Until 7 weeks ago, I thought those stories of women giving birth on the side of the road on their way to the hospital were kind of eyeroll-worthy. Come on, ladies: it takes goddamn FOREVER to have a baby. Unless they live a day’s drive away from the hospital, how long did these idiots wait to get into the car to make their way to the land of epidurals and medical professionals that they couldn’t make it?!
And then I came within 20 minutes of that happening to me.
Seriously, guys. I was one minor traffic jam away from giving birth in a dirty Prius on Beverly Boulevard.
And now I can tell you definitively that the problem these poor side-of-the-road mothers faced wasn’t that they were too dumb to get their pregnant asses out the door in a timely fashion, but rather that they simply didn’t understand that some babies have no interest in following protocol. Because no one really expects to go from “hmm, is that a contraction?” to “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS KID IS COMING OUT OF ME LIKE RIGHT NOW” in just a few short hours. No one!
Ironically, I actually spent a great deal of my pregnancy worrying about getting to the hospital, but I was more concerned about enduring too many contractions in the car than actually giving birth on the road. Midway through the pregnancy, I moved from the westside of LA to the suburbs about 25 miles away, and I elected to keep my doctor rather than pick someone new in the middle of the game. Thanks to the horrors of LA traffic, this meant that it would take me anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to reach the hospital, and with each passing week I got more and more nervous about being subjected to a tortuous hours-long journey to the hospital while I timed contractions and counted down the minutes till I could get an epidural. I vowed early on that I would make sure to leave for the hospital at the first inklings of true labor in order to minimize that issue.
But alas, like those side-of-the-roaders, I made the mistake of assuming that labor takes a long time, even the second time around, and neglected to consider that a “leave for the hospital early on in the labor process” plan is irrelevant when you don’t know how long labor is actually going to take. So when I started feeling contractions around midnight on March 19th, I didn’t immediately leap into action. I told my husband to get a few hours of sleep while he had the chance, called my mom to warn her that we’d be dropping Bubba off sometime in the morning, and took my sweet time getting myself ready. I packed my bag. I took a shower. I made sure to take one last selfie to document my belly at its peak:
The timestamp on that photo is 2:32 am. By that time, the contractions were getting pretty painful and I realized I was inching closer to realizing my fear of having to withstand a bunch of heinous pain on the car ride, so I woke up my husband and told him it was go time. “We’ll have a baby by noon!” I told him psuedo-cheerfully as I tried not to pain-vomit on his face, still naively thinking I had hours of labor ahead of me. At 3:15, we dropped Bubba off at Grandma’s, at which point I further demonstrated my idiotic lack of urgency by spending ten minutes cuddling with Bubba and getting him settled in. Sure, the contractions were getting closer and closer together and I felt like I just might die from the horrendous pain, but I still thought we had plenty of time because LABOR TAKES FOREVER EVEN WHEN IT’S “FAST,” RIGHT?!
Three hours or so after feeling the first contraction, we were on our way to the hospital. Thankfully, since it was the middle of the night and not rush hour, we made it to the hospital in record time and my husband only had to listen to me threaten to smash my face into the dashboard for thirty minutes or so (have I mentioned that labor is painful?). I walked through the hospital doors at 3:57am and immediately told everyone in my path that I wanted an epidural, including several people who I do not think actually worked for the hospital in any capacity whatsoever. I was in a lot of pain and each contraction felt exponentially worse than the last, but as the nurse walked me into a room, I breathed a huge sigh of a relief, knowing I wouldn’t be in pain much longer because surely one of those 100 people I’d begged for an epidural would deliver!
As soon as we arrived in the room, the nurse examined me and announced that I was dilated to 6 centimeters, and this is when things went a bit off the rails. A resident joined the crew and assured me that the doctor was on her way and that she would call the anesthesiologist as soon as I was fully examined and checked in, but not two minutes later, I was screaming — like, bloody murder, no shame, no dignity, all out SCREAMING — that I was in pain and needed drugs. And then two minutes later, the same thing. And one minute after that. And again. And again. And in between each contraction, I was telling the nurse, “it’s so much pressure! SO. MUCH. PRESSURE.”
At the mention of all the pressure, the nurse decided to take another gander at my progress and was surprised to discover that said “pressure” was in fact my baby being born. Like, RIGHT THEN.
Even though I had just been at 6cm 10 minutes prior.
And my doctor hadn’t arrived.
And I hadn’t even filled out the check-in paperwork.
And there was obviously no time for drugs.
And it really did hurt a lot.
I will never forget the look on the poor resident’s face when the nurse told her there would be no time to get me the drugs I was begging for; the sweet women had been making a valiant effort to get the anesthesiologist to hurry up and appeared to be as terrified as I was to learn that not only would she be delivering this baby herself since my doctor still hadn’t arrived, but that she’d be doing it while I screamed in her face about how badly it hurt.
And just like that, with me in denial and screaming for drugs till the very end, I officially became a mom of two. Graffin Thomas Wachter busted out of my loins at 4:17am on March 19, still in the amniotic sac, 6 pounds 2 ounces, 19.5 inches long, and super cute (in a scrunched up smushed-face newborn kind of way):
I had never given so much as a passing thought to the possibility of a drug-free birth, and I truly cannot overstate how painful it was and how I will never, ever, ever do that again. But I must say that I feel pretty bad-ass for having done it, no matter how unintentional. And it goes without saying that it was absolutely worth every second of torture: