About an hour after I hung up the phone with my Dad, contractions continued to come strong and regular, about 7 minutes apart. I still didn't know if this was the real thing or not, but decided it wasn't worth taking a chance. So at 7:30pm I called back and, as my husband would say, "activated 'Operation Grandparents.'" They were in their car at 8pm with an ETA of 11pm. And I said a quick prayer again that the timing would all work out perfectly.
I decided a hot shower was in order to (a) determine if this was real labor and (b) make sure I had nice, freshly shaved legs for my baby's birth. The little guys were in bed by now so I took my time and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and quiet. Well the quiet part for sure, I was only enjoying peace in between contractions, which were nearing 5 minutes apart at this time and becoming more and more intense. It was clear this was the real thing, so I figured now was a good time to fix my hair and make-up.
I should say here that I was slightly disappointed when labor started in the evening ... again. All of my kids have been born through the night. It's exhausting. And there's no one awake on Facebook or Twitter to cheer you on when the baby is born. Just once I'd like to have a baby born during normal waketime hours, when I have the energy to actually handle an active labor. But this was not one of those times. I was quickly getting tired and decided to try to sleep in between contractions, while keeping an eye on my timer phone app. Meanwhile Jon was watching TV - flipping between football and some crazy zombie movie. Which made it even easier to just shut my eyes.
At around 9:30 contractions were consistently five minutes apart,and had been for over an hour, which is when the Birthing Center suggests coming in. I knew my parents were halfway to our house and was still feeling pretty good. So I sent up a few more prayers for "perfect timing" and tried to go back to sleep.
At 10:45 I called the midwife to let her know where things stood. Since the Birthing Center is not staffed in the evenings, you have to call an answering service, who then pages the midwife, who then calls you back. I was happy to hear the voice of one of my favorite midwifes on the line and knew Nikki would be the one delivering my baby that night. I had called her in between a contraction, explained that they had been coming every 4-5 minutes for over an hour now, but that I still felt really good in between. She said it was totally up to me if I wanted to come in now, or just have some wine and take a hot bath and see if things kept progressing. She sounded calm, I felt good, so I opted to stay at home a little longer and see where things went (sans wine and bath). Instead I grabbed my water bottle and laid down on the couch. A few minutes later my parents arrived and, after showing off all the new little outfits she'd found yard saling last weekend, my mom kept me distracted with a few bits of conversation in between labor pains.
By midnight contractions were 3-4 minutes apart. But they still felt the same and I just wasn't sure at what point to go in. Jon had gone to bed earlier and my mom was sleeping in the chair. I started thinking about my 24 hour labor with Jack and my 12 hour labor with Jude, and realized this one had already reached 7 hours. I walked around the house a little while longer and that's when contractions started to really get intense. At 12:42am I called the Birthing Center answering service again who paged the midwife. I went upstairs to tell Jon that as soon as the midwife called back we were going in - put the bags in the car! Instead, he rolled over and went back to sleep. The midwife never called back. Meanwhile I started feeling "pressure" with each contraction. I knew we didn't have much time, so I waited exactly 15 minutes (12:57am), which is what they suggested in our class, and called back. They connected me directly to Nikki who apologized for not getting the page and I cut her off with, "This is it, I'm ready to come in!" She promised to leave right away and meet us there. As I hung up there was another super-intense contraction that left me gasping for breath. I yelled for Jon, who was still sleeping, that we needed to leave NOW!
He threw the bags in the car and as I'm walking out the door I remembered my friend Megan's text from earlier saying, "Don't forget an 'on the way to the hospital pic' like you always do!" For a moment I considered calling Jon back in with the camera, but at the same instant another contraction hit and with it the all too familiar "ring of fire." I knew there was no time for pictures and quickly slid into the front seat. We backed out of the driveway at exactly 1:02am. As we started to leave I was suddenly hit with the thought "I should have grabbed a towel." But it was too late to go back. Another contraction left me barely able to stay in my seat and with just enough energy to gasp, "Oh God, please let us make it in time!"