Funny how much sentimentality you can lace up in a pair of shoes. Today I threw away shoes that I have held on to for over four years for no other reason. Long ago the sole split, the color faded, the laces got mangled, and they held onto irremovable stains. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Because, these were the shoes I wore while my fourth child was born. And her birth was something to remember.
I had looked at the clock, . Ugh! Not again. More contractions interrupting what had actually been a restful nights’ sleep, something hard to come by at nine plus months pregnant. For the past three weeks this happened periodically. I would get out of bed, wondering, “Is this it?” Watching the clock, timing the contractions, sometimes steady at 5-10 minutes for up to two hours. Finally coax myself back to sleep and wake up in the morning to nothing. This night, however, would prove to be different. The contractions were uncomfortable, lasted a minute and came close to every five minutes. We’d been here before though, so I ate an apple, washed some dishes and watched the clock.
Around I was pretty sure this was ‘it’ so I finished getting everything ready to go to the hospital. I woke my husband at and we debated if we should call the midwife or wait. After he finished getting the sleep out of his mind he said, “What are we thinking? You are six days past your due date, we should call.”
I called around and waited for the call back. Of course the whole time I was on the phone with her I did not have one contraction. With a little reluctance in her voice the midwife said to head to the hospital and they would call her when I arrived. The contractions had remained pretty much the same, so that sounded fine to me. I finished getting dressed and put on those black oxfords; my husband showered, had some cereal and we started to pack the kids up. It takes a bit of time to get three young, sleeping children into the car, so it was almost when we drove away.
The contractions came every three minutes, and slightly beyond uncomfortable. I kneeled on the van floor, resting my head on the middle bench seat. Our four year old daughter stroked my hair and told me about the beautiful Christmas lights we drove past. I told her “thanks,” but I couldn’t really look just then. The next half hour blurred by between contractions, clock-checking, and looking out the window to see how far we had yet to go.
We dropped off the kids, and took my husband’s parents’ vehicle so they would have all the carseats for transporting our kids later. By this time I did not feel comfortable sitting at all and I climbed in the front seat kneeling backwards on the seat, clutching the headrest for support as contractions came. Another 20 minutes and we should be at the hospital. We were making good time so far.
About half way into this ride the contractions started getting difficult to manage. I did my best to breathe through them and keep my thoughts elsewhere. The labor was painful of course. However, I had already experienced two smooth, natural births even after a Caesarean section with our first. I knew I just needed to settle in and keep the goal in mind.
Labor seemed to continue to progress at a steady pace, and I suddenly had the feeling the hospital might be a little too far away. I pulled my pants down to my knees, which in hindsight my husband said he should have taken as an indicator of just how close this baby’s birth was. However, we both just had in our mind to get to the hospital.
I reached down to check the progress of the birth manually, and realized that the baby’s head was crowning!
Ineffective pep talks ensued in my mind. “I can’t push, I can’t push.” I told my husband that I felt the head. He continued to try to get us to the hospital as quickly as possible. He rushed a red light when the intersection was empty; he exceeded the speed limit, all the while gently encouraging me that we were almost there. And when I told him I now felt the nose, he pulled into the nearest parking lot. We came to a stop in the 7-11 parking lot, four blocks from the hospital. My husband ran around to my side of the car, with his wits about him, checked that the cord was not wrapped around the neck of this child ready to come whether we were at the hospital or not. He was in place and ready. I pushed, and within a few minutes, at according to the car’s clock, our fourth child came into this world.
The baby let out a healthy, newborn wail. My husband set the baby on the seat wrapped in a towel we had on hand just in case my water broke (and we thought we had prepared for any possible scenario), and prepared to drive the remaining blocks to the hospital. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry just then. It was dark and cold and as my husband ran back around to his side and said, “I think it’s a girl.” We didn’t know before that point, the ultrasound had been inconclusive. I double checked, “Yup, a girl. That makes one boy and now three girls.”
We pulled up outside the emergency room and my husband got out to see what we should do. An employee on a smoke break asked if we needed something. He calmly explained to her that we had just had a baby in the car. The woman panicked a bit, started slapping the buzzer to open the door, and out rushed the medical personnel. In the flurry that followed I became thankful for and humored by our unique birth experience. They all fussed and hurried, but peace filled me completely. Everything was fine. We were all healthy, we had a beautiful, feisty baby girl, and we had a story to retell and laugh about for years to come. I finally slipped off those now blood stained shoes and settled into bed with my precious baby.
In the days that followed we recounted the stories to numerous people in a variety of situations. The story flew through our circles of acquaintances and family members, and each time we laughed and marveled at the miracle and preciousness of birth. I rested in the knowledge that God had uniquely designed me to be a mother, the mother of these specific, precious children. Just as He designed my body to give birth naturally, He also enabled me to care for them and ‘mother’ them. It doesn’t mean our days are easier, just that I have an easier time finding the strength to make it through them.
So, I hesitantly let go of these shoes that I held on to as some unusual reminder of that eventful morning. Each day I can still look into those big, sparkling blue eyes and remember the first time I saw them, in the parking lot of 7-11.