[Editor’s Note: This post is today’s featured entry in the Journey to Motherhood with Ricki Lake story contest. Find out how to submit your story and see the video message from Ricki here -- you could win a wonderful prize package! -- Jenna]
When a woman tells you her story about giving birth, you will most likely hear words like Miracle, Joy, Husband, Beautiful and Love. My story also includes words like, "exploded" and "drove backwards for two miles in a police car." That's just how I roll.
I was nineteen when I had my first child. I was living in upstate New York and my husband was in Pennsylvania at basic training for the Air Force. By the time he was ready to graduate, I was almost 2 weeks over due. Throughout the pregnancy I had only been to the doctor a few times and had only a basic idea of my due date. I didn't know I was over due. My mother and I decided to make the long journey to be there in person. This decision, as you may already have guessed, proved to be a bad one.
Graduation was over and the three of us were headed back home. It was an easy, uneventfully trip at first. nd then we hit massive traffic. After over an hour of sitting in what looked like a long, very narrow parking lot, people started getting out of their cars. I had started feeling contractions earlier but now they were getting more intense.
Everyone was trying to figure out what was going on, going car to car and mingling with our fellow freeway captives. At the time, the road was under construction on one side. This was over 20 years ago when cell phones were rare. Cars were backed up as far I could see in either direction. Finally, after another half hour or so, we found out what had caused this stand-still. A truck carrying gasoline had caught fire and exploded. Traffic was backed up for miles and I was in labor.
We had made friends with our new automobile neighbors. It was those new friends who reached out and held my hand through each contraction. People started to go car to car to pass along the word that we needed a nurse or doctor. There were large cement barriers lining the left side of the turnpike. It seemed like only minutes had passed when I noticed two women, in the back of a pick-up truck heading my way on the gravel road that sat on the other side of those barriers. I was informed by these kind women that they were qualified nurses who were ready to help me give birth in the back of the truck. Right there, in the middle of this crazy parking lot.
I should have panicked at the thought of giving birth in general, instead I was horrified that 4 men had been recruited to lift my humongous pregnant self over that waist high chunk of cement. There I was in a white dress, being hoisted up in the air. I felt like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. NOT attractive. (Note to self: all pride has disappeared.)
I sat there in the back of that pickup protesting. I was telling everyone involved that I refused to let my child come into the world under these circumstances. They just smiled, laughed a bit and told me I may not have a choice in the matter. Thankfully, I didn't have to protest long. The police showed up on that same gravel road but from the opposite direction. There was no room to make a u-turn so the officers helped me into the car and drove frighteningly fast, in reverse to the exit. My mother had to stay with the car and that meant I had to go with my husband, who I had not seen in months. A husband who had punched me in my pregnant belly the last time we were together.
At the hospital things got crazy very quickly. I was hooked up to a machine, had an ultra sound and was informed the baby was in serious trouble. I started to cry. The doctor briefly explained what was going to happen in the operating room. They wanted to put me under so I would just wake up and "Voila," I'd have a baby. I was having none of that. He asked us if we had any questions. My question was "do you promise to take care of the the baby first, if something goes wrong?" He said he would do his best. My husband said he also had a question. His was, "How long before those stretch marks fade and she looks normal again?"
I will never forget the look on the faces of everyone in that room. I was whisked away to have an emergency C-Section.
I couldn't stop crying. I felt pressure and tugging but no pain as the doctors went to work on my tummy. The man who should have been at my side announced that the whole thing grossed him out. He stood by the door, even after the nurses suggested he be more supportive. I felt two soft hands wrap themselves around my right hand. The nurse gave my hand a little squeeze, whispered in my ear, "you're doing great." I shut my eyes and tried to calm down. I heard someone say "here he comes" and POP! out he came. He was beautiful and perfect. I had my Joshua. I knew my life would never be the same.
Josh was only a few hours old when my mother and my husband left me in the hospital, in a state where I didn't know a soul, with a new baby, all alone. There was a party back home to welcome "Mr. Wonderful and Supportive" and he wasn't about to miss it. I stayed alone in the hospital for 5 days. I watched the nightly news as they reported on the events that had taken place on the turnpike. They even mentioned that a lady had gone into labor but made it to the hospital in time to have a healthy baby boy.
The good thing about being there alone with only my baby boy was that I realized I would end up a single mother one way or another. I knew what I needed to do. I deserved a better man in my life, and my child sure as hell deserved a better father. (I filed for divorce not long after.)
I spent those 5 days with only my baby, promising myself I could do right by this boy. Five days of loving, talking to and caring for my little boy. I have spent the next 22 years doing the exact same thing. There were two births that day: Josh was born and so was my new found self-worth and determination.
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