Katie was finishing Kindergarden. Although the day dawned bright and sunny, much like every other June day in 2010, there was a feeling of pomp and circumstance in the air. The parents gathered; the school day would only last an hour. Some of us brought muffins and juice; others brought fruit and coffee. The grass was dotted with picnic blankets, and we parents lamented how fast our babies had grown up. Could they be first graders already?
How did the past nine months of the school year go so quickly? It seemed impossible that my new baby would be due in a few more weeks. After a long and anxious pregnancy, I had now developed polyhydramnios and spent every couple days hooked up to a non-stress test and an ultrasound to check on the baby.
Sitting on the grass, clutching baskets of flowers for Katie's teachers, I felt the first of my real labor contractions. For days I had been given signs that labor was near. Now the time had come.
Beginnings and endings, bookended by the school year. My baby is growing up; another baby is preparing to be born.
I called Andrew and told him it was time to come home from work. I would need his help with Katie and Annie Rose during the hours ahead. I was still in early labor, and the day was lovely. We decided to celebrate Katie's Kindergarten graduation and our last day as a family of four by walking into downtown Evanston for lunch.
During the walk, Katie gleefully stopped and counted the minutes between my contractions. Twelve minutes apart. At Le Peep, Katie and Annie Rose devoured plates of chocolate chip pancakes, and we all split a chocolate milkshake.
The contractions had slowed down a bit during the meal, so I suggested we walk over to the Evanston Public Library to sign the girls up for the summer reading program. Then we walked to Barnes and Noble to sign Katie up for another summer reading program, and we lingered over piles of books.
Contractions resumed. Ten minutes apart.
Tears of sadness stung my eyes as I looked at my girls, especially Annie Rose, who had been the baby for three years. How difficult life was soon going to feel for my younger daughter, who knew that a new baby was coming but could not possibly comprehend how it would rock her world.
I read book after book to her, delighting in the moment and absorbing her simple joy at having Mommy's attention all to herself. After months of willing the new baby to arrive, I suddenly wanted time to slow down.
Contractions eight minutes apart. I told Andrew it was time to walk home.
We had a babysitter scheduled to come that night, and we decided to keep our date night plans. However, I tossed our bags for the hospital into the car. . . just in case.
We kissed the girls and left them in Margaret's capable hands.
Contractions seven minutes apart.
Andrew and I asked to be seated outside at Uncommon Ground in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. We placed our dinner order and speculated about the Blackhawks-Flyers game that would soon be starting.
It was game six of the Stanley Cup finals, and the Blackhawks were up three games to two. The last time the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup was in 1961, and spirits in Chicago were running high with anticipation before the big game.
Contractions five minutes apart.
"Better change our order and make it to go," I told Andrew. Ten minutes later, food in hand, we headed toward Prentice Women's Hospital. Andrew drove like a maniac.
At the hospital, we paced the triage floor in between contractions, stopping back in our room to check the score on the Blackhawks game. The pain was growing intense.
Dr. McGee did an ultrasound and was concerned that the umbilical cord might come down first because of the polyhydramnios. She planned to do a controlled leak of the amniotic fluid while preparing for an emergency C-section in the event of a cord prolapse.
We were admitted to Labor and Delivery in a gorgeous room that overlooked Lake Michigan.
The leak went well; the baby settled into position, and I labored through the night. We listened to the cars on Lake Shore Drive honking in jubilation as the Blackhawks celebrated their tremendous 4-3 win over the Flyers. We joked about naming the baby Patrick Kane. A historical night in Chicago. A historical night in our lives too.
At 3 a.m., the partying outside quieted a bit, and we plugged my iPhone into our speakers for musical inspiration.
Labor slowed and a Pitocin drip began. The baby was stuck facing the wrong way. The doctor turned it around and labor progressed.
Morning dawned glorious as the sun rose over the lake and illuminated our room in blinding light. The sounds of Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma filled the room, and our baby was born.
A girl, our third little girl to love madly, was born at 7:01 a.m. on June 10, 2010. Cleo Josephine weighed 6 lbs, 8 oz. After nine months of worrying and wondering about kidney disease, two botched amnios, countless ultrasounds, polyhydramnios and a lot of prayers, we had our answer to the only question that mattered.
She is Healthy.