The nightly routine was becoming very familiar. Each evening, as the sun went down, as the children got tucked into bed, and as the household settled into peace and quietness, my contractions would pick up--or perhaps, simply be more noticeable since I was no longer distracted so much by other things. And I would wonder, "Is this it? Is this the night?"
And then I would do something--sit down to rest, or go to the bathroom, or simply wait--and eventually the contractions (which were never very painful and never very regular) would calm down and disappear, and I would realize that the waiting game for the birth of our precious sixth child was still on.
I wasn't bothered or fretful about that, but was blessed with an amazing sense of peace and serenity. I knew God had already written the perfect birth story for this child, and I was content to wait until it was revealed. I don't think I ever felt desperate enough to do anything in particular to hurry things along. Waiting was fine with me. :)
Saturday evening, September 12, Jeff got home from work and was helping me get supper ready. While he cut the sirloin steak into bite-size pieces for the cheesy beef stroganoff I was making, he asked me if I was mentally prepared for this pregnancy to go on for another week or more. I told him I thought I was, and we chatted about that for a while; at one point, he told me that he thought I was doing very well during this late stage of pregnancy, and that delighted my heart. :) Little did we know what would transpire that very night. :)
Because I've known that I could go into labor at any point, I have tried my best to keep up with things around the house--the laundry and the dishes, in particular--so that if I were to suddenly go off and have a baby, Jeff wouldn't have a huge mess to clean up or urgent calls for clean underwear for the boys, for example. :) Saturday night after supper, I knew that I once again wanted to get all the dishes cleaned up; but I also really wanted to spend some time with the kids, doing something fun. So I proposed that if they would help me do their regular nightly tasks of filling the dishwasher, plus a few other little jobs, I would then play Mexican Train dominoes with them. They were eager to help, and we got a good bit of the kitchen clean-up done--but not all, because there are always some final dishes I need to handwash and things like that. However, I was very glad to sit down and play a game with them; Jeff, meanwhile, fell asleep on the couch, and I was very glad about that, too, because each night I have wanted him to get some good rest early on...just in case. :) We played three rounds of Mexican Train. For the first round, Shav was on my team; but after that, he played on his own--a first for him. Josiah won the first round, Tobin the second, and I won the third.
By the time we were playing that third round, which was sometime after 8:00 p.m., I was noticing my contractions and was feeling like they were "different" enough from my normal nightly contractions that I suddenly started to feel urgent that we needed to finish the game, put it away, pick up all the toys and books and random stuff in the living room, get the kids bathed and showered (our Saturday night ritual), and get them into bed. I didn't exactly know what was going on with my contractions, but I could hardly wait for everything to get done so I could turn my attention from house and children to my body.
Tobin had taken his shower, Moriah was still in the bathtub, and Shav was waiting his turn--so we hadn't yet reached my goal of everybody in bed!--when I went to the bathroom and discovered blood--bright red blood--enough that I decided to call the midwife and tell her about my contractions and the blood. I discovered that AlexAnn was the midwife on call this weekend, and she returned my call promptly. I told her what was happening, and she asked if the baby was moving like normal, and he was. So she told me that it really depended on how I felt about the contractions as to whether I should come into the hospital or not, but she suggested that I take a relaxing bath after the kids were in bed, or perhaps lie down myself to see if the contractions escalated or not. I found out later that, at that point, she went ahead and called the hospital to let them know that I would likely be coming in at some point that night; and the nurses pulled my chart and read through it, discovering things like how many kids I have and where they were born. They weren't surprised when I showed up later that night. :)
At any rate, I woke up Jeff and enlisted his help with getting Moriah out of the tub and ready for bed. Shav never did get his bath last night but was instead hurried into bed with the rest of the kids. :) Then I quickly finished the kitchen clean-up and the other last-minute tidying I was feeling the need to do before I headed to the shower. Jeff made me smile when he asked, "Is this your take-a-shower-and-shave-your-legs-before-you-go-to-the-hospital shower, or just a regular shower?" :) Well, I didn't yet know what it would be! But I did shave my legs. ;-)
I was still having some contractions, but nothing very intense. I was so much looking forward to being clean and putting on fresh clothes and lying down in bed to see what would happen; and when I had done all of that, it was just as cozy and wonderful as I thought. I did have the foresight to put down a towel on my side of the bed, just in case my water broke; and then I laid down on my side and felt so snug and just the right mixture of warm and cool and perfectly comfortable. Jeff was lying there, too, awake, and he reached over and touched my belly and felt the baby move. I was very much enjoying those movements, knowing that it might be the last time I felt them inside me like that.
I think it was about 10:45 (maybe earlier?) when I laid down, and I was so excited I couldn't quickly drop off to sleep like I usually do. Jeff stayed awake a little while, too, and we talked of various things. Our dog Willow was unsettled and kept wanting to be let outside and then kept wanting to come back in. David was still awake and was eager to be the one to take care of her--an offer we gratefully accepted. He ended up falling asleep on the couch after numerous trips to the door with Willow.
Jeff drifted off to sleep, and maybe I did a little bit, too? I think it was 11:45 when I felt a contraction strong enough to make me work a little bit to get through it, then another one came around 11:54, then another a few minutes after midnight. But I still laid there in bed, still feeling so very comfortable, not eager to get up or move around.
Until 12:39 when I felt that familiar "pop" and then a small gush of fluid. "Here we go," I thought. "This is it!"
Statistically, not that many women have their water break towards the beginning of labor; but for my youngest four children, that's exactly what happened, and I have appreciated having that unmistakable clue that things are about to get real. :)
I sprang up from the bed, eager to spare it from a dousing with amniotic fluid. Let me rephrase that: I clumsily struggled to my feet, clutching the towel, eager to spare my bed from amniotic fluid. There, that's more accurate. ;-) My strategy worked at least, and the bed remained dry! :)
A trip to the bathroom, then back to the bedroom to tell Jeff what had happened, then a last-minute grabbing of hospital bag, laptop and cord, camera, ID, etc. Jeff, meanwhile, telephoned our next-door neighbor Wilma who then came over to stay with the kids (and she told us, when she got to our house, that when she first heard the telephone, she was worried that something bad had happened, maybe to her mom, and was greatly relieved when she heard Jeff's voice and knew that all was well!), as well as my dad to let him know we were heading to the hospital. We walked down to the minivan where I sat on a seat I had covered with a plastic tablecloth and drove off into the next chapter of our lives...
More later! For now, I need to snatch this opportunity to sleep. I didn't get much of that precious commodity last night. ;-)
For Part Two, click here.