The Friday before Willa’s birth, Curtis and I had to go shopping for a new washer and dryer. Our 11-year-old set had finally kicked the bucket. We had lunch at Salata and I ate all the ice I could get. I had developed an insatiable craving for ice in my third trimester (low iron causes this) and theirs was the perfect shape and softness. My craving was so fierce, I had actually lost a couple of pounds because I was preferring ice to food.
We walked next door to the Sears appliance store where the salesman showed us a simple washer/dryer set that would be big enough for a family of five. It arrived the next day. We had been tempted to see a movie instead and go appliance shopping later, but I’m glad we decided to be adults that day and take care of business. I came to see the whole thing as God’s providence.
On Saturday I was supposed to be part of the A21 Walk For Freedom downtown. I was pretty run down from a cold and was having a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions. At my OB appointment the Thursday before, my doctor said I was starting to dilate and while he thought I’d make it another week, it could be soon. Worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace with the other walkers and with my doctor’s words ringing in my head, I decided to spend the day close to home. If this was my last Saturday before baby, I had a lot to do!
Priority number one was to have a pedicure. I value having nice toes to look at when all dignity is shed during the birthing process. Annabeth and I went to my favorite nail salon and had our toes done. She was very ticklish during her foot scrub and it made me laugh. My heart was tender to my girl because she was about to move from being the baby of the family for six years to being a big sister. She was so excited but I knew it would be an adjustment for her. Having this girl time together made me feel more peaceful. After our pedis, we went next door and had Chinese food. Once our nails were dry enough, we ventured to Target to get last minute items like baby shampoo and newborn diapers. It was surreal to buy those things because they’re sort of the last stuff you get before baby comes. Meanwhile, Curtis was at home cleaning out the garage. He was totally nesting. The kids and I hung out at home that night while he prepared his sermon for the next morning.
During my third trimester, Sundays were pretty hard on my body. Getting myself ready in a hurry, driving to church, walking around, standing during worship, and wrangling the kids sent my Braxton Hicks contractions into overdrive. One Sunday at about 34 weeks, I thought I was going into labor on the way home from church. After drinking a bunch of water and taking a long bath, my contractions chilled out. After that, I resolved to sit down during worship and only come for one of our two services. It seemed silly to already be at that point when I was more than a month out from my due date, but the truth is, this was my third pregnancy and I was six years older than the last time I’d had a baby.
That final Sunday we were at our Cypress campus. I remember struggling with what to wear - now nine months pregnant - and settling on a billowy and comfy black cotton dress. I was trying not to be vain about things but it’s definitely hard not to be self-conscious at the end of pregnancy. Everyone asked me how much longer I had. I figured I couldn’t possibly last more than two weeks, but hopefully less! We normally go out to lunch after church but that day I told my husband I just needed to go straight home and get in my bed. Stick a fork in me, I was done.
In the late afternoon we drove out to my parents’ house in the country. They had a big quilt spread out on the grass with some pillows. Mom had a conference that weekend and she had spent the afternoon out there reading and resting. I laid my tired, sore, contracting body down on the blanket and looked up at the green trees and the blue sky. Memaw had brought a big jar of oatmeal raisin cookies and they tasted so good. Even though my body felt terrible and I was weary of being large and weak, the afternoon was nothing less than dreamy. It was beautiful and peaceful and everyone was taking care of me. Mom had to help me get up when it was time to go inside for dinner. We had fajitas but I couldn’t eat very much because my stomach didn’t feel very good.
By this time I thought labor could be pretty soon, or I deeply wished it would be. I couldn’t imagine carrying on much longer in that state. I told my mom and grandmother it could be the next day. Mom said she would not turn her ringer off during the night, just in case.
We went home and got the kids in bed. I took my nightly warm bath to calm down the contractions that I had every evening. Curtis and I settled down on the couch to watch TV. I started logging my contractions on an app just to see. For some reason Curtis started having an allergic reaction and his whole body was itching. He took two Benadryls and then went to bed. Meanwhile, I continued to have a lot of contractions. Eventually I got in bed, but I was having too many to be able to sleep. Another bath didn’t stall them. They didn’t hurt yet but they squeezed my abdomen pretty hard. My stomach was upset, too. I prayed to God that if this wasn’t the real thing, He would make it stop and let me fall asleep. I mean, my husband was passed out on Benadryl so this was not ideal timing! Somehow I did fall asleep for an hour or so. I woke up to some cramps that did not feel good. My contractions came quicker now and I decided it was time.
I packed my bag and then woke Curtis up. I told him I had been up all night and it was time to go to the hospital. He jumped out of bed and shook off the Benadryl. It was about 4 AM. I texted my mom so she would know that it was game time. I texted our sweet babysitter and her mom, who live a couple streets over, but they didn’t wake up. Then I texted my best friend Crista and asked if we could drop the kids off at her house. She fed them breakfast, got them dressed and off to school before joining us at the hospital.
Curtis and I headed out on our 25 minute journey to the hospital. By now it was 5 AM and, thankfully, slightly too early for rush hour. I hoped my contractions weren’t subsiding but I thought they were a little bit. By the time we parked I was losing confidence. We checked in on the third floor and sat in the waiting room for a few minutes. No one else was there but eventually some other couples showed up for their scheduled c-sections and inductions. They took us into a triage room and hooked me up to all the things. To my dismay, I was not any more dilated than I had been at my doctor’s appointment a few days before. I couldn’t believe it.
It was now that a tiny factor began to influence the course of our week.
According to my calculations, I was 37 weeks to the day. But according to my doctor’s records, I was two days shy of that. At the beginning of my pregnancy I did not try to argue with them about my due date, but in the end I wished I had. Since they believed I was only 36 weeks, the hospital wanted to stop my labor. The nurse gave me an IV bag to hydrate me, but it didn’t stop my contractions. Then they ordered a very long and unpleasant ultrasound session. I was wheeled down into a room where they poked and prodded my belly until I wanted to cry. Curtis and I felt stupid for coming to the hospital. In my very pregnant and emotional state, I felt like I was just being used to help one technician train the other. They wouldn’t tell me what was going on the whole time and I started to get scared. Now I know this was protocol but in the moment it was unnerving.
They wheeled me back to the triage room and put me back in the bed. I started apologizing to the nurses for wasting their time. They were gracious and did not seem bothered by me. A little while later a nurse came in and said, “You’re going to have a baby today.”