At slightly after midnight, Penny started having contractions. Severe ones. She doubled over in the bed and had to get down on her hands and knees, while I rubbed her back and stroked her hair. At slightly after one, we called Brooke, the doula, and woke her up. The contractions were only a few minutes apart, it seemed, and we were wondering when it would be time to go to the hospital.
At slightly after two, it was time. Brooke held Penny and swayed through a few more contractions while I threw our pre-packed bags into the car and warmed it up. Penny wobbled down the steps to get in, shivering and deep-breathing and contracting.
At slightly after four, she got to start pushing. She gripped my hand and Brooke's, and bore down hard, trying to squeeze the baby out after a full-term labor without a drop of anesthesia.
At slightly after five, the doctors said the baby wasn't moving down like she should. They scheduled a C-section and we waited for the team to prepare the operating room as Penny still suffered through contractions in vain. Brooke and I consoled her for having gotten through an amazing and perfect natural delivery that couldn't quite be finished.
And at 5:52 am, there in the operating room, we heard our daughter cry for the first time. I ran to the baby-warmer as the nurses cleaned her off, snapping pictures so I could go back up by Penny's head and show her what she's made.
Right around 6:15, the doctors said our baby had inhaled some fluids during the delivery and could develop trouble breathing very soon. They said she would have to go to Fort Wayne without us, to the neonatal intensive care unit. I had to go and tell Penny that she wouldn't get to hold the baby she just brought into the world -- not for 2, maybe 3 days.
Around seven, in the nursery, the nurse and I looked at each other and thought together, "she doesn't look that sick." When the ambulance crew arrived from Fort Wayne, we asked them to reconsider taking her. She was pink, and peaceful, and we said please.
After studying our baby's chest x-rays, the neonatologist agreed, and one of the nurses told me she could stay. I hugged the woman, whose name I do not know.