5 attempts and 10 Google Doc pages later... this is how many times it’s taken me to write something that even feels close to capturing how Parker’s birth impacted us that night, and forever.
There was silence. There was overt calm. But inside, I was reeling. There was supposed to be noise. There was supposed to be crying. But all I heard was deafening silence. I had just experienced what will be one of the most epic moments of my life: I gave birth to my second son — on our master bathroom floor. Yup. You read that right. It was just us, my sister-in-law and the 911 operator on speaker phone on the floor. And not one of us was making a sound.
“Is he okay?! Is he breathing?!” I exclaimed.
“He’s fine,” Dave said, smiling. “I just saw him take his first breath. He’s looking at me.”
The 911 operator explicitly said not to lift the baby onto my chest — you know, the way they do in the movies and in the hospital. It’s the moment where the mothers exude large emotions and grasp on to their new baby and forget about all the pain they just endured. We had none of that. So I continued to lay flat on my back in our silent bathroom wondering what the actual fuck just happened.
And my husband — forever my partner, advocate, and now default doula — kept asking the nice firemen if I could put the baby to breast. Our actual doula, who didn't make it in time, would've been so proud. How different the immediate postpartum was with this pregnancy than my last. The nurses in the hospital were all about the golden hour and the breast crawl. And this time, the firemen sent him on a search for a baby blanket instead.
They cut the cord. "What's this little guy's name?" they asked.
"Parker," I said — and I remember being so glad they did. He wasn't just a baby, he was our baby. And now everyone knew what to call him.
I continued to feel periodic faintness, as if the walls were closing in around me. I was helped onto a stretcher and carried slowly down our stairs in the dark, glancing over at Carson’s room as I left, and then back down at Parker. I have two boys now, officially. But he was my first (human) baby. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to tell him the crazy thing that just happened and introduce him to his brother. But he was still sleeping — and actually stayed asleep the whole night.
They wheeled me backwards out of the front door of our house. I could barely make out the light of the moon in the midst of the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. I looked around at the dark, quiet homes of our new neighbors thinking how this wasn't the way I envisioned being welcomed into the neighborhood. My head swirled in a million different directions, and then finally settled in on the tiny little nugget tucked somewhat neatly under the fire blanket we were both wrapped in. He was still so quiet. He just blinked his sweet little eyes and looked up at me, as if to say “So... we’re doing this, Mom?”. This was our first rodeo together, and boy, was it a doozy. In all of this chaos and craziness, there was somehow a peaceful stillness between us.
I tried to make small talk with the EMT in the ambulance as he put the IV in my hand, but I couldn’t pretend anything about this experience was normal. I had just pushed a baby out on my bathroom floor. My sister-in-law and half of my local fire department had seen parts of me that should never have seen the light of day. How does one recover from this? And in the midst of all of this emotional self-talk was still the physical pain my body was experiencing. Oh yeah — there’s that other organ that the body needs to expel after the baby is born. I did my best to stifle the writhing pain I experienced with each subsequent contraction, thinking what the fuck do I do if this thing pops out here in the ambulance.
We arrived at the hospital in just a few short minutes. I was still in and out of it, and mostly just staring down at Parker, still thinking “what the actual fuck?” but also just falling in love with his little face. He was so different than Carson. I couldn’t picture what our second baby would look like, but now I could. He was his own little guy — just trying to leave his mark on the world.
I was rolled into a room in labor and delivery, and the nurses went to town doing my admission. Parker was placed in a bedside bassinet, and they began the checks to make sure everything was ok. Meanwhile, the EMTs and nurses stood above me, and talked about me and the experience I just had. It was another round of an out-of-body experience — hearing phrases like “out of hospital delivery” and “breathing on arrival”, and having them be about you and your son. Then the attention turned towards the placenta. With a swift, forceful move, the nurse pushed on my belly — apologizing as it was happening although it did not change her course. I knew the drill. The room went white as the pain raged again. A little push of IV pain medications took the edge off and helped me lay back to relax as labor #2 and subsequent repair ensued. I'll never forget the kindness the OB/GYN who handled my repair — she was the first to label what I had just experienced as a "trauma". And although it's taken me a little while to get comfortable with that word, it now feels fitting.
When the dust finally settled, it was the wee hours of the PST morning. For certain, our east-coast families were waking up and it was time to share the news. We sent off a text that all was well, and we set about the early days as newborn parents again. Before long, it was time to tell the tale of our eventful night.
“How does this even happen?”
“How do you not know you’re in labor?”
I’m sure you’re asking yourself the same questions perhaps. Genuine curiosity questions of course, but it’s hard not to feel judged. Do you think I wanted to have that be my birth experience? Fuck no. So here it goes:
Around 2am, my body woke me up. Typical third trimester discomforts is what I chalked it up to. I rolled back and forth several times, but couldn't shake the discomfort. I grabbed my computer and went downstairs. The pain did intensify, but truly nothing I felt was indicative of being that close to giving birth. I downloaded a free contraction tracker app, and started tapping away.
Soon enough, a small, nondescript notification popped up on my phone. "It's time to go to the hospital." The blood drained from my face. How could this be? I went upstairs to tell Dave. It was now 2:50am. We started packing up, still taking our time. I had heard far too many tales of women being turned away from the hospital when they were in labor, and I was not interested in having any of that.
And just when I had finally closed my hospital bag, it hit me. I had to go to the bathroom. "I'll just get this out before I go..." I naively thought to myself.
Wrong. The saying "well, that escalated quickly," does not do my situation justice. The feeling I was having about going to the bathroom was actually the baby's head sliding into the birth canal. This became apparent to me as my water broke directly into the toilet. Well, at least it wasn't all over my floor this time (yes, I had a spontaneous water break with my first son). Let's also just say the ring of fire is real, folks. And I've now felt it twice.
Parker's head emerged while I was still sitting on the toilet. Dave, who remained calm as a cucumber (what does that even mean?) the whole time, saw this happen and immediately went from on the phone with our doula to on the phone with 911.
I was having a complete out-of-body experience. How could this be happening? I couldn't move. The room was going fuzzy. Next thing I knew, Dave was lifting me from the toilet onto the ground. My sister-in-law, lucky lady that she is, entered the bathroom just in time for the important duty of holding Parker's head so that it didn't hit the tile floor on the way down. (Yeah, we're pretty close. Although I am still convinced we scarred her for life).
And there I laid — where the beginning of this story is now the end. Smocked in the fearful silence, but now far enough away from it that I can look back fondly and tell this story.
Hi! I'm Laura, a 30-something first-time mom raising her little dude in southern California. It's been quite a first year, and this is my way to try to make sense of it all. This is a safe space for all moms to get some laughs, recommendations and feel like they are not alone.