Monday, June 3, 2013

From Uterus to University - Hurricane Baby!

I have lived in Florida most of my life.  There are a lot of cows here.  Orange trees too.  Oh, and alligators, snakes and other nasty creatures.  We also have a hurricane season. Hurricanes are named each year and usually they sit out in the ocean growling at us only to spin themselves out or reek havoc on some other poor state.

Of course, we do get a direct hit sometimes.  Like, Hurricane Andrew back when I was in college. My college roommate was from the Miami area and her family home was destroyed.  Her parents' cat came to live with us after the storm.  He was very, very traumatized by it all.  So, traumatized that he would run and cower under her bed anytime someone flushed the toilet.  The swooshing water was just too much for the poor thing. 

And then there was the summer of 2004.  That was quite a summer for us.  I was expecting our youngest monkey girl in September.  I was not too excited about the idea of being super huge and hormonal during the hottest part of the year, but there I was.  August rolled around and we were caught off guard by Hurricane Charlie.  It blew across Florida like a freight train.  Fast and furious.  The force of the wind left the pine needles on the trees in our neighborhood horizontal for days afterward. It cut a path of destruction from one coast to the other in less than 12 hours.  

Two weeks later, a very vulnerable Florida was bracing for another whopper of a storm.  Hurricane Francis roared ashore and sat over us for days.  The copious amounts wind and rain proved too much for some homes. Flooding was rampant, power was out for millions, it was a nasty scene. 

Exactly two weeks later, as if Mother Nature was just getting to the punch line of some very twisted joke.  Hurricane Jeanne popped up on the radar.  Many people just gave up and left the state.  It was just too much to bear.  Florida living is hostile enough at times, but living in Florida without power and air conditioning in the middle of the dog day's of summer is unbearable.  And if you are 9 months pregnant, hot (and not in the attractive sense), and furiously hormonal, Florida and its freaky weather suddenly becomes your enemy.  

I was ready to leave too, but something about delivering a baby on I-75 just didn't appeal to me.  We resolved to just hunker down and ride out the storm. I called the fire department that services our area and gave them a heads that, "Hey, there is an extremely pregnant lady in the neighborhood and, oh yeah she is four days overdue and may or may not go into labor during this freaking hurricane." They were not very helpful or encouraging.  Then, I took a bath and cried.  

Have you ever heard that when the barometric pressure increases during a storm, women go into labor?  Well, I am here to testify that it is true. As Hurricane Jeanne approached the east coast of Florida, she wrapped her barometric biceps around my belly and squeezed as hard as she could.  One moment I was sitting down to have dinner with Pete and the kids,  and the next minute I was on the phone calling my neighbor to, "COME. OVER. NOW!!!" I went from no labor to HECK YES labor instantly.  In fact, my contractions were so strong and so close together that I was positive something was very wrong.

As we made our way to the hospital, 30 minutes away, it was surreal.  No one was on the highways.  The wind was really picking up and the sky was spitting at us.  I just kept telling Pete to be careful, not to speed.  My contractions were steadily coming at 4 minutes, then 3 minutes apart and the last thing that I wanted to do was to get pulled over by the highway patrol because I was certain that Officer Something or Other would be delivering a baby on the highway, in a hurricane.  And since Orlando is not really that big of a city (especially if you have lived here most of your life) and I run into people that I know often, I had this horrible fear that if we got pulled over, I would actually know the officer.  He would be someone that I attended high school with and we would have one awkward reunion there on the highway.  "Steve!  It's been forever! By the way, my water just broke and my baby's head is crowning?  So have have you been?"

Half way to the hospital, I told Pete that my contractions were two minutes apart and I was not sure if we would make it to the hospital.  He called his brother, a doctor here in town to ask him what we should do?  His brother simply said, "Keep driving and try to get to the hospital if at all possible!" Pete told him he would call him back if we had to pull over.  His brother is an ENT and specializes in ears, noses and throats, but he could certainly move a little south and coach a birth via the phone.

We did indeed make it to the hospital and I told Pete to drop me at the back entrance to the labor and delivery ward so he could park and I could get someone to help me.  I remember getting in the elevator with two really questionable looking dudes.  They reeked of alcohol and pot.  If they had any question in their minds as to if they could prey on me in that elevator, I quickly answered them with my sheer aura.  My body language screamed, "Mess with me and I will make you wish you were never born, and then just to show you I really mean business, you will deliver my baby right here in this here elevator!!!"

By now it had been almost 1 hour since my first contraction.  I had to push a little button at the nurses station and wait to be buzzed in.  But as I was reaching to push the button, a doctor or maybe it was an angel, or a knight in shining scrubs walked out of the locked door, took one look at me and ushered me in to the beloved Kingdom of Pain Medication and Epidurals.  Only, it was most certainly too late for any of that stuff and instead I got put in a tiny triage room with a nurse who did not believe me when I said that I was going to "HAVE. THIS. BABY. NOW!!!".  Which I did.  Exactly eleven minutes later.  My midwife said that it was the quickest delivery she had ever attended.  So quick that the baby nurses never had a chance to prep.  Pete ended up carrying our little monkey girl, on his chest, skin to skin to a real labor and delivery room to be assessed.

And as the winds and rain from Hurricane Jeanne raged outside our hospital room window, time stood still for a moment as I drank in the beauty of our baby girl and what my body had been able to do.  So fast and furious was that labor.  It came on like a hurricane, relentless, stopping for no one or nothing, but the end result was peace and beauty and love all wrapped up in a swaddling blanket.  We even gave her the middle name of Jeanne, just because no other name seemed more fitting.

As fate would have it, I did not have an awkward car birth attended by an old classmate in a highway patrol uniform, but my post delivery nurse was a perky ex-cheerleader named Jill, who I had attended high school with.  So, we got to reunite over all things postpartum. "Jill!  It is so great to see you after all these years!  Girl, you look great!  Now,  please excuse me as I contend with this super huge post baby belly and try to figure out how these rock hard, leaky things that used to be my breasts are supposed to feed this baby. Can I get a "GO TEAM?!?"



P.S. Friends, I would love to hear your birth stories. Do tell.

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