At 4:24AM my wife grabbed me. “It’s time,” she said. “Let’s go.”
We drove to the hospital in a blur, parked, and made our way to the maternity floor. Four nurses were seated at the nurse’s station cluttered with Styrofoam cups and take out trays. The network was down, they said. We waited for 15 minutes for them to print out a sign-in form. They sent us back to a semi-private room with a curtain. My wife changed into a hospital gown. I curled up in an uncomfortable chair. We were in for a long night. I hadn’t eaten anything before we left and the cafeteria wasn’t going to be open for a while. We were both exhausted.
The nurse came in. She was a friendly woman. She reminded me of my mom who is a dental hygienist. She was like my mom not so much physically as she was in temperament: friendly and warmhearted, with similar facial expressions and ways of talking. I thought about my mother being in similar clinical settings, cleaning strangers’ teeth, asking health screening questions, etc. She checked my wife’s cervix and said “You’re one centimeter dilated.” My wife laughed.
“Only one centimeter?!”
“We’ve all got to start somewhere,” the nurse said. “But your cervix has softened up which means you could be dilated more soon. Let’s check back in on you in an hour. Do you guys want to walk the maternity floor? And then we’ll reevaluate.”
“Okay,” we said.
We walked aimlessly around the hospital. Her contractions had stopped. “Of course,” she said. We were deliriously tired and wondered if our baby was going to be born on September 11th.
We came back to the room and the nurse came in again to check. “Still one centimeter,” she said. We were only one-tenth of the way there. They sent us home, telling us to not hesitate to come back in if we thought we needed to. “It may be one day. It may be a week from now,” the nurse said. “But rest assured, the process has started.”
© Daniel Douglas