The Very Long and Very True Story of Caroline's Very Short Birth
[originally published on AdoredAustin.com by Indiana in Oct. 2012]
It only took us three days, but Chris and I finally settled on a name. Meet Caroline Maple Adams.
Maple was chosen because my grandpa planted a silver maple for each of his grandchildren, and they're my favorite tree. Lucy was a very close second choice for a first name, but in the end I decided that Caroline gives me the freedom to name subsequent children names outside the Beatles catalog. Not that I'm planning on having subsequent children already. My crazy birth experience would probably give anyone pause when considering birthing again.
There are two reasons why I initially considered not writing down and/ or publishing Caroline's birth story. First, Chris cautioned me that any account of a mother having a ten pound baby... at home... without pain meds... in twenty minutes... could make the delivering mother come off as a braggart. Secondly, there was a major embarrassing mishaps that happened that my family would probably feel most comfortable if I did not share. It is this second piece of information, though, that assures that I will not come off as a braggart, so as embarrassing as it is, it is an essential part of the story.
It took me nearly two years to share Jude's birth story here, although most of our friends know all the nitty gritty details. I think Chris is still embarrassed that I shared so much private information with strangers, but in the spirit of sharing between women (and because you have already seen a rendering of me nearly nude), I have decided to go ahead and share the very long but true story of Caroline's very short birth. Again, do not read on if you're squeamish about birth details.
Chris and I really enjoyed our experience with our midwife, so we again opted for a homebirth with Julia and Laurie. Because Jude's birth was considered precipitous (a birth that is less than three hours from contractions to delivery) and because I didn't call Julia until I thought I felt Jude's head coming out, I was told to call IMMEDIATELY at the very first sign of early labor this go around (yes, with bold, italics, and in all caps). "Yes! Yes, I will," I promised. However, I wasn't counting on lighting striking twice. I was not holding out hope for a quick delivery again, and I was mentally preparing for a more typical labor of 12- 17 hours.
My due date came and went. On Tuesday I went to Marshalls, Central Market, and had lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant. I had an appointment with my midwife Laurie, and that night I quietly celebrated Jude's second birthday at home with Chris and my mom. I went to bed a little discouraged and sad that our daughter and Jude wouldn't be sharing a birthday.
The next morning, as Chris left to go to the gym, he said his morning prayers with me, and I asked him to rub my lower back. I drifted back to sleep as he prayed and rubbed. It was 5:20 a.m., and the day had begun just like every other day for us.
Warning: the TMI section begins now...
A little after 5:45, I got up to go to the bathroom. Since incontinence is somewhat common for pregnant women, I wasn't super concerned that I didn't quite get to the toilet in time or get my underpants down quick enough. Yes, I had wet my pants a tiny bit, and I didn't care.
That is, I didn't care until I noticed the panty liner I had on was tinged pink. I wiped, and my toilet tissue was tinged pink, too. Since I hadn't eaten an excess of beets, I concluded that perhaps I did not wet my pants like an incontinent octogenarian, after all. That may have been a leak of amniotic fluid. And that's when I felt the teeniest, tiniest of what I thought could be a contraction. It was 5:50.
Still groggy, I called Chris at the gym, mumbling, "Hey, can you come home? My water may have broken, and I might have had a contraction." He had trouble hearing me over the gym's way too early blasting of Carley Rae Jepson. He didn't hear me say I thought my water had broken, but he did hear me asking him to come home. He packed up his stuff and quickly made his way back to the house.
I stayed on the toilet while I contemplated all the things I should do before my real contractions began: Should I take a shower? Should I braid my hair? I texted my best friend Bee and took down a blog post I had scheduled that had said I hadn't yet had the baby. It was now 5:58.
Then... WHAMO! My first undeniable contraction. I opened the Baby Bump Pro app on my phone to begin timing my contractions. That one had lasted :34 seconds, and the next contraction came a minute and :39 seconds later and lasted :48 seconds. I thought, "That can't be right... could it? Are these real contractions?"
I got up from the toilet and hobbled half way over to the sink. I wanted to brush my teeth, but it took way too much energy to waddle the six feet to my toothbrush. I thought, "If I can stand and kind of walk, though, then this is not it. I am in for a long day." I waddled back to the toilet and sat back down.
Then I remembered that Julia and Laurie had a new office number and it was written on an index card on my vanity in the next room. If I couldn't muster up the energy to get to my beloved toothbrush, then there was no way I was going to be able to make it to back to my bedroom to get that blasted index card. Chris would have to get it and call when he got home.
At 6:04 I texted my best friend Bee again. "Pray. It is already painful." I stood up to put my hot forehead on the linen pantry door and thought about laying down on the linoleum. I prayed, "God, I cannot do this. I don't remember this being this painful this early." I took a deep breath to calm myself and recalled some of the relaxation techniques Chris had been going over with me for the past nine months. I relaxed my scrunched up shoulders, I shook out the tension in my neck, and I reassured myself that this was not it. I was able to think, text, stand, and pray. I didn't feel like I had lost my mind, yet. My contractions were under a minute each and irregularly spaced. The previous one was three minutes prior.
At 6:07, I called Chris to check on his ETA. He didn't answer, and I started to panic. Just as I hung up, he walked through the bathroom door. I was sitting down again, and he came over and clutched my hands. I had what would be my final contraction. "The office number is on my vanity. You have to call now. And... OH NO! I think I am pushing!"
Chris left the bathroom to get the index card. I stood up and pleaded, "No, sweet baby, stay in, stay in. Stay in until someone gets here!" And then my body pushed involuntarily... a horribly familiar feeing.
Chris made the call at 6:08. "Julia, the baby is coming. DeeDee says she is pushing." History was repeating itself... or was it?
He asked me if I could make it to the bedroom and the exercise ball. I wanted to laugh. Was he serious? "No way. No."
I stood back up. "I AM PUSHING! I CANNOT HELP IT!" I felt dizzy and nauseous. This could not be happening. Then horror of horrors: I looked down and her head was hanging out of me.
Then worse horror of horrors: Dizzy, I sat down and PLOP! Out she came. Into the toilet.
I'll just let that sink in for you a bit. Go ahead. Go back. Reread that part if you have to. I'll wait.
Yes, folks. You read that right. My newborn baby fell into the toilet!
Are you horrified? Or are you laughing?
mean, I've read stories about women giving birth in banks and at the grocery store, and I've always been like, "What the heck? How is that even possible?" I've even read a tale or two about women giving birth in toilets, and I thought that was absolutely bat crap crazy and something that only happens to rednecks or idiots and/ or people on that show "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" (1, 2, 3).
But, people, it happened to me (and if I had to choose, I lean "redneck" vs. "idiot"). For the record, I am both horrified and laughing.
Thankfully Chris was right there. He immediately scooped our waterbaby up and wrapped her in a towel and thrust her into my arms so I could dry her off, hold her tight, and warm her up. She let out a glorious cry (no doubt not at all expecting that kind of water birth!), and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that cry meant she was okay. Chris called Julia back, "She's here!" Julia and her assistant Nina were still en route but gave Chris some basic instructions to get me onto the bed and to keep the baby on me and warm.
In our Bradley class, our instructor emailed us this ridiculous video from 1966 called "Sudden Birth" in which we basically learned that if someone has an unassisted, sudden birth to just let it be until help arrives. Keep the baby warm, but really.... do nothing... just wait...
So, that's what we did. I stayed on the birthing throne in the bathroom while Chris put a vinyl liner on the bed and changed out our sheets for the Goodwill sets. He came back to check on me and had to deliver the placenta, too.
I moved to the bed, our baby girl pressed against my chest. She looked perfect. Big, but perfect.
Julia and Nina arrived, both with big smiles on their faces. Our new baby checked out great: great color, nice strong pulse and heartbeat, steady breathing, and a great body temperature despite her early morning swim.
Chris and I often remark that Jude's quick and early birth was a hint at what kind of child he would become. Jude is a quick learner, likes the routine of being early or on time, and enters into all his activities with gusto. If the same holds true for Caroline, I think we may have a child who is going to be full of surprises for her mom and dad... or at the very least a really great swimmer.
Update [10/10/12]: When I called Chris at 6:07, apparently, I did not hang up the phone. Chris just discovered that we have Caroline's birth on his voicemail! Isn't that crazy? We can clearly hear me saying "Oh my gosh. The baby's here!" as I see her head. When she plops into the toilet, I say, "The baby! Get the baby!". We hear Caroline's first cry, and as I'm holding her my voice turns from panic to amazed, "Hi. Oh, hi, sweet baby. Hi. Hi," I say. The voicemail ends when Chris calls Julia. Wow! Just wow.