I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Twice. I subscribed to parenting and pregnancy magazines before conception, I checked out all of the best websites, and even read medical journals online to help me make the “big” decisions such as how to choose the best hospital, the benefits of natural childbirth, and how to create a birthing “plan.” I even chose what time of year I wanted to have my child – in the spring, just after my school let out for spring break – and managed to get pregnant on time, exactly as planned.
It turns out that, as John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” After 32 weeks of pregnancy, my water broke somewhere in between my lunch break and teaching fifth period drama to seventh graders. And I had no idea it happened. That’s right, my water broke and I didn’t even realize it. Nowhere in all of my extensive research did I come across the possibility that my water would break while I was on the toilet. Like most women, I imagined it happening in the most embarrassing of places: while standing in line at the grocery store, sitting on the nice leather bucket seats in my car, or the absolute worst, standing at the front of the classroom with 30 twelve year olds looking on in horror. So when I felt what I believed to be a little extra pee, I wasn’t at all alarmed. After all, there was a baby sitting on my bladder 24-7. Unexpected pee was not a new thing to me.
My water breaking was the first sign from God that my baby was about to arrive eight weeks early, and clearly I had missed it.
As my drama students came into the classroom that day, everything continued on as usual. Two class periods later I was beginning to feel energized, euphoric. Considering I had been up since 5:30 that morning and had been teaching since 8:00, a burst of energy was more than a little unusual. I was beginning to become suspicious, and so were my students. “Why are you in such a good mood today,” one kid asked. I had no idea. Here was a group of kids who hadn’t read their assigned chapters, weren’t working quietly on their essays, and yet I felt like dancing a jig. What could be happening to me? Shortly after seventh period, it was time to begin my after school drama rehearsal, but first, like all pregnant women, I had to take my hourly trip to the bathroom. Oddly, there was a slight tinge of blood. Finally I had enough red flags to make a call to the doctor. The secretary had a nurse answer my questions.
“A little bleeding?” she asked. “Well, have you just had sex?”
“I’m at work,” I answered.
“So is that a ‘no’?” she asked.
Clearly this wasn’t going anywhere.
Upon finally speaking to the doctor, I was told that I needed to come in, just to be on the “safe side.”
“Not now,” I told the doctor, “I am running a drama rehearsal with 75 middle schoolers. I’ll be there in an hour.”
Rehearsal went smoothly, and off I headed to the hospital. By myself. In rush hour traffic. On the way I thought I’d better call my husband and my parents to let them know what was happening. I told my husband not to leave work early, that I was sure everything was fine, but he said he’d meet me at the hospital in an hour or so anyway. I told my Dad that I would call them again when I got home from the hospital after being cleared by the doctor, and he sounded reassured. It wasn’t until I got off my cell phone and was alone with my thoughts that I realized I had lower back pain. It wasn’t constant, though. It was more a pain that came and went….periodically….say, every five or six minutes. And then it hit me. This may actually be labor.
No articles that I read prepared me for what happened next. I was wheeled to the labor and delivery floor (I assured the nurse that I could walk there myself…after all, I had just driven for forty-five minutes), weighed (one last blow to my self-esteem), and put on monitors. And then the doctor came in. Now I understand that doctors are human, but I have one suggestion for all members of the obstetrics community. When you are conducting an internal exam, do not gasp and utter the words, “Oh. Oh, my God. This is not good.” It turned out that I was 100% effaced, and 4 centimeters dilated, and that, you guessed it, my water broke hours before. For those of you who don’t speak pregnantese, that means I was about to have a baby.
I decided I would try my hardest to make the best of a bad situation. I was very shortly going to deliver a premature, and possibly very sick baby, but I also was about to become a mother for the first time. I spent the remainder of my labor making a dozen or so phone calls that began with, “You’ll never guess where I am right now!” What better way to pass the time when you don’t have your birthing plan with you, your bag filled with your soothing music and relaxation tapes, and the notes you’ve taken during your Lamaze class? It turned out that no matter what I had planned, my daughter was going to be born her way. She’s four now, and things are still her way, on her schedule.
And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.