(2) Birth Story: Labor Begins
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
The night I went into labor with T, I saw an owl on a phone pole in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of D.C.
I had driven my mother-in-law to her colleague's house in that neighborhood because she was in town visiting from California for work. Chevy Chase is pretty upscale and residential, and was far away from our one-bedroom apartment in Petworth, in more than one respects. I was driving our only vehicle at the time, an old mini-van named "Gloria" that my husband had inherited in his early 20's. Of course, I had forgotten to charge my cell phone, which was hovering around 10% battery life and I hadn't brought a charger with me. This was indeed an excellent and responsible plan, since my due date was the following day and my husband was working a city council meeting until near midnight in a Maryland suburb on the other side of D.C..
As I drove through the quiet and empty streets of Chevy Chase, I prayed that my GPS didn't shut off, because I had no idea how to get out of the neighborhood. We had only been living in D.C. for six months and I was supposed to pick J. up from work that night. Suddenly the phone died, and so did my GPS companion. I stopped the van, looked around, and started to panic. As I tried to get my bearings, my eyes noticed movement and rested on an owl sitting on a phone pole, silhouetted against a full moon on the clear winter night. I couldn't believe it. I watched it fly away and decided to follow the direction it had flown. After two turns, I found myself on Military Rd., which I recognized. So I followed the main street out of the neighborhood and found my way from memory to the small suburb of MD where Jake worked. After parking Gloria, I walked into the City Council meeting at around 11:30pm. The council members stopped to make fun of J., saying they better let him go because his wife was so pregnant. About to pop.
Labor began two hours later, waking me from a barely-there sheen of sleep. Because I felt calm, and not in intense pain, I didn't wake J. I had heard of Braxton-Hicks contractions and didn't want to jump the gun. So I held my belly, and felt the contractions like waves, and sort of breathed and hallucinated between sleep and the beginning pangs of labor. Four hours later I woke J and told him I was in labor. We looked out the window and saw snow falling. I embraced it as a good sign - I was a Michigander who loved the stuff, after all - and I forgot all about the owl. I would later learn that in many ancient cultures, an owl is a harbinger of death. This is something I wish I had not Googled in the aftermath of T's birth.