Chapter One

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The Long Day

“Mom, mom. I think Annie’s having real contractions. She said it feels different from Braxton hicks. That they feel stronger. What should we do?” Marshall asked his mom with a concerned voice and worry on his face. He watched his fiancé sit on the living room sofa, leaning hard against the back of it.

“How long, has this been going on?” Mary asked her son.

“Since early this morning and it comes about every 20 minutes.” Marshall answered.

He was sitting next to Annie now, holding her hand, and she could hear his moms’ voice coming through the other end of the phone line. Wearing a red maternity shirt and loose pants Annie felt a tightening she hadn’t felt before. A squeeze around her large tummy that had her breathe in quickly, and then holding it. Breathe Annie, breathe she kept repeating to herself in her head. Could this be it, she wondered, will this be the day that my baby is born? She pressed against the back of the sofa closed her eyes and waited for instruction from Marshalls mom. She realized that the baby no longer was kicking up a storm, her belly wasn’t shifting from one side to the other, and what she felt now was a dull ache in her back and pressure on her pelvis.

There had been many times before that Annie would startle Marshall with a yell

“Marshall, come quick the baby is kicking!” He would place his hand in the middle of her stomach, Annie would move it to where she felt the kicking. “Did you feel it?” She would ask him. “Did you?” It was the most exciting sensation in the world to her, and when Marshall felt it too, it was even more thrilling.

“Mom asked if your mucus plug came out yet.”

Annie let out a deep breathe. “Something did the last time.” She paused midsentence, and squeezed Marshall’s hand, closed her eyes and tried to remember what that something looked like.

“The last time I peed, something gooey I guess.” Annie described. “It wasn’t a lot.”

“But no fluid?” Marshall asked as he was being questioned by Mary as to what exactly Annie was experiencing.

“No.” She replied

Marshall got up from the sofa and walked into the kitchen, where he could talk to his mom and still keep an eye on Annie. The house had an open floor plan, the living room and kitchen were only separated by a long bar like counter top. The appliances were white accept for the microwave oven, which was black, counters outlined like a horseshoe were also white. Annie sat with her eyes closed and waited for the next wave of tightening. Minutes passed until Marshall came back to the sofa.

“Mom said that you should try to go walking, that it sounds like you are having early signs of labor, and the more you walk the faster things will start to happen. She said we should go into town just in case your water breaks and you need to get to the hospital.” Annie opened her eyes and looked around, the sun was shining brightly and it lit up the room. It was almost lunch time and neither, Annie or Marshall had eaten all day. Annie trusted Mary’s instructions, she hoped she could manage her contractions, and thought it might be nice to get out, pick up some lunch and see what happened. The two drove into town, picking up burgers and sodas. Not an ideal lunch for a lady carrying a baby, but Annie knew her daughter would be born soon anyway so why not enjoy some good ole greasy food.

They ended up at an Elementary School, which was close to the hospital. It was an old favorite of the two when they were dating, where they would go and play basketball together or just sit in the parking lot and “talk.” Behind the brick School was a playground along with a large black top where the basketball courts were. Marshall drove around to the back, and of course, Marshall’s mom and a handful of others from the family were already there. Nieces and nephews were already settled into a friendly game of basketball, the youngest were swinging on the swing set or running around playing chase. Once the kids saw Annie’s car, they all started running towards it. A practical Honda Accord that screamed new mommy. Annie had eventually given up her flashy sports car for a more family oriented vehicle. The kids opened up the car door for Annie giving her hugs, kissing uncle Marshall on his cheek or wrestling to get to his neck for a hug. They were all so excited to see pregnant Annie and their favorite Uncle.

“Uncle Marshall, Uncle Marshall”. The younger kids would yell. Mary greeted the two with gentle hugs and kisses.

“Hey ma”. Marshall said to her while holding on to Annie. She was still feeling the contractions that would come every 20 minutes, or so, but not the panic she felt earlier that morning. Mary had calmed the couple down and being closer to the hospital helped as well.

“How ya feeling Baby?” Mary asked Annie.

“I’m ok. We just ate some lunch. I still feel the contractions, sometimes they feel like a bad cramp, and my lower back hurts.” Mary reached out her hand for Annie’s.

“Well, let’s get you moving so we can have that baby today, alright”. That wasn’t a request from the grandma, it was a statement. She was ready to meet her son’s first baby almost as much as he was. While Marshall took off with his nieces and nephews to play ball or chase them around the monkey bars, Annie and Mary headed for the black top to walk. The laughter and ball bouncing kept Annie’s focus while she held her fiancé’s mothers hand and walked from one end of the pavement and back again. She would slow down as she felt a contraction coming on, wait for it to end, then continue walking, but as she grew tired she would come to a stop. This went on for hours, Annie would walk through the contractions, wondering just what exactly was supposed to happen. Deliver this baby right here at this School? Walk until her water actually broke. This isn’t what she imagined “labor” would feel like. In the movies, women would be screaming at the top of their lungs, cursing out the man responsible for the pain. None of this was happening to Annie. Sure she was feeling the tightness the cramped feeling, but nothing that would make her scream out in pain. The day wore on, Mary hummed hymnal songs or would look up at the sky thanking the Good Lord for this day. The kids were enjoying the park as much as they enjoyed the time spent with their favorite uncle. Bringing a new life into the world one step at a time Annie thought.

“Hey Annie!” Marshall’s youngest niece Kia squealed. “Watch me!” The bouncy six year old was playing on the swings, she swung higher and higher. Pumping her little light browned legs harder and harder. As she swung, her black braided pig tails on each side of her head looked like they were on springs.

“Do you see me Annie?” Kia yelled.

“I see you Kia, be careful please, you are going really high!” Annie replied. She watched as she continued to swing, it almost made her nauseated watching as Kia swung back and forth, back and forth. The summer day was beautiful, the trees were full of green leaves and a smell of freshly cut grass was in the air. Annie and Mary had stopped walking and watched as the kids played and Marshall continued to be jumped on or hugged by them. What a family, what a man she thought. Marshall is so wonderful to his nieces and nephews, I know he will make the best dad. With his calmness and gentle touch she could picture him embracing their child, raising her, teaching her about life. The anticipation of it all and the excitement of motherhood, was building up inside her heart more than ever.

“Mary”. Annie said to her future mother –n- law. “Do you think we’ve walked enough? The contractions are staying about the same, I think the walk helped, but I’m getting tired.” The sun was still bright in the Friday evening sky, and the June weather was warm but not too hot, tall spruce trees outlined the School yard and green grass flowed from every corner. Brown mulch that covered the play ground floor had been flung in different directions from the children running and sliding as they played. It had been a long day for everyone. Mary pushed her small framed prescription glasses back on top of her nose, they were slipping down her face from sweating.

Mary looked a bit relieved at Annie’s request. “Sure darling, if you’ve had enough, then you’ve had enough. That baby will be here soon I know it.” She hugged Annie and motioned for Marshall to come over. He was in the middle of a playful game of basketball with two of his nephews, but jogged over to his two favorite ladies, soon to be three favorite. He leaned over and kissed Annie gently on the cheek, she could tell he was hot and tired from playing for hours with the tireless kids. He swiped away the sweat from his forehead like he always did by using his first finger, hugged his mom and thanked her for meeting them at the School and for walking with Annie. The kids circled around giving them hugs and telling Marshall and Annie that they loved them. As they settle into the car to drive away, Annie wondered if she would always be this accepted by Marshalls family, would they be that excited to see her and sad when she left them, would good times like this ever end? Marshall broke Annie from her thoughts to ask her if she’d like to stop to get anything to eat or drink.

“I am very thirsty now that you mentioned it.” Annie answered.

“Okay what would you like sweetie.” Marshall always spoke to her in the kindest voice, he reached over to rub her knee and then held her hand. “We could stop by a store or a drive through. What do you have a taste for?” Annie leaned her head against the seat as she felt a contraction, nothing that caused her major pain, but enough to remind her that her baby girl would soon be making her grand entrance.

“I think I just need some water, nodding her head. “I’ll get some fruit when we get back home.” With that, Marshall went straight to a convenience store, quickly went inside to get Annie a bottled water and got back to the car in what seemed like only seconds. He opened it for her as she sat with her hands propped up on top of her pregnant belly, her head resting against the seat and eyes closed.

“Here ya go boo.” He said holding the bottle in front of her.

“Thanks.” Are you getting anything to eat, it might be a long night you should eat something.” Marshall didn’t answer her, instead he sped out into traffic and up the highway, he wanted to get her home and relaxed. They drove in silence, only the sound of the road or turn signal filled the car.

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