This post contains content related to childbirth. Fair warning.
Many of you have been inside your local hospital so you can picture the main entrance of ours here in Boise, ID. Our St. Luke’s Medical Center is about thirty minutes from our home. That drive is usually smooth and uneventful. Unless you’re in a car with a woman in active labor.
My labor began rather abruptly on a typical Wednesday morning. Our first born, Tyler, was getting dressed and supposedly brushing his teeth while I prepared his breakfast and sack lunch for the day. I checked on him every fourteen seconds, like most moms of five-year-olds, as I ensured his backpack contained all he needed for the day. He bounded downstairs at least sixty times – thinking he was completely ready – only to be sent back up for the right socks, or his tiny little tie. See, Tyler attends kindergarten at a private school about a mile from our home and they have “full dress” uniform day on Wednesdays.
Finally, Tyler appeared in the living room with is black dress shoes, blue dress shirt, tie, and special sweater. The perfect picture of a tiny version of the man he will someday grow to be. Complete with the crazy cowlick-induced bedhead. Oh well. No time for the sixty-first trip upstairs. It’ll have to do. My boy, with his wacky hair, sat down to eat his cereal. I prayed that he wouldn’t dribble milk onto his only clean school sweater.
As I proudly watched Tyler not spilling his cereal, I felt a very strong cramp in my abdomen and felt like I peed my pants. Ok, many of you who’ve done this before already know what was happening. I did not. Tyler’s labor never progressed, so this was new to me.
Anyway, I thought I’d had some bladder malfunction and left to empty it. As all humans do. Once this task was complete, I began to head back out to check on my unsupervised five-year-old. He’d been alone for about 5 minutes and anything could have happened. Then, another painful cramp grabbed me. I leaked a little again! After this, I woke up Paul to inform him that I was in pain and that he would need to be the school transportation for the morning. Having downloaded a contraction app weeks before to play with, I opened my phone and input a moderate contraction. Six minutes and twelve seconds later, the pain and leaking attacked me again. I called my OBGYN’s office.
My OB, Dr. Dirk Carlson, happened to be the doctor on call at 7:20 am. I described my condition and related that all four (another contraction came and went while I waited on the phone) of these pains had been 5-6 minutes apart and all were accompanied by leaking. He said, “Well, you’d better come in. I think we’re gonna have a baby today.” When Paul returned from driving Tyler to school, I relayed my surprise that I was in labor.
Paul’s reaction? “Really? That’s what Carlson said? OK, I’ll take a quick shower and we can go.” What? OK…
A few contractions later, he was ready. We gathered a few necessities and left. I know what you’re thinking – You hadn’t packed for the hospital yet? Why not! I was due one and a half months from now. We hadn’t preregistered at the hospital either. The drive to the hospital had always seemed fairly short. Not this Wednesday. Thirty minutes can be broken down into six or more increasingly painful contractions.
Halfway to the hospital, I could barely carry on a conversation with Paul. We decided that I needed to eat before we got there because they starve pregnant women. One Breakfast Burger from Carl’s Jr. and some ice water and we were on our way again. I was still tracking my contractions during the drive. They had become so painful, that I corrected my previous contractions to adjust my pain scale – the first ones were now 2s instead of 5s.
We arrived at the hospital fed and watered. Paul asked me where to park. I told him to just pull up front and drop me off. This way, my walk would be shorter and he could park the car. I was pretty slow at this point and knew he’d catch up soon. Our hospital allows short term parking at the entrance for times like this, but since we hadn’t registered yet we didn’t know.
Let me just say, I despise revolving doors. I had to walk through one to enter the hospital and it kept stopping because either my belly or my bottom got too close to the doors. Seriously? I finally made it inside after having another contraction and leaking a little while in the pregnant lady trap, otherwise known as a revolving door. Right away I saw the information desk and a plethora of wheelchairs. Waddling is a slow form of travel.
Once at the desk, I waited through another contraction and leaked a little. The older man in front of me greeted me and the following conversation commenced.
Kind Man: May I help you?
Pregnant Lady: I think I’m in labor.
Kind Man: Do you need a wheelchair?
Overconfident Pregnant Lady: No.
Befuddled Kind Man: Uh… OK… Do you know where you’re going?
Pregnant Lady: Ow! I just need to lean on your desk for a minute… Is the Labor and Delivery on the second floor?
Concerned Kind Man: Yes.
This gentleman proceeded to give me directions and then watched me waddle away from him. Alone. On my own. On the elevator, I leaked a bit more while in pain and then got off on the correct floor. That was all I did correctly for the next 15-20 minutes.
Later, I found out that my initial left turn was what lead my astray. I wandered down hall after hall. All the while contracting about every four minutes and leaking a bit each time. There were no signs of where I should be, so I kept walking and hoping a sign or a person would grace my path. Most of these halls seemed abandoned. I wondered why our hospital had so many empty rooms.
Eventually, I found a nurses’ station and saw one lonely young nurse doing some filing. She looked up, obviously shocked to see me. I paused to struggle through another contraction while leaning on her counter. Yes, I was still leaking. Now her shock was mixed with some concern. I told her, “I think I’m in labor” and she just stared at me for a minute. Poor girl, I wasn’t supposed to be back there and she didn’t know what to do with this largely pregnant woman.
She finally asked if I needed Labor and Delivery. I told her that I did and confessed that I had been offered a wheelchair and refused. Not realizing that I inadvertently refused all help from the kind people downstairs. No, I hadn’t “needed” a wheelchair, but would have gladly accepted a guide. The nurse informed me that she didn’t know how to get me to the check-in desk from where we were. She felt I needed to be seen soon and led me down a hidden magical path directly to the Labor and Delivery nurses’ station.
More shocked nurses. I was, again, not where I was supposed to be. I apologized, had a contraction, leaked a little, and explained that I’d been wandering lost in the bowels of the hospital for what felt like hours. At this point, I was fairly certain I was in labor. True to form, they jumped up and got me settled right away. They also found my worried husband at the check-in area as he tried to determine where is wandering wife could have waddled off to.
The next nurse I met asked me how I was doing. I said, “I think I’m in labor.” She replied, “I think you might be right.”