With the unexpected deployment last week, there were no words that couldn't have been expressed: other than in a kiss of love and devotion; his hand that lingered on my swelling belly. And despite being about four weeks away from delivering our first child, all I could think about was him coming back home to us.
As usual, he couldn't tell me how long they were going to be deployed or where they were going, so I always knew there was a remote possibility that I would go into labor before he came home. But as the days passed by and the weather grew stormier, with the possibility of a few minor storms—nothing could have prepared me for a tornado.
Since I was alone, I had taken to cleaning and washing the nursery; all the baby clothes, bedding, blankets and bibs. Any way I could to pass the time and not let myself get too anxious. With the tornado warnings, everyone in the nearby cities were advised to stay put and go home to prepare for any oncoming tornados. I didn't have any problems staying put—in fact I was all for it.
That was until my water broke. At first, I kept working; folding, sorting and putting away everything our daughter would need probably until the first year of life. A couple hours passed and I stopped to eat a light dinner. The storm outside, made it look pitch dark with the occasional flash of lightning.
By the time that I had put my plate in the sink, the rain was beginning to pick up. I went back to folding another load of laundry and sat down on the couch. Being much more exhausted than I originally thought, I woke hours later to a pitch black house.
I saw flashes of lightning from the corner of my eye—quickly coming to the realization that the storm was to blame for the power outage. I tried to get up, but it was a bit of struggle with my growing belly. Even more so since my contractions had begun.
Finding a flashlight in the nearby drawer, I went downstairs to find the weather radio that we had bought specifically for moments like these. I found the results were frightening, and I knew there was no way that I was going to make it to the hospital.
As the rain turned to hail, my first instinct as a mother kept telling me to prepare myself. Not for the oncoming tornado that was now being issued a warning, but for the birth of my child. With the time blinking on the radio clock, it was now just after eight in the evening—which meant that it had already been almost four hours since my water had broken.
My contractions were growing stronger, and I was feeling increasing pressure in my back. It took me quite awhile just to get up the stairs again to grab a blanket, towel, and some baby clothes. before I went back downstairs to wait out the storm—just in case.
I grabbed a few other blankets and a pillow from the downstairs closet and went into the storage and disaster room and closed the door. I figured that the best I could do now was try and get some rest, but ended up sitting there, listening to the muffled storm and working on relaxing as best as I could. Which meant: as best as being in active labor and sitting on a cement floor, could be.
When I finally started to tremble, I wrapped one of the blankets around me. After that, it was a long night. I was only faintly aware that the tornado had hit and that I was in and out of sleep; restlessness and pain had overcome me for hours.
As the sun came up, was when I finally emerged and felt safe. At first glance, nothing looked shaken but as I moved around agonizingly slow, I saw the pictures on the wall, had been shifted.
I felt like I was trapped in a prison as I no longer had the strength to walk up my own stairs, and then remembered that I still had my phone in my pocket—something I almost never did. As I pressed myself to keep standing, I also tried making a phone call but the phone lines must have been down.
Long as I had kept myself calm, I was suddenly starting to feel frustrated and scared. Foolishly, I thought that because of the situation, that I could do this by myself. Now I wasn't so sure.
Then something came to mind that one can do in a disaster. If the lines were blocked, then texting worked just as well. It was worth a try, and probably my last hope. I began thinking about Denise, hoping that she was okay. But at the same time, I hoped that she would be okay in order answer my last plea for help.
"Please." I uttered, as my finger pressed the send button. No longer being able to hold myself up or see that she had responded, I slid down the wall.
I wasn't sure how much time had passed as I finally heard crunching glass. Light footsteps and a voice was just as reassuring as much as my clouded mind could handle.
I groaned absently, trying to grab strength that I wasn't dreaming this. "Down here." Following the sound of her footsteps, I didn't know if she had actually heard me. And then I caught a glance of her as she rounded the corner. "Denise."
Even from the bottom of the stairs, I could hear her sharp intake of breath as she saw me leaning against the wall. I probably looked like a mess, having been up half of the night. When Denise crouched down by me, I noticed she didn't look much better.
As she crouched down, she put her hand on my head and took my pulse. "Your heart is racing. How long have you been like this?"
"Since about five last night . . . when my water broke."
"You've been in labor since five—"She inquired, leaning back on her feet. I watched her eyebrows go up in surprise, and her face softened. "You should have called me the minute you went into labor."
Absently, I shook my head, swallowing dryly. "I didn't even realize that my phone was in my pocket until this morning."
"Jackie, you've been in labor for the past fourteen hours. The fact that you're showing signs of dehydration—alone that worries me. The natural disaster could have been enough to send you into premature labor, but my bet is on the fact that you haven't been getting enough fluids."
"When have I ever not overdone things?"
I could tell Denise was thinking about it as she stood."You have a valid point. Think you can stand?"
"Depends if you can move a beached whale." I quipped, using the wall and Denise's hand to help me stand up. It was harder than it looked, especially through all the pain.
Denise gave a small laugh as patted my shoulder in return. "Just you wait. You'll forget all about this when you hold her in your arms." I must have looked at her like she was crazy, because she laughed again. "Trust me. When I was pregnant with Jeremy, I threatened Frank that I couldn't do it and that he should do it for me."I gave a small smile, but it faded quickly as another pain washed through me. "Contraction?"
"Let's get you comfortable and I'll check to see how you're progressing."
As it turned out, the baby was already starting to crown. And besides delivering my child, Denise fed me slow sips of water between contractions. I was able to push the head out within a couple minutes; then the shoulders and at one point I was instructed to not push until she had cleared her nose and airway with a sweep of her finger.
When I gave one finally push, I was finally able to hold my baby in my arms. I was overcome with emotions at the love I had for my baby. I wished that Kevin would have been here to see this moment—our beautiful daughter.
Denise looked up at me with tears in her eyes. "She's beautiful, Jackie. Does she have a name?"
I looked down at my little girl, uttering her name for the first time since Kevin and I had decided on it. "Sophie."
"Sophie." Denise repeated with satisfaction. "Welcome to the world, little one."
After her birth, the days seemed to go both slow and fast: hit and miss. Denise was over a lot to help me with the baby, among a few other people who knew about Sophie's arrival.
And so by the time Sophie was three days old, I was exhausted but finally had been able to contact Kevin and let him know of her arrival.
There had been a few windows and trees that had been taken out by the tornado, but technically the house had been untouched. As for the street that we lived on, there were quite a few houses that had many objects missing, as well as fallen trees on the road that would have made it quite hard to make it to the hospital in time.
By the time she was two weeks old: that had been forgotten and most everything had been cleaned up and the windows had been boarded up in the house. Denise didn't want me driving to the base alone, so she had offered to pick me up.
Jeremy had already been buckled in the seat near the window. Denise made sure that there was an empty seat, just in case I wanted to sit in the back. I however, opted to sit in the front since Sophie was already asleep.
Denise sighed as I hopped into the car. "You nervous?"
"A little bit. I can't believe that it's been a month since I've seen Kevin."
"I know it probably means nothing now, but you look great." I nodded in appreciation, looking at my choice of wearing a red v-neck dress and red heels. I had also curled my hair and put on makeup for the first time since Sophie had been born.
When we arrived, I opted to wrap Sophie up in her brown and pink polka dotted blanket, instead of lugging the car seat with us. I wanted Kevin to be able to physically see and hold his daughter when we reunited. I wanted him to see the bow that matched her red and white dress that said: daddy's girl.
And when that moment finally came, when we were allowed to see our loved one we fought through a crowd of soldiers that held a relieved joy, there was a slight parting and I caught his eye as I began carefully making my way to him.
My lips clashed with his for what seemed like hours, until we broke away to admire the cries of our daughter. His rough hands pulled back the blanket; a certain pride in his eyes as I placed her in his arms for the first time.I knew that Denise had been right: going through all that pain was all worth it. My family was together again, and hope had drawn near after all.