I’ll cut straight to the punchline, since it’s what really matters. Evelyn Rose was born May 11th at 8 lbs 5 oz, 21″ long. We named her after my great-grandmothers Evelyn and Roseada and Adam’s great-aunts Evelyn and Rosina. She is happy and healthy and we are completely infatuated with her.
There are all sorts of pithy aphorisms that I could use to introduce Evelyn’s birth such story as “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Though I had drafted a pretty thorough birth plan that included many different contingencies, Evelyn managed to make her grand entrance in a way that we hadn’t even remotely considered – she was born in the front seat of our car, 10 minutes from the hospital.
On May 10th, Evelyn’s due date, I started to have some cramps that I figured were probably contractions. I could walk and talk through them so I went about my day. I called my doula to let her know that I had probably started pre-labor and that she could expect a call from me sometime in the next day letting her know that it was really happening. The contractions continued throughout the day, but never lasted more than 30 seconds and were about 10 minutes apart (for reference, you’re not supposed to go to the hospital until the contractions are 1 minute long and 4 minutes apart, so I had quite a ways to go. Pre-labor can go on for days, especially with a first baby). Just after 10pm I called my doula again to let her know that nothing had really changed and that I’d check in with her the next morning. While we were on the phone, my water broke in a spectacular gush, like you see in the movies (for reference, it’s rare for water to break before labor has begun and even more uncommon for it to happen as one big gush).
Minutes later, serious contractions started. Active labor had begun, though I was trying not to get excited since active labor with a first baby is usually 8-12 hours. The contractions were over 30 seconds long, 4-5 minutes apart, and strong enough that I was in tears on the floor. I called my midwife to check in, and they told me that I could come in to the hospital if I wanted to and that they wouldn’t turn me away since my water had already broken, but that if I didn’t live on an island they would recommend hanging out at home for while longer. We talked to our doula who said that everything was in the realm of normal, but it couldn’t hurt to make our way to the hospital. Adam gathered our stuff into the car and we went down to the ferry terminal to get the first ferry off the island that we could, figuring it was better to be safe than sorry and knowing that the longer we waited, the farther apart the ferries would be since it was getting late in the evening.
While we waited for the ferry, I labored on the ground next to the car since I was pretty sure I was going to throw up and didn’t want to make a mess in the car (does that count as ironic?). The ferry workers called the paramedics since the official policy is that paramedics have to be called any time a laboring woman rides the ferry since the ferry workers really don’t want to have a baby delivered on the boat. The paramedics talked to Adam and our doula (who was caravanning behind us) and said that they would be happy to transport us to the hospital if we wanted, but they would also be very happy just to have us sign the paper saying that we refused service since there wasn’t anything abnormal about my labor and I probably had many hours left to go. So Adam signed the paper and we got on the boat.
While on the boat, Adam moved our stuff to our doula’s car and made the plan with her that she would follow behind us and if, for some crazy reason, we needed help before reaching the hospital, she would be in charge of calling an ambulance and directing it to us. I felt baby’s head get lower in my pelvis while we were on the boat, and told our doula who said that was a normal sensation and, like every other aspect of labor so far, didn’t actually predict when baby would make her arrival since this was my first baby and first births usually take a long time.
Adam drove as quickly as he (safely) could to the hospital which was 40 minutes away. He stayed calm, cool, and collected while I moaned and screamed next to him. He was a rock, and I’m amazed and grateful that he had the wherewithal to safely do what needed to be done while still offering me words of comfort and support. As we were crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge I felt the “ring of fire”, reached down, and told Adam that I could feel our baby’s head.
Adam took the first exit after the bridge and pulled over by the side of the road. Our doula called the paramedics. Adam came over to my side of the car, knelt down beside me, and prepared to catch our baby. That act alone made him my hero. He doesn’t like blood and our birth plan was for him to be by my side, at my head, looking into my eyes and putting all of his energy into supporting me while I gave birth. Again, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
After driving right past us the first time, the paramedics got turned around and got to us with moments to spare. It was too late to get me onto a gurney, so Evelyn Rose was born in the front seat of our Subaru. The young man that caught her yelled at me to “push, push, push” and I started to panic, thinking that it must mean that something is going horribly wrong if he’s having me push even when I’m not having a contraction. (We learned after the fact that it was the first birth that the paramedic had seen (he was being closely watched by the senior paramedic) so it was a sign of his inexperience, not a sign of a problem.) Evie came out with just a couple of pushes and there was another terrifying moment of panic where she was absolutely silent, fortunately followed by tears of relief when she started to scream. They loaded me onto the gurney, into the ambulance, and drove us to the hospital. Adam asked the senior paramedic “No sirens?”. “No sirens.” Then he knew that everything was going to be okay.
We got to the hospital, were brought into a delivery room, and a midwife and several nurses checked on me and Evie – we were both healthy. I needed some stitches, but that was it. Everything was okay. My little girl came into this world a rebel, doing things on her own terms, a trait that we plan to encourage as she grows. All six of Evie’s grandparents were able to be at the hospital the day of her birth to meet her. All three of us have been surrounded by love from friends, family, and community and, despite a traumatic start, we recognize and appreciate how lucky we are to have brought such a sweet, healthy baby into the world.
(For those that are curious, any labor less than 3hrs from onset to delivery is considered a precipitous labor. Precipitous labor only occurs in ~2% of births and of those, only 10% are first births, so my experience was definitely a statistical anomaly.)