Every woman who has had a child has a birth story. She will tell this story to anyone, anytime. Her birth story is her battle story.

This is mine.

Seventeen years ago, I was rushed to the emergency room. I had left work early to make a 3 p.m. doctor’s appointment – the last of my scheduled appointments before the due date of our only child. My husband joined me, arriving 10 minutes late.

The idea that we would have a baby in the next week was still just a concept for both of us. Unable to grasp the magnitude of change in the wake of what was about to occur, I focused on my ugly clothes, the pain in my hips and all the things my husband was doing wrong. Installing a new kitchen two weeks before the baby was due comes to mind. While he nested, I cried.

Weight gain was a problem, but I had a system of not totaling the pounds from month to month. If, for example, one month I gained 9 pounds, I would not eat the whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s while watching “Law and Order.” If, the next month, I had gained only 3 pounds, I allowed myself not only the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, but also a coffee shake during lunch with my boss, who had just had her first and was thinking about her second (child, not shake).

I, of course, was early for my very special, very last, official appointment and, once hoisted up on the exam table, was introduced to the medical student who would be observing my appointment. He was tall, thin and pleasant enough.

My doctor began the exam by measuring my belly, taking my blood pressure and listening to the baby’s heartbeat.

Then she left the room. She did not excuse herself – she just left. A few minutes later, she returned and said that I would be leaving for the hospital in a few minutes, “courtesy of the city.” She announced this with the most encouraging fake smile I had ever seen.

“Huh?” I said.

At this point in my pregnancy, I wanted to burn all my clothes. The maternity tights I had worn to the appointment (now in a ball on a chair next to the exam table) would not stay up over my massive belly. The synthetic elastic-waist skirt I wore that day was made for a woman 5 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier, but on this day it was too tight for short, rotund me.

All I could think about was how I was going to get my stupid maternity tights back on in the presence of the tall, sincere med student, who now was slack-jawed. Vanity was, apparently, working in my favor to distract me from the real problem.

The baby’s heart – our baby’s heart – was in deceleration. The doctor called it “a decel.”

Again, my doctor left the room. By this time, I was holding back tears and wishing the dorky med student would evaporate. And I wanted my mother. I really, really wanted my mother.

My husband is a guy you want at your side in an emergency. He has every tool and device known to man. He can build most things and fix almost anything. So when he picked up the thingy that the doctor used to hear the baby’s heart rate and started moving it over my belly like my belly was a Ouija board, I understood, and yet I came unglued.

“Stop!” I yelled in a stage whisper, trying to keep my act together in front of the med student. I remember thinking that if he, the med student, would leave, then I could have a proper fight with my husband and blame him for what was happening to me. Me. Me. Me.

The doctor returned once again, and I was wheeled out of the exam room. I was not allowed to put my tights back on – problem solved.

Through sobs, I asked my husband to call my mother. As I was loaded into the city ambulance, I heard my husband ask the driver if he could ride up front.

I was admitted to Mercy that day, discharged two days later, readmitted two days after that and, finally, on the sixth day, I was prepped for an emergency C-section.

In the end, I had gained 80 pounds and delivered a 5-pound, 15-ounce, healthy baby girl.

I’ve heard more entertaining accounts, like the experiences of my childhood friend who delivered her own baby in the passenger seat of her car as her husband drove to Maine Med. But this is my story.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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