I’ve been thinking all day about how to tell you about the day Ella was born. This story usually works best when I’ve had a few drinks and can shout out words like MUCUS PLUG and CERVICAL CHECK and CROWNING. Ugh.
Here are the main things you should know:
- I had promised my sister, who lived in St. Thomas at the time, that I would tell her as soon as I was sure I was in labor, on the off chance she might be able to miraculously get a flight off island in time for the birth. Despite having lost said mucus plug (ew) immediately following yoga the night before, I remained in denial that I was actively working towards having a baby until about 12:30am.With my husband snoring beside me, I started a texting conversation with my sister that went something like this…
Me: Hai I think I am in labor
Hayley: WHERE ARE YOU DOES JON KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING I WISH I COULD BE THERE
Me: Jon is asleep
Hayley: SHOULDN’T YOU WAKE HIM UP?
Me: Nah, there’s probably time
Hayley: YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AN ACCIDENTAL HOME BIRTH WAKE UP YOUR HUSBAND
Me: Nah, I think I’ll just let him get some rest
…10 minutes later…
Me: OH WAIT THIS ACTUALLY REALLY HURTS
Hayley: WAKE UP YOUR HUSBAND
Me: OK that is maybe a good idea
- Around 3:45am, we finally called our midwives at the North Shore Birth Center to say that we were having a baby. My contractions were five minutes apart, although I was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t too bad,” which should have been a tip off. We made the drive over the drawbridge, where one of the midwives checked me out and promptly announced that we were nowhere near ready – but, to be very nice and not make us feel like horrible rookies, she said we should hang out for an hour and see if things picked up at all. Spoiler alert: they did not. Home we went, just as the sun was coming up.
- Pop quiz: over the next twelve hours, which of the following did Jon and Danielle do?
a.) Watch the extended cuts of all three original Star Wars films
b.) Make a delicious casserole (ziti, ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, red sauce) to come home to
c.) Nap in between every single contraction
d.) All of the above
(HINT: the answer starts with the same letter as Dora the Cat, who chased me around our apartment trying to snuggle with my belly, which was not tremendously helpful.)
- Around 5pm, things were getting pretty serious. We called the birth center and found that my least favorite midwife was of course now on call. She had Jon put me on the phone so she could listen to me through one contraction. “No,” she said. “Still not ready – I’m guessing 3cm dilated, I can hear it in your voice. Why don’t you try taking a bath and if you really can’t stand it, come in.”Needless to say, there was a lot of cursing after this phone call, but Jon ran me a bath. This was the only time during my entire labor that I thought, “Maybe this whole ‘having a baby without drugs thing was a terrible idea.’” I gave the bath all of five minutes before I told Jon we better just go in, and if grouchy midwife was right, we should request a transfer to the hospital for an epidural STAT, because no way could I take this getting 7cm harder.
What I SHOULD have been saying was WHAT KIND OF CRAZY PERSON THINKS THEY CAN JUDGE HOW DILATED YOU ARE BY LISTENING TO YOUR VOICE because that is some nonsense right there. But anyway, we got in the car and headed back across the bridge.
- I traumatized a woman in early pregnancy as soon as we got to the birth center by getting hit with a strong contraction that had me leaning way over on the hood of Jon’s Subaru, which was right next to her car as she was trying to leave.
- Grouchy Midwife pretended to be reading a Very Important File while I had another contraction in the reception area. I very nearly throttled her, but she finally brought us around to one of the labor rooms to check on my progress.Guess what? YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY TELL HOW DILATED SOMEONE IS BY LISTENING TO THEIR VOICE because I was at 8cm and in transition, so Grouchy Midwife is lucky she escaped with her life. I was ready to kill anyone and anything that crossed me at that point.
- I spent the next few hours floating in a tub, yelling at anyone who tried to touch me or bother me in any way, and yes, still napping between contractions.Seriously, the napping is a superpower of mine. It’s genetic. My dad can sleep through absolutely anything. One time, I was at Disney World with some of my family, and my aunt jokingly said, “Danielle, are you sure your Dad’s not here? I just saw a guy asleep in front of the Walt Disney statue with his head on a backpack.” And I said, “OK, I will go get him.” It was my Dad, who was not supposed to be there. But he was, and he was asleep, on a bench, in the middle of the busiest intersection in the Magic Kingdom.
Ella’s birth is basically my version of Dad’s Disney nap. I slept, 100% out cold, up until my contractions were right on top of each other.
- At this point, someone made me get out of my lovely bath so they could check my cervix. I don’t remember when it happened, but Grouchy Midwife had gone home to whatever cave she lives in, and a much nicer midwife took her place. Nice midwife, however, made my water break with her cervical check.
- Said water apparently had meconium in it, and since the birth center was governed by hospital policies, I got to take a stretcher ride across the parking lot from the birth center to the hospital’s labor and delivery ward.Please read that again.
A stretcher ride. Across a parking lot. At 10cm.
Bonus: our immediate family had gathered in the waiting area of the birth center in an amazing show of support. Someone let them know we were headed across the parking lot, so they headed that way, too.
Now go back and put that all together for me.
A stretcher ride. Across a parking lot. At 10cm. With me, trying not to have a baby in said parking lot, leading a parade of family to the hospital. We even got to ride in the elevator together.
The existence of my adorable nephew is absolutely miraculous after this experience, which should have been fairly permanent birth control for all present.
- The parade finally ended with me and Jon being whisked off to a delivery room, where Ella June was born after just 45 minutes of pushing. She had a full head of dark hair and a powerful set of lungs. She was and is a miracle and the best thing that has ever happened to us or the world.The nurse on duty said I was the most controlled woman she had ever seen in labor. Which is why no one should attempt to estimate dilation over the fucking phone.
Thank you, God, for midwives, grouchy and otherwise, who have been a blessing for both of our pregnancies and the long stretch of time in between. Thank you for the support of our families, not just during the labor parade, but over the last four years of parenting adventures. And thank you more than we can ever say for Ella June, who we love more than the whole universe put together.