Kate drained the water from a huge pot of boiled potatoes. It was 9:30 at night. The kids were in bed, Mister was at the men's retreat, and Kate's mother had just gone into the basement to get ready for bed. Surely, Kate was tired. But she vigorously chopped a red onion and put it in salt water. Perfect time to get something done! she thought. This is one church potluck that I WILL contribute to! Somehow she always managed to forget when they were. Or she and Mister didn't plan on staying for the potluck after the service...and then changed their minds. She thought about the other ingredients: olives in the pantry, capers in the fridge, olive oil-pantry... she looked at the clock. 10 PM. All of a sudden, she felt a strange wet trickle down her legs.
Ugh. What IS that? she thought to herself. I wonder if my water is breaking. Does that happen before labor? With Teddy, her water hadn't broken until long after she was at the hospital and had been in labor for hours. For Kate now, labor still appeared to be days away.
She grabbed some rags and went to ask Laurie's opinion. They weren't completely positive, but water-breaking seemed the only reasonable explanation.
"I guess I should call the doctor?" Kate mused.
"Well, do you have any contractions?"
"No. That's just it though. I'm definitely not in labor, but the pamphlet said that if I tested positive for Strep B (which I did), that I needed to call in if my water broke."
"I guess you'd better call then."
The doctor on call managed to convey that Kate and her baby could be in a life-threatening situation if she didn't make it to the hospital in the next ten minutes. The hospital was fifteen minutes away.
Kate hung up and sat for five minutes in a daze, wondering what she should do. She called the number that Mister had given her, and left a message. Then she called a friend to see about a ride to the hospital. No response. Who can I call? Who can I call? she mused. She absolutely refused to wake Teddy up to go to the hospital, and obviously it was impractical to drive herself. Though I probably could, Kate grumbled to herself, 'Come in right away' my foot. This baby's not coming anytime soon.
Her phone rang and startled her. It was from her pastor. Wait. He's at the men's retreat too...what goes on, anyway?
A happy, energetic voice called out on the other side of the line, "Kate? How are you? Everything ok? Look, can we do anything for you?"
Kate shrugged. The men's retreat was two hours away. What could they do? "Well," she said, "I need a ride to the hospital."
"DONE! My wife will call you in two minutes."
Kate couldn't help but laugh. "Ok. Thank you."
Less than two minutes later, Kate got the call. A large group of ladies was having a pow-wow at the pastor's house, and after a query, one lady jumped in her car and started West. The pastor's wife got Kate's address and texted it to the friend on the road.
About half an hour later, Kate let Dee in the door. She was quivering with excitement.
"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed. "You're standing. Are you okay? Do I need to get a wheelchair? I've never done anything like this!!!" She sounded terrified and thrilled and a little crazy all at the same time. "I thought maybe I should call the police...do you need a police escort?"
Kate chuckled. Dee was more excited than she was! "No. I'm quite alright." Then she thought about the last hour. The half dozen or more phone calls just to get her to the hospital. This delivery was turning into a church production. (Their friend, John, later said, "It's a surprisingly freeing feeling...tossing one's keys to a man whose wife is about to have a baby. Not something you get to do every day.")
Kate laughed again. "This is quite a circus," she said.
Dee's eyes widened. "Oh my goodness! A circus! Is the baby coming?!"
"Oh. Well, goodness sakes, girl, let's get this circus to the hospital before she comes!"
It had taken so long to find a ride and actually get to the hospital that Mister joined her only five minutes later, a little after midnight, as she was giving her information to the nurse. This was so much easier than with Teddy, when the contractions were rolling close together and the nurse was asking her social security number. Kate still had enough mental capacity to be irked though. "Honestly," she complained to Mister when the nurse left, "they already have all of this information. What's the point of filling out the pre-admission form if you just have to answer all the questions again when you get here?"
"I don't know, dear."
"Can't they keep anything straight?"
"I don't know..."
Kate looked at Mister and smiled. "Sorry. You must be tired."
Actually, Mister was beyond exhausted. It had been a full day of basketball and swimming, and food, and worship, and then a two hour drive in a friend's car while wondering if his daughter was being born. Even so, Mister agreed to walk the halls with Kate in an attempt to start labor naturally. They talked about their days--what a long day it had been since their breakfast date that morning! They talked about family and travel and traditions. It was 2AM.
Finally, they agreed to start some pitosin. Kate had heard that the contraction-inducing drug could make for a horrible labor. But no labor meant no baby and probably no sleep. The next three hours were horrible. Contractions and the pain with them increased, but Kate still had a long way to go before being ready to deliver. And she and Mister were both so tired. Kate requested an epidural--she wanted to hold off "as long as she could", since she didn't like being immobile, but it ended up being a little too close to "longer than she could."
But rest settled in around 5AM. She was relaxed on her back, reading Julia Child's My Life in France. Mister slept next to her on the pull-out chair. The rest of the night was peaceful. At 7AM she was around 7cm. At 10AM, the nurse called the doctor and told Kate that the baby's head was showing and it was time to push. Kate got into position and starting pushing.
"Stop pushing!" The nurse yelled. "Stop pushing. She's going to come out. Wait until the doctor comes."
A few moments later, the doctor came, Kate pushed, and the baby came. She was a beautiful baby girl with eyes open and almost perfect coloring.
"Sylvia." Kate whispered in wonder. Here was a new person. Living and breathing on her own. Kate had nourished her and sustained her for nine months, but there was no effort, no planning behind it. Kate had never said, "Now, little baby inside me, let's make your bones" or, "Time to make your eyes" or "Keep beating, little heart. Remember, twice as fast as mine. Keep beating." Who knew how to do those things? Who could make a baby come from cells and be born a living, breathing being? This was a miracle of God.
"That's a little miracle baby, right there" said the doctor as he handed her to Kate.
Kate instantly agreed. But later, weeks later, she wondered. And she asked him why he had said it just that way. The doctor explained. "The placenta had already partially detached before she was born. That's where all the blood came from. If you had had to push longer, or she had taken longer to come out, or...well, if anything had been different, you would have had an emergency C-section, and your baby might have had serious complications."
And Kate sat still, in awe before the Lord. The Lord God, who knew to a moment when and how things should happen; this was a God to whom she could entrust her children. In the coming weeks and months, Kate would watch her daughter grow and change. Sylvia would learn things, things that Kate had no power to teach. And sometimes she felt breathless with gratitude, knowing that God was teaching her baby how to grasp and chew and swallow and making her grow and keeping her heart beating on time.
Sometimes she felt that it was unfair. How a parent has all the responsibility to raise a child, but no capability to make a child grow and learn. But at the same time she felt humbled. No other place in life, she felt, was it so obvious how God was daily involved in their lives. She had a front row seat to view God's incredible power to sustain her family...and the rest of the world.
The first couple weeks of August, Kate frantically tried to finish everything on her many lists. One day, after spending Teddy's entire nap time cropping pictures and slapping them in a scrapbook, she declared to Mister, "I've got to get this done now! After this baby comes, I'm not going to be able to do anything. ever. again!"
Mister just laughed, "That's what you said last year, remember?"
"Yes, I know. But this time it's true!"
But soon, Kate was running out of projects. She had finished her wedding scrapbook. She finished Teddy's first year scrapbook--as far as she could, at any rate. She had organized the baby clothes and resorted them multiple times. She rearranged the babies' room. And her own room. And probably would have done the living room and basement as well if Mister hadn't had that skeptical you're-just-going-to-make-me-move-it-back-again look. She had been working on learning to make Indian food and pizza. There were 25 freezer meals in the chest freezer. And one day, three weeks before her due date, she found herself wondering what she should do.
All this free time--Kate just had to come up with a way to use it before the baby came and she wouldn't ever have another chance! She thought about a new list of projects to work on. Cleaning and organizing...they always went on the list first, and never seemed to come off. Her regular scrapbook of their life together was woefully behind. She could work on that. And she could work on her writing and journaling. She looked lovingly at the baby quilts she had made and considered.
"Mister," she asked when he walked by, "What do you think about me making a big one of these for our bed?"
He gave her a blank stare. Was it a trick question? "Uhm," he said, with the sort of caution that instantly told Kate what he thought. "wouldn't that be kind of a big undertaking?"
"Yes, I suppose it would." Kate felt deflated, their bed suddenly denuded of its pending glory.
"And you were trying to cut back or finish up big projects, right?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"And you were trying to clean things up and not make more scraps and messes?"
"Welllll," she said, sensing some logical flaw in what she was about to say, "it could be a kind of roundabout way of picking up. If I make something with the fabric, I don't have to put it away or store it!"
"Hmmmm." Mister wasn't buying it. "And how long would this project take?"
Kate was stuck there. "Probably a few years? It could be for our tenth anniversary!" (They were coming up on their fifth.)
Mister just laughed. "How about," he said, offering his own suggestion, "you go for a walk, and then read or lie down for a little while before making dinner?"
Kate sighed. "Yes, I suppose that would be better..." She just felt so antsy, wanting to start and finish things. To make lists and more lists and accomplish them. Not a day too soon, Kate's mother, Laurie, arrived on the 19th, just in time to provide some extra company and balance and save the Miller household from a major overhaul.
Laurie helped keep Teddy in line, helped Kate at the grocery store, helped with the dishes, and generally...helped. She distracted Kate by reading Peter Wimsey novels aloud, and dreaming up extravagant plans for future girl-dates.
"Just think!" She would say, "Little Susie will stay home with us and drink cocoa and knit while Teddy goes hunting with Papa!" (She never seemed to run out of "S" names to guess, ever since Kate and Mister had revealed that the initials they had chosen were S.A.M.--in part an homage to their Best Man and Maid of Honor, who were both named Sam.)
Kate would ignore the stream of names unless her mother pointedly asked (as she often did), "Is it Susie?"
"No," Kate would reply almost instantly.
"How about Stephanie?"
Kate paused. "Yes, that's it."
Laurie looked up, but saw only Kate knitting away on her latest project. "Really? You're just teasing me!" She accused.
Kate laughed, "No, you actually guessed it. I admit, I didn't think you would..."
"I guessed it! I guessed it!" Laurie crowed. She was supremely pleased with herself. "And Sylvia! What a beautiful name! Oh, I'm so excited. I can't believe I guessed it!"
Friday morning, the weekend before the due date, Mister took Kate out for brunch at a stellar new breakfast place they had discovered. It was perfect, and delightful, and they couldn't help but talk about children the whole time! They even talked about talking about children. It was especially nice to get a date in, since Mister had once again planned to be gone the weekend before the due date. Last year, he went to Atlanta to be in a wedding. This year was not so extreme--he was driving an hour away for the church's men's retreat. Kate didn't expect any problems. After all, last year, she delivered Teddy a week after the due date.
That afternoon, Kate got a call from a strange number. It was Mister.
"My phone doesn't have service out here," he said. "I just wanted to give you this number, in case you need to call. Are you feeling okay?"
"Just fine. I'll let you know if anything happens, but otherwise I'll just see you tomorrow evening. I hope you have a good time!"