Three years ago, I was still pregnant at this moment. Until 8:24 a.m. on Friday, March 13th (yes, you read that right) and my beautiful baby princess emerged. I will always treasure her birth story, as I learned how strong I could be when I needed, how foolish men are when it comes to issues of childbirth, and how amazing the bond between mother and daughter is.
My school was having Parent-Teacher conferences on the evening of March 12th. As I waddled down the hall, my principal caught up with me. "Kelli, you don't look like you are feeling so well. Cancel your conferences and go home." I happily took his suggestion, as the next morning, my maternity sub and I were hosting a meet and greet breakfast for my class parents to meet her.
When I arrived at home, I began experiencing some discomfort in my abdomen, but I shrugged it off. Baby Girl wasn't due for two more weeks, and I had already been to the hospital once for a false alarm (indigestion from too many root beers at lunch). As the night progressed, I realized that Baby Girl was telling me it was time. We called my friend to come over to sit with Eli, and off we went to the hospital.
Five hours later, the nurses sent me home. They determined, according to their medical calculations, that Baby Girl was staying put, at least for a few more days. I was certain she had other plans. So certain, in fact, that I remember the exact point on the freeway where I told my husband that she was on her way and I was going to miss the epidural. He shrugged it off, laughing.
All night, I screamed silently into my pillow, contorting my body into all kinds of weird positions, hoping to alleviate the pain that was ripping through my body. Seriously?! Those nurses sent me home?! But, I didn't trust my own instincts as a woman, and now, here I was, certain I was in labor with a sleeping husband by my side. I crawled into the guest bathroom, eager to feel the coolness of the floor tiles on my face. I imagined I looked like a woman straight off the show "A Baby Story" with my sweaty, stringy hair framing my face, wrestling with the agony of childbearing all alone.
Finally, the clock struck 7:00 a. m., and I could no longer take the pain. I called out to my husband, "Tim, call the doctor. We need to go back." I heard his murmuring on the phone, talking to the doctor, then to my mother. I could have sworn I heard him tell her, "I'm going to hop in the shower and then we'll be off the hospital." Come again?! Maybe he did not understand the intensity of the pain. I swear if I could have, I would have walked into our bedroom and smacked him upside his head. Rule #1: Never mess with a woman in labor.
Less than five minutes later, I was overtaken by a tidal wave of pain as my water broke. "Call 9-1-1!" I screamed. "Are you sure?" was the reply I received. And, once again, my husband was lucky I was rendered immobile. I began to sob, worried that the only chapter of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" that I hadn't read was "How to Deliver a Baby At Home." And, judging from his responses, my hubby wasn't going to be much help. I stopped short of asking him to boil some water and get some towels, praying the paramedics would get here on time.
Luckily, I heard five pairs of heavy footsteps a few minutes later. The squad had arrived. Momentarily, I forgot that I was only dressed in an Ohio State t-shirt (that's all, folks), and my modesty and dignity melted away. All that concerned me was that I was not going to have to deliver my daughter alone on my bathroom floor. The paramedics were discussing how to get me down the stairs, as the stretcher would not fit around the angle of our staircase. "Can she walk?' one of the rookies asked. I could almost see the disbelief on the faces of the others. At that point, even in my anguish, I decided right then and there that men knew nothing of this experience. Nothing could even compare to the physical and mental terror I was experiencing at the moment. They rolled me onto a sheet, just like marine biologists do to transport injured whales and walruses. There I was, pantless, crying out in agony, lying on a bedsheet. A vision of beauty. Just call me Grace.
As they carried me down the stairs (the whole way down, I was worried that the sheet was going to rip and my daughter would just pop on out), I begged them to make sure my son didn't see me in in such pain. One paramedic walked ahead and ushered him into the kitchen. At the bottom of the stairs, Eli scampered over to see me. His eyes grew big and round, and my heart fell, worried at the mental trauma he was going to be scarred with for the rest of his life. He opened his mouth to talk, and my heart broke in anticipation of what he would say. "I WANT A BLUEBERRY WAFFLE!" Obviously, he was not as traumatized as I thought. I heard my husband answer with clarity, " Get your shoes on right now. Your mother's having a baby!" The phone rang, and it was my school secretary, wondering if I was coming in that day, as I was 15 minutes late. I waved to my school as the ambulance sped through the school zone moments later.
The paramedics rolled me onto the gurney, pushing me down our driveway. The bitter cold March wind kept whipping the sheet up off my body, giving passing traffic a glimpse of my womanhood. This was going much better than I could have planned. I was about to give birth in an ambulance, and I was frightening little children on their way to school. I heard the paramedic tell my husband they were taking me to Dublin Methodist Hospital, and he tried to explain that the doctor was meeting me elsewhere and did not have privileges to deliver at Dublin. "Well, sir, she will have this baby on the freeway. We might not even make it to Dublin Meth before the baby is born." Holy cannoli. The hospital was only a few miles away.
The doors to the ambulance slammed shut, and I heard them turn the lights on. Two paramedics sat with me, holding my hand, asking me about Baby Girl. "What's her name going to be?" I realized we never had chosen between our final two, deciding we would set eyes on her first. I remember grabbing their knees and squeezing each time a contraction came, screaming in pain, asking them if she was ok. The men kept reassuring me that they'd delivered multiple babies "in the field." I remember the elation when the paramedic was stabbing me with the IV needle, as I thought this meant that maybe I wouldn't be too late for pain meds. This wasn't so bad after all.
Four minutes later, we arrived at the hospital and we raced through the hallways, sheets flying everywhere, my self-consciousness completely gone. I howled like a wolf at a full moon. We looked like something out of a medical show. Reaching the Labor and Delivery wing, they hoisted me onto a delivery bed, still in my Ohio State t-shirt, and a nurse tried to get an oral medical history. Each answer was punctuated with a howl of pain. The midwife came in with a smile on her face, and asked, "Are you ready?" Ready for what? Where's my epidural? When I inquired, her brow furrowed, "Oh, honey, you are much too late for that. You can do this!" Now, I must tell you that I get a little queasy with a paper cut and I must close my eyes at bloody scenes on Grey's Anatomy. And, this woman expected me to deliver a baby with no pain meds? Clearly, she did not know who she was dealing with. But, it finally occurred to me that once Baby Girl was out, the pain would stop. I dug in, and pushed with all my might.
Three pushes later, and beautiful Baby Girl emerged. I lay triumphant in the bed, all alone in my Ohio State t-shirt, as my husband was taking Eli to preschool, certain he had all the time in the world. When he walked in moments later, I saw tears in his eyes when he realized he missed her birth. Until he saw his princess and knew she was safe. And, one moment later, my life changed forever, as the nurse placed the most amazing little girl in my arms. "Lauren," I said. "Lauren Claire Traber."
She was so worth it.