Two years ago I am 39 1/2 weeks pregnant and my daughter becomes a four-year-old doula by mistake.
On this date in 2019, I wake up around 3:00 in the morning on a Friday. I use the bathroom. No one else is supposed to be awake at this point in the morning, but my daughter is going through a phase where she isn’t into sleeping. This turns out to work in my favor, because when she comes in to our room to find us, she becomes delightfully helpful when she finds that my water has broken and I am not exactly able to move. I am not in pain, so I am just kind of waiting for someone to find me, and look at that, my little girl shows up. I tell her what is happening, and she pats my belly and talks to the baby. She is excited, I can tell; she is freaking out, I know; but she is somehow able to read the room — she is calm and happy instead of jumping around and screaming.
Like I say, I’m not in pain yet.
She stays with me and talks to me for another twenty minutes or so before I tell her to go get Daddy. At this point, she is screaming. “Daddy!” It is early — around 4:00 or 4:15. She retrieves my husband, but because I am quiet and my daughter-doula reclaims her calm, he somehow goes back to sleep.
I am finally able to remove myself from the bathroom. I turn on the lights and my husband decides the time has come to make banana bread.
I know. But in his defense, he did the same thing for our other two babies. However, I was in labor with my first baby for something like 37 hours (for real) and I labored with my daughter for 12 or so. He is certain he has time.
So he’s down there pre-heating the oven and mixing batter and I call the midwife. She’s like, “Yeah, it could go one of two ways. Your third baby could take a few days or be very fast. Have you started contractions?” Just as I am speaking with her, my first contraction begins.
I get off the bed and hang up the phone. Hm. I wonder how this will go — oh. Here’s another contraction. Yep. Hm. I’d really like to put my pants on. Nope. Not going to move. Not for a minute.
Soon I’m nervous, and my to-do-before-we-leave-the-house list unfolds from my mental bulletin board like one of those accordion files you see on old-ass websites. Oh yes, I have several tasks to accomplish before I can leave this house and have a baby. The first task is to put on my pants.
Nevermind. Can’t move again.
Well. This is escalating quickly. This is business.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the oven is successfully preheated.
My son, a kindergartner, by now is awake and shuffling around. My daughter continues to check in on me. I continue to wish I could bend over to put on my pants. At one point between contractions I pull on one leg and drag the other pant leg loose around on the floor as I haphazardly throw items into bags for the hospital stay. You know, those tasks that should have been done a couple weeks ago.
Somehow, I manage to get downstairs. I whisper to no one, “We need to go to the hospital.” My husband is measuring ingredients and digging around inside the cupboards for bread pans. My son wants breakfast. My daughter is not in earshot.
OK, another contraction is over. I have time to cut the tags off of my son’s new shoes that he wants to wear to school today. I can pull the rest of my pants on and bend over to the shoes. I have 60 seconds.
Task complete. New shoes situated next to his backpack by the door.
At the kitchen table, I buckle.
“We need to go to the hospital.” My husband mixes more quickly; maybe I’m serious.
“We need to go to the hospital. Call your mother.” I am concentrating very hard. I need to make it to the mudroom to put on shoes.
My husband gets on the phone with his mother, who lives blocks away and who is primed to handle the kids when we need to go to the hospital.
My kindergartner eats granola and yogurt. My daughter is excited and is starting to worry because I’m starting to turn into a person who is not a person but an animal and who doesn’t sound like Mama.
My husband pours the batter into a pan. “She says she’ll be here in a few minutes.” To which I respond with a contraction.
My husband starts to wonder if perhaps I’m going to have a baby.
His mother arrives around 5:30. I am gripping the kitchen table and trying not to vomit. She says to me, “Well, let me know if I can do anything,” and goes to the couch.
“We need to go to the hospital. Hospital. Hospital.” I have the guttural animal voice now.
My husband puts the bread in the oven and starts to get coats for him and me. I shuffle into the mudroom. That’s it. That’s as far as I can go. It’s over. Lay me down; I am having a baby right here. “Hospital! Hospital!” I have my socks in my hand but I am not putting them on. I can’t imagine putting on a coat. Somehow, my husband put my shoes on.
“Nope, we’re going to the hospital,” he declares.
Probably, my daughter gives up her job as doula at this point. Probably.
OK. I think I have 30 seconds. Let’s get this belly into the van.
My husband sort of ushers me down the steps from the house to the driveway. He opens the van door and somehow the van is already on — it is November; maybe he pre-heated the van for me just like he pre-heated the oven. I see the clock. It is just after 6:00. I heave a leg into the van and decide no, we are not going to the hospital. In fact, we are having the baby right now. In the doorway of the van.
“No, we’re going to the hospital,” says my husband, who is still a human.
A few minutes later we get me in the van and I recline the fuck out of that seat.
The hospital is 10 minutes away.
My husband blows through some stop lights and at one point he takes a parking lot instead of a street. We park in the Emergency Room parking lot and at this point I’m swear-screaming. My husband runs inside and comes back with an EMT or someone similar who parks a wheelchair next to the van. “I’m having the baby I’m having the baby I’m having the baby” I sort of spit at him. “In the van.” I tell my husband to roll the seat all the way down and the dude with the wheelchair is a different species than me and is very calm and authoritative and he simply tells me to get in the wheelchair. He and my husband assist as I roll out. My god. The pain.
The ceiling is flying and is bright and I am not sure how I’ll survive this. Elevator doors crack open and I hear all sorts of beeping and people and then my husband is told that we have to stop for a picture. He bickers. He swears. They insist; it’s for security.
He’s running down the hall and I hear some nurses directing us into the triage room. Let’s just check and see if she’s really in labor, OK? Now can you tell me your last name and date of birth…
A midwife runs down the hall. She hears me. “No no no, she needs to come over to a delivery room. Right across the hall.”
The rest is lots of nothing I can remember. Baby babe is born about six minutes later.
Everybody at home loves the banana bread.