When Labour Started – At The Shops
In my group of friends, I was the first to become a mum at just 21 years old. As a 21 year old mother, I was just as clueless and scared as you probably are imagining. I learned a lot along the way and several years later, when one of my oldest friends fell pregnant, she asked me (as one of her few experienced and trusted mum-friends) to come along and support her through the labour and birth.
I agreed without a moment’s hesitation, and have now been present as a support person at 4 births, 3 of them supporting this same friend! All of them have been different and amazing and all of them have had moments of utter hilarity. Yes, hilarity. This story makes me laugh now, but at the time, I was trying to maintain a calm exterior… This would be the second birth and labour I’d been at, supporting that same friend who has asked me to attend the birth of all 3 of her children.
The Labour Story.
To set the scene, she was around several days past that mythical “estimated delivery date” and facing a potential induction for the second time. To take her mind of her “still extremely pregnant” status, we decided to go wander the local shopping centre. We hopped in the car and she drove us the 10 minutes it took to get there, because at this stage, I still hadn’t gotten my driver’s license (I was only 30, you can’t rush these things).
We began aimlessly strolling, stopping at this shop and that shop, when I noticed something was happening. As we walked and chatted, my friend would stop talking periodically and wince, taking a deep breath before continuing what she was saying. She didn’t even seem to notice that she was doing it; she didn’t acknowledge it at all. After a few of these, I asked if she was okay. She muttered something about Braxton Hicks but I knew better- those are uncomfortable, but they shouldn’t be so painful that you stop talking. I should also mention that this friend of mine is a prolific talker. She could talk underwater and she knows it, so for these pains to even pause her conversation made me feel sure that something else was going on!
A few more pains in and I gently suggested that it was time for us to go home. By now, I was acutely conscious of the fact that I didn’t drive and had only a vague notion of where the taxi-rank was. My friend, however, wasn’t ready to go. “Can we just duck into Myer? I really wanted a new perfume for my hospital bag,” she said, so I hustled her into the Myer perfume counter where she told the salesperson what she was after. The sales lady couldn’t miss the full-term belly in front of her and my friend explained she wanted a new scent before the baby arrived. “When are you due?” she asked. On hearing that she was several days overdue and was actually having a few pains, she stuffed the perfume in the bag, thrust it at us and wished her luck. If she could have shoved us out the door, she would have.
The terrified eyes above the fake smile gave away her thoughts exactly, she knew that if she didn’t get my friend out the door she’d be mopping up amniotic fluid before too long.
On leaving Myer, I turned towards the exit but my friend had other ideas. She was, she said, in desperate need of a McDonald’s lunch. A McFeast meal. Now. No, we couldn’t get takeaway. Let’s just eat here. Okay. I steered her to the food court and sat her down. While in the queue at McDonalds, I downloaded a contraction timer app and keep an eye on her. I bought our lunches and quietly timed the contractions I was sure she was having. She’d eat, stop, hunch forward and breathe, then continue. From memory, they were about 10 minutes apart at this point. I figured we had enough time to get home, grab her bag and go to the hospital. I suggested she, or I, ring her husband to come home from work as he was a good 40 minutes away.
My friend, in the middle of a shopping centre, panting slightly through contractions while finishing her french fries, looked at me as if I had completely lost the plot. I was the unhinged one, in her eyes. There was no getting between her and her lunch; baby or no baby.
I again suggested we leave and she rolled her eyes and said she was sure it was just Braxton Hicks. I quietly pointed out how overdue she was, that it was a second baby that might come faster than the first, that her “Braxton Hicks” seemed to be causing her considerable discomfort and that I thought she was, in fact, in labour- at least in the early stages. I reminded her that I couldn’t drive. She reluctantly agreed that we should leave, just in case I was right. However, before we went, she just needed to go and get some jam donuts. NEEDED to. From the donut shop that was literally on the other side of the shopping centre. She just needed them, okay?
I calmly walked with her, pausing with contractions, while my mind raced. I was, by the time we got to the donut shop, pretty sure I would have to deliver the baby myself, right there at the shops. I wondered how clean the floors were if I couldn’t get her to a seat in time. Would my cardigan do to the wrap the baby? Someone would help me, surely? Inside, my panic was mounting. I insisted my friend call her husband to come home, so, to humor me, she rang him and said it was time. Time for what, he asked? My friend stood there, looking slightly confused. I remember grabbing the phone and almost yelling “It’s time to come home and go to hospital-NOW!”.
For the record, the jam donuts? She didn’t even eat ONE of them!
My friend got her jam donuts while I confided my concerns in two total strangers, a young pregnant woman and her sister. I thought they might help, if the time came. They did help convince my friend to leave and finally, we made it back to the car.
The road Gods smiled on us and each contraction happened at a red light and we made it home shortly before her husband, who promptly went outside to shovel some recently-delivered garden pebbles while my friend paced the house. I wondered if they’d both gone mad.
I threw a towel on the passenger seat of the car, and asked her husband to ring the hospital- contractions were down to 5 minutes apart. At my insistence, they both got in the car and were were off. By now, my poor friend was in the thick of hard, painful labour. She and I were dropped at the door while her hubby parked the car.
Getting her up to the birth centre was an adventure in itself and her baby was born, safe and well, less than an hour later. I take no credit for that- she did all the hard work, for sure.
But I do take credit for one thing: the fact that that baby was not born in the middle of a shopping centre. That was almost all down to me.