A Walk to the Hospital

Some people labor in vain, while others are just vain laborers. (quote by Sam)

It started during the morning staff meeting. Just as I reached for the tapitio sauce to spice up my egg burrito, a wave of intense pain rolled around my tailbone then wrapped all the way around to my swollen belly.

I frantically gripped the counter of the church kitchen and panted, “whoo whoo whoo, heee heee heee,” in the breathy way pregnant women are instructed to huff and puff. That is, until the pain gets bad enough for the real guttural groans of childbirth. This is why you don’t ever tell the labor and delivery nurses you are in ministry. That way if an F bomb escapes while you are bearing down to push they won’t stare at you like you’re a hypocrite.

Emily, the children’s pastor, looked at me quizzically. “Are you in labor? Do you want me to get your husband?”

“No, maybe, I don’t know,” I replied. The last thing I wanted was to be an inconvenience to the team or to my busy pastor husband. We were trying to get this new church up and running and I really didn’t have time to fit birthing in on this particular day.

Ironically, it was my actual due date, but baby number three seemed quite content to hang out in the nice warm womb for the full term. Labor wasn’t really on my radar because we had a scheduled induction the very next morning. Wrapping up all my loose ends was on the agenda for today. I had the meeting to attend, a few quotes to do for work, and kids to pick up from school.

Besides, I had it all planned out down to the hour. The two older children were scheduled to spend the night with my ex-in-laws and the renovation on our condo from unanticipated flood damage was to be completed that very night. And most importantly, the baby’s arrival was perfectly coordinated to not conflict with Sunday Service. Our fledgling church was every bit as much as our baby as was the actual child now dropping precariously low between my thighs.

As we moved the meeting into the study, I alternately paced and rolled around on the sofa while the church staff shook their heads at me in disbelief.

“You are so in labor.”

“Uh, Sam, it’s probably about time to head on over to the hospital.”

Defiant, I stared them down, determined to keep my schedule. I picked up the kids from school then headed back to church and to my favorite sofa. Around 4:00pm. A gush of water dampened my seat. I ran to the restroom to check if my water had broken. But when I stood up, it seemed to stop. Embarrassed and humiliated that I had more than likely wet my pants, I kept my mouth shut and continued to deal with the contractions which were growing more painful by the minute.

My husband walked in around dinner time and suggested we head out to find some grub. Now my husband, the soon to be father of the baby on the way, was not the baby-daddy to my two older children, Kyle (eleven) and Faith (eight). So though he was a great step-dad to the kids, he was rather clueless about childbirth.

Planting a church during the pregnancy had required almost all of his time and energy, leaving little room for Lamaze classes or birthing preparation. When the Doctor had told him a few weeks prior I was about ready to pop, he had protested adamantly.

“But, I’m not ready,” he said. “I’ve got two more weeks! I’m just getting used to you being pregnant.”

The doctor and I looked at each other in bemusement. But now, here I was the stubborn one, clinging to my agenda and in complete denial of actually being in labor.

The kids and I piled into my husband’s grey Ford Expedition and we headed over to the Panda Express in Ladera Ranch. It sits dead center in a strip mall of idyllic suburbia. I timed my contractions on the dashboard of the car. They were about four to five minutes apart now. I figured I could make it to three minutes apart before I cried “uncle.”

In we trooped to the restaurant and ordered up our usual favorite fare. But my insides were violently churning and the mushroom chicken I normally adored didn’t look too appetizing. My husband urged me to eat up. “You need to keep up your energy; we are having a baby in the morning. “He decried jubilantly.

I smiled back weakly.

“Oh by the way, “he said, “I need you to drive your car back to the condo, pick up the kids bags and then take the kids over to their grandparents. I have to wrap up some work at the church and then I’ll meet you there.

My eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know if I can do it, I’m really in a lot of pain.”

He smiled his charismatic smile, “Kyle will be with you. He’ll take care of you.”

Mumbling low-grade insults, I drove the thirty minute commute back to Newport Beach in waves of delirious pain. The contractions were holding steady now at four minutes apart. I whined and moaned the whole way home as my son both encouraged and laughed with me at the absurdity of driving in labor.

We walked in the front door to our condo and were greeted by the roar of fans. The construction crew was still on sight, even though it was now after 8:00pm. And all of a sudden, I got grumpy, real grumpy.

I glared at them menacingly. “Hey lady,” the guy in charge said, your husband told me we had to have this done before you brought your kid home from the hospital. We are just doing our job.”

I grabbed the bags, shot the workers a dirty look and headed to the car. We pulled up at my ex-husband’s parent’s home (Mimi and Papa to the kids), a few minutes later. Mimi ran out and invited us in with open arms. Finally, I had found a nice place to relax. I plopped down in their big comfy chair, curled up in a cozy blanket and then “whoosh” another big gush of water burst forth. This time I knew it wasn’t pee.

“My water broke!” I shouted. Just then my husband walked in the door and everyone got very excited. The kids were laughing, the cats were meowing, and the adrenaline was pumping. My husband’s eyes got very big. “It’s time! It’s time!” he said with joy and trepidation.

We kissed the kids goodbye, thanked the ex-in-laws and headed back to our condo where fortunately the workers had retired for the evening. I told Tim I wanted to take a quick shower before we headed over to the hospital. Honestly, I just wanted to look decent for the round of pictures that I knew would follow. So, I jumped in the shower, blow-dried my hair, carefully applied makeup, and even managed a few curls with the curling iron. The contractions were now about three minutes apart.

At some point, I finally got around to calling my doctor to tell them we were on the way to the hospital. When questioned about my contractions and time of water breaking, my doctor seemed a little miffed that I was not already at the hospital. She sounded a little angry in fact, “Let me get this straight, you have been having contractions for the last fourteen hours, your water broke six hours ago, and you are now just calling me? Get your butt over to the hospital.”

“Ok” I said. We practically live next door. We are on our way”

Tim walked in and said nonchalantly, “Remember that day we were walking around on Balboa Island and we passed the photo shop with the gorgeous pictures of the pregnant woman with her belly showing. You know I always wanted to take some pictures of you like that but we sort of ran out of time. Could we do a few now?”

“Now?” I asked incredulously.

“Just a few, it will take two minutes, max.” he promised.

With a loud “fine,” I walked out to the living room and dropped my meticulously packed bags by the front door. I had packed the special little tie-wrap t-shirts my older kids had worn in the hospital when they were born, the perfect going home outfit for baby, a brand new mini-pacifier, soothing music on the iPod, and my favorite pillow. All the essentials a girl could possibly need for the hospital stay.

Tim lined me up where he wanted to shoot me and then had the audacity to request I change into a black satin top which he thought would curve nicely around my giant belly.

Seriously…a costume change?

I am going to stab you...in the eye.

But I adore my husband enough to play along with his badly timed request. So in the throes of labor, contractions now about two minutes apart, I do an impromptu photo shoot for my hubby. As a former model (yes, I’m serious. It’s how I put myself through school), I pose and smile, in between contractions of course, and make love to the camera with my eyes.

I hate you...

I throw in some more under the breath cussing at my husband for making me do this in the first place. My personality is now teetering between curmudgeon and loving wife.

When Tim is satisfied that he has captured my pregnant essence we head out the door to walk to the hospital.

Yes, I said walk to the hospital. Our condo complex was just down the street from Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, so I figured we could save some money on parking and walk. I might have been hallucinating when I thought this was a good idea, but now fifteen hours into labor, I’m not really operating with a full deck of cards.

My husband pulls our travel bags with the rickety wheels across the cobblestone pathway as we make our way over to the hospital. Now reeling in pain, I stop several times and desperately hold on to the stone planter and screech in pain. Then we have two more minutes to walk as fast as I can trot.

Waddle, waddle, howl, waddle, waddle, yelp.

Finally, we arrive in labor and delivery. The nurses crowd around me and bark off directions but I refuse to let them push me in the wheelchair to my room. If I’ve made it this far, I’m not wussing out in the final stretch. I do let them convince me to take the epidural though. I’ve birthed one child drug-free and that was enough pain to last me a lifetime.

Epidural kicked in...I look sooooo out of it.

And so Kolby Grace Keller entered the world. She came out of the birth canal with a true knotted umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. The doctors believe Kolby tied her cord up around the fourth or fifth month in-utero. The knot completely blocked all blood flow and nutrients from reaching the baby. She should have died, but somehow the cord fused around the knot to give her just enough sustenance to live.

They said she was a miracle baby. The doctor was so amazed Kolby survived he had the nurse take multiple pictures of the mangled cord.


Call me Kolby the Survivor!


But it didn’t surprise Tim and I. Not that we deserve a miracle or take God’s grace lightly, but we do believe in a big God whose endless love allowed a little baby to survive against the odds. He is a God who can take the endless knots we tie and lives we so easily tangle and turn them into beautiful things.

Got a good baby story? Share it with me…

%d bloggers like this: