So, I was thirty six weeks pregnant and it was a Saturday. School hadn't quite let out yet. I still had two more teacher days awaiting me in the coming week so I was still in my get-stuff-done mode once a weekend came. My three year old and I got up bright and early that morning to visit a huge baby yard sale that happens semi-annually in our area. I had one goal in mind: to brave the crowds, parking lot, and endless walking to find baby boy clothing, because after Bunny, we had nothing suitable for a little boy. After spending about $30 more or less, and walking the football field length of the community yard sale a couple of times, my daughter and I came home with enough clothes to fill my son's empty drawers and keep him clothed during the first few months of his life. However, my "To Do" list didn't stop there. There was still so much to do! We washed, dried and sorted the new clothing, along with our regular clothes. I did some sorting and re-sorting in my son's nursery. I spent a little time at the sewing machine, I swept and mopped the kitchen, and we made some pizza dough to be frozen in the fridge for future use. I found missing pieces to the pack-n-play in our bedroom and furnished the changing table area with some cloth diapers, wipes, and swaddling blankets. My three year old was just as into the baby preparation chores as I was. With each passing hour she became more and more excited for the advent of her little brother's arrival. We looked through clothes together and commented on how cute they were. We practiced putting newborn cloth diapers on her baby dolls. She kneaded pizza dough with me as we prepared for supper. As the end of the day neared and I was making wonderful headway on the list of "Things to be done before the baby arrives," I decided we should start packing hospital bags--one for my husband and I, one for my daughter, and one for the baby. It was so much fun…that is until my very pregnant body started giving out on me. The relaxin hormones that help separate your pelvic bones during birth were really doing a number on my back. That, and I started noticing that my Braxton Hicks contractions were coming VERY regularly. At first I ignored them. I can't just stop the clockwork of my house to rest every time my body refuses to do what it used to be able to do before I was harboring another human inside, right? So I didn't. I prepared dinner, and was about to tackle the floor in the living room when I knew I had to stop. My midwife's rule of "Call me if you get more than five contractions in an hour" had already been broken and I knew that if I obeyed her and made the call, she might make me go in to get monitored and I didn't want to do that. I was sure these weren't labor-inducing contractions. So I lay down. I lay down and rested and ate my pizza while putting something on the TV to sort of keep my daughter occupied and my mind off the fact that my "To Do" list had been cut off half-way done. What my daughter really wanted, though, was for me to be on the floor playing with her, jumping around with her, dressing dollies with her… Finally, after lots of explanations, she seemed to understand that Mommy really needed to just rest so she decided to give me a spa treatment instead. She got out a washcloth, a brush, and all her barrettes and took care of me as I lay there. She washed my legs, arms, face, and hair, and then placed a blanket over me. She gently brushed my hair and then put in as many barrettes and hair ties as she felt were necessary to make me look truly beautiful. It was relaxing and I rested easily. For an hour I just lay there calmly, convinced that this would do the trick, but the contractions didn't stop. In fact, I believe I'd had about seven or eight contractions by the time the hour was up. Meanwhile, my husband got home and I let him know what was going on. We both agreed--I with reluctance--that I should probably call the midwife. After all, 36 weeks is still premature. Somehow, though, I still wasn't 100% convinced, so I didn't do so right away. What I was absolutely convinced of was the fact that if I were to go into labor, we weren't ready for the baby yet, so I finished packing the hospital bags that were all half done at this point. Then, knowing we would be able to pick up and go if asked, I called the midwife. I called her and we talked for awhile. The long and short of it was that at 36 weeks, if my baby were coming, she wasn't going to try to stop it. She told me that yes, there was a small chance his lungs might be underdeveloped but he'd probably be fine. At this point in a pregnancy, she says that if a woman's body wants to get a baby out, she lets nature take it's course because there must be a good reason for it. She also asked how much fluids I'd been drinking, and I realized that I didn't actually know if I was hydrated enough and dehydration is definitely a guilty culprit of false contractions. "Drink a quart of water, and lie down for an hour," she told me. "If you still have more than five an hour, call me and you'll need to come in and be monitored."
I hung up the phone and relayed the instructions to my husband who immediately got me a large glass of water that I downed as quickly as I could, and followed it slowly with another. I lay down and looked at the clock, starting the countdown and praying to God that he please keep my baby inside for at least another week. Meanwhile, however, my daughter had overheard the conversation with my midwife. That she heard bits about the baby coming, contractions, and having to go to the hospital coupled with the fact that we'd spent just about all day preparing for and talking about the baby's arrival had her convinced he was coming tonight. Now my three and a half year old has a lot of energy on a normal day, but the energy fueled by sheer excitement that she exhibited now was a sight to behold. She ran and bounced all around the house feverishly talking about the baby and preparing for him, reminding me more of balls in a pinball machine than a child. She knew which suitcase was hers and started grabbing things to stuff inside (even though it was already packed) and gave hasty and lengthy explanations for each item she picked as she tried to convince me the reasons that she must bring them along. Then she'd climb on my bed and start bouncing, wiggling, touching me, and cuddling me to the point that my body stopped relaxing and I knew I would start contracting again. I really wanted her to be there with me and I hated ostracizing her from where she felt all the excitement was, but I couldn't handle it.
"Honey, can you come get Bunny? She's making the contractions worse!" I called out to my husband who was trying to rest after a long day of work. He came in to get her gently, eager to listen to the constant string of narrative that poured from her little mouth and not feeling the urgency to move her along that I felt. As they were finally leaving, and she was eagerly fingering the pack-n-play that we'd just worked on together, I told her that we probably wouldn't have to go to the hospital that night.
"But Mommy, please, PLEASE?!?!? I want to go to the hospital now!" she said, as if it were in my power to govern the forces at work.
"Well, darling, I'm not the one to talk to about it. I can't make your brother come out. Only God can do that. You'll have to bring it up with Him." I didn't realize she'd take me literally. She bounded out to the hall where she said a hasty and quiet, but clearly audible little prayer about God please letting us go to the hospital tonight "so my baby brother can come." She finished her prayer and with barely a pause she suddenly shrieked, "HE SAID YES, MOMMY! GOD SAID YES!!!" Not quite knowing what to do with that I smiled and nodded and then directed her to please go out into the living room and with Daddy to keep him company because he would probably be very lonely all by himself. For the next hour, I tried my best to drink that quart of water and lay still. I prayed some more and thought of all the obligations yet to be fulfilled before my son was allowed (in my opinion) to enter the world. I had curtains yet to sew in his room, a bridesmaids dress to alter for a pregnant friend, and my grades weren't quite completed. It was hard to just relax as I thought about all the stuff I wished I were doing that my body just wouldn't allow me to do. The contractions continued but slowed and by the hour's end, I'd had four of them. If I could have kept myself from rushing to the bathroom twice, it would have only been two. I called my midwife and let her know that they were still coming, but were slower, and she said that was all that mattered, and that the baby was mostly likely still going to stay inside.
I stayed in the bed because my poor uterus was still quite over-stimulated from the day and would start contractions if I got up. We decided it was time for Bunny to go to bed and she came in and said goodnight. "Honey," I said to her as I kissed her, "I'm pretty sure we're not going to go to the hospital tonight." I smiled at her tenderly, hoping she'd understand, but it hadn't really registered. Her mind was made up.
"But Mommy, God said yes!" she responded, incredulously.
"Well, maybe he meant for another night. Don't worry, your little brother will come. He'll come soon."
Then, my husband put her to bed and climbed into bed with me for some much-needed adult conversation and alone time. We talked and laughed about the whole ordeal, delighted that our only child was so excited to share her home with a new baby and I reminisced about how my siblings and I would act in a very similar manner every time my mother neared the end of a pregnancy. I'm the oldest of seven, so a new baby was fairly like a regular holiday in my house and nothing excited us more than meeting a new brother or sister in the hospital and bringing him or her home to cuddle and dote on shortly thereafter. I remember my sisters and I--the ones old enough to fully understand what was going on--bouncing and running around the house talking excitedly and bombarding my poor parents with questions. I remember how patient they were with us, tired smiles beaming through Lamaze breathing and hasty preparations and phone calls. Now, having experienced it myself with only one child, I really feel for my poor mother putting up with handfuls of us in such an excited state as she entered the first stages of labor or was frustrated by false labor and contractions. She really was so patient with us and I appreciate that so much more now.
Soon, I was hungry and also calm enough that I could get up and take care of myself without aggravating matters. I grabbed a snack and peeked in on our little girl. She had been laying there quietly and wordlessly for the past hour or hour and a half and was still wide-awake. I smiled, muttered something about trying to get to sleep, and walked away shaking my head. I was in her shoes so many times as a young child and I completely understand. I was seven by the time the fourth of my siblings was born and had two younger sisters already with whom to whisper excitedly under drawn covers long after we'd been sent to bed. Poor Bunny has only her dollies to share the news with.
Morning came, and if I remember correctly, Bunny slept in an hour or so past her usual waking up time. I came into her room when I heard her stir and saw that hint of disappointment in her eyes that things hadn't gone quite as she'd hoped. "I'm so sorry your little brother didn't come last night," I said as I gently fingered her hair. "He will come, don't worry. In a couple of weeks we'll get to go to the hospital and he will come. You have to be patient." We got ready for church as usual and the issue wasn't mentioned again. When the service let out, however, a friend of mine who had walked my daughter with her son to children's church relayed to me just how much the issue was still weighing on my daughter's mind. "My baby brother didn't come last night," she'd said matter-of-factly to her best friend's mom. Of course, then I had to smile and tell her the entire story.