For the last couple of weeks, we had been nervous that Rummicub would come early. Old wives tell tales about second babies coming earlier, just as they say first babies come later, and as Ezra had been late, we assumed the old wives knew what they were talking about. But after every false alarm or precaution taken to stay inside, lest the water break, one of us would always say to the other, “She’s not coming out for weeks, is she?”
Thursday evening we brought dinner to some friends who just had their first kid, a girl. Sarah had been having contractions on and off for a few days, and that dinner saw more of the same. There were moments when she had to withdraw from the conversation to handle a seizing contraction. It was theorized later that her uterus was so overwhelmed by the beauty of baby Sophie that it decided it was GO TIME.
Our story begins here.
We drive home and put Ezra to bed. Sandy does some work while Sarah watches TV. Contractions, while strong, are at least 5-8 minutes apart.
Even though we don’t think it’s the real deal, we call the midwife on call to keep her abreast. Sarah is excited to find it’s Linda, one of her favorites. They start to get more intense, but are still 5-6 minutes apart.
Contractions continue. We realize that if they start to speed up and intensify, we need to be able to bolt. We decide to call my mom, the night owl, and have her come over just in case. She answers on first ring. I ask and she says, “No problem! I’m dressed and ready to go!”
sleeping isn’t in the cards, the three of us gather around the computer and turn on the D&D episode of Community. It is, as expected, hilarious and a great mind occupier. Intensity is picking up so much that when contractions start, Sarah, who is standing and rocking to stay comfortable, slaps me on the shoulder, which is my cue to pause the show. 60-90 seconds later, contraction stops, she slaps again, and I unpause.
We call the midwife again to say they got more intense. They immediately stop.
We figure: if that was it, better go to sleep. My mom opts to stick around, which ended up being the smartest decision anyone makes all night. I go to sleep right away. Sarah doesn’t, because they start up again, though not super frequent.
Sarah stands up to go bathroom. Immediately she gets hammered, one contraction right on top of another.
She wakes me up. “I think we should start timing them again,” she says. “No,” I say, “I think it’s time to go.”
I put on Sarah’s socks for her. I get the bags together. My mom is awake. We are all happy she is here.
We make it to our car. We call the midwife to let her know we’re coming. Paging service asks for callback number. We say, “Just tell her we’re coming.” They say, “We can only page them in the case of an emergency.”
We call and wake up Sarah’s parents, to apprise them of the situation. We all agree they should wait until Sarah gets checked at the hospital before they head out. Due to focusing on phone call, I accidentally go the long but proper way, instead of the wrong-way shortcut I took last time.
On final block before hospital, Sarah has an intense contraction. The potholes do not help.
pull into hospital cul-de-sac. Sarah says “no need to put on blinkers.” This seems silly to me, and also she’s delirious, so I ignore her and follow my instinct. This will prove very foolish 4 hours later, when I come down to move the car only to find the battery completely dead.
It takes forever for security to notice we’re there and open the front door.
We walk into delivery area. Midwife Linda is there waiting. The nurses approach, intending to bring Sarah to triage. For the second birth in a row, the midwife intercepts to say, we’re not doing that. She’s ready to go.
Sarah strips and puts on gown. They strap on the heartrate monitor. They notice, with mild concern, that the heartrate slows during contractions. This means the monitor is staying on for the duration.
Sarah is examined. 7 cm. I call Sarah’s parents and tell them they better come down.
Sarah enters the zone. She’s been here before, and feels in control. She knows what works and what works is standing, hanging on to me and rocking. We look like a couple of nervous teenagers at a high school dance.
Breathing exercises kick in.
Sarah is examined again. 10 cm. Time to push. Sarah gets on the bed, and lies — or rather, she is positioned — on her side.
With every contraction, Sarah gets in three pushes. Linda coaches her each time, “I want you to take a deep breath, put your chin on your chest, bear down, and push as hard as you can.” Then: “Push harder, Sarah.” Then: “PUSH AS HARD AS YOU CAN!” What emerges from her mouth is something like a cross between the Wilhelm Scream and Tuvan throat singing.
Baby’s heartrate continues to go down during contractions. Linda thinks it’s because umbilical cord is around neck, which turns out to be true.
Linda moves Sarah to her other side, then onto her knees. She’s trying to find a good position for the baby. Then onto her side again. This position seems to be the best, as she can hold onto her own leg. At this point I am holding onto her leg as well, my face up close to hers, giving encouragement, reminding her to take deep breaths, that everything is going exactly as it should, that all this pain is good pain, that the baby is on her way.
Resident is notified of heartrate situation and comes in to assess. Linda says, calmly but persistently (paraphrasing): “Step off. She’s got fast labors. We’re getting her out naturally.”
I’m trusting Linda 100%. But at some point, Linda notices I’m paying close attention to the her interaction with the resident, and says to me “If I thought things were bad, I wouldn’t be sitting here calmly talking to you.”
Pushing isn’t going as fast as it needs to. Linda feels around, decides it’s time to break the amniotic sac. She asks permission, Sarah says yes, and she takes out the crochet hook-like thing and does it. Sarah feels great relief. Linda attaches internal heartrate monitor to the baby’s head.
The nurse attaches oxygen mask to Sarah, to help deliver oxygen to the baby.
The nurse wants to draw blood and to set up an IV, in case surgery is necessary. Between contractions, they poke Sarah’s arm, but can’t find a vein. They poke again after the next one, and it doesn’t work. Linda waves them off, because she feels the end is near.
Linda moves Sarah to lean back for the final go. I take one leg and Colleen the nurse takes the other. Linda: “I need you to push as hard as you can this time.” I lean in and say, “Push push push push push. You’re a motherfucking superhero. You can do it.”
Sarah draws all the strength she has left and focuses it on those final pushes. She’s like Superman fighting Doomsday. The screams are epic. Push #1. I look down and see the head crown. Push #2. Baby’s head is out, along with the cord around her neck, which they immediately dispatch. Push #3. Shoulders, then body. The whole thing takes like 30 seconds. Linda hands her to me, and I carry her to Sarah’s chest.
I do a quick check: 10 fingers, 10 toes, one vagina, no penis. I turn around and see Sarah’s parents standing in the hallway. I give them a thumbs up.
They hand me the scissors and I cut the cord. Linda coaches Sarah through birthing the placenta, then holds it up in admiration. Points out the veins look like a tree. I’m a little wigged out.
Because of the oxygen scare, they need to take baby to nearby table for analysis. Everyone comments on how tiny she is. They turn on the scales: 2752 grams. Everyone looks around — what does it mean? Someone does the math: 6 pounds, 1 ounce. We are all stunned.
Linda tells us they were less than five minutes away from calling in the cavalry. But Linda knew Sarah could do it. “You have a proven record,” she says.
Rummicub tweets her existence.
Sarah asks for her back for some cuddling and breastfeeding. Baby takes to it like a champ.
Even though her name was chosen months ago, it’s not really final until birth. I confer with Sarah. Are we sure? She says we’re sure. I agree.
I call in Sarah’s parents. Sarah announces: “This is Zella Ruth.”