It was an unseasonably warm Friday night in September, and both of our children were on the move. Greyson was truggling around in my parents’ comfortable living room, starting to get sleepy. Meanwhile, his tiny sibling was truggling around in Danielle’s increasingly uncomfortable womb, nowhere close to being sleepy. Nighttime is when the baby always springs to life, and on this night the baby seemed to have even more spring in his or her step.
We were camped out at my parents’ house because they had agreed to watch our sons — of the human and feline variety — during our hospital stay. Migrating to their house preemptively would give us the shortest possible distance between our “It’s time!” moment, and the moment we walked through the doors of Holy Spirit Hospital. No packing needed, no phone calls needed, and no Greyson drop-off time needed. Short of a supremely convenient home birth (which we had successfully pulled off with Greyson), this was the ideal arrangement for a streamlined labor-day process.
Danielle’s contractions had been slowly building all day, but just like with her firstborn son she remained unflappably calm and collected. I had long since learned (from her) that childbirth is rarely like it is portrayed on TV, where the mildest of contractions can instantaneously morph into full-fledged head-crowning delivery. I was glad to know, at least in theory, that we would have plenty of time to grab our things and proceed to the hospital at a legally mandated speed. More often than not, babies are pretty good at giving their moms reasonable notice of their intent to vacate the premises.
Having said that, I possess a preternatural ability to vividly picture dire scenarios. So when I suddenly thought to ask Danielle about her contractions around 8:30pm, and she said they were 60 seconds long and maybe 5 minutes apart (but she wasn’t entirely sure of the latter measurement), and it was now past Greyson’s bedtime, and I knew how long it sometimes takes to get him to fall asleep, a process for which Danielle is still quite vital, my previously calm-ish mind quickly began to roil.
What if our quickly hatched plan — to leave for the hospital as soon as Greyson was asleep — wasn’t properly factoring in the time it would take to get Greyson to conk out? What if right now is when we need to head to the hospital, but we haven’t even brushed Greyson’s teeth or read him his bedtime stories yet? What if, because he’s not in his usual bedtime setting, Greyson takes an unusually long time to fall asleep on this night? I knew how dead-set Danielle was on getting him to sleep before we left my parents’ house, since she doesn’t like to outsource that often tricky job. But what if this thoughtful insistence led her to wait long enough that we didn’t have enough remaining time to make it to the hospital in time? One of my oldest friends in the world was forced to “catch” one of his own children because the midwife arrived minutes too late. Is it at all conceivable that I might be pressed into baby-catching action? Presumably the back of our minivan, en route to the hospital, on the shoulder of an interstate?
I know, I know — I’m a compulsive worrier. Things escalate quickly in my mind, and de-escalation is rare. My only viable defense is that babies are worth worrying about. I throw myself on the mercy of the court.
As I said, our plan was to leave with our pre-packed bags just after Greyson fell asleep. I called the doctor’s office to let them know our intention. An after-hours answering service passed my message along to Dr. Bucher, and he called me back in 5 or 10 minutes, after I had paced back and forth nervously enough to dig a very, very slight trench (invisible to the naked eye) in my parents’ carpet.
The ever-cool Dr. Bucher, almost as unflappable as my wife, put my mind at ease by calmly telling me that our plan sounded good and we should head to the hospital whenever Danielle got Greyson to sleep and then felt ready to embark. He wasn’t alarmed by the contraction numbers — which, in hindsight, weren’t at all alarming — and he conveyed no trace of worry or particular urgency.
He did inform me that our hospital of choice was unusually busy that night (maybe a regular weekend baby rush? is that a thing?), so if this didn’t prove to be active labor we would likely be discharged due to lack of available rooms. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that this thing was not veering quickly in the direction of active labor, because I so thoroughly trust Danielle’s maternal instincts. (At least about everything but the gender of our children, a point on which she’s been endearingly wrong both times.)
When I asked Dr. Bucher, purely as a formality, if he thought it was the right thing for us to head to the hospital soon, he said something like this: “I know Dani. And if she thinks it’s time to go, it’s definitely time to go.” In other words: “Your wife knows her stuff. And she’s tough as nails. Just trust her gut.”
You’re darn right, Doc. See you at the hospital.