A Mother’s Day Tale

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.

Emmerich, Germany

Emmerich, Germany

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.

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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.

Categories: Parenting | Tags: , , , | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “A Mother’s Day Tale

  1. Your story sounds so similar to mine, well, except for the alone in Germany part. How scary! Glad everything worked out. And yes, the anesthesiologist made my Christmas card list, too. :)

    • I’d imagine we all have a good story to share in the childbirth department. Nature takes over and it never goes the way we imagine it will.

  2. I’ve never had children, but I’ve heard plenty of stories. Yours, Gwen, had me on the edge of my seat. I’m glad it turned out so well :) Happy (post-)Mother’s Day.

  3. Rajni

    It’s uncanny how, right before everything happens, you hear your father’s voice saying he’s with you.
    I can’t imagine how stressful it must have been for you to unexpectedly go into labor in a foreign country, and have no family/friends around. Glad that Thom made it to the hospital in time. That’s a beautiful picture of you and your bundle of joy.

    • Hearing my Dad’s voice was the weirdest thing, especially the timing of it. My midwife was wonderful, and truly put me at ease (luckily for me she spoke perfect English). I was most stressed about Thom making it in time, because I knew how important it was to him to be there. Fortunately it all worked out. I like to think maybe my Dad had something to do with it.

  4. Wow, that’s quite the story, Gwen. No doubt you were freaking out.
    I’m curious as to Natalie’s reaction when you told her the story.
    I hope you had a fantastic Mother’s Day!

    • Natalie loves hearing any story in which she’s the star. Her favorite parts are the fact that her early arrival took us so completely off guard, and the fact that she broke my tailbone during delivery (left that out – seemed a little graphic for a blog post)!

      The tailbone still plagues me to this day, especially when I’m sitting for a few straight hours (a long movie, travel, attending the kids’ sporting events, etc.). Just recently I complained to Thom that my tailbone was killing me, and Natalie yelled from another room, “Sorry, Mom!”

      • Oh my gosh, Gwen, a broken tailbone…yikes! Perhaps your title should have been, “A Mother’s Day Tail.”
        I’m sorry to hear you still experience pain.

      • It’s one of motherhood’s battle scars. Makes me think of my darling daughter every time it flares up :)

  5. Your story gave me chills! It’s so cool how you heard your father’s voice. :)
    Happy Mother’s Day one day late!

  6. Oh, what a story, Gwen – especially after your post of last week – we’ve now got both ends of the spectrum!
    I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to be there alone and not speaking the language – but how amazing that you had the presence not to panic and get in touch with the hospital – and how amazing that your husband got there in time!
    A great post to celebrate what Mother’s Day is all about :)

    • My midwife had such a calming effect on me. Helped that she spoke English very well, of course, otherwise I really would have been freaking out. My greatest worry was that Thom got there in time. Everything worked out, and now it’s just a good story to tell.

  7. wonderful story Gwen :-) I am glad your father made his presence known at that time so you wouldn’t feel too alone.

  8. What an adventure story! Glad it turned out Ok but must have been scary. Three whole weeks early is something very unexpected.

    • Three weeks early is definitely early, especially for first time parents. We were told many times that most first deliveries are late, rather than early. Just goes to show Mother Nature does what she wants!

  9. That sent a chill down my spine when you said you heard your dad’s voice. How incredible. An amazing birth story – you must have felt so scared and vulnerable alone in Germany. I can imagine your kids love hearing that one over and over again. Beautifully written too – great post x

  10. Great story. I was thinking that would make a good Father’s Day story too.

  11. That was a heck of a night/day. I always try to tell myself during times of complete stress and craziness that I’ll have a good story for later. Hope you had a Happy Mother’s Day, Gwen!

  12. What a great story. I know the moment of panic well, being in a foreign country with a basic grasp of the language and an emergency arises. I’m so glad it all worked out OK. A belated happy mothers day!

    • Thanks, Dylan. In those early days my German dictionary was never more than an arm’s length away! I know you can relate.

  13. Wow, what an amazing Mother’s Day story! You are one brave woman. How cool that your dad was there with you in spirit.

    • I don’t know how brave I am, Kourtney. I did what I had to do in the situation. Thanks, I like to think he was there.

      • Isn’t that what brave people and heros always say? :) Seriously, you could have panicked and just been a mess. Instead you were super brave. :)

      • Aw, thanks. Seems like a lifetime ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

  14. it’s always so fun to hear – and share – our baby stories! :-) So glad your husband made it back on time!

  15. Hearing your father’s voice must have been amazing. And what an experience to have for a first child. Never having experienced such a thing, I think I would have panicked. ;) But as you said to Kourtney, we must find a way to do what we need to do in those situations. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day!

    • Thanks, JM. The whole experience was unforgettable. There is a lot of gray time I don’t recall when the labor pains were really amping up, but I wonder if that’s the body’s way of protecting us. The rest of that day will remain in my memory forever! I love seeing you here hope you’re doing well and your new schedule is working for you. I plan to follow suit this summer.

  16. fransiweinstein

    OMG! Gotta say, though, traumatic as it must have been, you sure don’t look any worse for the wear in that photo. And she was a little beauty.

  17. What a wonderful sweet story of becoming a mother, Gwen. The writing was on the wall from the very beginning, wasn’t it? If only we could see it – right? These children would never cease to demand that we give our all and then dig for some more. They made us stronger, their demands made us who we became. What a journey! Thanks for sharing how yours began.

    • I think all mothers can share a story or two about The Day I Became a Mother. Many of us have idealized expectations of how the big day will go (birth plans and such), but Mother Nature has a way of reminding us that she’s in charge!

  18. At 20 years old, I was carrying my first (and only) child. We lived in a very small town in South Dakota, in a GI trailer camp for returned veterans attending the university there. At breakfast, my water broke, and I said to my husband, “I think I’ll be having the baby today,” to which he replied,”Oh, that;s too bad because I have a golf date,” and off he went. We had no telephone, no car, so, when the pains started, I decided to walk the ten blocks to where my mother,who had traveled from California to be with me at this time, was staying. It took me a while to travel those ten tree-lined blocks. Every time a pain gripped me, I embraced a tree. Finally, I made it to my mother and to the tiny hospital on time. That was 67 years ago, and I do believe I may be one of the very first tree huggers.

    • What a great story! I’m glad you clarified that it was 67 years ago, as I wondered about that as I read. So funny how a husband’s priorities were different in decades past. My father wasn’t present for my delivery (I was born in the 60s), but he was there for my younger siblings. Thanks so much for sharing.

  19. ianmooremorrans

    I loved reading your story and can so relate to your feeling lost in the unfamiliar and thus scary German scene. Been there, done that – although I wasn’t giving birth. After living in Germany for quite a number of years and finally getting more familiar with the language, customs, etc., we ended up adopting two children there. The adoption processes were almost as daunting as your birth experience (sans the pain). Someday I may even write up a mother’s day post recounting those adoption trials and joys. Thanks for the encouragement and for your fine, moving writing.
    Gayle Moore-Morrans

    • Thank you, Gayle. As one who’s familiar with the I can imagine the bureaucracy involved in adopting children in over in lovely Germany.

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