Lucky 7

My baby Cadence turned seven today.

Now, all of a sudden, I look at her and all the baby is officially gone. I listen to her talking, look at her face or the way she moves and I get glimpses of the adult she will become. She’s in this strange in-between place–where she is still very much a child, but where she also shows me daily just how smart and perceptive and wise she is.

She’s seven, and for some reason, that’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around.

For the past few years, I’ve shared Cadence’s crazy birth story on my blog as a 4-part series, detailing the events and the chaos and the seemingly endless days in the hospital that led up to her abrupt arrival. Most people who follow my blog are familiar with the story, but if you missed it, you can read it HERE.

In some strange way, it has always felt to me like Cadence’s crazy arrival on this earth mirrors her personality in many ways. The girl has a soul so big and full of life that it literally bursts out of her–in song lyrics and movie quotes and unbridled, infectious laughter. Her voice is raspy almost all the time because (much like her Daddy) she only seems to have one volume–LOUD.

No, Cadence’s birthday and birth story, like her, are not something that could be muted or contained. And somehow, just writing down and sharing that story every year was something I needed to do to be able to wrap my head around the fact that this beautiful child, with a presence so big it fills every room she walks into, is someone that I had a part in creating.

This year, I sat down on January 31 to start sharing Cadence’s birth saga once again, but this year it just didn’t feel right. This year, instead of focusing on the craziness that led up to the first moment Stevie and I got to hold our sweet baby Cadence in our arms, I wanted to focus on the seven years that she has now spent on this earth. Because even in the short time she’s been here, I can see how very brightly Cadence’s light shines, and how very awesome she is at spreading it around. The world is a better (and louder) place because she’s in it. And with the way things seem to be going these days, we could all use a whole lot more of Cadence-style love and light.

This birthday post is not a place for me to get political, and let’s be honest…anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always hated politics. I’m sure a whole lot of folks are starting to figure out why. But unfortunately we are living in a world where politics have permeated just about every corner of our lives, because we’ve let them.

Because we’ve let them.

And as I look at my daughter and the way she lives and loves and looks at the world, I’ve realized that it is going to be our children who save us from ourselves. They are the only ones who are able to see our world for what it really is–a place to learn and grow and connect with one another.

We’re here. We’re all here. Right now, on this planet, together. That alone should be enough. It’s the ultimate tie that binds us. Everything else is sort of arbitrary, don’t you think? I’m human. You’re human. End of story. We exist. We are conscious beings. If you ask me, everything after that is a choice.

Things happen, things we can’t control. But what we can control is how we respond to them. What we can control is how we live and how we treat each other. What we can control is the type of energy we intentionally put out into this world. So, do we spend our time here spreading the love and light? Or do we contribute to the hate and the darkness?

One of the many things that I love most about my daughter is the way she so beautifully reflects all the amazing people who have come into her life these past seven years. I look at her and I can obviously see so much of myself and Stevie. But I also see the influence of her baby brother, her grandparents and great-grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins, her godparents, the amazing teachers and staff at her school and her church and her extracurricular activities. And I see the influence the larger family of friends we have created and continue to connect with as often and intentionally as we can. Cadence carries a piece of all of these people with her, and it’s amazing to see.

But what is even more amazing is seeing how far Cadence’s influence has spread too.

Cadence is one of those friends who is a friend to everyone. She is kind and patient and tolerant. She is the sort of kid who will wait for you to catch up, who will make sure everyone has a turn, who will share even the last little bite of her favorite chocolate if she thinks you would like a piece. I’ve seen her stand up to bullies because she doesn’t like to see anyone being left out or getting their feelings hurt. I’ve seen her admit when she was wrong, even if it means getting punished. And I’ve seen her jump up and run over to make sure the shy kid sitting alone at the table had someone to play with.

A couple years ago, we had a yard sale, and I watched Cadence excitedly greet every child who came strolling up, eager to introduce herself and play and help the children find a toy or a book or something to take home with them. And a million times I’ve watched this bright little ball of infectious energy smile and laugh and pay a sincere compliment to someone in a waiting room or in line at the grocery store and, like magic, I’ve watched that light that burns so brightly in her grow and spread.

And what I’ve learned from all of this is that this world is what we make of it. Right now. This moment. Every day.

We can be door holders. We can be compliment givers. We can be good listeners and hug givers and friends. We can smile at the people we pass on the sidewalk. We can strike up a conversation with that person we see who always seems to be alone. We can take a moment to stop and offer a steady hand when we see someone stumbling. We can share our ideas and we can give people our full attention when they share theirs. And when we’re faced with hate and darkness and evil, we can choose to not join in. We can choose to keep our own light burning so that others might be able to see.

Happy 7th Birthday my sweet Cadence LaRue. Keep smiling. Keep shining. Keep being beautiful you.

>365 Project - Day 34 - One Year Ago Today...(part 4)

>365 Project - Day 34 - One Year Ago Today...(part 4)

>365 Project - Day 34 - One Year Ago Today...(part 4)

>365 Project - Day 36 - Cake Smash!!!

>365 Project - Day 36 - Cake Smash!!!

>365 Project - Day 38 - Spaghetti On Your Head

>365 Project - Day 105 - Naptime Mischief

>365 Project - Day 120 - The Great Outdoors

>365 Project - Day 128 - Our Greatest Hits

>365 Project - Day 124 - Cadence's First Haircut

>365 Project - Day 164 - Rub-a-Dub-Dub

IMGP1591

IMGP1710

IMGP1684

2012-03-13_010

2012-03-06_003

IMGP1774

IMGP6433

IMGP6432

2012-04-10_035

2012-04-10_021

2012-04-10_022

2012-04-10_023

IMGP9435

IMGP6759

IMGP0800

2012-10-17_012

2012-10-19_002

2012-10-12_006

IMGP8210

2012-11-30_0005

2012-11-28_0004

2012-10-31_019

2012-12-31_0031

2012-12-20_0013

2012-12-13_010

2012-12-06_0007

IMGP3977

IMGP5493

PL365Day78InTheHousewm

PL365Day70Smashwm

PL365Day74Beware

PL35Day63BigPersonality

PL365Day112Eyeswm

butterfly

PL365Day91AFoolwm

IMGP3960

1521748_10152068150057710_1144668387_n

IMGP3433

1510913_10152104870967710_1886874281_n

1523291_10152093117937710_1072379930_o

1424467_10151932762927710_1108567258_n

cadence

family

IMGP8757_WEB

IMGP7138_WEB

IMGP7059_WEB

IMGP8855

IMGP8960

IMGP8964

IMGP9363

IMG_1617

IMG_2301

IMG_2660

IMG_2629

IMG_2609Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0788

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1015

IMGP1340

IMGP1275

IMGP1044

IMGP1835

IMGP1600

IMG_3873

IMGP2402

CandH5

Cadence18

LR365_Day26_IMGP2270

IMGP2250

LR365_Day17_IMGP2087

LR365_Day17_IMGP2126

LR365_Day3_IMGP2041

IMG_4530

905921_10153720657247710_4153285189734118779_o

11150851_10153253643737710_8547066041102588475_n

11203003_10153319620582710_1603296651102599270_n

2016-03-25_0031

2016-03-25_0023

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

img_0214

img_0334

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

img_0548

img_0623

img_0823

img_0869

img_0933

img_0969

img_1012

img_1138

img_1140

img_1142

img_1241

img_1257

img_1264

img_1268

img_1307

img_1343

img_1558

 

img_1670

Here’s to 36

There are certain things that happen that make us pause and reflect and reevaluate our lives–things like births and deaths, crises and career changes. For Stevie and I, this past year has played host to all of these things.

Sometimes the universe just throws it all at you at once to see what you’re really made of.

And what we’ve learned from all of this is that we are a whole lot stronger, smarter, and more resilient than we ever thought we were. We were hit with enough stress and hardship this past year to drive the Dalai Lama straight off the edge and we owned it, like freakin’ bosses.

And here we are.

Yesterday I celebrated the beginning of my 36th year on this earth. What a wild and crazy ride it’s been! And I am so blessed and so thankful for all of it, for every moment, even the hard ones, because they have all brought me to this place, and this place is awesome. I’ve got a beautiful home, an incredible husband (and best friend), two gorgeous children that make me laugh and fill my heart with joy. I’ve got a big family and an even bigger circle of friends who prove to me every day that love always wins. I’ve got writing projects (several short stories, my memoir, and a novel) that are moving right along. And I’ve got a great new job that I’m excited to start next week.

Life is good, and God is good. All the time. Even when times are tough.

So today, I’m celebrating so much more than just another birthday. I’m celebrating life–the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the joys and the hardships. I’m celebrating the abundant gifts I’ve been given, the opportunities I’ve known, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m celebrating with a date night with my hubby (which included sushi, peanut butter beers, and a movie), and with the kids today as we hit the Farmer’s Market and indulge with some Hurts Donut.

Here’s to 36! So far, it’s looking pretty damn good.

IMG_1287

Six Years Ago Today, Part 4

Just before 1:00 a.m., a crowd of nurses burst into the room and turned on the lights. My eyes were glued to the monitor, as the numbers jumped and fell erratically with each contraction. Somehow, I thought if I stopped looking, even for a moment, I might lose her.

“Okay, dear, we’re here to get you prepped for surgery,” one of the nurses said, matter-of-factly. “The baby has had enough. It’s time to get her out of there.”

Steven sat up on the couch and listened as the nurses talked us through the procedure, letting us know what to expect. It was a flurry of activity. The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled out of the room, leaving Steven to change. He would have to wait in the hallway outside the operating room until after the anesthesiologist administered my spinal.

The operating room was so bright and white that I had to close my eyes for a moment. Sitting on the table, the anesthesiologist told me to lean forward and hug the pillow in my lap. There was a small pricking sensation in the middle of my back, and then what felt like a sudden jolt of electricity running down my spine and into my legs. The doctors told me to lie back on the table, and stretch my arms out straight from my sides, where they were secured to the table with straps.

By the time Steven entered the room, the lower half of my body was completely numb. Steven pulled his stool up near my head, after the doctors explained that was the best place to sit if he wasn’t interested in seeing what was going on behind the curtain during the surgery.

Everything seemed to happen all at once. Steven and I gave each other nervous smiles as we listened to the doctors talking on the other side of the curtain. The spinal medication had done its job. I wasn’t feeling much of anything at all, except perhaps the slightest sensation of pressure in my abdomen.

“This is it,” the anesthesiologist said suddenly, tapping Steven on the shoulder. “Stand up if you want, and you’ll see your daughter being born.”

From the moment we first got the positive pregnancy test, Steven adamantly insisted that he wanted to see absolutely nothing in the delivery room. Hell, just watching the videos in the childbirth class we’d taken had traumatized him so much that to this day, he still shudders just thinking about it, so I was shocked when he actually stood up and peered over the curtain.

“Uh-oh,” the doctor said loudly, and Steven sat right back down again, his eyes wide. I watched as the color drained from his face.

“You okay?” I asked. He nodded, but didn’t speak.

I gasped as there was suddenly an enormous amount of pressure on my chest. It felt as though one of the doctors had climbed up and was sitting on my ribcage. I couldn’t breathe, and I was being rocked back and forth on the table. Steven squeezed my hand.

“You okay?” He asked. I gasped and nodded.

“Nothing to worry about,” the doctor said from behind the curtain. “Looks like the reason Baby Girl was delayed was because her head was stuck, but she’s comin’ now.”

Suddenly, there was a short cry, and a flurry of activity.

“Here’s your baby girl!” the doctor said, holding her up just high enough for me to see her for one short minute before a nurse whisked her away. “Congratulations Mom and Dad!”

“You want me to go?” Steven asked. I nodded, and he took the camera over to where the nurses were cleaning and weighing our daughter.

“Oh my God!” Steven exclaimed, as he snapped photo after photo. “She looks just like Beau! And she’s got a ton of black hair!”

I craned my neck and could just see her tiny red feet waving as she cried. The nurses swaddled her snugly and handed her to Steven. I almost laughed at loud at how gingerly he held her as he walked over to me.

I stared in awe at her tiny, perfect face.

“Hi Cadence,” I whispered, kissed her soft white cheek. “Hi my baby. We’ve been waiting for you.”

Steven and I smiled at each other, and at our tiny daughter. Then it was time for the nurses to take her and Steven to the nursery while the doctors finished my surgery. Lying on the table, staring up at the bright white ceiling, I smiled to myself as I tried to imagine what our lives would be like now that Cadence was part of them.

Sitting here now, six whole years later, it’s getting harder and harder to remember what life was like without Cadence in it.

There was a year of firsts for all of us. There were first steps, first words, a first tooth, a first bloody boo-boo. Steven and I were pooped on for the first time, puked on for the first time, and got sick as a family for the first time. We slept through the night for the first time, heard that infectious baby laughter for the first time, and have gotten so frustrated we had to put Cadence down and let her cry for the first time. We took our first road trip vacation, traveled on our first airplane, and mastered walking in a first pair of shoes. We saw the first of many unique dance moves, tried dozens of first foods, and wished our beautiful baby girl Happy Birthday for the very first time.

And since that first birthday party in 2011, life has only gotten more interesting. Our tiny baby has grown into a sweet, sassy Kindergartener who makes the world better and brighter, simply by being in it. She wakes a little slower lately, lumbering down the stairs with half-open eyes and a mess of tangled hair. But it doesn’t take long before she’s singing and bouncing to get up and go conquer the world. The day is not complete without a concert, and we crank up the radio and sing along. And the favorites these days are Rapture by Blondie, Exes and Ohs by Elle King, and Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer and just about anything by the Gorillaz.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you likely saw my “Fashion Disaster” post a few days ago. One of my favorite things about my daughter is her very…uh…unique fashion choices. Girl has a style all her own, and we love it. She can rock a frilly princess skirt, AC/DC t-shirt, and pair of mismatched socks better than anyone I know.

Cadence is still a force to be reckoned with. She’s not afraid to let us know exactly what she’s thinking. She’s strong-willed, and sometimes stubborn. She has a mind all her own, and even if I sometimes lose my temper in the midst of a battle of wills, I can’t help but burst with pride knowing that my little spitfire is already the sort of girl who refuses to let anything stand in the way of what she really wants. She’ll wear you down eventually, just give her time.

Yet even if she has a stubborn streak 10 miles long, Cadence is one of the sweetest, kindest, most genuine souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She loves to see people happy and has a way of making friends wherever she goes–at the park, in line at the doughnut shop. She’s not afraid to go up to kids and introduce herself, then ask, “You wanna play?” She doesn’t care who you are or what you look like, she just wants to know you and have a little fun.

She is always happy to share (even when chocolate is involved). If she sees a child sitting alone or feeling lonely, she drops whatever she’s doing to go over and play. She will do just about anything to lighten a mood and make people laugh. In a world that can sometimes be so hard and cruel, it thrills me to see the light in her soul shining so brightly.

In Kindergarten, we have continued to watch our baby grow. She comes home each day with something new to show us, and some new bit of knowledge to share with us. The old stick figure artwork is giving way to more realistic faces and body shapes. She can add and subtract and count to a million (okay maybe not quite a million, but we’ve heard her count way up into the hundreds on several long car trips, and if we hadn’t reached our destination to distract her, she’d definitely be in the millions by now).

She’s still part-tomboy, part-princess–the sort of girl who likes to dig in the dirt with her freshly painted glitter nail polish. She loves soccer and snuggling, movies and music. Her imagination knows no boundaries. She spends hours each day playing and creating. She fills drawing pads and notebooks faster than we can buy them, and heads to school each day with some new bit of artwork to give to her friends and teachers.

She’s still our musical girl, and we love to watch her sing in all her school and church performances. She’s also kicking butt in swimming lessons this year and has turned into a little fish in the water. She also started taking soccer lessons, and almost immediately claimed her spot in front of the goal, which earned her the nickname Cadence Hope Solo Romano from her daddy and me.

She has a wicked sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic, acting out favorite scenes from her favorite movies and TV shows until she gets it just right. She loves Bob’s Burgers, Teen Titans Go, Ninja Turtles, and My Little Ponies and she’s constantly cracking us up when she starts singing the Dirty Butts song from Bob’s Burgers with her Daddy or doing her strange side shuffle crab walk whenever she leaves the room. She’s even gotten in on the Dave Thomas the Founder of Wendy’s game, and officially jumped on the scoreboard the other night when she tricked her babysitter Sam Bates into saying “who”. And even if it pains Stevie to admit it, Cadence is even leading the game now with a score of 5 after getting her Daddy to say “who?” three days in a row.

IN A ROW!

Yeah, that’s our girl. 🙂

But probably the biggest development in Miss C’s life this year was officially becoming a big sister. For years, Stevie and I watched our girl keeping a very close eye on other families around us. In restaurants, she seemed fascinated by families with children sitting at the tables around us, and she often came home from school talking about her friends and their brothers and sisters. From the moment she first found out that she was going to be a sister, she was all in, and we watched her mark the days off the calendar right up until her little brother’s birth. She’s learned a lot in these six months since we brought little H-man home, and her new catchphrase these days has become, “It’s hard taking care of a baby,” a phrase she utters and sometimes sings on repeat when Henry cries or spits up or blows out a diaper. And there have been many days when I know it’s been hard on her having her world turned completely upside down with a baby in the house, as we all try to regain our balance and settle into our new normal. But even so, she loves her little brother with a love so fierce I often stand in awe of it. And I smile each day when she bursts through the door after school and watch her run into the living room and skid to a stop in front of Henry and start chatting and cooing and trying to make him smile. And she’s always rewarded with a big gummy grin and a squeal of delight from the little boy who already seems to believe that his big sister hung the moon.

We agree, H-man. She’s pretty amazing.

And every single day, I feel infinitely blessed that I get to be her mother.

It’s been six years of craziness filled with laughter, tears, frustrations, surprises (both good and bad), sleepless nights, early mornings, trial and errors, bumps, bruises, triumphs, failures, new beginnings, changes, road trips, lazy days at home, a whole lot of memories, and a whole lot of fun. And as we welcome 2016, we’re looking forward to many, many more!

Happy 6th Birthday, Cadence LaRue!

10906061_10152981909512710_5848003698811400336_n

1471206_10153432388357710_6890867058180484555_n

10417436_10153083731122710_9053881851281418116_n

11014985_10153129297532710_3603778780410996734_n

11061718_10153224529897710_8328171509929186081_n

1376347_10152798174282710_3323972962684639370_n

11046626_10153152846332710_3453394914194567803_n

11026024_10153152846457710_9095949071042129420_n

1512736_10153851437952710_6659379986466725166_n

11203003_10153319620582710_1603296651102599270_n

11204906_10153287219062710_1295733638707548210_n

11054814_10153184074272710_3090704759119371017_n

11046723_10153166139642710_9188310190733137799_o

11143392_10153524761602710_7807602195123366863_n

12037970_10153672819197710_4743577066872884847_n

12019764_10153652347617710_5455006963860152797_n

11025218_10153150264642710_6229672011819569546_n

12466152_10153870939467710_7079080353943638215_o

10560273_10153848167792710_1917652122529881134_o

12039025_10153674430857710_4568819689068393094_o

11150851_10153253643737710_8547066041102588475_n

905921_10153720657247710_4153285189734118779_o

IMGP1261

LR365_Day26_IMGP2270

LR365_Day17_IMGP2126

IMGP1069

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1015

Six Years Ago Today, Part 3

I managed to get a few hours sleep, even with the nurses coming into the room periodically to check on me through the night. The contractions began shortly after I swallowed my second dose of medication, at least that’s what the doctor told me when she came to check my progress as she made her final rounds around 5:00 a.m.

“Still no change,” she said, shaking her head. “You still haven’t dilated passed two centimeters, but you’re having some pretty steady contractions. You say you’re not feeling any pain?”

“No, not at all,” I said, shaking my head.

The doctor stood watching Cadence’s vitals on the fetal monitor for a moment.

“I can’t wait to see this little girl of yours. The ladies have been talking about her all night out at the nurse’s station,” the doctor said, meeting my gaze and smiling. “She’s the most beautiful baby we’ve ever seen on the monitors. That little heartbeat is as steady and strong as we ever get to see. Some of these other babies have us running in and out of the rooms all day and night worrying, but not your beautiful girl. She’s keeping us very happy out there!”

I smiled and rubbed my hands above the fetal monitor strapped to my belly. “Thanks, I can’t wait to finally see her too. It’s nice to hear she’s doing well. I’m just hoping she hasn’t gotten too comfortable in there!”

The doctor laughed. “Oh don’t worry about that. She’ll come out one way or another! Are you sure you’re okay? And you don’t need any pain meds?

I shook my head, and the doctor left me to rest. On the couch beside me, Steven slept soundly.

My breakfast tray was delivered at 6:00 a.m., and I couldn’t decide whether I was excited or slightly depressed that I was still being fed at regular intervals, but it didn’t stop me from devouring everything on the tray. I even ate the oatmeal, and I hate oatmeal.

I turned on the television and watched a bit of the local morning news and Live with Regis and Kelly, before breaking out my crossword puzzle book. Steven woke around 9:00. A bit more color had returned to his face, and he admitted he actually felt a little better. Discovering that he had no clean clothes left in the suitcase (everything he packed had been completely sweated through during the worst of the colitis flare up), Steven decided to make a quick run to Target for a change of clothes.

Shortly after Steven left, there was a knock at the door.

“Yoo hoo! I’m heeeere! You can go ahead and have the baby now!” called my sister Kassie as she charged into the room. Momma Dawn followed, laughing.

“You’re freakin’ crazy!” I laughed.

“I’m not kidding,” Kassie stated, plopping her computer bag and purse down on the couch. “I took off work to be here today, just so I could watch my little niece Cadence being born. I’m ready, so let’s do this already. Stevie’s sick, so he’ll probably end up passing out, and I’m his back up, right?”

Momma Dawn just shook her head. “You better quit saying that,” she told Kassie. “I’m pretty sure you’re to blame for Stevie’s colitis. You spent all these months praying to be the one in the delivery room, and now Stevie suddenly got sick? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Kassie’s mouth fell open.

“Mom!” she cried. “That’s a terrible thing to say!”

“You know, Sis. I think she might be right,” I said, taking Momma Dawn’s lead. “You are going straight to hell. I can’t believe you prayed for my husband to get sick!”

Momma Dawn and I giggled as Kassie loudly defended her innocence.

For months, Kassie had been begging, pleading, insisting, and even downright demanding that she was going to be in the delivery room when Cadence was born. She’d even come along to one of my prenatal check-ups thinking maybe she could formulate a game plan with my doctor. I’d relented enough to tell her she could be in the room while I was in labor, but reiterated often that as soon as it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of pushing and actually delivering the baby, she was going to have to retreat to the waiting room along with everyone else but my husband.

But Kassie is not the type to just give up, and when she found out that the doctors planned to start me on Pitocin if the current round of oral medication didn’t put me into active labor, she went ahead and took the day off work, certain that I was going to deliver before the day was over. Armed with her laptop, her cell phone, and a purse full of snacks, she was ready to wait it out.

A little over an hour later, Steven returned with a bag of new clothes. He apologized for taking so long (since the Target is only a few blocks away), and told us that apparently the Target employees had taken one look at him when he shuffled in the door wearing his full hobo outfit (which, at that point, was beginning to emit a rather foul odor), and assumed that he was a homeless person looking for something to shoplift.

Still a little disoriented from the medications, Steven was having trouble finding everything he needed. He’d picked up a package of socks, a couple pairs of boxer shorts, and an ASU t-shirt, but was having trouble finding a pair of pants. He didn’t want jeans or slacks or anything with a tight waist, since his abdomen was still pretty tender. He’d been wandering around for about 20 minutes, trying to find a pair of sweatpants or pajama pants or something, when he realized that he was being followed and carefully monitored by two Target employees. Embarrassed, he approached one of them, explained that he had been in the ER, and that his wife was now in labor and all he wanted was a change of clothes. With a sympathetic smile, the young man helped Steven pick out a pair of black wind pants with an elastic waistband.

Freshly showered and dressed in his new clothes, Steven almost looked normal again.

The hours ticked by slowly, broken up only by the nurses coming in and out of the room to check my progress. While the contractions continued to increase in duration and intensity, I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Around noon, a nurse informed me that I wasn’t going to be taking my final dose of medication. My contractions were too strong and too close together, but I still wasn’t dilating. The doctor wanted to give me an hour or two to rest, and then they were going to start me on Pitocin.

“Once we start the Pitocin, things should really get moving,” the nurse assured me. “Pitocin always does the trick.”

Kassie smiled excitedly, yet I was skeptical. It had been 36 hours with absolutely no progress other than some very strong contractions. I was starting to wonder if Cadence hadn’t built herself a little fortress inside and was staging a stand off.

At 2 p.m., the nurses began administering Pitocin through my IV. We spent the afternoon watching the contractions rise and fall on the monitor and listening to the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s steady heart beat.

Around 5 p.m., Kassie and Momma Dawn finally had to give up and head back home, much to Kassie’s disappointment.

“You better call me the minute anything happens!” she insisted. “I’m staying at Mom’s tonight, so I can be back in a half-hour if necessary.”

I laughed. “Don’t worry, Sissy, I will.”

She and Momma Dawn gave me a hug, and then headed out the door.

Every time the nurses came to check my progress (which seemed to be every hour at that point), I cringed. I was getting sore, and really tired of hearing, “Wow, still just two centimeters. I can’t believe it.”

I began asking the nurses about the possibility of a C-Section. One of my doctors had mentioned it several weeks ago during one of my routine exams. He said he didn’t want to alarm me, but I had a pretty narrow pelvis, and he said he wouldn’t be shocked if I ended up having a C-Section. He’d given me several pamphlets describing the procedure, and told me that the best thing was just to be informed and prepared for whatever might happen during my delivery. Now, as my hospital stay was beginning to seem endless with no signs of any progress in my labor, I wondered if he had been right. The nurses said they would mention my concerns to the doctor on call.

At 6:30, the doctor arrived abruptly and informed me that he was going to break my water.

Steven and I looked at each other wide-eyed.

“But, the nurse just checked me and said I was still two centimeters,” I said, watching him pull instruments from a drawer next to my bed.

“That’s right,” he said. “Your contractions are very strong, but we’re just not seeing any other progress. I’m going to break your water, and then we’re going to up the level of Pitocin, and that should get things going here.”

Before I could protest, the doctor asked me to lie back. A moment later, it was done.

“Now, do you need anything, any pain medication, or any questions before I go?”

I shook my head. Tears had welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t in any pain, but for the first time, I was scared.

The doctor left as quickly as he’d arrived.

“Okay dear, don’t be afraid to call us if you need anything,” the nurse said, readjusting the pillow behind my head. She pressed a button on my IV stand to increase the Pitocin flowing into my veins. “I’ll be back to check on you shortly.”

“Holy shit!” Steven said after the nurse left. “What the hell was that?”

I wiped my eyes and shook my head. “I don’t know.”

“Are you okay?” Steven asked, coming over to the side of the bed and squeezing my shoulders.

“Yeah, I’m okay…I just…I wasn’t ready for that,” I explained.

“Why didn’t you ask him about a C-Section while he was here?” Steven asked.

“I don’t know…I guess he just didn’t seem like he was really keen on the idea, you know?”

Steven nodded.

“Well hey, look at the bright side,” he said.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“The season premiere of LOST starts in about ten minutes.”

I laughed. “Damn, Cadence better hold out a while longer, then!”

Steven laughed and hugged me. He moved my IV stand, and pulled a chair over close to the side of my bed, and then took my hand and held it.

Halfway through the two-hour season premiere, the nurse came in to check on me.

“Do you need anything?” she whispered, noticing that Steven and I were engrossed in the program.

“No, thank you,” I whispered back.

“You’re okay with pain? You don’t need any meds?” she asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said.

“Okay, what I need you to do is to turn and lie on your right side, okay?”

I rolled over to my right. “Like this?” I asked.

“Yep, that’s perfect,” she said. “You’re having some really strong contractions, and the baby doesn’t seem to like it very much, so we’re going to try a new position.”

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Yep, we just want to make sure your baby is comfortable.”

The nurse stood for a moment watching the monitors, and then she turned and left.

Steven and I made it through the end of the show, and then flipped through the channels for something else to watch.

A group of three nurses came in and stood for a few moments, huddled around the monitors.

“There, do you feel that?” one of them asked me.

“No…feel what?” I asked.

On the monitor, I watched the little line steadily climb to the very top of the screen and stay there.

“You don’t feel anything at all?” another nurse asked.

I glanced over at Steven, and then back to the nurses.

“No,” I said, not really. I placed my hands on my stomach. It was hard like a bowling ball. “I mean, if I touch my belly, it’s really hard and tight, but it doesn’t hurt or anything.”

“See! I told you!” the first nurse said to the others. The three of them laughed, and then stared in apparent disbelief at the monitor until the line began to slowly descend again.

“Okay, well you just let us know if you need anything, okay?”

“Sure,” I said.

The three of them left, muttering quietly to each other.

“What was that about?” Steven asked.

“Dunno,” I said, shrugging. I glanced at the monitor, watching the line begin to rise again. “I think maybe those are contractions, but they’re not hurting or anything.”

“You don’t feel anything at all?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No. My back is a little sore from lying in this bed all day, but otherwise, nothing hurts.”

“Leave it to me to have all the labor pains huh?” Steven said laughing. “My wife has a uterus of steel. You could probably carry Superman’s baby, you know.”

I laughed. “You’re freakin’ crazy! I guess we better try and get some sleep though. It’s getting late.”

Steven turned out the lights and crawled back into his nest on the couch. I was just beginning to doze when another nurse came in and turned on the light next to my bed.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Okay,” I replied.

“Are you needing an epidural?” she asked.

“Oh no, I’m fine,” I said.

“Okay, well let’s have you roll over on your left side for awhile okay? We saw baby’s heart rate dip again with your last big contraction, so we want to get her in a different position for a bit.”

“Is everything okay?” I asked. Steven sat up and listened.

“Everything’s fine right now,” she said. “We’re just keeping a close eye on the baby. We don’t want her getting too stressed out since your contractions are so strong. Okay, that’s good. Try to get some rest if you can, okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

The nurse turned the light off and left.

Lying on my left side, facing the monitors, I stared at the blip, blip, blip of Cadence’s heart. The number that had been so steady since we first arrived in the hospital Sunday night was fluctuating wildly. I watched the number go from 145 to 155 to 170 to 65 as the line for my contraction steadily climbed. For a moment, the number disappeared, blinked 0, then 125…

140…

145…

For the next several hours, I couldn’t tear my eyes from the monitor as the numbers rose and fell with each contraction. The nurses began to reappear like clockwork, every ten minutes or so, to help reposition me, and I began to detect genuine concern in their faces. I was starting to think that Cadence wasn’t looking so beautiful on their monitors anymore, and I could feel the icy fingers of fear beginning to creep in.

“Has the doctor said anything about a C-Section?” I asked. “Because I’m okay with it. I mean, really at this point, if the baby is starting to get stressed out, then I am all for it. I just want her to be safe.”

“He hasn’t said anything yet,” the nurse replied. “But I am going to page him now to let him know what’s happening, and we’ll see what he says.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Seriously, this is getting ridiculous!” Steve said, as soon as the nurse walked out the door. “Something is obviously going on with the baby, and nothing is happening. I think the next time they come in, we just need to insist that they do the surgery.”

I nodded. “I’m starting to think so too,” I said. “Have you been watching the monitors?”

“Yeah,” Steven said. “Her heart rate is all over the place, and the nurses are obviously worried about it because they are in here every five minutes.”

The door opened and a nurse arrived as if on command.

“See what I mean,” Steven said..

“Well, the doctor called and we gave him the update, and I let him know what you said about a C-Section,” the nurse explained, curtly, and I wondered if she didn’t quite agree with the orders she’d been given. “He said he wants to up the Pitocin again and give things a few more hours to see how it goes, and then we’ll take it from there.”

My mouth dropped open to protest, but I closed it again.

“Oh geez,” Steven muttered.

The nurse pressed the button on the IV to increase the dose.

“Okay, now let’s have you lie on your right side again, and we’ll see how the baby likes that.”

I turned to my right, but twisted just far enough so I could still see the fetal monitor.

“Okay, she looks good. We’ll try that and see how it goes,” the nurse said. “Are you okay? Do you need anything? Any pain meds?”

“Nope, I’m okay,” I said.

“Alright dear. Just buzz if you need anything.” The nurse turned out the lights as she left.

“This is freakin’ ridiculous,” Steven muttered.

I didn’t say anything. In the darkness, I stared at the monitors.

145…

145…

145…

My stomach tightened and the line began to rise on the screen, signaling another contraction.

148…

155…

162…

127…

77…

43…

22…

0…

0…

0…

>365 Project - Day 33 - One Year Ago Today...(part 3)

>365 Project - Day 33 - One Year Ago Today...(part 3)

Six Years Ago Today, Part 2

Just outside the Triage doors, the maze of hallways led to very different sections of the hospital. Hang a right, and you found yourself in Labor and Delivery. Bear left and you passed by the nursery and the recovery rooms. Take a hard left and buzz yourself out the door, and  another labyrinth of hallways led to the elevators, the ER, and the main hospital entrance.

“So…do you think they gave him morphine?” I asked as Momma Dawn and I stopped to peek in through the nursery windows. There were no babies to ooh and ahh over. The nursery was quiet and empty, waiting for the new arrivals.

“They might have since he was in so much pain,” Momma Dawn replied. “He was looking pretty rough.”

“Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like that,” I said, shaking my head. “I mean, he was screaming it hurt so bad.”

“Didn’t anybody tell Stevie that you’re the one who’s supposed to be having labor pains?” Momma Dawn asked.

We buzzed ourselves out the door, and made our way toward the elevators, giggling over Steven’s labor pains as we walked. We pressed the button to take us down to the lower level. We wanted to find the cafeteria and pick up a menu. The main cafeteria was closed for the night. Momma Dawn grabbed a couple bottles of water from the vending machines, and we headed back to the elevators.

We still had ten minutes before we needed to be back at Triage, so we headed back up to the main floor, and took a stroll down the long hallway that led to the main entrance.

“How are you feeling?” Momma Dawn asked.

I shrugged. “Fine, I guess. I’m a little tired, but otherwise I feel good. No pain or anything.”

At the front doors, we did an about face and slowly retraced our steps.

“So…do you think he’s watching C-Span?” I asked, still puzzled by Steven’s cryptic text message. I’d tried texting him back, but there had been no reply. “I mean, he sometimes watches C-Span at home, Lord knows why, because that channel is freakin’ boring. You think they just pumped him full of morphine and he’s chillin’ in the ER watchin’ TV? What are the odds of him actually finding us if he’s all doped up?”

We both started giggling again.

“I’m sure he’s fine, and probably feeling right as rain if they gave him some good drugs,” Momma Dawn said. “He’ll find us. If not, we’ll just have him paged.”

“Oh man, he would kill me if I had him paged on the intercom!” I said, laughing so hard I had to stop for a minute to lean against the wall. I wiped my eyes and we turned left and buzzed the door leading back to Triage.

The nurse checked me. No progress.

“Okay, looks like we’re going for round two,” she said.

The rest of the night stretched on endlessly. I tried to sleep in the hours I had to lie still in the bed, but it seemed that just when I was starting to drift away, the nurse would return and tell me it was time to go do some more walking.

Momma Dawn and I put some serious miles on those hospital hallways. Growing bored of the same old scenery on the main floor, we took the elevator up to see what we could find. We discovered that the ICU floor had the best lounge area, with large recliners, a television, and several air pot coffee dispensers and hot water for tea.

Just before 5 a.m., I excused myself to the restroom on the way back to my Triage bed after our fourth round of walking. I splashed some water on my face and leaned closer to the mirror to get a better look at the dark circles beginning to form under my eyes. I’d been awake for nearly 24 hours, and was finally beginning to feel the exhaustion creeping in. I knew the ordeal was far from over.

As I opened the door to return to my bed, I heard Steven’s voice. He was standing hunched slightly forward, talking to Momma Dawn, still dressed in full hobo attire. He was still pale, though a slight pinkish tinge had crept back into his cheeks. His eyes were half-open behind his glasses.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” I asked. “What did you find out?”

“They gave me some morphine and that helped for awhile, but it’s starting to wear off a bit, so I gotta go find a pharmacy and pick up my prescriptions,” he explained. “They said there was a 24-hour Walgreens a few blocks from here.”

“Did they say what it was?” I asked.

“Colitis? I think that was what they said,” Steven replied. “They said it was some kind of infection, and gave me a prescription for some antibiotics and some pain meds. Soon as we go home, I gotta make an appointment with a gastro-enta-something. I think it’s a butt doctor They said I need a colonoscopy. That’s gonna suck. But what about you? How are you?”

“I’m okay. Nothing happening. I think I have to do a couple more laps to see if it works, and then they’re gonna decide whether or not to move me to a delivery room.”

Steven took a deep breath and leaned over.

“Ooooh ow, okay, I gotta run and get my prescription. Are you okay here until I get back?”

I looked at Momma Dawn.

“Yeah we’re good. If I’m not here in bed, we’ll be out walking the halls,” I said. “I’ll keep my phone with me, so just call or text me when you get back if you can’t find us.”

“Ow…okay…I’ll hurry back,” Steven panted. He kissed me quickly, and then shuffled out the door, clutching his stomach.

Steven was only gone for a half-hour. Luckily, the Walgreens was pretty much empty at that early hour, so he was able to get his prescription filled immediately. Grabbing a bottle of water from the refrigerator in the back of the store, he took his first dose of antibiotics and a Percoset standing at the counter and waiting for the pharmacist swipe his debit card. By the time, he joined me back in Triage, the drugs had begun to work and he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.

Now that Steven was with me, Momma Dawn decided to head up to the ICU Lounge to get a little sleep in one of the recliners until I either went into labor, or the doctors decided what to try next. She hugged me quickly before she left.

By 6 a.m., the on-call doctor and nurses had decided that the gel just wasn’t working. Had I not already been a week overdue, they might have sent me home to simply wait it out. But, as Dr. Swarup had promised me when he scheduled my induction, I would not be leaving the hospital until after my daughter had joined us on the outside.

I was moved into one of the large Labor & Delivery rooms, and told that I could get showered and changed into a fresh set of gowns. Hot water and soap never felt so good. When I emerged from the bathroom, I saw that Steve had brought our suitcases in from the car, and was making himself a nest on the couch next to my bed.

I tried calling Momma Dawn, but her voicemail picked up right away, so I sent her a text message letting her know that we had been moved to a delivery room.

A nurse brought in a breakfast tray, and told me that the doctor would be in shortly to check my progress and let me know the plan for the day.

“Do you want any of my breakfast, babe?” I asked. Steve glanced at the tray and grimaced.

“Oh God no,” he said quickly, clutching his stomach. “I just want to sleep.”

“Well, go ahead and sleep now while there’s still time. There’s not much happening here yet,” I said, rubbing my belly.

“If it’s okay with you, I think I will,” Steve said. He flopped down on the couch and pulled the blanket up to his chin. He set his glasses on the floor beside him. I watched his eyelids flutter and slowly close. He began to snore softly.

“Wow, that was fast,” I muttered to myself.

I lifted the lid on the plate and dug into the steaming pile of scrambled eggs and bacon, then inhaled the two slices of whole wheat toast in four large bites. I wiped my mouth with my napkin, then attacked the bowl of cantaloupe and strawberries. There was a container of orange juice, and a container of cranberry juice, which I set aside for later. I opened the container of milk and took a long swig.

The doctor arrived to check on me just as I finished my breakfast and pushed the tray away. He explained that the gel hadn’t helped me progress at all, so our second plan of attack was to try a drug called Cervidil. The insert would need to stay in place for 12 hours, so my movements would be restricted to visiting the bathroom. He made sure I was comfortable and ready, and then left the nurses to prep me and administer the Cervidil.

Momma Dawn arrived just as the nurses were leaving.

“Damn cell phone doesn’t get any service in this hospital!” she complained. “I looked for you in Triage and they told me you’d been moved. So what’s happening now?”

I told her about the Cervidil, and that the plan was to give it 12 hours, and then check my progress again if I didn’t start laboring before that.

“Well if you are okay, then I am gonna head home, get some sleep, and pick up your brothers from school. You just let me know if anything happens, okay?”

“Sure will Momma,”I said. “I think we might be in for the long haul though. A nurse came in earlier and took my order for lunch and dinner, and I’m pretty sure they don’t let you eat if they think you’re going to be having a baby anytime soon.”

Momma Dawn laughed. “You’re right, they don’t, but you call me right away if anything does happen, you hear?”

“I will. I just want to try and get some sleep if I can.”

Once Momma Dawn left, I turned down the lights and was finally able to get some sleep.

The next 12 hours passed uneventfully. I slept on and off, watched TV, ate a large lunch, updated my Facebook status, watched some more TV, sent some text message updates to friends and family, and worked my way through half a dozen crossword puzzles. Nurses came and went, checking on me and writing notes on my chart. By mid-afternoon, their quizzical glances over at my hibernating husband were becoming almost hostile. At first, I wondered why they seemed so annoyed, but then I realized that they must be thinking he was some kind of junkie passed out on the couch while I endured the labor (or lack thereof) alone.

When the nurse came in to pick up my dinner tray and see if I needed another fresh glass of ice water from the snack room, I thanked her profusely.

“I’d love some more water, thank you,” I said. “My husband would get it, but he was in the ER all night, and I guess the Percoset they gave him was a little too strong for him to handle.”

“Oh goodness, why was he in the ER?” the nurse asked, throwing Steven a sympathetic glance.

“He woke up early yesterday with severe abdominal pains, and the doctor in the ER said it’s colitis. They gave him some antibiotics and the Percoset for pain.”

The nurse grimaced. “Ugh, colitis, huh? That’s some nasty business. My sister had it, and said she’d rather give birth to twins with no epidural than to ever go through that again. Hopefully your husband will be feeling better before his little girl decides to arrive!”

I laughed. “Yeah, I hope so too!”

“Well dear, you let me know if you need anything else. And let me know if you think your husband would like a dinner tray. We can bring an extra one for him if he wants it.”

“Thanks, we will.”

That nurse must have spread the word about Steven when she returned to the nurse’s station, because they all treated us extra kindly after that.

Shortly after 7 p.m., the doctor arrived to check on me.

Still no progress.

“Well, here’s the plan,” the doctor began.

Suddenly, Steven rolled over and sat up, staring over at us as though he was listening intently. He didn’t put on his glasses, so I knew that he wasn’t really seeing me or the doctor, he was just looking at fuzzy, flesh-colored blobs.

The doctor continued. “We’re going to send you out for a long walk. Try to stay out for 45 minutes or an hour if you can. Just keep yourself moving and we’ll see if that helps move things along. When you come back, we’ll check you again and see if you’ve progressed. Then, we’ll give you a pill to take. It should help get things going and stimulate some contractions. Be sure to stretch your legs well on your walk, because we’ll have you hooked up to the fetal monitors once we administer the meds and you’ll be staying put in bed. Sound good?”

I nodded. Steven continued to stare absently.

“Okay, go ahead and head out for your walk, and we’ll see you back here in about an hour.”

With that, the doctor turned and left, and I worked my way out of the bed and stood. My legs were cramped after being confined to bed all day, and it felt good to get up and stretch.

“How are you feeling, Stevie?” I asked. “Do you think you can make it out for a walk?”

“Huh?” Steven asked, staring blankly up at me, then turning to fumble blindly for his glasses. “A walk? Yeah, I think I can walk a bit. I just need to hit the bathroom, and maybe get something to drink.”

“Yeah, we can get some water on the way out,” I said, watching him shuffle past the bed on his way to the bathroom. “There’s a snack room around the corner.”

Once we headed out into the hallway, Steven began to shuffle a little faster, though he still wasn’t walking fully upright. We rounded the corner, passed the nurses station, and stopped in the snack room for two glasses of ice water.

“Are you hungry?” I asked. “Do you need anything to eat?”

“Nah, my stomach still kinda hurts,” Steve said. “What time is it anyway?”

“It’s a little after eight,” I replied.

“Eight? Eight o’clock at night?” Steven turned to look at me, as if to make sure I wasn’t lying. “Seriously? It’s eight o’clock at night?”

“Yeah, babe,” I nodded. “You freakin’ passed out for like 12 hours in there.”

“Holy moly! That Percoset kicked my ass! I’m not taking any more of that crap if I don’t have to! Jesus, eight o’clock? I just lost an entire day. How are you by the way?”

I laughed. “I’m okay. Bored, I guess, and my back hurts from lying in that bed all day. I wish Cadence would get here already, but I’m kinda glad she held out this long, since you passed out on me today.”

“Jesus, babe, I’m sorry. I just hope those antibiotics do the trick,” Steven said, rubbing his hand over his abdomen.

“Yeah, me too,” I agreed.

We made our way slowly through the hallways. By that time, I’d committed the entire map to memory, and I gave Steven the grand tour. We took the elevator down, and I showed him the cafeteria. He was still too uncomfortable to eat, but he bought a lemon lime Gatorade and took a long swig as we headed back upstairs. I walked him by the nursery, and through a crack in the blinds, we caught a glimpse of a tiny red foot being inspected by one of the nurses. We headed past the recovery rooms, and buzzed ourselves out the door to the long hallway that led to the hospital entrance.

It seemed strange to me that it was dark outside again. We’d been in the hospital over 24 hours at that point, and I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.

We turned around when we neared the entrance and headed back to the elevators. We headed up to the third floor and took a lap through the hallways, then headed up to the fourth, back to the third, back to the main floor, passed the nursery again, but this time it was deserted. After one more long walk to the hospital’s main entrance and back, our hour was up. By the time we returned to the room, both of us were exhausted from the effort.

I had just enough time to stop in the snack room for a fresh glass of ice water and visit the restroom before the nurses arrived to check my progress and hook me up to the monitors.

Still no progress.

“Okay dear, go ahead and swallow this, and then you might want to try and get some sleep,” the nurse said, handing me a paper cup with a small pill inside. “This should start some contractions. Once that happens, things could move along rather quickly, and you’ll want to be rested.”

I took the pill and washed it down with a long drink of water. Steven was getting himself situated in his nest on the couch.

“Okay, just call us if you need anything,” the nurse said. Then she turned out the light and closed the door behind her.

Steven fell asleep again almost immediately. I texted my parents, Momma Dawn, Papa Shawn, and my siblings to let them know there was still no progress, and that they had just given me a pill that was supposed to stimulate contractions. I turned on the TV for a bit, but soon found that I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open long enough to really pay attention, so I turned it off again. I settled back against my pillow, pressed the button to recline the bed, and closed my eyes.

I pressed my hands to my belly, smiling as Cadence kicked, and then pushed steadily back. I wondered if she knew it was me on the other side of that fleshy wall. More than anything I just wanted to hold her, to finally be able to see her tiny face. I’d spent nine long months dreaming about her, and now here we were, so close that I could almost feel her in my arms. I fell asleep, listening to my baby’s heart beat steadily on the monitor.

To be continued…

The view from my bed in my Labor & Delivery Room. Good thing I had my phone, laptop, and crossword puzzle book!

Six Years Ago Today, Part 1

I awoke abruptly in the darkness, my heart pounding as if I’d been plagued by a nightmare. I couldn’t remember dreaming, yet something had startled me out of my restless slumber. But what?

I held my breath and listened.

The silence was broken by a low, muffled moan.

“Stevie, did you hear…” I began, but when I looked, the bed beside me was empty.

I flinched in surprise as the moan suddenly erupted into a scream.

I struggled to sit up, planting my hands on the mattress beneath me, then hefting my very pregnant body upright. My stomach tightened as Cadence flipped and rolled as if she too had been startled awake. I glanced at the clock. 2:54 a.m. Rolling onto my left hip, I worked my swollen legs over the side of the bed, and sat for a moment, catching my breath, before pushing myself up off the bed.

A thin shaft of light spilled into the hallway from the space beneath the bathroom door. I knocked softly.

“Stevie?” I said quietly. “Are you okay?”

No answer. I could hear him panting heavily.

I twisted the doorknob, and cracked open the door slightly.

“Stevie, what’s wrong? I thought I heard…”

“Aaaah! AAAAH! OW! Oh my God, it huuuuurts!” Steven screamed so loudly that I recoiled, bumping into the wall behind me.

My heart began to pound harder, thumping painfully against my ribcage. I stepped forward and knocked again, before pushing the door open wide enough to see Steven crumpled on the floor near the toilet.

“Steven, are you okay?

He looked up. His face was nearly as white as the porcelain, and his eyes were glassy and half-closed.

“Yeah…yeah…okay. I’m okay. I just…need a minute,” he panted, resting his forehead against the toilet. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

I closed the door and retreated to the bedroom. Steven screamed once more, and then everything was quiet again. I heard the toilet flush, and the splashing of water in the sink. Then, he shuffled back into the bedroom and fell heavily on the bed beside me. He pulled the covers up over his head, and moaned.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, pulling the blankets down so I could see his face.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It just hurts. Oh holy shit, it hurts so bad.”

“What hurts?”

“My stomach, like all the way down here,” Steven said, rubbing his hand over his lower abdomen. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Maybe it’s just something you ate,” I said. “Just try to get some sleep, and hopefully you’ll feel better when you get up.”

Steven didn’t reply. I reached out and touched his hair. It was damp with sweat. He didn’t move, and I guessed that maybe he’d fallen back asleep.

I eased myself back onto my pillow. Cadence was still kicking and stretching, punching me twice in the bladder in the midst of her intricate gymnastic routine. Beside me, Steven was breathing slow and steady. Every so often, he would grimace in his sleep and moan.

I closed my eyes and fidgeted, trying to get comfortable enough to lull myself back to sleep, but it was useless. My brain wouldn’t shut itself off.

From the beginning, my pregnancy had been so easy. The first trimester I was exhausted most of the time, and I’d been completely nauseous for three months straight. Otherwise, I had absolutely no complaints about being pregnant. I never had any crazy mood swings or bizarre food cravings (except the day that I absolutely had to make pancakes at 2:30 in the afternoon). Besides some back pain and swollen ankles in my 9th month, I’d sailed through the entire pregnancy completely unscathed. Every time I visited my doctor, he would remark that I was absolutely the most laidback and healthy pregnant woman he’d ever seen, and I was excited that everything was going so smoothly.

As I neared my due date of January 25, I visited my doctors every week, and every week they kept telling me that I had not progressed. The baby wasn’t dropping. I wasn’t effacing or dilating. I blew past my due date, and still nothing. Finally, just when I was beginning to think that I was going to be pregnant forever, my doctor scheduled an induction. At 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 31, I was to report to Chandler Regional Medical Center. My doctor promised that I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital again without my baby girl in my arms.

What surprised me most about the pregnancy is how calm both Steven and I had been. I’ve always been pretty laidback and easygoing, and had simply taken the idea of becoming a parent in stride. Steven, however, tends to be a bit on the overly anxious and downright anal side, so I was genuinely shocked at how calm and collected he’d been. Now, lying there in the darkness, as he writhed and sweated in the bed beside me, I wondered if this just might be the moment when he would begin to fall apart.

Maybe he’s just having a panic attack, I wondered, staring up at the ceiling. Maybe he’ll be okay once we get up and start getting ready to go to the hospital. Maybe it’s not really as bad as he’s making it out to be.

Somewhere, in the midst of my musings, I managed to fall asleep.

I was jarred awake again when Steven tumbled out of the bed and ran for the bathroom, crying out in pain as he went. I grabbed for my glasses and looked at the clock, 6:15 a.m. There was no going back to sleep for me at that point, so I rolled out of bed. Electra followed closely behind, her toenails clicking on the wood floor as she ran toward her food bowl to wait for her breakfast. Behind me, I could hear Steven moaning loudly.

The rest of the day was a blur.

Somehow Steven and I had managed to put off a dozen things that we wanted to get done before Cadence arrived. When the pregnancy began to seem like it was going to stretch on forever, I guess we just got lazy. We had dozens of photos we wanted to frame and hang in the nursery, baby clothes that needed to be folded and put away, shelves to hang, and books to put away on shelves. I’d wanted to pre-make a couple meals and casseroles to freeze for later, when we were both sleep-deprived parents of a newborn and didn’t really feel like going to the trouble of cooking. You’d think being given the induction date would have kicked our butts into gear to get everything done, but we spent our last few days vegged out on the couch, watching movies, and just enjoying some lazy time together. We’d promised ourselves that we would get everything on our To-Do List done that Sunday. It was perfect. We didn’t have to leave for the hospital until 10 p.m., so we would have plenty of time. What could possibly go wrong with our plan?

While Steven spent the day migrating back and forth between the bed and the bathroom, I did a final check of our hospital bags, to make sure we hadn’t forgotten to pack anything. I brought him a bowl of chicken broth, and a glass of water, but he didn’t want either. I managed to talk him into taking a few sips of water and a dose of Pepto Bismol between waves of pain. Around noon, he fell asleep again, and I prayed that somehow he would feel better when he woke.

He didn’t.

Foerth arrived around 2 p.m. with Indy (the devil dog) and his suitcase. He’d agreed to housesit and watch Electra for us while we were gone. Foerth and I chatted while he flipped through the channels looking for something to watch and I worked on getting the photos for Cadence’s room framed.

Steven wandered out of the bedroom around 4 p.m., still looking pale and disheveled. He sat down on the couch, said hi to Foerth. A few moments later he clutched his stomach and grimaced. He got up off the couch and headed quickly for the bedroom. He barely made it through the door before crumpling to the ground and screaming.

“Honey, I think it’s time to go to the hospital,” I said. I leaned over as far as my protruding belly would let me and put a hand on Steven’s shoulder. His shirt was soaked with sweat. I touched his cheek and was surprised at how cold and clammy he was.

“Oh God. Ow! Oh shiiiiiit it huuuuurts! And I’m gonna miss it. I’m gonna miss my daughter’s birth!” Steven cried, grabbing my hand and pressing it against his sweaty face. “What am I gonna do? Aaah! OW! OW! Shit, it HUUURRRTTTSSS!”

I could feel the first stinging wave of panic threatening to overtake me. I swallowed. Took a deep breath. And another. I squeezed Steven’s hand.

“You’re not going to miss it,” I said, surprised at how calm I sounded. “We’re going to the hospital now. Get in the shower if you can. It might help you feel a little better. I’ll have Foerth help me load the bags in the car, and then we’ll go.”

“But…but…” Steven panted, lifting himself slowly off the ground. “Is it time already? Aw Jesus, I’m so sorry babe. I just want to feel better. I don’t want to miss it. I can’t miss it…”

“You’re not going to miss anything,” I said. “It’s not time for my appointment yet. We’re going now and you’re going to the Emergency Room. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“But…but…I…”

“No buts,” I said. “Get in the shower, get dressed, and we’ll go.”

I didn’t think it was possible for Steven to look any worse, but when he emerged from the bedroom after his shower, his skin had turned from pale white to ashy gray beneath the three-day growth of patchy brown stubble. Behind his glasses, his eyes were bloodshot and sunken. In his delirium, he’d managed to dress himself in a pair of navy blue South Park pajama pants, a neon tie-dye Concordia College t-shirt, white socks, and flip flops. When I said it was time to go, he pulled on a gray hooded sweatshirt, then put on his blue NY Mets hat and his black leather sport coat.

I stood for a moment, staring at him. If he hadn’t been in so much pain, I think I would have burst out laughing. He looked like a hobo. I wondered if there was any way I might be able to get him to change, or at least to take off the leather jacket. But I didn’t say anything. I just watched him shuffle out the door and climb into the minivan.

We pulled out of the driveway at 6:15 p.m., and I called Momma Dawn.

“Hey Momma, it’s me,” I choked when she answered.

Somehow I’d managed to hold it together all day, but I finally broke and cried when I explained to her how sick Steven was, and that we were on our way to the Emergency Room. “Do you think you can come? Please? In case…in case Stevie doesn’t get to come with me when Cadence is born?”

“Oh baby girl, of course I’ll come,” Momma Dawn said. “I’m getting in the truck now, and I’ll be right behind you.”

“Jesus, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Steven moaned when I hung up the phone. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m so sorry!”

“It’s okay babe,” I said. I wiped my eyes, and took a long, deep breath. “Let’s just get you there and figure out what’s going on before this baby gets here.”

The 45-minute drive to the hospital seemed to take no time at all. I parked the van as close as I could to the ER entrance, and I held Steven’s hand tightly as we entered. We approached the desk, and Steven leaned heavily against it as he described his symptoms to the attendant. She took his information, and told us to take a seat and someone would be with us soon.

We found two empty seats, and waited. I absently rubbed my hands over my belly, feeling Cadence squirm beneath my skin. I tried not to think about the fact that she might be arriving soon, and that her Daddy might not be there with me to see it.

How the hell am I going to do this alone? I wondered. I pushed the thought away.

Beside me, Steven squirmed in his seat, clutching his stomach. Every few minutes, he would lean forward, and I would feel his body clench tightly. I watched as beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and trickled down his face. He wiped them away with the sleeves of his sweatshirt and shivered.

Finally, a nurse called his name. He squeezed my hand once before he left. Luckily, Momma Dawn arrived a few minutes later, so I didn’t have to sit alone and let my racing thoughts turn to panic.

We sat and waited and I filled Momma Dawn in on the events of the day. When Steven returned, I watched Dawn’s eyes widen for a moment in shock at the sight of him, and not just because of his outfit.

“Holy shit, Stevie!” she exclaimed, when he flopped in the chair next to me. “You don’t look so good.”

“Yeah, I don’t feel so good either. They said they want to run some tests, but I gotta wait awhile.”

“What kind of tests?” I asked.

Steven shrugged. “I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

“Did they say how long it might be?” I asked.

Steven shook his head.

I glanced at the clock. 8:32.

“I’ll probably have to go around 10 to get checked in,” I said. “I guess you’ll have to come later if you’re not done yet.”

Steven just nodded, clutching his stomach again. He inhaled deeply, held it for a moment, and then let it out slowly. Inhaled again. And exhaled. And again, until the pain subsided.

At 9:15, Steven was called back for his tests. As Momma Dawn and I sat talking, I kept hoping that he would suddenly return, good as new, just in time for us to go get checked in at Triage and begin the induction.

No such luck.

10:15 came and went with no sign of my husband. Momma Dawn and I gathered our things and headed down the hall, following the signs for the Labor and Delivery Unit.

It was late, and the lights had been dimmed. The Triage center seemed to be pretty much deserted. I gave my name to the nurse behind the desk, filled out a few papers, and then followed her to my bed. She told me to undress and slip into the gowns, and then she would be back to get things started. She and Momma Dawn stepped outside the curtain and left me alone to change.

Well, this is it, I thought, as I folded my clothes neatly and tied the thin, cotton gown around my neck and waist. I pulled the curtain open to let Momma Dawn and the nurse know I was finished, then I climbed onto the bed and rested my hands on my round belly.

The nurse returned to explain the procedure. She would administer a prostaglandins gel, then I would have to lie as still as I could and rest for an hour. I would go walk the hallways for 30-40 minutes to try and help jumpstart my labor. Afterward, I would come back, the nurse would check for any progress, and we would go another round of gel and walking as needed.

As the nurse administered the first round of gel, and then left me to rest, I wondered how quickly my labor would begin, and how quickly Steven would be joining me.

Damn, he really might miss this! I thought.

“Hey Momma, can you hand me my phone?” I asked. “I want to text Stevie to let him know where we are and see if he’s found anything out yet.”

“Sure baby girl,” Dawn said, digging my cell phone out of her purse and handing it to me.

Hey babe. We got checked in and started the induction, so come find us in Triage when you’re done. How are you feeling? Find anything out yet?

I held my phone and waited. No answer.

I must have drifted to sleep, because the next thing I knew, the nurse was waking me.

“Okay, you ready for your walk?” she asked.

I rubbed my eyes. Momma Dawn closed her book and smiled at me.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” I said.

“Okay,” said the nurse, checking her watch. “It’s just about midnight, so head back here around 12:30, and we’ll see how you’re doing.”

As Momma Dawn and I pushed open the doors and stepped into the hallway, my cell phone beeped with and incoming message.

“Hey, maybe it’s Stevie with some good news,” I said. I pressed the button to unlock my phone, and then tapped the screen to open the message. I read it once. Twice. I stopped walking, squinted my eyes, and read it a third time.

“Well, what did he say?” asked Momma Dawn.

I looked at the message again, and then, laughing, I read it aloud.

Morphine and C-Span

Momma Dawn looked at me, puzzled.

“That’s it?” she asked, beginning to laugh too.

“Yeah, that’s it. ‘Morphine and C-Span.’ What the hell does that mean?”

To be continued…

One of my last pregnancy photos, taken January 2010

Because we didn’t really manage to take many photos during the craziness, Steve had to recreate the outfit he wore when we went to the hospital. Beneath the hoodie and the leather sport coat is a tie-dye Concordia College t-shirt. Use your imagination.