He said “Mom – stay for a month.” I tell him I’m not sure I can do that but will stay for as long as I can. I am, after all, the mother in law. This can often be a dreaded moniker. I’m hopeful it doesn’t get personal.
We try to come up with a plan. A plan for me to get to Florida for the birth of grandbaby number two. My daughter Kara had a baby boy in March. Maybe I’ll drive when you call and tell me Leanne’s in labor, I tell Sean. Or maybe I’ll catch a flight right then. Both options are problematic. Sean doesn’t want me to drive the fourteen hours – Kara’s a little worried about that as well. I’m in it – this baby thing. I’m just in it, with both feet and up to my eyeballs. It’s all good though and I’ll make it happen. I just don’t have a plan yet.
But nonetheless, we have to come up with a travel strategy. Which for some reason is something I can’t seem to do in this instance. Not one that is easy or even commonsensical. So Sean does it for me – come up with a course of action, that is. He’s says “Mom, Leanne’s due on the 3rd, so why don’t you come down on the 1st. We’ll get a flight for that day and if we need to readjust, we will.” And so we do. I’m thankful for the son that wades through the indecision and makes a clear path to bring a plan to fruition. I make my flights for the 1st , which lands on a Thursday, and I am excited to have a blueprint and itinerary that will allow me to be a part of this wonderful experience.
Sean always has me text him when I land. He meets me, and walks me through the airport where I can still get lost. It’s just a fact, I’m a compass head – I can’t help it. I text him, then head to baggage claim to retrieve my overlarge suitcase that will house all of my belongings for the next 10 days. He said he and Leanne are on their way to meet me at the carousel. I start the vigil of looking for the person who will assuredly have a certain gait, or a waddle, but certainly the walk of a nine-month pregnant woman. I spot them, because I spot the way the head is moving in the crowd as Leanne maneuvers the baby basketball that’s in her tummy as she and Sean come to greet me in their Florida town. Lee looks great. She’s ready to pop, there’s no doubt about that. She wants to keep moving and walking and hopes that the baby wants to move as well – right on out of her. But that remains to be seen for a few more days.
I’m excited to see them and am surprised at how nervous I am. I’ve kind of done this baby thing a few times myself, and once with Kara. But here I am in Florida like I have no idea how this works and it makes me a little anxious. As it turns out Lee was late by three days and the three of us were on pins and needles waiting for the big reveal. We all knew that this little bundle of joy was on its way, but all it kept doing was teasing us by creating real discomfort for Leanne. I say “it” because they didn’t find out the flavor. It was all going to be a secret until this baby decided to say “Hello world,” but until then, we had no idea. Only God knew.
Leanne has a doctor’s appointment Friday morning and the doctor tells her she has not progressed much since the week before. They will induce her next week. This brings her to tears. Sean gets involved and gets them to move the date up a bit. But not a whole lot sooner. Apparently it’s all about availability at the hospital. Who knew? But she is told she will be induced on the following Tuesday at 4:30 pm. So that is what we go with.
That Friday night we go to a movie – Baywatch. A totally silly movie but so worth the awesome seats, buttered popcorn, Twizzler’s and oversized sodas we treat ourselves to at the theater. The next morning we go for a walk in the park by the beach and walk about 3 miles. Lee is uncomfortable but wants to keep moving. Maybe the movement helps. Maybe the movement is a distraction. She’s uncomfortable and in pain. Pain from labor pangs that go nowhere. They show up and make themselves known, but don’t send her to the hospital. We attack the weekend with walks and things to keep us moving – as much as she can, that is. We go to the movies and we watch movies at home. We go to Barnes and Nobles to buy books. We eat, watch more movies and try to walk whenever and wherever we can. Watching movies is my favorite thing to do with my peeps. I’m enjoying all of it even with the nervous anticipation that is roiling under the surface.
Saturday night she has two hours of labor pains. Lee has an app for the contractions so is keeping track. Must be nice – I still can’t figure out how to put a new contact in my phone. There is a lot of rain on this particular weekend and on Monday, Lee still wants to walk, which leads us to their shopping mall. We walk it all right, from one end to the other, all the while she is stopping to catch her breath because the contractions are back but we don’t know what they mean. Real or false labor? It doesn’t matter – she just doesn’t feel well. But still she pushes herself. We end up at Bar Louie for an early dinner. We assume she is having prodromal labor but we still don’t know if it’s real. But the look on her face and the way they took her breath away was telling me we were in it – or getting ready to be in it. Really in it. You’d think I’d know, I’ve only done this a few times.
So we get our meal, and eat a few bites, all the while Lee is navigating the pain and she looks at us and says “We need to go.” Sean tells the waiter we need the check and three boxes stat. The poor server looks like a deer in the headlights when we tell him she’s in labor as he runs off to get our stuff. Actually, Sean and I kind of looked like deer in the headlights as well. You’d think I’d know what to do – I’ve kind of done this a few times.
We get home and are trying to decide if these are real contractions and worth heading to the hospital. Her app is telling her that maybe this is the real thing, but they are inconsistent. The contractions, that is. We decide it may not be a great idea to wait till the last minute. But that’s the only thing we decide. There is still a forty-minute drive to the hospital if in fact this is the real deal. We walk in circles again. We’re wading in the arena of trying to chart a plan of action again – or still. I keep finding myself in the mode of static. Not going anywhere. We’re not sure what to do and I don’t have the foggiest how to advise them. You’d think I’d know. Whatever.
So Sean makes the plan. He says “Mom, we’re leaving for the hospital in an hour. Get in the shower and we’ll pack up and get ready to go.” And that’s what we do. I tell the kids I’m not riding in the car with them. It’s a special time. The “I’m in labor,” car ride should be done with just the two of them. It’s fun, it’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Folklore stories originate from this car ride. There’s always a story. So I follow them to the hospital in Sean’s project car, which is not necessarily a heap of a Jeep, but it’s close. No offense Sean. It’s bright red with large tires and I’m following them to the hospital at night driving in what feels like a Mack truck. I’m developing my own narration about this experience, complete with embellishments, and it’s starting right here with this red whip. I’m in the red jeep-heap and I laugh at the adventure, but I’m also vacillating between laughing and the nerves that won’t subside as I contemplate what lies ahead: the birth of baby number two. Man, what a few months I’m having.
We get to the hospital and check in. Leanne is in pain and I’m pretty sure we are in it – into the labor scene. As we get her into a room, it turns out it’s only a triage room. This is to determine if she is really in active labor. All I know is she is in pain and it sure feels like the real thing to me. But really, what do I know? I’ve only done this a few times, but in some ways it feels like my first.
They give her an exam and she is only at 2 cm. What a bummer. She is scheduled for inducement the next day. The nurse calls the doctor and says “Hey, she is scheduled already for tomorrow, do you want to just go for it tonight?” The answer is a firm no from the doctor – we are sticking to the plan she says. The nurse relays the message and then informs us that if Leanne doesn’t progress to 4 cm in the next two hours she will be sent home. I say to myself “Like hell she will.” I keep it under wraps because it’s not my place to object, but I was pretty sure we’d resist if they tried to send her home. This poor girl is struggling and now we have to wait for two hours while she progresses, or not, sans medications to help ease the pain. Her plan was to have medications – and lots of them. But she can’t have them yet. Sean and I sit on the sidelines trying to help wherever we can. Leanne really isn’t into anyone touching her right now because she is so uncomfortable so we sit and wait and try to help with whatever she needs. Mostly we sit on our hands looking like those deer in the headlights again. Been there, done that and for some reason – we keep doing it.
By the time we get her there, examined and settled, it’s now 11 pm. They inform us they’ll check her again in two hours to see if she’s hit that magic number of 4 cm. We all cringe because this next two hours is on Leanne and baby number two. But she is having some kind of contractions and the pain is increasing.
It was a long couple of hours. No real way to help ease her pain and discomfort as it was clear they were intensifying but we didn’t know if that equated to progression in dilation. At 1 am the nurse comes back in and checks her. I’m half ready to fight for her to stay regardless of what the exam says. I know she is having contractions. The nurse clearly doesn’t want to send her home either, but knows there are policies in place. She does the exam and throws up both her hands like she’s signaling a touchdown and yells: “Four centimeters!” Sean and I yell along with the nurse as we are high fiving each other but the look on Lee ‘s face is pretty much killer that says if somebody doesn’t get me some bloody drugs I’m going to scream holy hell. Who could blame her? We stop dancing around and pay close attention as the process of getting her ready with IV’s and epidurals starts and we are relieved to know she will get some relief from the pain.
Unfortunately, the epidural doesn’t really take so they have to wait and then adjust the site of insertion. They wait some more, along with the anesthesiologist who doesn’t leave the room. Finally with an ice cube being rubbed up and down her leg they determine the epidural is in fine working order. But it wasn’t, or it didn’t, but either way she was back in pain. Or still – it got confusing. She was numbed on one side, but the pain wasn’t completely blocked. But she endures. We doze until the new shift comes on duty in the morning. Lee’s mom arrives, as do the new nurses that come in and introduce themselves and her doctor does as well. Leanne has not had total relief from the pain since we got there.
Sean was getting frustrated and requested the doctor come back in, re-evaluate her and have a new epidural done – which they did. Finally around mid morning she started to have relief from the contractions. She had only progressed to 6 cm throughout all of this, and the doctor wanted to give her Pitocin to get the process moving along more rapidly. But that made her sick to her stomach and gave her the shakes. All part of the process, to be sure, but we were in it by about seventeen hours now. Around noon, Sean calls the doctor in and said we have to check her again and do something for her. The doctor, seemingly not convinced there would be much change in Lee’s condition, gloved both her hands and did the exam. Once again, straight out of the referee’s handbook, the doctor threw up her hands and yelled “Ten!” We all cheered, high fived with a little dancing going on between those of us that were on our feet. But then Leanne cried. Lordy, this baby birthing stuff is tough on a person.
It’s been almost eighteen hours since we got there and now that we are almost to the finish line, Leanne cries and says: “I’m scared.” Who can blame her? I tell her to trust her doctor – she’ll walk her through it and all will be well. And I believe that, of course I do. Her doctor let’s her know that they are going to start the process of delivering this baby. The unknown. We know a name, but that’s it. The rest is a surprise, and none of us can wait. It is all so exciting. Boy or girl, we’re about to meet Quinn.
Leanne’s mom and I leave the room and head to the waiting room. We sit there and read, chat, and text all those that are on pins and needles like us waiting to hear the news. It seemed like only twenty minutes later, when I get a text from Sean: “It’s a girl!!” is all it says and I yell it out loud as now Leanne’s sisters are there in the waiting room with us too. We all cheer and I start crying. Pure joy.
I think of Sean in that exact instant that he texted me and I get choked up for my son that is now a father. It’s pretty overwhelming and within minutes Sean is in the lounge with us with the deer in the headlights look again on his face, but this time with the biggest smile spanning from ear to ear. I hug him and well up. It was a fantastic reveal. But really, who in God’s name waits to find out what type of baby they’re having anymore? And why? You can’t even buy appropriate clothes for this little person because we didn’t even know what it was.
The reality is, it was the coolest experience ever. Instant gratification has all of us in its grips to the degree we can’t fathom not having what we want right when we want it. This was a test – in patience and in trust. Trusting that the end result would be worth the arduous wait. But this – this was extraordinary. The surprise and elation was immeasurable. And in the end, it was just plain fun and definitely worth the wait.
We walk back to the room with Sean as Leanne is holding their new baby girl and the look on her face was the most amazing transformation I have ever seen. The poor kid that was in so much pain and discomfort and sick to her stomach seemed like a new person that had not just gone through eighteen hours of labor. She was lifted up by this gift of life. This new gift that she and Sean had given to each other. This mutual gift that made their commitment to each other that much stronger. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, even from the sidelines.
As we got Leanne and Quinn back home on Thursday, I knew my time was short with them at the house. I had to leave on Saturday. I had to get back to the real world and leave this wonderment and I already knew it was going to be hard. On Friday evening, Leanne was really tired and went to her room to take a nap. Sean was on one couch reading and I was on the other couch with Quinn and was also reading. No TV, just mother, son and granddaughter. I put Quinn on my chest and for three hours we laid there together and I took in every last drop of Little Miss Quinn: sight, smells, her touch, her breath, her heartbeat, her movements and I willed myself to commit this to memory. All these wonderful sensory triggers impact me immensely and intensely as I try to soak them all up and retain their beauty and hold onto them. I try hard to archive it all so that I can carry it with me when I leave and hold it in my heart until I’m able to return again to Florida.
For three wonderful hours I embraced all that was there – all the love, all the joy, all the appreciation for being included in this wonderful experience, which was leading me to this wonderful time with my granddaughter. I didn’t want it to end. But because I knew it was coming to a close, I made the conscious decision to be mindful of the here and now and embrace it for everything it was offering me.
As I have been blessed with two grandbabies in the last three months, one of each, I don’t even have the words for all the emotions I am feeling. After all the pain and grief over the last six and a half years since Wes has been gone, I hardly recognize this joy I’m experiencing. And yet I do, because I’m in it after all – this baby thing. I’m just in it, with both feet and a full heart. I am blessed for this joy and I’m blessed for these babies. I’m blessed for my children and their spouses that have let me be a part of this and their experience, which makes it partly my experience.
And the part that has been my experience has been exponentially awesome. In huge doses I am grateful, as the beauty of babies is magical. My cup runneth over.