by Andy Zell
As I write this, we are expecting our fourth child in a matter of days.
A few days before the birth of our third child, my wife asked me if I had looked into home births. She had come across a website called Idiot’s Guide to Emergency Home Births and thought I should take a look. I didn’t know why she thought her labor might be so quick. I blew her off and joked that I didn’t need to look anything up. Nothing to it but catching the baby. Easy peasy.
I never expected our third child to arrive so quickly. All of our children have been late.
The first arrived almost leisurely—my wife’s water broke in the middle of the night before any major contractions. We called and were told to wait until morning to go to the hospital. After my wife labored all day, we welcomed our firstborn in the early evening. Our second was induced after being more than a week late. This time my wife labored all night and we welcomed our daughter in the early morning.
The day our third was born we were informally timing the contractions. We had called my wife’s parents so they could start the all-day drive to come help us with grandparent duty. A good friend was coming over to watch our other two kids in the meantime. She had no idea what she was stepping into.
Labor appeared to be progressing slowly. I went out to fill up the van with gas, figuring that our friend and definitely the in-laws would want to tote around the kids. I kept my phone on me. My wife sorted laundry, made lunch, and laid on the couch, trying not to make our two little ones nervous. When the friend came over, I showed her around the house, explaining the kids’ routines and how every little thing worked. Then my wife’s water broke.
She was alone in the bathroom and tried to call out to me. I couldn’t hear her. I was too busy explaining how all of the remote controls worked. Then she screamed, and we rushed to find her. Contractions were coming so hard and fast she could barely move or talk. She wanted to start pushing. Our friend wasn’t ready to deliver the baby and neither was I. I didn’t know what to do. Should I call the hospital or 911?
My wife somehow managed to hobble out to the car while I carried the small suitcase. I imagined having a police escort to speed us to the hospital, knowing it would never happen.
I gripped the steering wheel, trying to stop my arms from shaking. We had barely begun when another contraction hit. My wife screamed for me to pull over. She wanted to push the baby out. I switched to the right lane and started to slow down, but then I realized what that meant. It meant that I would have to deliver the baby by myself. I sped up and moved back to the left lane.
When we hit a red light, I immediately altered my course and turned right. When we hit another red light later I turned right on red and then took an immediate left into the parking lot of a fast food chain, cut through, and continued on the road to the hospital. A small part of me felt like I was in a movie chase, but without the suspension of disbelief. I had to speed to the hospital without breaking any laws.
Another contraction jolted her while I navigated the streets. “Ahhh! Pull over! I’m going to have this baby!” she yelled. Again I slowed down and then accelerated. I didn’t know what to do. If I made it to the hospital, then I would have made the right call to keep driving. If she had the baby in the car, then I should have stopped.
I pulled the car up to the emergency room doors. I ran in to tell them to bring out a wheel chair. When I came back my normally modest wife was stretching out of the passenger side of the car and taking off her pants so she could deliver herself of our child.
After what seemed like 15 minutes but was probably two, a whole host of people in scrubs came out with a gurney and lifted my wife onto it. They covered her with a sheet and hurried inside. I parked the car and then I raced inside. Someone pointed me in the right direction. I arrived to find my wife looking around frantically for me.
No one would check under the sheet to see if the baby was coming. Instead they fussed with vital sign measurements and an IV line. It seemed that the room was packed with people lined up along the wall. More people than needed, really. And still no one was ready to catch our son. Finally someone came down from the OB floor and with a push he was here. He was beautiful.
I’m a father, so this is merely an outside point of view on the birth of my third child. It doesn’t do justice to my wife’s experiences, especially how in the car she managed not to push when every instinct told her it was time to deliver.
I’m supposed to take care of my pregnant wife. Even the schlub played by Seth Rogen in Knocked Up gets his act together when the Katherine Heigl character goes into labor. He demands that the on-call OB follow the birth plan. He is her advocate when she is unable to make her desires clear.
I barely got her to the hospital in time. I managed to hold her hand during those last five minutes before our son was born.
Hours later, when describing the frantic drive to family members on the phone, I couldn’t stop trembling. I still felt shaken, on high alert.
So we’re having another baby any day now, our fourth. I think we’ll go to the hospital at the first sign of labor this time.
I think I know what to expect.
Soon after writing this, Andy Zell became the father of a fourth child. And yes, they made it to the hospital in plenty of time. He tutors writing part time, but mostly he’s a stay-at-home parent to their three preschoolers and kindergartner. When he finds time he blogs about books and life. Occasionally he tweets.
Photo credit: Andy Zell