In honor of Baby J turning 7 weeks old tomorrow, here's the long awaited story of how she zoomed into this world...
The morning of Saturday, March 8th, 2014 started off like many of the others that week: waiting to see if anything was different with Lisa. It marked the new baby at 38 weeks, which meant she’d been carried a full 2 weeks longer than E. While we were happy about this, it was also a worry since we knew (after spending the previous Tuesday morning at Kaiser Santa Clara), that Lisa was at least 5cm dilated, 90% effaced, and the baby was at a -1 position. For those who forgot, never knew, or wish they never did, a quick summary: it was a mystery what was physically keeping the baby inside.
Anyhow, I’m sure Lisa felt like a watched pot and that Saturday morning was no different. We got up and putzed around the house taking care of a few things. I took E and the dogs, Cody & Bailey, for a walk around the neighborhood--soaking up the already beautiful day. Around 9AM, while playing with E, Lisa began to notice some tightening in her belly, although nothing painful. She started timing them and they lasted about a minute each and were coming every 5-6 minutes, even when she was lying down…which was similar to what happened the previous Tuesday, though those ended up subsiding when she was resting in the hospital. Oma and Opa came over about 10AM with the intention to help us take care of a few things around the house, including the potential selection of a new vanity for our guest half-bathroom, if we decided to go to Home Depot.
We had extensive discussion about Lisa’s condition, the merits of going to Home Depot, and who should go/stay: Lisa didn’t want to go to the hospital just to be sent home again. She wanted to wait and see if anything got closer together or more intense. I was determined to go to Home Depot, but was willing to go with Opa and leave Oma at home with Lisa. Lisa wasn’t too keen on being separated from me, so in the end, we did the only logical thing: we decided that we’d all go to Home Depot, but Lisa & I would take our own car in case something happened (cue the organ music).
We all arrived at Home Depot close to 11:30AM (and yes, we really mean ALL…Oma, Opa, Uncle Brian, and E were all with us) and had the best luck finding everything we came for rather quickly. Even better luck for E was that the vanity we wanted was stored in the racks up high, so he got to watch the forklift retrieve it. We all regrouped by the self check-out and I told Lisa to hang out there for a minute while I went to grab a new potted plant for our front porch. While I fondled tulips and lilies, Brian was at the self check-out, Oma was pushing E in the fancy race car shopping cart checking out rugs for his new room, while Opa and Lisa were standing with the flat bed cart and the new vanity. Opa asked Lisa if she wanted to sit. Lisa responded that she was fine, but shortly after that she felt what she thought was a “strong kick.” Within seconds she realized her pants were wet and knew it was more than just a kick and more of a “pop.” Looking back at the sequence of events, we think this was sometime just after 12:15PM.
“Oh,” she said, leaning over, “I think my water just broke.”
Even though Lisa and Opa had rehearsed this scenario multiple times over the past two weeks, Opa couldn’t help but panic. He quickly turned to Brian, “Where’s Bret?”
Lisa grunted. “In the nursery…getting a plant.” (Ironic, right?)
Brian took off, yelling my name all the way to the nursery. Lisa turned to Oma and asked for her wallet, which was in her purse in the shopping cart. Opa helped Lisa through the front door. She mentioned that she wanted to sit down. Opa tried his hardest to get her a seat, but all the chairs were tied together in big stacks. A Home Depot employee ran up with an office chair, though Lisa (ever polite) wouldn’t sit because it wasn’t water resistant enough.
“Bret! Lisa’s water just broke.”
I dropped the plant and sprinted to where I’d last seen them.
“Where’d they go?!”
“Outside!” Brian said.
Dashing out there, I found her hunched over the stuck-together lounge chairs with Opa, a few concerned Home Depot shoppers, and some excited staff. Oma was there too, asking Lisa whether her contractions had started. Lisa was feeling contractions and a lot of pressure, but she was still relatively calm.
I bypassed them all. Sprinting in my ratty, falling apart, work-around-the-house shoes, I cursed why we parked so friggin’ far away. I made it to the car, and double-checked that the towel was still on the passenger seat from the ride over.
Getting from the back of the parking lot to Lisa is mostly a haze--I safely zoomed around a minivan creeping out of a spot and managed not to run over any pedestrians--all points toward my driving-while-freaking skills. I think I parked with the car straddling the red fire lane and jumped out needlessly as Brian and Opa got Lisa into the passenger seat. They passed her wallet and phone to me. Opa gave us his love and I tore out of the driveway--and into the longest/fastest drive of our lives.
I swear they installed more traffic signals while we were shopping for the vanity, and that every person got confused and thought Saturday was the time for a leisurely drive. We made it down Lafayette to El Camino Real reasonably quickly as Lisa called Kaiser’s Labor & Delivery, which my phone tells me was at 12:19PM. There was no turning us away this time…it was more a matter of getting us there. The contractions were getting stronger and stronger. At one point, Lisa had to undo her seatbelt because it had locked up on her and was so uncomfortable. This majorly freaked me out since I was going 60 mph in a 30 zone. I proceeded to start lecturing her about how she HAD to wear her seatbelt no matter how bad the pain was. Probably the wrong thing to do. She quickly snapped at me and I soon realized she was just readjusting it.
Frustrated by the constant red lights and dilly-dallying drivers, I took a left in hopes of getting to Benton and taking that down to Lawrence. Lisa wondered, between wincing contractions, if I was planning to stop by our house for something…seeing as we were passing within a block (the gal is a comedian, even in active labor -- yet another example of the many reasons I married her). I weaved in and out of the streets around the construction area and made it out on Los Padres. Around this time, Lisa was breathing through a tough contraction. “Bret, I don’t think we’re going to make it,” she cried. It was at this moment that I realized she wasn’t just in pain from the contractions, but she was actually struggling to keep the baby in. “Okay, I’ll pull over,” I said desperately. “And do what???” she shouted, “Just drive faster!” “I’m trying!” I shouted back. “Cross your legs!” I shouted. “I CAN’T!” she shouted back, applying pressure between her legs with both hands.
By the time we hit the four way stop at Los Padres & Benton during some sort of gigantic little league tournament, I knew my path was a bad one. I frantically started feeling around the dashboard in search of the hazard lights (we were in Lisa’s car). Lisa couldn’t move her hands to point to them and just started yelling, “Up! Right! Right! Left! Down!” until I found them. I flipped them on in hopes that people would go faster or move aside. Of course, it just made them slow down in order to better see what the maniacs behind them were up to.
My original intention was to turn right on Benton, but seeing all the rubber-neckers trying to do the same, I decided to take my chances on Los Padres and then up Homestead. In retrospect, it was a horrible idea. I typically even avoid Homestead on leisurely drives due to all of the lights and slow traffic. And, surprise, it was even worse when your wife is about to self-deliver a baby in the passenger seat. With the hazard lights being ineffective to speed anyone else along, I took to honking and yelling out of my window that my wife was in labor. Silly me, if the hazard lights slowed people, then I should have known my antics would just do the same.
Just as Lisa hit the hardest contraction yet, we pulled up to the red light at San Tomas Expressway behind a blue beater of a car with a handicap placard on the rearview mirror and my heart sank. I imagined this beater barely creeping across the intersection even after the long light managed to turn green. Leaning out of my window, I doubled my hollering effort. I caught the woman’s eye in the mirror. I gestured the closest thing I could to the fact that there was a baby coming out of my wife. The signal turned green. The beater didn’t move. Now, I really have no idea why that woman froze, if she was petrified of the madman behind her, or if I was (finally) able to communicate our situation to someone…but the end result was the same: I safely zoomed around the beater.
To any law enforcement reading this account, I plead the fifth as to whether I hit 70+ mph on Homestead. Rather quickly, I became a master of stomping on the gas the moment just before a light shifted to green. As we hit red light after red light on Homestead, Lisa kept her hands firmly pressed between her legs and took short, shallow breaths in an attempt to keep the baby inside for a few more minutes. Every time I looked over during the frequent contractions, her face would be scrunched and jaw mashed, but she remained incredibly calm and it kept me from driving really stupidly--which I think was why she was doing it. She did keep reaching for my phone in the center console in between contractions, which she later told me was because she felt like she should 9-1-1, although she never actually did.
Another long light at Lawrence Expressway and at 12:31PM, I managed to send a group family text that the hospital was in sight. Turning into the hospital, we managed to have a conversation about the best plan of action for getting to Labor & Delivery, while zipping around a jittery brown pickup truck. Though we ended up changing our minds about going all the way around the grounds to Emergency, when we saw a wheelchair sitting in the (closed) valet drop-off--an area much closer to L&D.
In my head, I picture our green pilot screeching to a halt at the valet drop-off with brakes squealing and tires smoking. I leapt from the car, dashed to the lone wheelchair as Lisa crawled from the car…and for the life of me, I couldn’t get the wheelchair to wheel. Panicked, I looked everywhere for the brake. Finally, I just dragged it to Lisa and helped her in, without a clue how I was going to get her anywhere in a broken wheelchair.
“Can you help us?!” Lisa yelled at the sole human being in sight: a blonde lady sitting on a nearby bench, whom I completely missed. “I’m in labor.” (No joke, she sounded that put together. And there I am, unable to wheel a wheelchair. Boy am I glad one of us remains graceful under pressure).
The lady said, “Sorry. I’m not familiar with this hospital,” as if we were asking about the copay price to deliver at Kaiser. The blonde offered to watch the Pilot so we wouldn’t get towed. Not a concern that was high on my list at that moment, but nice all the same. I closed the car and locked it, leaving the packed bag (the bag which I made Lisa carry everywhere she went for the last month because we couldn’t possibly go to the hospital without it).
Finally, in an instant that feels very much like how it must’ve felt for Ben Franklin discovering electricity, I found the HANDBRAKE to the wheelchair, but I wasted no time shouting, ‘Eureka’. Instead, I sprinted toward L&D as if I was in running shoes and still not the disintegrating things on my feet, since falling and breaking my ankle in the hospital’s courtyard would’ve been brilliant.
We entered Kaiser in one piece and just a short elevator ride to L&D, we were so, so close. Luckily, an UP elevator had just arrived for a small Indian woman and I cut her off getting in, slamming the third floor button a million times as Lisa’s breaths got more and more intense. Strangely, the Indian woman got into the lift with us. As the doors slid closed, I glared at the woman, making my eyes tell her that there would be dire consequences if she was to press the 2 and make us wait. But she just stood there silently as we rode up…pretending like it was just a normal elevator ride. I mean, most elevator rides are awkward, but this was awkward.
All thoughts of the Indian woman vanished when we got to the third floor (Lisa said she didn’t even notice her taking the lift with us until we arrived). A bit rested, I began my sprint again…practically flying through the nearly empty halls.
I’ve got no idea if there were people in the L&D waiting room, but when we got to the double doors, I saw a man standing on the other side--not coming in, not moving out of the way, not opening the door--not doing much of anything. Who knows what he was thinking, but he was between me and getting my wife to a safe place to deliver. Plus, I couldn’t find the magic-door-opening handicap button.
“Can you open the door or help or move, PLEASE?!” I yelled at him as loud as I could (but I did say, “please.”)
He reacted in some way because we were suddenly on our way again, barreling to the check-in station.
To be fair, I’m sure admissions into L&D hear this line as often as supermodels hear, ‘so, have any plans after this photo shoot?’ But they reacted far more calmly than I’d hoped. Either way, we started shooting information at them: Water broke. Feels like pushing. Was at 4-5cm earlier in the week and 80-90% then too. Second baby. First one came in less than 2 hours. Despite my fumbling hands, I unzipped Lisa’s wallet and pulled out her Kaiser card.
“You were the ones I talked to on the phone just a minute ago.” A nurse with a long blonde braid ran over, assessing us quickly. “Skip the triage room. Let’s get to room 3.”
I hung up and helped an obviously-in-tremendous-pain Lisa onto the bed, taking my position as the coach/stress relief ball. The nurse told Lisa she was going to help her change into a gown. The resident physician, Dr. Buono, examined Lisa and found her 10cm, 100% effaced and at +1 (surprise, I know)--which again, basically means the baby is almost out.
“What should I do?” Lisa asked, as she felt the next contraction coming.
“If you can, wait just a minute for us to finish getting set up,” one of the nurses said.
“On the next contraction you can push,” Dr. Buono instructed.
Lisa began to push, holding me tight in a side-bear hug and breathing hard.
As the contraction stopped, the supervising doc, Dr. Sitarz, leaned over Dr. Buono’s shoulder and spoke over her, “Just go ahead and keep pushing. Don’t worry about the contractions. And someone move her shoes.” Lisa’s shoes were on the floor at the foot of the bed.
“There’s the head!” I yelled. “You’re almost there! She’s got a lot of hair.”
“The shoulders are out,” Dr. Buono said.
And then, just like that, they slid a baby onto Lisa’s belly. I had to move her shirt out of the way…she hadn’t even had time to change out of her T-shirt. As we huddled around our new, perfect baby girl, we laughed that Lisa still had her socks on (which, oddly, were white, with a picture of a bride and rhinestone lettering that read, Wedding Girl. Why she was wearing those, I have no clue.). The socks, even more oddly, were pristine. It was love at first sight with the lil’gal, who we agreed almost immediately looked strikingly similar to E as a newborn, although a little bigger.
Somewhere in the very edge of my consciousness, I registered a nurse calling out the time of birth.
It wasn’t until later that night, after we’d agreed upon her name -- Julia Elise Ballou -- and had a string of visitors, that I realized how fast this baby girl came out and how truly lucky we were that she arrived safely in a delivery room. It took just about 27 minutes from the moment Lisa’s water broke. She arrived with a bang…and some honking, hazard lights, a few swear words, a bit of clean up on aisle 5, and a lot of excitement. As Lisa’s cousin pointed out, if you plot E’s birth, and J’s birth, #3 would come in 8 min.