My first child had a delivery that made many a mom hate me. This wonderfully compliant girl arrived at exactly forty weeks and one day. I arrived at the hospital, received an epidural, and birthed a baby girl in under two hours. Quick, uneventful, successful.
See? You hate me. But don’t worry, it won’t last.
It seems my second child was conceived with the notion that her mom must not be allowed to develop confidence. This would not be a repeat experience.
My first baby was by the book from conception to delivery, but number two put me through the paces. My first trimester was a haze of nausea and dizziness, and once that was over, I experienced near constant Braxton Hicks contractions and ultimately was given the charmingly named diagnosis of “irritable uterus”.
I may have been carrying another girl, but it was clear that she and her sister were nothing alike. This baby had been put on earth to make sure that I’m aware that I truly have no control.
Now, in addition to all the contractions, baby two was breech. We waited for her to turn. We encouraged her to turn. But as little as she was, she was stubborn. My midwife suspected that because she was so little and so content, any attempts to manually turn her would most likely result in her flipping herself again. So, a C-section was scheduled for my thirty-ninth week—assuming I made it that long (with how irritable my uterus was, there was not one doctor who thought I’d be making it to my due date).
Honestly, I wasn’t all that disappointed. You see, number two was scheduled to arrive on February 28, 2012, and that date scared me. Because what was on tap for the day after February 28, 2012? Not March 1. Not this time. February 29. I did not want a Leap Baby. Not one itty-bitty bit.
A leap baby was not part of my plan. No matter how cool random people thought it was, I didn’t want any part of it. I didn’t want to worry about when we’d celebrate her birthday. I didn’t want to have to override every drop down Internet menu that didn’t include 29 as an option once you’d selected February. And I really didn’t want to doom a kid to a life of answering stupid questions.
Hardee har har, are you sure you can drive? You’re not sixteen! You’re four!
Hey, do I have to get you a present? You don’t have a birthday on MY calendar this year!
With a planned C-section due to a breech baby, I could have it on absolute authority that she would have a birthday that would appear on the calendar every year. I had control. I had a plan. I scheduled childcare, lined up friends and family to help with my toddler during the recovery period, and breathed a sigh of relief.
During the third trimester, people focus on different things, trying to grasp on to just a little bit of control over a world that’s about to be changed. Some women clean or cook obsessively. Some read every book on breastfeeding and infant sleep and childcare until they have every theory memorized. Some women fixate on finishing the perfectly designed, furnished and well stocked nursery. Some focus on planning for the perfect delivery, outlining every last detail and possibility in a birth plan.
I fixated on the date. The nursery wasn’t finished, the house wasn’t pristine, I wasn’t through gathering the baby gear from number one, and I didn’t have a birth plan. But I had one, crystalized focus. This baby would not be born on Leap Day. I was obsessed. And now, with a planned delivery date, I was in control.
I went to my last appointment pre-surgery, and the midwife listened and felt around. Something hadn’t felt right, so she popped in to see if the ultrasound tech was free.
That little girl had flipped. She’d flipped, without my feeling a thing, at thirty-nine weeks. There was no reason for a c-section.
I was shocked. The midwife was shocked. The ultrasound tech was shocked. There she was, perfectly positioned for takeoff, looking like she didn’t have a care in the world.
We canceled the c-section to let nature take over.
My control slipped away.
And time ticked on.
February 23? No baby.
February 25? No baby.
February 27? No baby.
I saw my doctor on February 28. She was so surprised to see me. How funny! They never thought my irritable uterus would tolerate its occupant this long!
I told my doctor, with a degree of irritability to match my uterus, that I was not having a baby on Leap Day. No. Not happening. I didn’t want a Leap Baby. We were going to do whatever we had to do to keep this baby in for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. March would suit us just fine.
She gave me that laugh that feels so patronizing to full term pregnant women and told me that babies come when they’re ready. No promises, but she felt pretty confident that I’d be getting my wish. For all the contractions that I was having, I wasn’t dilated at all. I wasn’t effaced. Go home and relax.
How can I relax when tomorrow is Leap Day?????
February 29, one day after my due date, I woke up feeling off.
No. No no no no no no. I was not off. I was fine. I’d been contracting for the past five months. Sure, these were a little … different, but I wasn’t screaming with pain.
My husband, logical man that he is, suggested that “just for fun,” we call his mom to hang out with our toddler and just “check in” with the doctor. I agreed under the condition that we get sushi on the way there. I mean, I wasn’t having a baby. If I was going to leave the house, it was going to be for sushi, not to have a Leap Baby. I was completely and totally willing to rationalize raw fish. I was not willing to rationalize that the baby would be born on Leap Day. I was – ouch – in – OOOOOH – control DARNIT.
One doctor’s visit and a maki combo lunch later, I learned that I was, in fact, in labor. My contractions were frequent, but I was moving around and talking through them. This was looking like a long, gradual labor. Or maybe even false labor. I was really fine to go home.
I was back in control.
Slightly before dinner, despite my vigorous denials and attempts to keep this control of the birth date, my husband called the doctor again, since the contractions were now definitely within the parameters of when any sane woman who was 40 weeks pregnant should get herself checked. This time, the doctor decided that instead of the office, I should probably head into the hospital.
I was back out of control.
Six o’clock. We got to the hospital.
Seven o’clock. They sent me home.
And I was back in the driver’s seat.
Sure, I was already 3 cm and had a history of fast labor. Sure, I was having contractions every four minutes. But I was just tolerating these things too darn well. They had me walk around the hospital for about an hour and ultimately decided that I should go home, sleep in my own bed, and plan on coming in early the next morning.
Now if I were a rational full term pregnant woman in active labor, I would have said no. I would have said that I was contracting, and that my older daughter had come in like a tornado—a lot of calm nothingness before a burst of intensity and immediate destruction, errr, childbirth.
But I wasn’t having a Leap Baby! I would absolutely go home. I repacked my bag, pocketed the “very mild” sleep aid I was provided, and practically skipped home to wait for my March baby. Well, as much as a woman in active labor can skip. Which is not at all.
At eight o’clock, I tucked my big girl into bed, took my sleeping pill, and got ready to relax and count down until March. My contractions were holding steady at four minutes. I win.
Nearly three hours later, I was still trying to drift off without success. My husband, who had been hovering, asked if he should go to bed try to get a few hours of sleep in. Sure, I was still contracting, but everything was holding steady and the midwife had been pretty sure we’d be fine until morning, after Leap Day had ended. Go to bed. She said we’d be fine. WE WOULD BE FINE. I WIN!
At eleven o’clock all hell broke loose.
Suddenly, every four minutes turned into one endless, everlasting, contraction. Talking and breathing turned into one ridiculous moan. My husband, who had just started his deep snoring, shot out of bed and started putting my shoes on.
After about fifteen minutes of trying to reason a completely irrational woman in labor into the car, he called the midwife, who told us she’d be waiting and that it looked like I’d be getting my wish. We were about thirty minutes from the hospital and forty-five minutes away from midnight on the first day of March.
I’m winning, darnit, I’m winning, I’m in control….
About fifteen minutes into the ride from Hell I felt a pop, a quick release, and then intense pressure.
Me: I think my water broke.
Husband: I’m already speeding. Do I just hope that if I get pulled over they follow me to the hospital?
Me: I think I have to push.
Him: Okay, then.
We arrived at the hospital around 11:40. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes until March. Twenty minutes until I didn’t have to worry about the date. There was no way I wouldn’t make it.
We hustled down the hall with the valet chasing us and an admitting person from the ER jogging and asking questions like, “Religion? Pediatrician’s name?” We nearly knocked over a group of med students who stopped and stared at the pregnant lady both screaming in pain and asking if it was midnight yet. We made it upstairs and my midwife bustled us into triage.
Me : I’m ready for my epidural. Right now.
Midwife: You’re crowning
Husband: So what can we do for pain relief?
Midwife: She’s going to have this baby. That will be her pain relief.
No labor room. No gown. No monitors. No more waiting.
At 11:47 pm on February 29, I had my new baby girl.
I have a Leap Baby.
I have a spunky, stubborn, doing it my way, feisty three-year-old girl with a unique personality to match her unique birthday. We celebrate her birthday on the last day of February (since she was born on the last day of February), and, though we get our share of dumb jokes and ridiculous questions, I’m usually prepared for them and I’ve never officially lost my cool with anyone. And next year, when her fourth birthday actually falls on her “real” birthday she will have one heck of a celebration of how special she really is.
That kid leapt into the world on a day meant for leaping, and taught me that no matter what I may have thought, I really do have no control.
Meredith Napolitano is a former teacher who made the move to stay-at-home mom in 2012. Meredith began writing shortly after this transition, initially as a way to continue having adult conversations without bombarding her friends with her daily anecdotes. She shares those daily anecdotes along with reflections, silly stories, and moments that become memories, but mostly, she writes about finding the balance between her roles of “Meredith” and “Mommy.” Meredith’s writing has been featured on many different sites including The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Circle of Moms, and iVillage. Her stories have been published in several anthologies, including I Just Want to Be Alone, My Other Ex, Clash of the Couples, and Motherhood: May Cause Drowsiness. When she’s not fulfilling her roles as homeschool teacher, chauffeur, dance mom, housekeeper, cook, boo-boo kisser, and lost item locator, she’s connecting with other moms on social media. You can find her on FromMeredithToMommy.com.