I awoke at 2:37 AM. I know because I looked at the clock next to my bed. I heard the shower running in our bathroom, and Debbie was no longer lying beside me in bed. I stretched out my ankle like I always must after sitting or lying for a long time, then I went to the bathroom and poked my head in the shower door to ask Debbie if she was okay.
“I think my water has broken,” she said calmly. She’d been through this before three different times.
“What should I do?” I questioned.
“Go get dressed, pack your bag, grab the baby’s diaper bag, and get her dress and blanket.” My wife is always very patient with me.
I shot back into the bedroom, threw some clothes in a backpack, dressed, then changed clothes again before returning to the bathroom to ask Debbie if I should wear pants or shorts to the hospital. I was afraid it might be cold in the delivery room.
She replied, “It doesn’t matter, but you need to call Mom and Dad to come watch the boys while we go to the hospital.”
I dashed back to the bedroom, called my father-in-law, then continued scurrying about gathering belongings and throwing things in the mini-van. After a few minutes had passed, I noticed Debbie leaning against the van.
“If Mom and Dad don’t get here soon, we’re going to have to leave the boys alone.” Her voice was serious. Her look told me she was in a great deal of pain. I ran back into the house for one last item, and as I returned her parents had just arrived in the driveway.
I jumped in the driver’s seat, and Debbie climbed in the front seat next to me. I noticed she had placed a towel on the seat beneath her. I backed out of the garage and sped down the driveway. Debbie told me to call the hospital so I dialed information for Germantown Methodist Hospital as I raced through our subdivision. From our door to Highway 70 is approximately one mile. When we reached the highway, Debbie told me I had to HURRY! I stepped on the gas, and we careened westward toward Germantown Parkway. I spoke to the hospital, and they told me they would be waiting at the door. At the light at 70 and Germantown, I barely braked to make the turn, and Debbie was annoyed that I slowed at all.
Less that .10 mile down Germantown, Debbie informed me that we needed to change our plans. We weren’t going to make it to Germantown Methodist, we’d have to go to St. Francis-Bartlett instead. I again picked up the cell dialing 9-1-1. Then, I accelerated to approximately 90 MPH and turned on my hazard lights. There was only one other car on the road, and it was heading toward me. I knew it was a Bartlett police officer, but Debbie warned me not to slow down for ANYTHING! We were NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! The cop passed me, made an immediate U-turn, and chased me with lights flashing (I don’t know about the siren). I never slowed except to turn.
The 911 operator was less than helpful. (You don’t ever want to have an emergency in Memphis!) As I explained my wife was in labor, we were switching hospitals, and I was presently being chased by the police, the operator told me I’d have to call the hospital myself to let them know we were coming. There was nothing she could do to help me. I thanked her for not being at all helpful and promptly hung up the phone. MEMPHIS!
We slowed slightly to make a curve in the road, and then raced across the parking lot to the St. Francis-Bartlett Emergency Room entrance. I slammed the car in park and dashed through the hospital doors screaming, “Come help! Come help! My wife is in labor, and she’s having the baby now!”
Nobody moved. Apparently, husbands tend to overreact when their wives are in labor. Unfortunately, I wasn’t overreacting. What Debbie had failed to relay to me was that while we were racing to the hospital, the baby had crowned.
“HURRY!” I screamed. “She’s having the baby NOW! This is her FOURTH baby!”
Suddenly, everyone moved. Three or four nurses came running out to our mini-van. One was pushing a wheelchair. (Behind my van sat the Bartlett police officer. When he saw me enter the emergency, he patiently waited in his car. When I returned with medical staff in tow, I yelled to him that my wife was in labor. His only response was “Okay then, I’m gonna go.” He put his cruiser in reverse and wasn’t heard from again, but I’ll let you know if a ticket arrives via the U.S. Postal Service.) A nurse instructed Debbie that she’d have to get in the wheelchair. Debbie’s response was that she couldn’t–the baby was already crowning. The nurse told my wife that she had no choice, and they would look at her as soon as she got inside.
The nurses helped Debbie into the chair and wheeled her inside but not before getting the chair stuck on the door. They rolled her directly into triage. One nurse lifted up Debbie’s dress to see how far along she was and shrieked, “THE BABY”S COMING NOW!” (Duh!) They rolled her behind the first curtain, and the admittance attendant asked me to leave with her to get Debbie checked in.
As the attendant and I made about five steps down the hallway, I heard a nurse scream, “OH, MY GOD! She hit the FLOOR!” I turned to see nurses scattering in every direction. One in particular had her hand covering her mouth. I raced back to see what had happened. I didn’t know if Debbie had collapsed, the baby had been dropped, or a nurse had fainted. My heart leapt. It was 3:04 AM.
Reaching the E.R. curtain, I saw my daughter, purple and crying, on the floor in the corner of the room. Blood was everywhere. Debbie was crawling onto the gurney, and the nurses were frantically trying to move the wheelchair out of the way to get to the baby. I ran to the other side of the curtain and jumped over a trash can to try to get to Debbie’s bedside. I shouted, “Are they okay? Somebody, tell me they are okay!”
Nobody said anything. They were as panicked as I. They looked at me, and someone gave instructions for somebody to get me a chair, but I leaned against the wall and declined. I just wanted then to take care of Debbie and the baby.
The attendant had followed me back to the curtain. She reached out, grabbed me by the arm, and said, “Dad, we have to get them admitted. Can you please come with me?” I reluctantly obeyed.
Within five minutes, Debbie’s paperwork was in motion. She and the baby were moved to room 228. The attendant asked me a few really important questions like: “Is Church of Christ still your religious preference?” and “Do you know if your insurance covers our hospital?” Meanwhile, I still needed to know whether the two most important women in my life were okay.
Soon, we’d finished. The attendant led me to Debbie’s and the baby’s room, and Debbie quickly reported that she was okay. The nurse was examining the baby who appeared to be undergoing her first tanning appointment. I asked the nurse if my little girl was okay, and she responded that as far as she could tell the baby was fine.
For the next 30 minutes, I bounced between Debbie’s side and the side of my tanning newborn. Debbie explained that when they tried to move her from the wheelchair to the gurney, the baby had entered the world by falling to the cold floor and sliding under the wheelchair into the corner. The umbilical cord had snapped. Apparently, my daughter is a natural break dancer. Over the next two hours, the baby was thoroughly poked and prodded, and Debbie finally delivered the placenta and was feeling much better. By all accounts, mother and child were doing just fine. In fact, one nurse said they were perfect.
Debbie was ready for another shower. So as the grandmothers, who had just arrived, together with the nurse and my bride made their way to the shower, I sat in the window seat, held my daughter close to my chest, praised God in my heart, and bawled like a big ol’ baby.
I’d love to say that in the middle of all the chaos I had the faith to immediately drop to my knees and pray. I don’t have that kind of faith. My faith is more of a “do-what-you-can-as-best-as-you-can-and-trust-that-God-is-here-somewhere” kind of faith. Saint Peter wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by pure fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I have no idea why my heart and soul were put through the ringer during that baby girl’s birth. However, as I hold this little girl, I am trusting that God will watch over her because I KNOW there’s no way I can. That’s already proven true.
This post was originally written on August 22, 2007 and posted on a previous blog, and I’ve posted it here before, too. Today is the 5th anniversary of Evelyn’s grand entrance into the world. Yep, 5 years–and I wouldn’t trade a single moment. Last night as I was getting her ready for bed, she said, “Daddy, even though I’m going to be five, I’m still going to do most of the things I did when I was four–like snuggling. Okay?” Yes, Evelyn, it’s okay, and it’ll be okay even when you’re 25 and 45, too.