It was the evening of November 26, a Sunday. We’d been living in the tiny village of Emmerich, Germany, for exactly 8 weeks and were anticipating the birth of our first child. Dear husband Thom was off on one last business trip before baby’s arrival, so around 8 PM I settled in for the night with some comfort food and a few VHS tapes.
11 PM: My eyelids growing heavy, I decided to hit the sack and save the rest of my movie marathon for the following night. I shut down the VCR, locked up the apartment, and headed off to bed.
3 AM: I woke with a start. I’d heard the voice of my father, which seemed illogical since he’d passed away 18 months earlier. He said, “Just remember I’m with you.” For several minutes I lay in bed, shaken, trying to convince myself I wasn’t crazy.
3:13 AM: I felt a strange popping sensation in my upper abdomen, right below my ribcage. Oh, crap. What was that? Was it my … water?
I heaved myself out of bed and watched in disbelief as a stream of liquid trickled down my leg to the carpeted floor. I phoned up Thom, who was sound asleep a few hundred miles away in Milan, Italy.
“I, uh, I think my water just broke,” I told him. “Maybe I’ll go back to bed?”
Following a string of expletives and a few questions: are you sure? are you absolutely sure? (No, I wasn’t sure! I’d never done this before!), he reminded me we’d learned in childbirth class that a baby must be born within 24 hours when the amniotic sac breaks.
Oh, crap! The baby was coming today. I glanced at the calendar: November 27. Three weeks before my due date. I was alone in Emmerich, Germany, in the middle of the night, with no family, no friends, and a German vocabulary that, at the time, could have fit on a cocktail napkin.
I hauled out my German dictionary, scribbled down a few choppy sentences, and used this cheat sheet when I called the local hospital. I said something like, “My name Stephens. Midwife Mueller, please. The baby comes.”
4 AM: My midwife, Freia, arrived at our apartment. After she’d put me at ease and driven me to the hospital, she called Thom, who’d paid a cabbie half our life savings to get him to the Milan airport in record time. Freia assured him I’d be in labor for many hours, and not to worry. He’d be there in time for the birth.
11 AM: My poor husband finally made it to the hospital, and found a demon resembling his wife writhing in pain in a warm water bath. A short time later an angel, otherwise known as the anesthesiologist, delivered the epidural. Ahhhhh.
3:05 PM: Our 6 lb, 14 oz. (3,130g) bundle of joy made her debut, and our lives were forever changed.
When I held her for the first time, I remember thinking the hectic events leading up to her birth would make a unique story to tell her someday. “The Day I Became a Mother” is still one of her favorites.
I hope your Mother’s Day was spent with loved ones and plenty of great stories to share.