I like to say that my firstborn, Akiva, had to be forcibly evicted from the premises. At 42 weeks pregnant and with no sign of labor in sight, my doctors – who knew I wanted a vaginal delivery with as little medical intervention as possible – suggested as gently as they could that I be induced. Sadly, no amount of coercion could get that kid to drop. It was like he was hanging onto a gymnastics bar at the top of my uterus, refusing to let go. After 12 hours of induced labor, lots of tears, and no end in sight, he entered this world by unplanned c-section.
In the months after Akiva was born, one doctor suggested that perhaps the angle of my uterus was to blame, that perhaps a vaginal delivery just wasn’t ever going to be in the cards for me. So when we got pregnant with our second, I didn’t have high hopes for a VBAC. My ever hopeful husband, on the other hand, started doing his own research. After coming across a study suggesting that a steady diet of dates could increase one’s chances of going into labor naturally, he decided to keep our fridge fully stocked with them. I was happy to eat four dates a day (I’m a monster for sugar and relish any excuse to eat it), but I remained unconvinced that it would have any effect on me. As we got closer and closer to the baby’s due date, I only became more and more convinced that he was going to arrive by scheduled c-section. I told our friends, family, and coworkers that our plan was to give him until 41 weeks to arrive on his own, but I never really believed he would.
I have to admit that the planner in me actually took some comfort in this. I scheduled the surgery with our doctors, started writing instructions for the grandparents, who would be helping to care for Akiva during my hospital stay, and made a list of the things I should pack in my hospital bag. I was so sure that this baby wasn’t going to arrive naturally that even at 39 weeks pregnant, I hadn’t packed said hospital bag, washed any newborn clothes, or finished typing up the instructions for the grandparents. So of course, 36 hours before the baby’s due date, I went into labor.
In hindsight, I think perhaps there were signs of labor throughout that day. But in my defense, I had never gone into labor naturally before, so I didn’t recognize them as such. I remember eating mac’n’cheese for lunch and then blaming my upset stomach that afternoon on the gigantic dairy-and-gluten-bomb I had ingested. I finished up my work day as I always did, leaving my to-do list for the next day front and center, assuming I would be back the next morning to pick up where I had left off.
That night, after putting Akiva to bed, I started a load of laundry while my husband finished cooking dinner. I remember wondering what we should watch that night, given that we had just finished Stranger Things the night before. But by the time my husband brought me a bowl of his famous chana masala, my stomach felt too upset to eat. I had no idea what was going on, but I asked my husband if he could go retrieve our laundry from the machine and then told him to eat without me.
As he ate his food and I hung wet clothes on the drying rack, we chatted aimlessly and browsed Netflix’s streaming options. Then, in the middle of hanging one of Akiva’s t-shirts, my water broke. I remember saying to my husband, “either I just peed myself, or my water just broke.” (In all fairness, peeing myself in the third trimester wasn’t totally impossible.) I think I was in denial, honestly. Even after confirming that it was, in fact, my water that had broken, I felt no sense of urgency. I still thought we had all the time in the world, that we could spend the night at home and not head to the hospital until the next day. I was so, so wrong. I’ve literally never been more wrong.
Approximately 30 minutes later, I was in fetal position on our bedroom floor, not knowing how I was going to endure these contractions that I was sure were going to last for hours and hours. The only thing I knew was that if the contractions were this strong and fast from the get go (2 or 3 minutes apart and almost 45 seconds in length), I wanted to get to the hospital and get myself an epidural (yes, that same epidural that I was so against the first time around). I still had no idea how soon this baby was going to arrive; I naively thought I had plenty of time. Labor couldn’t possibly be this fast, right? But I told Kevin to call my parents (who fortunately live close by) and ask them to come over, because like I said, I was ready to get to the hospital and get that epidural.
I don’t know how I withstood that hour it took for my parents to arrive. In hindsight, I clearly should have asked our neighbor to come over and wait for my parents to get there so that we could have left right away. At the very least, I should have told my husband to tell my parents to hurry. All I remember is hanging onto my husband’s shoulders (or the wall, whichever was closer) to get through the contractions, and between them, reading him the list from my phone so that he could pack my bag for the hospital. When my parents finally knocked on our front door, I was a wreck. My mother took one look at me and said, “This is happening tonight. I’ll help you walk to the car.”
Fortunately, the hospital was only a ten minute drive from our apartment. My husband dropped my mother and me off at the front entrance and went to park the car as we headed up to the labor and delivery unit. My mother handled the paperwork while two nurses brought me to triage. They told me to undress and I remember literally just throwing my clothes on the ground, no hesitation whatsoever. One of them checked me and said she thought I was only 6 or 7 cm dilated. I yelled that I wanted an epidural and then that I was starting to feel the urge to push. They assured me that I would get an epidural but emphatically told me, DO NOT PUSH. Within minutes, they were wheeling me into a delivery room, and the nurse who was waiting there for me gave me the bad news – sorry, lady, but you’re too late for the drugs. You’re fully dilated and this baby is coming NOW.
Over the next 60 minutes, I did a lot of screaming. I screamed that I couldn’t do this, that it hurt so badly, that I couldn’t catch my breath. The nurses coached me through it like seasoned vets. And then, at 1:08 am, just over an hour after arriving at the hospital, River entered this world as I never believed he would – before his due date, on his own, within just a few hours of labor starting.
I like to say that with River, I finally got the delivery I had wanted so badly for Akiva. And then I like to joke, “be careful what you wish for!” But in all honesty, despite all of my missteps (PSA: if your contractions are only two minutes apart, get to the hospital immediately!) and all of the pain (that I still remember so vividly), there is no story I’m prouder to tell.