"Hey, Barclay. So, I don't want you to worry or anything, because everything's totally fine, and I'm fine, and I'm sure the baby's fine. So don't worry. But, uh..."
I know that people hate when you start out a phone call that way. But if you lead with the part that they're not supposed to worry about and then say the part about being fine, I feel like they'd hate that too. You kind of just have to pick the lesser of the two evils and talk really fast so you can get it all out before they have time to think about what you're saying. I'm really bad at this. I stutter and ask all of my statements like I need permission to share news if it's bad.
"...Well ok. So I fell? On some ice?"
"What? Where are you?"
"Um, on the ground?"
Because I was. I'd hit it hard and I was still there. It'd been enough to knock me out, and when I'd come to there was a little circle of concerned faces around my head. And no one was wearing jackets, which was weird because it was minus thirty-something and snowing pretty hard.
I had realized, quickly, that the reason no one was wearing their jackets was because I was wearing their jackets. There was one under my feet, and one under my belly, and the rest were stacked on top of me. What an adorable group of anonymous people. My face and back were numb from being pressed into the ice, but when I'd tried to move my head a curly-haired lady in an RCMP sweatshirt had held me still.
"Don't move your head, sweetie, okay? You need to just be still. The ambulance is on its way."
Good graish. The ambulance. I'd said thank you and asked for my phone so I could call Barclay. I'd stuck a little dinosaur arm up out of the jacket pile. He had answered on the third ring.
"The ground? Still? But where?" He sounded a little panicky, and I tried to think of a way to say that I was waiting for an ambulance without making it sound like a big deal. But even if you say you're waiting for an ambulance in the same tone of voice you'd use to say that you're waiting for a taxi, it doesn't seem to make a big difference to the person your saying it to.
The lady in the sweatshirt started yelling at people around me just then, "Sir, can you hold her head for me. She needs to not move until the paramedics get here."
I hoped Barclay hadn't heard that. "Mike's. Like, the grocery store. And they've called an ambulance. But I'm really okay. Will you come get me, please? Ambulance rides cost, like, five hundred bucks."
He said he'd be right there so we hung up and I thanked the man who was holding my head and said I could probably get up now and that my husband was coming, but he dutifully held me down like he'd been told to do. I thought about how bizarre it was to be laying there in such a public place, my head cradled in the hands of someone I couldn't see (didn't ever actually see), covered in so many strangers' jackets while the crowd grew bigger and bigger and the ambulance's siren grew louder and louder.
People were crouching by my head to touch my hair and call me Sweetheart and Honey and ask how far along I was and what gender the baby was and whether I was cold and if they could get me anything. I was so touched, but so embarrassed. I don't mind being the centre of attention if I'm telling a joke or something, but being the centre of attention for falling down in public is different somehow.
That was how we ended up in the Labour & Delivery Unit at the hospital an hour later. I was hooked up to a monitor having super frequent contractions, presumably brought on by the fall, and the nurse was being all calm and grinny while she checked me over, saying terrifying things like, "Well, this might be it!"
I tried to be calm and grinny too. "This can't be it," I told her. "It's not time yet."
She laughed at me and said another terrifying thing. "You don't decide when it's time," she said. "The baby decides."
It wasn't time.
But it was good. Like, in the way that things are good sometimes where they don't feel good right at the time that they happen but end up being good somehow anyway. You know? I mean, I feel like I've been hit by a mack truck, and I'm planning on spending today here, just here, with a hot water bottle and an ice pack and a wheat bag, but that's temporary and I'll be fine.
We were in that little room at the hospital for something like six hours, the baby's heartbeat printing out in little jigs and jags from the monitor screen. For the first half hour, I was freaked out of my mind. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want him to come yet. I wasn't ready. I hadn't read a single book on how to be a mom. I didn't have a crib mattress. I needed to wash his clothes. Plus, I've heard--and maybe you've heard this too--that it hurts.
But six hours is, surprisingly, enough time. It's enough time to get used to a place that scares you and to meet a lot of friendly nurses and to talk things over with your husband and for both of you to realize that you'll never actually be ready but that that's okay and to remind yourself that pain is temporary enough to not matter that much. It's enough to get a little perspective shift and to make some of the unknowns known, which takes the edge off of them just the tiniest bit. It's enough to play multiple games of 20 questions and eat the skungy food they offer you out of the fridge.
So the good is that our little date in L&D was kind of like an answer to the prayer that I've been praying every night for the past 8 months (which goes something like, "Lord, please help them to invent baby teletransportation before January 22 because I'm the biggest wuss ever").
But when we got home that night, I think we were both still thankful for another month or so to get the things ready that can be gotten ready. We fell asleep right away, and slept through our alarm the next morning.