call doctor was covering for the weekend. I told her there was a wave of pain and lots of fluid had leaked out. She asked a few questions, then said I better come in. I told her, "But I haven't pre-registered yet! Our birthing class is next weekend." She laughed and said, "I think they'll take you anyway."

It sounds ridiculous now, but it was my first baby. I had no idea that my water was breaking and I was having contractions. I really thought something was wrong.

My husband got up and put some clothes on. We headed for the car, grabbing the camera "just in case." What I kept thinking was, the baby needed MORE TIME.

We raced down the road, until we hit construction. Traffic was backed up for several miles. So we drove down the shoulder to get to the next exit, and flew down back streets. At the hospital, we got to park in that special spot for women in labor. What I kept thinking was, I haven't showered. I haven't packed. I need MORE TIME.

I gave my insurance card to the lady at the desk and she started pecking away at a computer. When she asked for my last name, I gave her my maiden name. I didn't realize my mistake until my husband said, "NICE." We both started laughing. Well, I thought it was funny, anyway.

A big contraction hit, and paperwork time was suddenly over. I was wheeled into triage. A nurse gave me a gown and told me to put it on. But I was leaking again, making a mess everywhere and I worried what my husband thought. Was he grossed out yet? He wasn't prepared for any of this. Hell, neither was I. I warned him it may get ugly. He said he was there for the long haul. Except, right now, he needed to move the car.

The nurse came in, checked me and said I was at 4 cm. We were having a baby. I grabbed my husband's shirt front and pulled him close to me and said, "MAKE SURE I GET MY EPIDURAL." The nurse laughed. I don't know what was so funny. It was really starting to hurt a lot.

My husband moved the car. I got to the room, settled in, and just as my husband came back, the on-call doctor walked in. I had never met her before. She was a lovely woman, very friendly and very bright-eyed for having just delivered another baby overnight. She checked me and discovered I was at 6 cm. I got a little panicky. I really wanted that epidural. The contractions were spiking and coming a lot quicker. I was writhing and moaning because it hurt so much. No position was comfortable. I was thinking, not so fast. Not so fast. This was all going too fast.

I got my epidural from another doctor named Fred. No one called him Doctor. He was Fred. Everyone in the room loved Fred. When he walked in, it was like "Norm!" on Cheers. I didn't care, as long as he had my shot. Fred managed to jab me in between contractions, and I didn't feel anything after that. Really. It was like half a contraction, and then NOTHING. I had a new best friend, and his name was Fred. Could we name our baby after Fred? Fred was a delight to mothers everywhere. Fred was THE MAN.

We called our parents and our siblings. Everyone promised to get in the car and show up as soon as possible.

My husband showered. He came out fresh & clean. I was so jealous. No shower for me.

We had a short discussion with the doctor about giving birth this early. She gave us a list of things they would look at in a pre-term baby. Weight and breathing function were the big factors. They had a couple of people from the NICU ready to check her out and make sure she was okay. My husband stopped the doctor and told her whatever it is, we'll deal with it then, but let's not spend the next little while worrying about all of this. I knew there was a reason I married that man.

I progressed through the rest of labor quickly. I was so relaxed, I could have napped. There was a huge spike on the monitor, and I said, "You see that? I can't feel that." I loved my epidural. I loved Fred. I loved everyone.

At 10 cm, it was time to push. My husband grabbed one knee, and the delivery nurse grabbed another. I didn't know how to push. I just held my breath to a count of ten. I really couldn't feel anything with the epidural. I hoped I did it right. The nurse said after a few pushes that she could see Helen's hair. I could tell my husband was trying hard not to look.

I was surprised that most of that hour was spent with just my husband and a nurse. The doctor only showed up at the end. The baby came out a little off center - I think it was supposed to be nose down and she was more twisted to the side. It felt really strange when they pulled her out. Thank god for the epidural. Thank god for Fred.

They showed her to me as they carried her off to the warmer, and I thought, that little girl is way bigger than 5 pounds! My husband stood near her, taking a few pictures, and about 2 minutes later, the NICU nurses left. The delivery nurse, who was still fiddling with my monitor, leaned down and said, "They don't know what to do with a healthy baby."

My heart swelled. Healthy.

It was time.

A friend summed it up best in an announcement email:

Helen arrived on Saturday, June 4, 2005 at around 3:05 pm. At 6 pounds, 11 ounces and 19.5 inches she is quite a healthy girl. Mom and Dad are doing great.

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