- I was in early labor for eleven days. Back pain, “basketball belly,” and a really high Bishop score, but no baby. The cliché is true: I thought I’d be pregnant forever.
- At 11 p.m. on the eleventh day, I went to bed with back pain—again. An hour later, Liesl and I decided we should figure out how to use the contraction-timing app. Then we argued about how many cars we would need to take to the hospital.
- The contractions went from 6-8 minutes apart, to 1-2 minutes apart, within about an hour. And we were still in Girdwood, 35 miles from the hospital!
- We gathered our stuff, and we (Liesl, her mom, the dog and I) went down to the garage. We’d decided to take both the Tacoma and the Subaru. I crawled into the back of the Subie—and right back out again. “We might need to call an ambulance,” I said.
- The 911 dispatcher told Liesl, “Tell her to take her pants off and get on the ground.” Somehow, between contractions, I got my shoes and pants off. Before long the paramedics arrived. Thankfully, this was during the brief window of darkness in an Alaskan summer night; I never thought I’d be half-naked in a parking lot, in full view of all the neighbors’ windows!
- The ambulance went screaming off toward town, with Liesl and her mom following in the car and the truck. My blood pressure was high and my oxygen low as we raced along the winding, two-lane Seward Highway. With one hand I held on to the paramedic for dear life, and with the other braced myself, one leg on the floor, one knee on a narrow gurney, contractions convulsing my body. My water broke, and broke again, and broke again.
- Once we finally got there, I swore a lot—explaining to the nurses, “I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister. I’m allowed to swear.”
- For three hours, I knelt in the shower, holding Liesl’s hands for dear life as each contraction hit, moaning, screaming, even roaring, I think, while our doula stood there, watering my back with the shower head, as calmly as if she’d been watering her lawn on a summer evening.
- When it was finally time to push, with each contraction I pushed for a count of ten, took a breath, pushed for another ten count, took another breath, and pushed for a third ten count. During one of the later pushes, I said, “I think I just burst my eyeball.”
- After three hours of pushing, the doctor told me that she’d like to give me about fifteen more minutes, and then we’d talk about using a vacuum. When that fifteen minutes came, I was ready; I was losing faith that I could do it.
- Finally, after 3.5 hours of pushing, with the help of the vacuum and my strong OB, I focused on the doctor’s halo of blond hair, and with one last fierce push I gave birth to our daughter.
- They took her away briefly, as they said she looked a little shocked. She’d emerged with her arms clenched to her sides, looking like a little soldier, making it difficult for the OB to find anything to grab as she pulled her out.
- The placenta didn’t detach properly, and taking care of that was so painful that I almost kicked the OB in the head. (Would have, too, had she not ducked.) Through the haze of pain, I could hear the baby making smacking, sucking noises in Liesl’s arms.
- Finally, the placenta was out, and the baby was back in my arms. After a moment’s consultation, Liesl and I agreed that we did like the name we had chosen, and we announced it to her mom, and all the medical people. “Her name is Willa Rain,” we said.
This was, hands down, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For at least 24 hours, I looked like a prizefighter after a bout.
Less than eleven hours start to finish, half-naked outdoors, excruciating pain, a wild-and-crazy ambulance ride, no meds—and I did it, with the help of a great partner, her mom, our doula, the EMTs and the doctors and nurses.