On Thursday at 8:13 pm, Joshua and I receive the following texts from Kyle:
“Delivery at Ellie’s house.”
“Can’t make it”
As we read the texts, Joshua says, “is he joking?! What does that mean?” Pulling on my jeans, I shake my head, “you don’t joke about that sort of thing.” I look for my shoes, but before I find them, we hear Kyle honking the van and he’s pulling up alongside the curb in front of our house. He jumps out, and we run. Stacy is leaning over the middle row of seats with her head in her hands, groaning.
We’re in a flurry. Joshua runs to stow our two older children with my dad who just happens to be in town. Our youngest is ten weeks old, and she’s sleeping in our bed just 30 feet away in the front bedroom. Kyle and I try to figure out what to do. Stacy tells us she’s having the baby now, and I ask her if we need to take off her pants. She shakes her head, groans, and has another contraction.
I decide we need to get her into the back of the van where there’s more room. Kyle will drive to Mountain Midwifery, and she’ll very likely have the baby on the way there, but I’ll be in the back with her, and I can help. We help Stacy out of the van, and she collapses on the grass, hit with another contraction. We start emptying out the back of the van, but Stacy tells us she’s having the baby now, here. She can feel the baby’s head.
I tell Kyle to call the midwife, and we pull off Stacy’s pants. She’s on her hands and knees and over the line, the midwife asks if her perineum is bulging. I tell Kyle it’s not. There’s swelling and discharge, but no bulging. We start moving towards the back of the van again, but in the next contraction, I see the bulge.
The midwife tells us to get towels, blankets. Joshua runs inside and grabs whatever he can find. I kneel behind Stacy, and she’s pushing. Kyle is relaying it all to the midwife, and between what I can hear from the phone and what Kyle repeats, we follow her directions. Stacy is whimpering, and we’re all trying to reassure her that it’s ok and she’s doing great and everything’s ok. I think we’re trying to reassure ourselves as well.
In moments, the head is crowning. The midwife asks if there’s someone there to catch the baby, and Kyle tells me to do it. I put my hand on the baby’s head. The bag of waters is yellowish and still intact, but in the next push, it bursts, slipping over the baby’s head as Stacy pushes it out. The face is slightly purple, the eyes tightly squeezed shut, but I see movement. Her nose twitches and her mouth quirks. Now, time is suspended. The baby’s head is out, and in those long seconds, I’m aware of Stacy’s cries, the grass beneath my bare feet, the light of the iPhone, and Joshua and Kyle fumbling with Stacy’s shirt and bra, following the midwife’s orders to get her ready to go skin to skin with the baby.
A hand emerges, and a second later, Stacy pushes out baby Lucia. She’s slippery and moving, and I catch her. I look at her neck to make sure that the umbilical cord isn’t wrapped, and it’s not. The midwife tells me to pass her through Stacy’s legs to her chest. Stacy holds her and leans back on her heels. She hasn’t cried.
The midwife tells us to rub her back, and Stacy and I slide our hands up and down her white blue back, waiting for cries. I try rubbing her feet. At some point, I look up, and a wide eyed stranger is looking at us. “What’s happening?!” she asks.
The midwife tells us to look for muscle tone. We see her open and close her mouth a couple of times, and she gives a couple of small grunts, but those minutes before she cries are long, and I am afraid. The midwife tells us to call 911, and Joshua does.
Finally, she lets out a good cry, and we heave a collective sigh of relief.
Sandy, Stacy’s mom, shows up as we’re wrapping Stacy and Lucia in blankets, trying to ward off the chill. I tell her to grab the duvet from our bed where our youngest is still sleeping peacefully. It’s not quite 8:30 pm, and the day has been warm. Somewhere in the fray, pictures are taken, video. I look up again and see the same wide eyed stranger and now a concerned couple, kneeling nearby and asking if we need help. Joshua is telling the dispatcher that a baby has been born, that we are in the front yard of our home in Edgewater, that the mother’s name is Stacy, that she is 31.
The police arrive first and flash bright lights into our eyes, and Stacy pulls the blanket over Lucia’s face to shield her from the light.
From the ambulance spill EMTs, and nice man with a smile in his voice introduces himself. “My name is Eric. What’s your name ma’am?” Stacy responds in a calm, level voice. She only has eyes for Lucia.
They pull a stretcher out from the ambulance, and Stacy gets onto it with the baby still at her chest. The story is coming out in fits and starts. What time was the baby born? We’re not sure. Maybe ten minutes ago? We tell them there was meconium and lots of it. We tell them it took her a while to cry, but after a bit, she did. Stacy, Lucia, and Kyle are loaded into the ambulance, headed to Lutheran hospital, and I tell them that I’ll follow.
After the ambulance pulls away, the police stay for a few minutes longer. One of them asks, “but why was she naked?” I laugh and say, “did you want her to have the baby with her pants on?” They shake their heads, but still seem a bit perplexed.
Inside the house, I grab my shoes and wash the meconium off my hands and forearms at the sink. Strangely, my shirt and jeans are clean. Joshua gathers a small diaper bag together, and I go to get the car seat, stopping to check in with my dad and the girls on my way out.
“I just caught a baby,” I say, still completely in shock.
“With my bare hands,” I say, laughing a little bit. “In the front yard. No. Not even in the front yard. We didn’t make it through the front gate. Stacy had her baby on the boulevard. Oscar was watching.”
The girls are all blue eyes and frightened faces, and I try to reassure them. “Stacy’s ok. She had her baby. Baby Lucia. She’s beautiful, she’s perfect, and everyone’s ok. Baby Lucia’s ok.”
After a few minutes, I load Luna into the truck and I drive to the hospital. At the door to labor and delivery, I press the intercom. “Who is it?” they ask. I respond, “Um. I caught my friend’s baby? Her name is Stacy?” Without another word, they beep me in.
I’m let into the room where people are laughing and the OB on duty is taking off her gloves. “She did it all,” she says, shrugging. “Even her placenta. I went to help deliver it, and then she just pushed it out. I didn’t even get my gloves dirty.”
We spend the next hour retelling the story. The nurses are confused. “But why did you go to her house?” they ask. “Is she a midwife? A doula?” Stacy shakes her head. “No, but she’s watched every season of Call the Midwife, and she listens to every episode of The Birth Hour. Plus, she’s the only one who read up on precipitous labor.”
It doesn’t feel real, and yet the fear, the relief, the cries and the blood and the bright lights are very, very real. We’re laughing and shaking our heads, and we can’t believe it. Stacy takes a shower, and when she does, she walks over normally, as though she hasn’t just birthed a baby, but she has.
Kyle cradles Lucia against his chest and tells me how scared he was when she didn’t cry at first and how he never wants to feel that way again.
On the scale, Lucia weighs 7 pounds 7 ounces, and on her birth records, the nurse writes my name over Delivering Physician and Joshua and Kyle’s names over Delivering Nurse.
It’s almost 10:30 pm, so I say goodbye. Luna has slept peacefully in her wrap the whole time, but I want to get her home and I want to leave Kyle and Stacy and the newest little member of their family to themselves. Before I go, I thank Stacy for granting me one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
When I get back to the house, Luna goes straight to sleep, and Joshua shows me the video, time stamped at 8:22 pm. It’s lacking setting and scene, but the birth is there, in full surreal glory. We hug, and I say, “I think we should plant a garden there. A birth garden. We can put a little sign up that says, ‘Life started here.’”
He nods his head. “Definitely,” he says.
Although Kyle, Stacy, and then Lucia were only on the boulevard in front of our house for less than 20 minutes on the night of March 16th, there’s much more to this story. Most of it is not really mine to tell, but because Stacy is my best friend and we spend quite a lot of time together, I can piece together much of the backstory, and with Stacy’s blessing (and the hope that she’ll write her own account!), I’ll write the rest of the story here.
I’ve had the honor of attending both Stacy’s first and second labors. Although the first was induced, and the induction took over two days, once her water finally broke and she began active labor, the whole thing only lasted four hours. The second labor was two hours start to finish, and when she got pregnant a third time, there was some real concern that this labor would be even shorter.
Over the course of her pregnancy, we talked a lot about different scenarios. Initially, she enrolled with Westside Women’s care at Lutheran Hospital, thinking that the location was better than Mountain Midwifery (a 10 minute drive as opposed to a 20 minute drive), but the tour of Labor and Delivery was off putting for someone who wanted as few interventions as possible, and so Stacy transferred to Mountain Midwifery before her third trimester.
The plan was that her parents would be in Denver from 37 weeks on. Kyle would start working from home at 39 weeks, and she would never go anywhere alone or without a plan for being quickly picked up and whisked to the hospital. Close to her due date, we all made sure our phones were charged and the ringer was on. Stacy asked me to attend her labor, and we tried to figure out how it might work. What would we do if both of the husbands were at work? What would she do if she was on a walk around the lake? I privately thought it very likely that I might not be able to make it to the birth, between her history of short labors and my three children, especially my youngest, but when I told Stacy, she said, “bring Luna! I secretly want to be able to tell Lucia that she was there anyway!”
As the due date approached, Stacy bought a shower curtain and packed a hospital bag, stowing both of them in the back of her van. We talked about what she would do if she had her baby on the freeway, and she said that the midwife told them that if it was less than 10 minutes away, they should just keep going to Mountain Midwifery.
The due date came and went, and the night before her 41 week appointment, Stacy and Kyle made the trip to Mountain Midwifery, thinking Stacy’s water had broken. After a few hours with no contractions or other signs of labor, they returned home.
At the 41 week appointment, the midwife checked and told Stacy that she was 5 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced, but the baby was sunny side up. (When she told me via text, I joked that she had a birth canal like a laundry chute… Maybe not so funny?). She bought a bottle of Cotton Root and made an appointment with an acupuncturist for later in the day and then stayed on that side of town, walking laps around Whole Foods and having a late lunch of tacos with her mom.
After the acupuncture appointment, Stacy went back to the midwife, but unfortunately, she was still at 5 cm and she wasn’t having contractions, so the midwife sent her home. That was at 6:30 pm.
At 7:55 pm, Stacy texted me.
“I don’t know what to do. Aubrey sent me home but I’m here and it hurtzz”
“:):) can you describe the pain?” I texted back.
“3 min apart, 10 sec long. Can’t parent”
“I shouldn’t think so” I texted “Who’s making you parent?!?!” then “Oh man. I’m so sorry dear. I guess you need to use all those laboring strategies that you haven’t really needed before. Want me to come over and help you make a lady cave?” I wrote, thinking that maybe this meant that the “wild card” third labor for Stacy might mean a longer one, rather than a rapid one like we had been thinking.
“I think I want to go in” Stacy texted back “I can’t do worse than this in the car”
I responded “I totally get that. You should call and talk through it with Aubrey”
“Will do” she texted. Time stamped 7:59 pm.
Tonight, I was asking Stacy more about her timeline. She said that after she texted me, she walked to the bathroom just fine. She called her parents. Once they were on their way, she relaxed, and all of a sudden, the pain got much, much worse. She could barely bend over to pull her pants on. Kyle came out from putting the kids down to sleep, and they headed for the van. She says she looked up at the blooming plum tree in her front yard, deep in the pain cave, and thought, “it’d be nice to have my baby looking at this plum tree.” But then she saw her neighbors and decided she’d rather try and make it to the van. Once she got there, Kyle said, “it’s ok honey. We’ll be there in 21 minutes.” But Stacy shook her head. “No. I’m having the baby now.”
Kyle tells me that he remembers from the birthing class at Mountain Midwifery that a woman is never lying if she says she’s having a baby right now, so he asked Stacy what she wanted him to do. “Drive to Ellie’s house.”
And that, my friends, is how my best friend ended up having a baby on the boulevard in front of our house. Wild, amiright? For someone who is completing pre-requisite courses to attend nursing school so that I might one day become a midwife, Thursday night felt like a sign. I mean, who gets to catch a baby years before they even enter nursing school or become a midwife? Maybe firefighters, but not stay at home moms of three with no credentials to speak of, save having watched every season of Call the Midwife and listened to every episode of The Birth Hour.
You’ll be happy to hear that the Pietaris are doing well. Stacy has the core of an iron woman and does not walk like someone who has been hollowed out (that was me after I gave birth). Lucia is nursing and cute as a freaking button with long arms and toes that prefer to rest upon her shins. Kyle has already gone on a couple of double jogger runs and announced to the Strava-sphere that his awesome wife had a #grassbirth on his friends’ front lawn. Grandma and Grandpa are helping out with the older two kiddos, and we’ve toasted with champagne and ate a bunch of cheesecake, per tradition. The local newspaper published a short article about the unconventional birth, and we keep shaking our heads, still unable to believe it really happened. Life is good, and already we’ve had two meals with the six kids all together. The village has grown, and now all we have to do is raise them (that’s all) and plant a birth garden and tell this story – again and again – until we’re old and gray. And you know what? I don’t think it will ever get old.