This week, I’m going to be telling the stories of how Sprout and Little Bird were born. For two babies born in the same place in the same way, the births of my two sons could not have been more different.
No one was ready for my second son’s arrival.
Three and a half weeks before my due date, I told my doctor, “I’m having some pains.” I didn’t think much of it because I had some face-twisting Braxton Hicks false contractions earlier. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to take any chances. I was going to travel New Jersey to attend my grandmother’s funeral that weekend, and didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.
Looking up between my legs after checking me, the doctor said, “You shouldn’t travel. You’re already four centimeters dilated.”
“Oh! But I can go into D.C. this afternoon, right?” I had an in-person interview for one of my dream jobs – a social media specialist at NASA.
“That should be okay.” She dragged out the word should. “The baby could come this weekend or two weeks from now. You never know.” She shrugged.
On the way home, we decided Chris would drive me into D.C. instead of taking the Metro. Just in case.
Striding into the NASA lobby, my insides twisted. As the receptionist checked me in, the need to sit down washed over me. Instead, I leaned against the desk, trying to breathe deep. When my contact showed up, I tried my best to smile.
As we walked down the hall, I casually remarked, “I might be having some pre-labor pains. So if I look funny, that’s why. It’s not you.”
“Oh!” he said and chuckled.
Reaching his boss’s office, I settled myself into a swivel chair with a supportive mesh back. All three of the interviewers – all men – were lovely. The talk felt more like a conversation than an interview. We kibbitzed about the difficulties of working with scientists, with them recounting how hard it was to get the rocket scientists to put cameras on the spaceship. Occasionally, I would be in pain, but I would take a breath, rub my lower back, and move on.
Towards the end of the hour, I must have been showing it. The boss said, “We’ve dealt with a lot of things at NASA, but never a birth. You better go have your baby!” I thanked him, shook his hand and walked out.
Everything got worse.
Walking through their security doors, I almost doubled over. Waiting for Chris to come back, I twisted on a metal bench. On the half-block walk to the car, I staggered.
On the car ride home, the contractions became more regular and frequent. Northern Virginia’s ever-present traffic didn’t help one bit.
Between contractions, I called my mom: “I think the baby is coming.” Then a little while later: “I know the baby is coming!” Texts and emails to my co-workers and our friend who would be looking after Sprout became increasingly frantic.
Arriving home, I struggled to pack the hospital bag, yelling to Chris random items we needed. I shimmed out of my dress and into pajama pants. Every few minutes, I’d sway with my knees bent, my face contorted in pain.
At a contraction every three minutes, I started to panic. Where was our friend? Why wasn’t she there yet? What was Chris doing?
“What are you doing, anyway?” I yelped, trying to get my breathing under control.
“Making a burger,” he replied. “I’m not going to be able to get food.”
“What?!” I screamed. “I’m having contractions every three minutes!”
Luckily for Chris and the health of our marriage, our friend showed up right then. I kissed Sprout goodbye and dash-waddled to the car.
About half-way to the hospital, my eyes went wide and my whole body shuddered. “The baby is coming!” I screamed. “I want to push!”
“Don’t!” Chris yelled back, finally realizing the enormity of the situation.
“I know! I still want to!!” A minute or so later, my seat was soaked. My water had broke.
Two minutes from the hospital, I yelled, “Run the red light!” It was one of the most uncharacteristic things I’ve ever said.
Chris finally pulled into the hospital’s fire lane. I hustled out of the car and into a wheelchair. He ran me through the hallways, up the elevator and into the maternity ward. When the receptionist asked for my insurance information, I yelled, “The baby is coming!” as we sped past.
Reaching the room, I could finally breathe. I stripped off my pajama pants and climbed into the bed, ready to go. The nurse strolled in and casually said, “Let’s check out how far along you are.” She looked down and blinked. “There’s the baby’s head!”
A few light pushes later, the rest of him appeared. He arrived into the world less than 15 minutes after we got to the hospital. Unlike the exhaustion that clouded the birth of my first son, I was alert. Chris cut the cord, they wiped him off, and then handed him to me. I nuzzled his tiny body on my chest, wrinkly and thin from being so early. But he was warm and well. I smiled at Chris and then at the new member of our family.
Read about how my first son was born in Birth Stories Part I.