Speed Racer: The Birth Story

May 22, 2008

The first contraction hit at 7:46 pm. I know this, because I checked the time. I was pretty sure that it was just more false labor, but still. One always hopes. So I checked the time, and then went back to eating my fajita.

Ten minutes later another contraction hit. Ow, I said to no one in particular. That hurt.

Was that one different? HBF asked. Is it time?

Probably not. I’ll just wait and see.

Eight minutes later I was doubled over. Emilia pulled out her doctor’s kit and held the stethoscope to my belly. Baby brother wants to come out now?

I don’t know sweetie.

HBF: Should we go in?

I don’t know. It might be another false alarm.

HBF: I think we should go in.

I don’t know. (*doubles over*)

HBF: Seriously.

Fifteen minutes later we were in the car, no thanks to me. I dawdled, even as the contractions sped up, reluctant to go in to the hospital and face another round of eye-rolling if these were, as I thought, just another bout of bad false contractions. HBF prodded and pushed until I relented and buckled into the passenger seat. We drove away at 8:26pm, just as another bad contraction hit.

And then another.

And another.

We were barely fifteen minutes from home – and still probably some thirty minutes from our downtown hospital – when it became apparent that whatever was happening was happening quickly. Very quickly. Since we’d left home, the contractions had gone from eight minutes or so apart to barely a minute apart to not apart at all. HBF called 911; 911 patched him through to an ambulance; the ambulance advised that we pull off the highway and wait for them.

HBF: Pull off and wait?



HBF: I really don’t think we have time to stop and wait.

Ambulance Dispatch: We can’t chase you down, sir.

HBF: Then I’ll just keep driving.

Mad vehicular dashes to hospitals with women in labor are usually played for laughs on film and television. Let me tell you: there is nothing funny about racing toward a hospital that seems to recede ever further into the horizon as you speed forward in excruciating pain, your body completely out of your control, medical disaster ever more imminent with every passing second. Even when the toddler in the back seat starts shouting MOMMY YOU NEED MEDICINE YOU NEED MY TOADSTOOL? it’s not funny. It’s stone-cold terrifying.

And when your body just starts bearing down and pushing and you cannot stop it and then you’re still like ten minutes away from the hospital and the baby starts shoving its way out of your parts and OMG YOU CAN FEEL IT COMING OUT? Then? Your mind kind of snaps.

(So does the mind of your husband, who at this point is simultaneously driving a speeding vehicle with one hand on the horn and the other trying to feel for baby’s head between your legs while shouting into his phone-headpiece to someone at the ER that the baby’s coming the baby’s coming you need to be ready when we get there!)*

We arrived at the hospital at about 9:05pm. At the wrong entrance. Which was locked. Sufficient banging and the luck of some random guy wandering through the lobby got us in, and much shouting from HBF brought the medical team that had been waiting for us running. I was already mid-delivery: the bag of waters was being involuntarily pushed out – intact – and the baby was crowning. Eleven minutes later, at 9:16pm – after much horror-movie-worthy screaming – Jasper was out.

90 minutes from start to finish of active labor. Eleven minutes after stepping out of the vehicle. Fourth degree tearing (borderline) requiring on-the-spot surgery which, you know, without epidural or spinal anaesthesia or anything more significant than local anaesthetic and an extra-strength Tylenol? Almost as hair-raising as the near in-vehicle delivery. Almost.

It was terrifying. The most terrifying experience of my life, bar nothing.

But still, still… after all that – there’s him. Big and hale and hearty and a joy – an infinite joy – to behold. Worth any measure of terror, worth any measure of pain.

And the best birthday present ever.


HBF broke, like, a zillion traffic laws, but he was a hero, he really was, getting us to the hospital in the nick of time. We found out immediately after the birth that we couldn’t have delivered Jasper safely without help – the cord was wrapped around his neck. There was, quite literally, not a second to spare. My mind snaps a little bit more every time I think about this. Which is why I’m going to try to not think about it anymore.

I bitch about the gods a lot, but someone or something was looking out for us. And for that – for everything – I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Now, am going to rest. Really.


Because you asked: he weighed 9 lbs 2 oz – just a hair under what the ultrasound indicated. Around 20 inches long with a VERY big head (and chubby cheeks with one dimple).

And Emilia was right there until the gory parts, at which point she was enlisted by nurses to help supervise the nursing desk until it was slightly less terrifying for her to enter the room. When she did rejoin us, she was all smiles – huge smiles – and bursting with pride for having helped bring her baby brother into the world.

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    Much More Than A Mom May 25, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Wow! I’m sorry for the pain and fear but SO happy for all of you. Congratulations, and welcome Jasper!

    Deb May 25, 2008 at 8:25 am

    OMG and congratulations.

    Melissa May 25, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    What a story!
    Ouch, what a big baby!
    Also congrats on the new baby!

    amy May 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    OMG, I’m totally with pnutsmama on this one. Get well soon, lady. You’ve earned a rest and a speedy recovery.

    Sandra May 25, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Ahhhhh … my god.

    Am aching that I wasn’t around for all of this … just flew in from Mexico and your’s was the first blog I checked for news.

    Welcome sweet Jasper. And Congrats Catherine. Love to you all. Can’t wait to meet him soon.

    Owlhaven May 26, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Congrats!!! Glad y’all survived.

    Mary, mom to many

    projectmommy May 26, 2008 at 3:47 am

    You are one strong, brave woman. I would have shat myself. But there is a very big chance I would have done that regardless.

    gingajoy May 26, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Much MUCH too late, but massive congratulations to you and your gorgeous also rather massive baby J. proper email to come, C xoxoxox

    Anonymous May 26, 2008 at 11:32 am

    oh catherine thats a story for telling sprout one that he will want to hear again and again.congratulations and wow! you are a superhero.hugs to you LAVANDULA

    hschinske May 26, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I’m so happy everything’s okay now and you have your gorgeous little one (and a great story!). Don’t worry too much about might-have-beens with the cord — up to a third of babies have a nuchal cord, it isn’t likely it would have been a problem. Precipitous births at term sure can be scary, but they’re generally relatively safe — it’s going that fast because (in some sense) everything is going right.

    I tend to be very hands-off in my philosophy, but I think this really is one case where an elective induction would have made total sense.

    Hope you get breastfeeding sorted soon. These early days can be so crazy. Try to enjoy the “up” parts, and roll with the inevitable “downs”.


    Little Monkies May 26, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    My. God. Woman! What an awesome story. I hope you are back on your feet soon. Oh, I am so thinking of you!

    carrie May 26, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    You are amazing.

    I needed all the help and then some to push out my son who was just a little bit bigger – not much. And I cannot fathom having to do it without those wonderful drugs.

    I am so glad you (and he) made it. :)

    Lowa May 27, 2008 at 2:22 am

    WOW! I can only imagine how scary that! Great job, though. Your daughter is adorable. Love all the stuff she was saying:)

    My 16 month old son was in the room when his sister was born. I know it was scary for you, but I admit to being jealous that you can go into labour on your own. I was induced with all four of my kids. Just COULD NOT do it on my own, I guess they wanted to stay in there!

    Although, your’s was a little TOO fast of course. Glad everyone is happy and healthy. Hope you have a smooth recovery and hang in there with the nursing!

    planetnomad May 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    WOW! What a story! I swear my heart beat’s up! (I know, I need to get out more.)
    CONGRATULATIONS on the birth of your beautiful boy! Love the name! And tell HBF great job on getting you to the hospital in the nick of time.

    Melanie May 28, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Congratulations to all and welcome to little Jasper! I also have a Jasper, though he’s 8 now, and he was 9lb 7oz with a big head and the cord around his neck, too. Maybe it’s something about Jaspers??!?? I feel for you on the 4th degree tear–yes, I had that too, and I tell you it is no fun to recover from. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving.

    that girl May 28, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I know exactly how terrifying that was for you..I too have a uterus that abruptly decides enough is enough and speed races the baby out in an unheard of amount of time.

    I am so sorry..

    But congratulations on the baby! It makes it all worth it huh?

    Dana May 29, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Ohmygawd. Just, wow. Glad all are OK. Congrats to all. Jasper is adorable!

    Staci Schoff May 30, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Just wow — and cracking up that it was simply too counterintuitive to pull over and wait for the ambulance — always better to be proactive. Beautiful baby – gods bless you!

    mamasnest May 30, 2008 at 12:30 am

    So glad you are all ok (or healing at least?!) After such a wait who would’ve thought he’d come so fast and furious!

    My birth story, mad dash and immediate deliver played out very similarly except my guy was only 3 pounds (and 12 weeks early!) so I imagine I was spared some of your misery.

    That picture of you two is gorgeous. Happy belated b-day to you both.

    Stephanie May 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    That is one harrowing birth story! But so glad it has a happy ending, and you both look just wonderful in the picture. Congratulations!

    Izzy May 31, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    What a story! You’re such a a trooper. But your poor undercarriage… Mine was bruised and shredded beyond all reason — I feel your pain. Glad it’s all over and now you can concentrate on healing and getting your bearings {{HBM}}

    Lawyer Mama May 31, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Oh my dear GOD, Catherine! I’m so glad this has such a happy ending. That picture of the two of you is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.


    RookieMom Heather May 31, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Wow and congrats. I hope that means he’ll be an easy baby!

    Shannon May 31, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Wow! What a story! I was on the edge of my seat. But his little hand on your chest? Awww….

    Annie June 3, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I just found your blog tonight. I am glad I did. You are amazing. This story is amazing. Your writing is amazing. I am bookmarking this one for sure! Thanks:)

    Aimee Greeblemonkey June 3, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I am so late, but BIG CONGRATS! :)

    Magpie June 3, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    My hair is standing on end. But congratulations and a big welcome to the big guy!

    Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Well, I’m in tears. Mine was born 8 minutes after we got to the hospital, too, and you really brought back memories. The joy and the terror at the same time… such a relief you and Jasper are ok. Congratulations!


    Rowena June 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

    So late to the party, but I just found you. My 2nd would have been born on the Williamsburg bridge if I hadn’t been waiting for the babysitter. As it was, she arrived before the emts, almost on the toilet.
    DH delivered, and tried to tie the umbilical cord with his dirty shoe lace. It gave the midwives a good chuckle, when we finally got to the hospital. (where I delivered the placenta.)

    But no massive tearing or cord around the neck, YIKES!

    Congratulations to you all. And good luck with the nursing.

    Thea June 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    My goodness, what a delivery! I just delivered with contractions like you described – back to back, with no reprieve in between – but I was mercifully at the hospital by then.

    Glad you guys made it in time! What a beautiful boy.

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