You can read Part 1 here.
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It is a few days before Magnolia Grace is born that I really feel the fullness of that unfettered love. Among the mundane tedium of everyday life and the agonizing waiting game of a loooong overdue baby, I savor the growing maturity of our love.
We are at the dog park on the lake. It is getting dark and there are no other dogs to play with, but Trudy and Otis need the exercise and Shannon is eager to walk since walking is supposed to jiggle baby closer to the hatch and kick start labor.
We unleash the dogs, who chase each other into the deepening twilight, and we begin our walk, back and forth along the quarter mile stretch of gravel beach. At first we talk. Mostly about "when is this baby gonna come?"—our topic of conversation and commiseration for days. But as dusk quietly, imperceptibly settles into night, we too settle into silence. The yellow lights on the hill across the water silently multiply on the glassy black lake top.
With the dogs playing out of sight and earshot, the only sound, aside from a passing car now and then, is our footfall. Step, step, step step, step, step. Sometimes the gentle crunches of gravel sound in unison. Sometimes our steps fall out of rhythm, but they never stop.
It is soothing and hypnotic like the dance and crackle of campfire flame but there is no heat tonight, only the cool, fresh night air and the footsteps of my lover. Crrmp, crrmp, crrmp, crrmp. It wouldn't matter if we walked into the frigid depths of the lake right now. There is nothing to say. Not because all has been said but because right now the silent togetherness is what needs saying.
Eventually we will break the silence and swim back up to the shallows of mundane conversation. But that is okay. The darkness and silence have had their way with me and I know that the crrmp, crrmp… continues even when our feet are still and I forget to listen.
To an onlooker we would look like nothing more than a couple walking their dogs at twilight, but this dark, silent, palpable togetherness ministers to my soul tonight and I will never forget it.
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When I imagined Shannon's water breaking I always thought it would be accompanied by contractions or some kind of drama. But that's not the way it happens at all. It has been several days since that night on the beach. I am working on the laptop upstairs and Shannon is downstairs, reading in bed.
"Briii?," her voice is just loud enough that I can hear it upstairs. It's a mixture of questioning, subdued excitement, and guarded optimism. "I think my water just broke..."
"Whhaaat?" My voice does the same thing. Is this really happening?
Wait. What do we do? Everything we learned in our 12-week birth class is temporarily inaccessible to both of our dumbfounded brains. We call the OB, who tells us that contractions will likely start soon and that we should try to get a good night's sleep and then call her in the morning.
This is really happening. Shannon tries to sleep and I finish packing our mostly pre-packed bags and put them in the car. Then I sit down with our birth class binder and cram for the biggest final exam of my life.
When we finally check in to the childbirth center in the morning the nurse lets us settle into our room and has Shannon change into a hospital gown. (Actually it is two hospital gowns, to avoid any involuntary mooning. It looks awesome. Kind of like a muumuu with a built in cape!) When she comes back, nurse Jane squirts some cold clear gel on Shannon's belly and affixes a couple of diodes. One of these mini hockey pucks gathers information about contractions and the other monitors the baby's heart rate. It sends the information to R2D2's rectangular cousin who stands next to the bed and is apparently trained in obstetrics instead of space combat.
Our robot friend, when Jane finally locates the pulse, amplifies what sounds like someone rhythmically puffing or scratching on a microphone. It's our baby's heartbeat and it will be the soundtrack to the next twenty-four hours of our lives.
It has a strange effect on me hearing that heartbeat on the outside. It is like being inside a womb ourselves, waiting for contractions to push us out into a new world.
The labor is not very intense yet and we are enjoying each other's company between contractions that are sometimes two minutes apart, sometimes twelve. The waiting is not as hard as it was that night on the beach because baby's arrival seems so close. The process has started and we have the constant reminder of her amplified heartbeat. As we wait and talk and read, that heartbeat is always pumping. I constantly return to the sound of it, trying to describe it in my mind.
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Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9