Last night Puff started having labour pains. It began around seven. She's been having braxton-hicks contractions for a few months now, so at first we thought little of it, but the contractions continued, growing intensity and regularity. "This may be it," Puff said to me. "This is how it started with Elder." We couldn't reach Puff's sister, which was plan A, and ended up skipping plans B,C,D, and so on and went directly to Emergency Contingency Plan Omega: mother. We called my mother and asked her to come by in case we needed to leave for the hospital during the night. In the hour we waited for my mother to arrive, I helped Puff as she paced back and forth in our house, her face contorting every few minutes in pain. We timed the contractions. Five minutes apart, each lasting about a minute. This was serious. My mother arrived in my sister's car. It was the woman's help circle, and they were both excited to be here.. Women love pregnant women and small babies in exactly the way men don't. Both women took a look at Puff and told her she needed to get to the hospital. I got Puff's bag and put it in the car, and spread a garbage bag on her seat in case her water was to suddenly break. I do, after all, have some experience with this sort of thing. I gave mother some last minute instructions on the kids, getting them off to school in the morning. That sort of thing. My sister began blasting the horn in the driveway as a way of telling me to get a move on. It was around 11:30.
The hospital is only a few minutes away by car. That's a good thing. The main entrance and reception area was closed, so we had to go in through the emergency area. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, except on summer nights the emergency room of this hospital doubles as a knife and gun club. Last night, however, the emergency room was quiet. My sister dropped us off, wished us luck and left. We walked into the triage area, where a nurse is supposed to assess all cases as they arrive, hoping this wouldn't take too long. The nurse at the desk saw us coming and called out "Maternity is down the hall to the left, through the doors. The guard will let you in. TONY, BUZZ THEM IN!"
As we made our way down the long, sterile hallways, Puff had to stop twice, gripping my arm tightly and balancing herself against a wall with the other hand as more contractions came. We made it to the "Birthing area" soon enough. We sat in chairs while the nurse at the station took down the relevant information. Names, phone number, a second phone number, place of business, are we covered for a private room, that sort of thing. In the time it took to take down the information, Puff had three more contractions.
The nurses moved her directly to a birthing room, where they examined her and found... nothing. They believed the contractions were real, but their machines registered nothing, and puff was barely beginning to dilate. They put her on watch. One nurse in particular was very nice to us. She stayed in our room and spoke to us for a little while. I asked her about the machine not registering contractions. "Don't worry about that," she told me. "We believe mommies, not machines." She asked us if we had any other children, smiled when I told her two girls, and asked if this one is a girl too.
"No," I said. "This one's a boy."
"Oh, that's nice when you have both boys and girls," she said. "I had seven boys before I had my first girl."
"Seven?" I repeated.
"Seven boys and now three girls," she said. "I love babies." I looked at her. She was as thin as a rail, and it was hard to believe she'd had one child, much less ten. Had Puff not been having a contraction at that moment I am sure she would have said: "I hate you."
"Wow," I said. "If you lived down in the States you could have your own tv show." She smiled and left. We waited.
And then the contractions stopped. The machine showed nothing, as it always had. The dilation was still minimal. There was no activity. Around 1:30 in the morning they sent us home, and told us the labour could restart any time- in the morning, or afternoon, maybe the next evening, or maybe in another week. There was nothing else to be done. Puff got dressed, I picked up her bag, and we left.
There was no one for us to call to take us home. I had picked up the bus pass so I could get home, but I had not anticipated her coming home with me. I had also picked up the wrong bus pass, as I had the one for June, which would not be valid until the next morning. Together we scraped together enough change to board the bus and home we went. I got about two hours of sleep, Puff maybe a little more. In the morning mother went home, but she has been calling us regularly, asking for updates. We sent messages down the family lines: False alert. They all seemed more disappointed than us. They were really looking forward to the new baby. I suppose it is nice to have a new baby in the family, one that can drop by for a visit, one you can bounce on your knee, make faces at, and then goes home it needs to be fed changed or starts crying for no known reason.
I went to work in the morning, but was beginning to fall asleep at my station. The days when I can stay up all night and still be functional in the morning are long since past. I begged off on account of sickness and went home. i wasn't concerned about not performing at work. i was more worried about what if Puff were to go into labour in the evening, and I was exhausted. I would be useless to her and the child. I went home and got some sleep.
The waiting game continues.