I felt the first labor pain a little before 6:45 a.m. that dark, chilly March morning. Snuggling down a little deeper into our heated waterbed (hey, it was the 90s) I decided to ignore the pain. I was two weeks past my due date and after what seemed like months of excruciating Braxton Hicks contractions, I was well accustomed to this false labor game.
At 6:50 I was awakened by another pain, this one a little stronger, so I finally threw back the covers, figuring it was almost time to get up anyway. I woke my husband and asked him to put on the coffee while I got in the shower.
I threw on my hubby’s big blue terry cloth robe, which smelled delightfully of Downey, and waddled into the bathroom. As I turned on the shower I suddenly straightened as my body tightened with yet a third contraction. I called out to my husband that he might want to start writing down contractions as they seemed to be starting up again. The first time he did this, he was so nervous you couldn’t even read his handwriting; but by now you could find little scraps
I climbed into the shower and as I stepped under the warm water my body contracted with the most intense pain so far. I pressed my hands against the wall of the shower and closed my eyes, riding it through as I waited for it to pass, but this one knocked the breath out of me. It seemed like it was going to last forever. It was at that moment I realized we may have finally crossed the line from Braxton Hicks to the real thing.
I immediately turned off the water, wrapped a towel around my wet hair and climbed back into the robe. I leaned against the door jamb as another contraction grabbed me. How had we gone from seven minutes apart to two so quickly?
As he heard me open the bathroom door, my husband poked his head around the corner of the kitchen door holding a steaming cup of coffee, but the minute he saw my face he realized something more serious was going on.
“Honey, you need to get the car. Now,” I said. Frozen in place as he processed my words, the only thing moving was the steam coming off the coffee. Then, as if someone had unclicked the pause button on a remote, he flew into action.
My poor husband was scamping about like a bunny, not knowing what to do next. Then “the Plan” must have come racing back to him as he grabbed my little suitcase and ran out the door.
He dashed back into the house a minute later, bringing with him a cold gust of air, obviously pleased that he had just completed Step 1 of his practiced routine. In control once again, he announced that the car was warming up and we were ready to go. Then he then looked at me, as I stood clutching the door jamb, and gasped when he saw the huge puddle between my feet. “Why are you bleeding?” he asked, and I could see his control slipping away once again. I didn’t have the strength or the time to decipher what was happening. I just knew we had to go.
Surviving yet another severe contraction I told him there was no way I could get into his little Toyota Celica. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew for a fact that I could not sit down. Little did I realize that at that moment the baby’s head was already crowning. My husband just stood there looking at me. None of this was making any sense. This wasn’t the way we had rehearsed it.
I told him he needed to flip the seat up in the back of my jeep and bring the car as close to the front door as possible. He pulled an old quilt down from the closet, grabbed my keys off the hook and ran back out the door. A minute later I could see the taillights of my jeep easing down the slope of the front yard and before I knew it my hero was back at my side.
He found my slippers and slowly helped me out to the car, stopping twice for my ever-increasing contractions, and after opening the tailgate of the jeep, tried to get me to lie down on the quilt he had placed so neatly in the back.
I don’t know why, but it didn’t seem right. I didn’t want to lie down. Now that it’s over it makes so much sense — unless you have a doctor and a pair of stirrups at the end of a table, why in the world would you want to lie down at a time like this?
I climbed up into the back of the jeep, inching my way forward until I could grab the back of the driver’s headrest, and once he got me safely inside he slammed the door and we were off.
2. Lightweight disposable gloves. Not for mom, for you. Should you have to help deliver the baby, gloves will keep things sanitary for baby and of course be nice for you as well.
3. A flashlight. Don’t these things always happen in the middle of the night?! Just in case, keep a flashlight in the car, preferably one with a base that will allow it to stand on its own or with a loop so it can hang from a coat hook or mirror.
4. Two or three large clean towels. The minute a baby is born, they experience a drastic drop in temperature compared to what they have been used to (not to mention the fact that it takes weeks for a baby to accumulate any body fat, making them much colder than adults even in normal circumstances.) As soon as baby is born and you are certain they are breathing, use a towel to quickly rub baby dry and immediately wrap them up snugly, making sure you keep their head covered as well. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve seen of “en route” babies wrapped in silver reflective dashboard protectors!
5. In the event you ever have to deliver a baby and the baby does not start crying or isn’t breathing, there are a few crucial steps you must take immediately to clear baby’s air passages and help him to start breathing. To review Infant CPR instructions visit www.redcross.org or go to www.EnRouteBaby.com to receive a free copy. Every expectant parent should sign up for a CPR class prior to their due date and have a copy of these instructions posted somewhere in the house, but until mom and baby are safety tucked away in the hospital or back home, you need to keep a copy of these important instructions in the car.
6. An infant bulb syringe (nasal aspirator)is something you will use once baby is home should he have a cold or a stuffy nose, but in the event you are acting as midwife until help arrives and he is having difficulty breathing, you can use a bulb syringe to gently suction baby’s mouth. I know this sounds scary, and you are allowed to faint later, but while it is happening you will be as cool as a cucumber, and keep in mind that these steps are simple to perform and the results are quick.
7. Disinfectant wipes. These will come in handy for both you and mom, but be sure to never use these on a baby. Stick with the towels until you reach your destination.