This isn’t the craziest birth story you’ll ever read.
It isn’t the most dramatic or fastest or the closest call. But it is my craziest birth story. I’ve already told this story several times, and each time I feel a bit like I’m lying, or at least exaggerating because the timeline just doesn’t feel real. Whenever I tell it, I look to Tom for assurance, like, “Is that right? Tell them that actually happened. Tell them it was like that.”
It’s fitting that this labor feels surreal, because that’s how I’ve felt all along — from the moment I found out I was pregnant to when I found out I was fifteen weeks pregnant, all the way to today, when I look around my living room, see three kids under the age of four, and think, “Dude, what have we gotten ourselves into?”
Mary Virginia’s birth story included these lines: If I taught a childbirth class I would make a PowerPoint presentation with one slide that said: CHILDBIRTH IS NOTHING LIKE THE MOVIES. And that would be the end of the class.
Now I’d like to amend that statement. Childbirth is occasionally like the movies.
In case you missed it, start with Part one
I went to bed around midnight, which is a recklessly irresponsible time to go to bed if you have small children. But if you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter when you go to bed, you almost always wake up feeling like you were out all night drinking jungle juice at Sig Ep.
Just like every stereotypical pregnant woman, I’d been waking up almost every hour to go to the bathroom. But on this night I went to bed at midnight and slept five solid hours. At 5 a.m. I woke up with a distinct pain across my abdomen that I immediately recognized as really, really needing to pee. I sat up in bed and did the assessment I’d been doing for weeks. Was I in labor? No. I just needed to pee.
I rolled over, sat on the edge of the bed, then stood up. That might sound really simple to you, but when you are 40 weeks and 9 days pregnant, each movement required to get out of bed is significant enough that it deserves its own Twitter account. Once I was standing, I reassessed. Did my water break? No. Ok, on to the bathroom. Once I got back in bed the pain was gone, but a few minutes later I felt my belly tighten and a dull ache spread across my abdomen. I’d been having contractions for months, but they were relatively painless, non-productive Braxton Hicks contractions. That’s what I thought was happening — Braxton Hicks. So laying there in bed, 40 weeks and 9 days pregnant, having contractions, I thought, “Another day without a baby.”
I stayed in bed and tried to sleep, until Mary Virginia woke up around 5:15. Of course she did. How completely appropriate. I would complain about her disturbing me from ignoring my contractions, except that it wasn’t until I got out of bed and went into her room to put on her blanket that I really woke up and realized that what I was feeling was contractions. Like, real, live contractions. Like, “you’re in labor” contractions.
But even though I was 40 weeks and 9 days pregnant, and I was feeling real, live contractions that were painful and increasing, I did not think even for one second that I was in labor. And that, dear readers, is the theme of this labor story. If we have another baby, Tom has revised my birth plan so now it just says, “When contractions begin, don’t listen to a word this woman says — knock her in the head and get her to the hospital.
This isn’t my first rodeo, and I was thinking about my other labors, which can be summarized like this: water breaks, Amanda and Tom walk around for several hours waiting for contractions to intensify, contractions intensify, baby comes.
Each time it happened in the middle of the night, and I missed out on a lot of rest by walking around when I could have gotten more sleep. This time, I was more calm and because my water hadn’t broken, I assumed I had a long wait ahead of me, so I went to the kitchen to get a banana, and got back in bed.
As I laid down, Tom rolled over and asked me what was going on. I told him about Mary Virginia and her blanket and, oh yeah, I’m in labor.
Tom, appropriately, sat up and asked if we needed to do anything. Are you ok? Do we need to call the doctor? Maybe track contractions?
No, I responded, don’t be silly. I’m having regular, painful contractions. That can only mean one thing: this baby is a long way off! After all, my water hasn’t even broken!
At around 5:45, I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, so I got up and brushed my teeth, washed my face, and got dressed. I picked my favorite comfy, long maternity skirt, thinking it’d be perfect to wear home. And then, because I had nothing left to do, I thought, what the heck, let’s track some contractions.
Guess what the contraction counting app said? It said denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Between 5:52 and 6:05 a.m. I tracked four contractions. They each lasted about a minute and were five or fewer minutes apart. When I review this app, I’m going to suggest to the creators that, before you begin tracking, the app ask the user if they happen to be delusional. And if they choose “yes” and then track four contractions that look like this, then the app will shut down and call an Uber because this lady? She needs to get to the hospital.
A little after 6 a lot of things happened all at once. Our kids woke up, my sister woke up, and I told Tom I was ready to go to the hospital because, “I just want to get checked.” I just want to get checked. HAHAHA YOU CRAZY LADY! Wooow-EE do you have a wild 30 minutes ahead of you!!
I sent my mom this text at 6:09 a.m., just before we left.
Tom is dressed and ready in under thirty seconds, then he started looking for his keys. Of course he did. Because, like Mary Virginia waking up, it’s completely appropriate that Tom has no idea where his keys are. A day in the Krieger household when Tom knows where his keys are, and Mary Virginia doesn’t scream for room service at 3 a.m. is no day at all.
Tom started running around the house tearing cushions off the couch and ripping wallpaper off the walls, because he’s been watching me deny that I’m in labor for over an hour now, and for some reason that gives him the impression that we are in a hurry. Meanwhile, I calmly kissed Mary Virginia goodbye, then excused myself to my bedroom to have a contraction. When I regained my composure, I walked back out and gave David a kiss.
Tom found his keys and started giving my sister a quick tutorial on how to access our Netflix account, which she put to an end because, “Tom, I think you guys need to get to the hospital.”
I know what you’re thinking. My sister’s being totally dramatic, right?
Which is funny because I specifically wondered what my sister thought. She’s had four kids, she knows what labor looks like, and I really wondered if she thought I was leaving preemptively. Because I sort of did.
As we walked to the car, we happened to see a neighbor on his morning run. I waved and said, “Hey Shawn! Good morning!” Could a person who is about to have a baby in fewer than 20 minutes do that? Exactly, I didn’t think so. Now do you understand what I really, really didn’t think I was in advanced labor? Good. I’m glad we’re all on my side now.
…And now begins the “drive to the hospital” part of the story where we became very, very close to having a baby in the car and naming him Toyota Camry Krieger…
On the way to the hospital I had maybe two contractions that got my attention but, still, I was waiting for my water to break, and since I wasn’t howling and bellowing, I wasn’t concerned. I figured we’d go to the hospital, get checked in, give the nurse my entire medical history, including high school transcripts, Passport, Internet browser history, and then spend most of the morning walking laps around labor and delivery.
At 6:25 a.m., when I texted some girlfriends to let them know the baby was coming, I was calm enough to include an emoji. Thumbs up, y’all, I’m feelin’ good.
Looking at the timestamp on these texts is another version of asking Tom if that’s how it really happened — iMessage does not exaggerate. It’s 6:25 a.m., and I remember sending this and feeling totally normal, not in pain, not in advanced labor.
We live less than a mile and a half from the hospital, and some time after the text but before the hospital, I had a contraction that made me go to a mental place where time and space does not exist. The pain was so intense that it made me dry heave and wonder if Tom would ever forgive me if I vomited banana all over his dashboard.
When the pain evaporated, I pulled my head above water and reminded Tom that I really, really wanted photos of me and the baby just after delivery. Tom took great photos of the doctors handing me David and Mary Virginia for the first time. They aren’t the most flattering pictures, but I really treasure them. Tom said he would, and then caught a wheel whipping the car into the hospital parking lot.
He pulled up to the entrance of the ER and I took the opportunity to tell him he was being ridiculous. The ER!? OH COME ON! Just go park the car, drama queen. For some reason Tom listened to me, and as he parked the car, I had a contraction that made me grab the arm rest, fold up in a ball, and growl. Tom opened the door and told me to hurry up! Let’s go! Come on!
But I could not move; there was nothing I could do. I could not under any circumstances let go of that armrest until the contraction passed. But then it passed, and I smirked at Tom because, “See, I told you I was fine. I told you I could walk into the hospital like a normal human being.”
We started walking, and another contraction hit me. I doubled over and I stood there, bracing myself with my hands on my knees. A security guard saw us and started running over, shouting, “Do you guys need a wheelchair?” Tom shouted back, “YES! YES! We need a wheelchair!” And I thought, this is stupid. I do not need a wheelchair.
By the time the security guard made it to us with the wheel chair, I was having another contraction, and was once again doubled over, moaning. Tom and the security guard both urge me to get in the wheel chair, please? Can you just get in the wheel chair so we can take you inside where there are things like DOCTORS and NURSES? Otherwise you’re going to have the baby right here and we’ll have to name him This Space Reserved for Physicians Only Krieger.
All of my energy was focused on staying alive through that feeling, that feeling that feels like the lower half of your body is being separated from the upper half of your body, and I could not move. I couldn’t move to get in the wheel chair or to save myself from an oncoming train, but I did manage to summon energy from every molecule in my body to snarl, “Leave me alone! I AM NOT GOING TO HAVE THE BABY RIGHT NOW MY WATER HASN’T EVEN BROKEN!!!”
Not to rub it in or anything, but I was right. I didn’t have the baby right then.
I finally got in the wheel chair, and Tom rushed into the hospital, but he went to the wrong entrance. Since I was coherent, I took the opportunity to correct him. And when the hospital staff saw his panicked face, and my belly, which was so large it had its own gravitational pull, they start frantically pointing and waving at the correct entrance…because not one of those people woke up that morning hoping to deliver a crazy lady’s baby.
The misstep sets us back maybe 10 seconds; we rushed to the correct entrance, where they called for a labor and delivery nurse. I think. And I think one showed up and escorted us to the third floor. I can’t be sure though, because a contraction hit me and I can’t remember anything else but grabbing the wheelchair and leaning into my belly and thepainthepainthepain. That contraction lasted an entire elevator ride, but by the time we were on the third floor I was totally fine and back to bossing Tom around.
We were passing the nurses station when I felt a burst of water. I said calmly, “Oh, my water just broke!” Then I smiled a hello at all the nurses, a smile that said, “Which one of you is going to be at my side for the next six hours while I breathe and writhe?”
Seconds later, as I was being wheeled into a room, I had a contraction that shook every part of my body, and I started hollering and gritting my teeth and bearing down on the wheel chair. Someone leaned down and said to me, “Honey, if you keep carrying on like that you’re going to have that baby in this chair.”
What? Was this some sort of medical jargon I don’t understand? Because I do not understand. I wasn’t making this happen or “carrying on.” I was being carried on.
I stood up and one of the nurses that was, moments earlier, enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee, started lifting my skirt and said, “Let’s get this off of you, sweetie, it’s soaking wet.”
It was a really nice sentiment, it really was. But it would be like if a firefighter walked into your burning house and said, “Can someone find a vase for these flowers? They’re wilting.”
It especially seems misplaced because, instead of getting me into something warm and dry, the next thing I remember is a different nurse leaning forward and saying, “The head is born.”
What? Whose head? Born where?
I was standing up, leaning forward with both hands on the edge of the bed. The doctor ran into the room just in time to place my baby on the bed. I looked at him, wide-eyed, thinking, “Who in the world just gave birth to that baby?” Not me! I’M JUST HERE TO GET CHECKED!
It was 6:38 a.m. The nurses told us we’d arrived at labor and delivery at 6:35 a.m.
I looked up and saw Tom standing across the room. He was frozen in place, incredulous. He said all he could think about was what would have happened if we’d been just a bit later. Don’t worry, the nurses assured him, the fast ones are really easy to deliver. You would have been fine.
I looked at my baby, looked at Tom, and looked back at my baby. He was perfect and squirming, but he wasn’t crying. I wanted to ask about it, but I couldn’t speak, or move, and standing there leaning against the bed was taking all of my energy. Finally, I gulped and sputtered, “He’s not crying, is it ok that he’s not crying?”
The doctor assured me that he was fine, he was perfect. His one-minute Apgar was nine, he had a single nuchal, and then she said, “he came out sideways.” I pictured him shooting down the birth canal horizontally and thought, well that explains why my body is shutting down right now.
She meant, of course, that his head was turned a bit. But everything else was perfect. Our baby, Thomas Christopher Krieger Jr., was 8 lb., 10 oz., 22 in. long, and completely perfect.
Tom cut the cord, and the nurses helped me into bed.
We stayed there for over an hour getting acquainted. I held him and stared at him and tried to figure out what happened. Mentally, emotionally, and especially physically, I felt like someone had picked me up, thrown me on the bed and, oh, here’s a baby. And, I guess that sort of is what happened. Having something that big and important happen so fast left me in a state of shock. I was cold and hot and hungry and nauseous. I laid there, unable to hold Thomas, and kept telling Tom that I was uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable anymore. I couldn’t move, and couldn’t articulate how I felt. I was just uncomfortable.
It’s hard for me to even look at this picture because I remember how terrible I felt. I wanted to hold my baby, to nurse him, and for the first hours to be a special, bonding time. But I couldn’t move and I just wanted it to be over.
It was a last minute decision for my sister to stay with us that night. For months, our plan was to call Tom’s brother Steve to come over and watch the kids when we had to leave for the hospital. Later, my sister commented that it was a good we didn’t have to do that, because if we had had to wait for Steve, even five minutes, Thomas would have been born in the car.
At first I thought, no…we would have driven bit faster, and Tom would have parked at the ER. We would have made it.
Then I realized we definitely wouldn’t have made it, because I wouldn’t have called Steve. Remember, I wasn’t convinced I was in active labor until my water broke, and by then it would have been too late. Thomas wouldn’t have been born in the car, he would have been born in the living room. We would have had to name him There Are Toys Everywhere Krieger.
I didn’t get to wear my favorite skirt home; the nurses packed it with the rest of my clothes in a Hazmat bag. We threw my shoes away. Tom didn’t get a chance to take the photos I wanted, not even one of me standing up, looking in disbelief at my baby on the bed.
It’s funny, I spent the final weeks of my pregnancy just wishing that things would hurry up. And then things did hurry up, so much that it left me curled in the fetal position in a hospital bed.
I don’t know a lot about being a parent, but the most important and resonate lesson I’ve learned in the past three years is that being a parent is one giant exercise in trusting God. It begins the moment you decide to add a baby to your family; it starts with hope, amplifies through pregnancy, and then explodes when you meet your baby. You hope and pray and research and plan, and all the while, it’s up to God. After all of my planning and waiting and experience, baby Thomas took me by surprise. It was the best type of surprise, not only because it ended with a beautiful baby, but because his arrival was a reminder that God is writing this boy’s story.
I typed most of this while nursing, or holding sleepy baby Thomas in the crook of my arm. Every now and then I’d take a break from writing, look at him and think, “He’s here! He’s really here; it really happened that way!”
– – – – – – –
If you liked this story, you might enjoy Mary Virginia’s birth story as well: