It was 2:30 on a Monday morning, the Kennedy Expressway was empty, and I was “gently” encouraging Aaron to be safe, but drive faster. We were on our way to Northwestern’s Prentice Hospital in Chicago—some 25 miles away—and my contractions were coming on more intensely, about every 5 minutes. I really didn’t want to be on the news because I had delivered my youngest son on the highway, and I certainly didn’t want to miss my epidural window. Priorities, right? Seriously though, my actual “birth plan” was simple: whatever it takes to make sure my son arrives safely, healthy and breathing. End of story.
Rewind an hour or so, when I was first awoken by the start of contractions. I was sleeping in C’s bed as he had woken earlier with a bad dream. I knew it was time, but didn’t want to believe it, so I forced myself back to sleep. 10 minutes later I was woken up by the next one, and realized I should pay attention to the timing. While at 37w2d, my little guy was full term, I wasn’t ready yet. More so, it was early in the morning of September 11, and I didn’t want my son born on this previously tragic day. And so when I woke Aaron 10 minutes later, I was crying at the thought of our child sharing his day with one of the most horrific events in history. Aaron was quick to reassure me that this day will have a new, happy meaning for us, it will now be the day our youngest son was born. I took a breath and realized I was being ridiculous by not focusing on what really matters: his safe arrival.
For me, and I suspect many other PAL moms, the notion of a birth plan gets tossed out of the window. Yes, I wanted to be able to control the details, especially the outcome, but I’ve long since realized that I have no control. And coming from someone who is Type A, this is not an easy thing to handle. So somehow, likely because I knew I had no choice, I was able to let go.
When we pulled up, Aaron wheeled me in and reluctantly left to park the car while I got checked in. The contractions came more intensely and quickly, and I nearly laughed as the triage nurse asked me to “walk on back.” Not happening, lady. As she started asking questions, I’d breathlessly answer, and requested they get the epidural ordered. She was not playing ball, pointing out hospital policy of getting vitals first. So I answered each question gripping the edge of the mattress from the intense pain, and continuously reiterated my epidural request.
When the next nurse came in to check me, she declared I was 9cm, bypassed getting the doctor’s approval, and took me upstairs while signaling anesthesiology for the epidural. That’s more like it. Aaron arrived as they were wheeling me up, and we were on our way.
Our labor and delivery nurses couldn’t have been better, nicer or more thoughtful. They did their thing, getting me hooked up to the monitors and IV, asking the pertinent questions, and most importantly, listening to my answers and concerns. I took a deep breath and explained that this was my 7th pregnancy, how only my 6th pregnancy resulted in a living child, and what happened with each of the others. They asked questions about C and J, and Sarah, Benjamin, Baby Krueger and the four we never met with genuine interest, looking at the mementos and photos we brought of each of our children—living and passed—and asked how they could best help us through.
I talked about how excited, but anxious we were, and when I shared my faux “birth plan,” they looked at me in disbelief. “First you come in at 9cm and barely make issue of it, and now you’re wanting us to do our jobs to help make sure your baby arrives safely?” I got the notion this didn’t happen often, so of course I had to hear about some of the plans they’ve had before.
There were many stories, including the “too cute to push” crowd who insisted on a c-section from the start (these were the same folks who had hair and makeup people in after delivery—yes, that’s a thing.). But what disturbed me most were the stories where the baby’s health, and potentially the mother’s was put on the line for the sake of adhering to some preconceived notion of what child birth should be.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting anyone for wanting things to go a certain way. Rather, as someone who has lost seven children, I can’t imagine requesting anything that could put my baby, or myself, in harm’s way. As they say, We plan, God laughs. And when it comes to pregnancy and delivery, focusing on what really matters is all that matters.
Thankfully our experience was uneventful, as our Little E arrived healthy and screaming after 13 minutes of pushing. It was the morning of September 11, and once again, our lives were forever changed.