The Unexpected


This is young Matthew Taylor Scarpelli’s birth story. It’s a pretty stark contrast to Joshua’s, mostly because for most of it, we weren’t aware it was going on.

Matthew was born at 1:26AM on February 28 — early, early Thursday morning. Here’s how we got to that point.

Tuesday, February 26, in the afternoon and evening Janelle thought that she felt she was in the super early prep stages of labor. There was a lot of movement and contraction action going on, but nothing serious and nothing anywhere close to the standards that would make someone think it’s time to start prepping for a baby. (Earlier that day we had an OBGYN appointment, but opted to forgo an internal check of Janelle’s cervical progress as we are pretty sure this led to Janelle’s water breaking before labor started with Joshua, which was primarily what made his birth tough.)

We went to bed as normal Tuesday night, and Janelle slept through the night and woke up feeling like maybe Tuesday was just a lot of preamble bluster, because nothing else was going on when she woke up. Wednesday proceeded as normal until late in the day, when Janelle began to feel a little nauseated. We chalked this up to any number of things. Typical end-of-day discomforts. Bad food. Hormones disagreeing with some regular food. Labor progressing. Baby pushing on her stomach/intestine area. But again, nothing really happened and nothing felt like labor as we knew it.

Wednesday night we went up to bed as normal and at 10:30pm, just as Janelle was about to climb into bed, she hustled to the toilet to vomit. A little concerned, we called our doula, Alicia Taylor (just a coincidence on the name thing), and asked her thoughts. She had a few theories, some of which lined up with our own, but added that it’s fairly common that when a mother is transitioning to end-stage labor, they will vomit. We passed that off as not super likely, since Janelle hadn’t really been experiencing any labor signs and because Janelle was feeling better, trundled off to bed.

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll note that the timeline is getting a little tight. And it turns out, Alicia was right.

At 11:35pm on Wednesday, 2/27, Janelle got out of bed and began to walk around bit, feeling some contractions. At just about 12:00am on 2/28, Janelle shook my foot and woke me up and told me she thought it was getting to be time and that I should get ready. So, I bolted out of bed, threw on jeans and socks, woke up Janelle’s Mom and let her know to be ready to watch Joshua because we were going to go, rushed downstairs and loaded our already prepped bags into the car. I reviewed our checklist of last-minute items posted by the door, grabbed a couple more things, threw them in Janelle’s purse, put on my shoes and hustled back upstairs.

Maybe 5 minutes had passed and by the time I got upstairs Janelle was feeling contractions so strong she didn’t think she could move. They were close enough together as to make it difficult to determine when they were stopping and starting, which means we were well past the point of the 511 rule (5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for at least 1 hour) when you typically head to wherever it is you’re going to have your baby. I called Alicia and told her it was showtime and she coached us through some quick recommendations and hit the road.

The problem we had to contend with now all of a sudden was the stairs. Janelle wasn’t sure she could make it down. She got to her knees and tried to crawl, slowly, to the bedroom door. She made it about 6 feet this way and then stopped in the throes of a particularly hard contraction and it was at this point that her water burst fairly spectacularly. With this new wrinkle and Janelle’s inability to move, we had to switch gears.

Janelle’s mother phoned 911 to request an ambulance. We needed help getting Janelle down the stairs and once we did, it didn’t seem very likely at all that Janelle would be able to manage the ride all the way out to the San Diego Medical Center (commonly just called Zion, the street it is near) where we were all set to deliver.

Within 5 minutes (the fire station is maybe a mile from our house) we had 4 firefighter/EMTs upstairs in our room generally looking like this was the most boring part of their day. This was actually pretty reassuring. Following them maybe another 5 minutes later were two more EMTs with the ambulance.

They took stock of Janelle from a very cursory standpoint — basically just ensuring that the baby wasn’t crowning (they did no internal examination) and then hooking Janelle up to an IV. They pegged her contractions at 5 minutes apart (totally wrong) and continued to be totally unimpressed. This continued to be pretty helpful, as I was at this point pretty well in the midst of an adrenaline spike, instant cottonmouth and all.

When we informed them that Janelle could not take the stairs (keep in mind for the full flavor of this experience you need to insert the sound of Janelle more or less screaming about every 60-90 seconds) they brought up their fancy stair-chair creation. This is basically a big metal frame chair with staggered wheels on its four feet. We lifted Janelle on it and then they proceeded to carefully wheel her down our stairs. Once down, they lifted her onto a gurney and wheeled her out to the ambulance. Joshua slept through the whole thing.

I did a quick triage of supplies, consolidating things into two bags, tossed those in the storage compartment on the side of the ambulance and then hopped in the front, as they had no room in the back for me. The ride there was a pretty awkward experience. We took a maybe 10 minute drive over to Pomerado Hospital and while I had a window to talk to Janelle from the cab of the ambulance, it was strange to keep yelling encouragements and coaching tips back past 3 medical professionals in the midst of doing their jobs. Though, for this instance the job was mostly making sure a baby wasn’t going to fall out of my wife.

When we got to the hospital they began to wheel Janelle out and into the hospital and it was my job to run over to the front desk and get her checked in. While checking her in, I got word that our doula had actually managed to get to us in time to follow the ambulance to the hospital and when I ran over to check-in had picked right up where I left off and was accompanying her gurney through the hospital. If she had done no other service for us than this, it would have been worth the price to me.

I then ran to the elevators, got up to the fifth floor for the labor and delivery wing and hustled into Janelle’s room. She got shifted over to a hospital bed and the attending nurses started to do some of the internal checks that the EMTs had been holding off on, presumably because someone’s floor is not the most sterile place to do things like that. There wasn’t a lot of checking to do. The immediate word from the primary nurse was “This baby is already in the birth canal. We’ll get a doctor in here immediately.”

We checked in to Pomerado Hospital at 1:00AM on Thursday 2/28 and by 1:26AM that same morning, we had Matthew. All 9 pounds, 13 ounces of him.

Ayup. 26 minutes. The time differential between Pomerado Hospital and Zion? About 15-20 minutes. We wouldn’t have made it, or Matthew would have suffered for our making the attempt. The birth was both everything we had hoped it would be and also kind of a total mess, which is very likely how you could sum up every birth.

I’ll have more later on what our thoughts were on Pomerado as it compares to Zion, which is basically to say “how it compares to birthing at a Kaiser hospital”.

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