I was in my kitchen preparing dinner when the first one hit. Grabbing the edge of the counter for support, I tried to breathe. Well, that was a strong one. I regained my composure and sat my two toddlers down for their evening meal. As the next contraction hit, I clung to the handle of the oven and gritted my teeth through the pain. I glanced at the clock on the stove, trying to calculate how many minutes had passed. Five minutes? That’s too soon. Exactly five minutes later, the third contraction arrived. My girls were too busy playing with their food to notice that I had stepped into the hall and was now leaning against the wall with the phone clutched in my hand.
“Hi Mom,” I said, trying to sound casual. “So, I’m having contractions. Could you and dad take a drive up to the house?”
“Sure, Sweetie. We can be there in forty minutes. How far apart are the contractions?”
“I’ve only had a couple. They were five minutes apart, but I’m sure it will slow down. Uhhhhh…hold on a sec…” The next one hit. A little out of breath, I picked up the phone again. “Mom?”
“Michele, where is Dan?”
“He’s working out of town. I called him, but no answer. It will take him at least an hour to get here.”
“We’re calling Dan’s parents right now. They can be at your house in ten minutes. You need to get to the hospital.”
This was my third pregnancy. I was prepared. My bags were packed and we had a plan for the girls for when we had to go the hospital. We were old pros at this, or so we thought. My husband was getting a job done that required him to work nights in a place far from home, but the baby wasn’t due for another week or so. We had plenty of time. My parents were our back-up since they only lived around the corner. We didn’t plan for them spending time at their house down by the shore.
Dan’s parents and I were close, but I was always on my best behavior in their presence. I was in the upstairs bathroom when they arrived. Not knowing they had let themselves in, I was doubled-over at the sink, reciting a very descriptive string of every swear I knew as I managed my way through another contraction. As it ended, I picked up my head to see my mother-in-law standing in the doorway, looking very uncomfortable.
“It’s fine,” she replied in her heavy French-Canadian accent. “Vinnie is waiting downstairs. I’ll stay with the girls. Go.”
My father-in-law was more nervous than I was. He grabbed my bag and helped me to the car.
“Ok. You ok? Ok? Ok.” he asked in his broken English. “We go now.”
He punched the gas and we sped down the street. He blew every stop sign and barely slowed at red lights.
Another contraction arrived.
“You want I should get the police?” He slammed on the brakes.
“No. I want to get to the hospital.” I gripped my seat. “Now. Please. Go. Just go.”
Driving safely was never his forte, and I was relieved when we screeched up to the emergency room entrance. He got out of the car and ran to get a wheelchair.
“No, Vinnie. I’m fine. I can walk.”
He was on a mission. Next thing I knew, I was plunked into the chair and delivered to the ER nurses.
Shortly after I was settled into a room, my parents and one of my sisters arrived. Mom and my sister waited in the room with me, while my dad waited out in the hallway. The doctor arrived and announced I was ready to go at any moment. Dan blew through the doors at the last minute, just as our son was born.
Jack came into the world surround by his parents, his grandmother, and his aunt, with a waiting room filled with other family members. Not exactly as I had pictured his birth, and definitely not the plan. I was prepared for the big day. I organized every detail and rehearsed it in my head. I was ready, and then real life happened. What’s that saying about making plans and God laughing?