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“Easy, ladies,” I said, placing my hand on my belly and making slow circles. “We’ve got another month to go in there, might as well get along.”

It was wishful thinking on my part. The second I took my palm away, another spasm of intense pain took hold, the sensation like my stomach was being gripped by a giant hand that wouldn’t let go. It was so sudden and severe that I couldn’t help but jerk my hand away and accidentally knock my tea over, the mug hitting the ground with a dull thud as the liquid spilled everywhere.

I groaned, wrapping my arms around my belly and hunching forward, the aching, tight pain that radiated from my belly so powerful that I couldn’t think straight.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the pain subsided. I took one deep breath, then another, making sure that the pain was completely gone. When I was sure it was, I rose slowly, looking out onto the woods to give myself a moment to compose.

I hated to admit it, but I was worried. The pain had been so intense—more intense than I’d ever felt before. One thing was for sure, I needed to go to the hospital.

I closed my eyes and took a few more breaths trying to totally work through the panic slowly creeping through me.

I picked up my phone and slowly, calmy typed a text to Haley.

Hey. I think it’s happening.

The response came seconds later.

What? You mean IT? Where are you?

At my place. You think I should Uber to the hospital?

Are you kidding? I’ll be there in twenty minutes, OK?

Haley, living closer to me than Mom and Dad, had been planning on taking me to the hospital when it happened. All the same, I felt like I was being an imposition.

OK, I know for a fact you live thirty minutes away, so be careful!

A winking face emoji was the response. With a smile, I tucked my phone into my pocket and went back inside.

Calm. I kept the word in my mind as I went to the bedroom to grab the hospital bag I’d packed, taking the duffel out of the closet and going back to the living room. I’d gone to plenty of pregnancy classes over the last few months, and all of them stressed the importance of being calm when labor started.

All the same, I couldn’t help but imagine how nice it would be to have someone there with me, to have Alex there to put his hand on my shoulder and guide my breathing, to tell me everything was going to be OK.

Ten minutes passed, and as I was in the bathroom gathering a few last-minute things, another spasm of tight pain ran through me. The intensity was so much that I had to grab the sides of the sink for support as I groaned. I could feel the girls moving around inside of me, and when the pain reached its crescendo, I felt something strange, something wet.

The pain faded and I looked down at my jeans, spotting a wet stain.

My water had broken.

The intensity of the pain had been a sign that it was happening. My water breaking left no doubt—the girls were coming.

My phone buzzed in the other room, and I hurried over as quickly as I could manage, checking the screen to see a text from Haley letting me know that she was five minutes away, that I should meet her out front. I grabbed my bag and took one look at the place, letting it sink in that this was the last time that I’d be there alone. When I saw my home again, there’d be two little girls with me.

That was more than enough to keep the anxiety at bay. A smile on my face and my bag in my hand, I left the condo and headed out front. Haley was there, the engine of her burnt orange Kia crossover rumbling. She got out and ran over the second she laid eyes on me.

“Oh my God!” she shouted, the three words coming out as one all squished together. “Give me that!”

She grabbed my bag and went over to the SUV, setting it inside before returning to my side. She looked me up and down with worried eyes.

“Are you OK? How’re you feeling?”

“Good, I think. My, um, water broke.” I swept my hand toward the stain on my jeans, embarrassed that I’d forgotten to change.

“Holy crap! That means it’s happening. Come on!”

She opened the passenger side door and guided me inside, gently placing her hand on the small of my back. I felt like a helpless old lady, and it took some mental effort to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to go through this on my own, that I’d need people to help me.

Haley shut the door once I was inside the car, then hurried over to the driver’s side and wasted no time getting us on our way.

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