The morning I got the call started off fairly uneventful. The sky was overcast, with just enough of a chill in the air to require a jacket. I had started my new job on October 6th, and just a week later I could already tell that both the position and the company were going to be a good fit for me and for our family. I can’t tell you how reassuring that was. Things felt like they were falling into place, even though we knew there would still be difficulties ahead.
Michelle had an appointment that morning, and she had a bad feeling about it. I tried to reassure her on the phone the night before. I told her not to be afraid, that this was just a standard visit, and that there was nothing to worry about. I truly believed what I was saying, despite how wrong I turned out to be.
Around 10:30, Michelle called me, sounding more irritated than panicked. She explained that the doctor was sending her to the hospital; her blood pressure was elevated, and she needed to be admitted. They wouldn’t let her drive, so an ambulance was going to transport her and the boys to Vanderbilt. I told her I was on my way, and we hung up.
I put my phone down on the desk and took a breath. At the time, I was sharing an office with the COO of the company. He looked over at me and asked, “Everything all right?”
“They’re taking Michelle to the hospital,” I mumbled.
“Dude, go,” he replied. “You can call us later and fill us in.”
I didn’t hesitate. A minute later, I was in the car and heading up the highway. I actually think I left a half-finished cup of coffee sitting on the desk, though I can’t remember for certain.
Until that day, solo drives from Chattanooga to Nashville had always been quiet, calm stretches of time when I could think about things—usually whatever story I was working on at the time. In the early days of working for the Kirkland’s home office, I stayed in Chattanooga on weekends and drove up every Monday morning. It was nice to have that quiet time to myself. I didn’t always think about stories; sometimes, I just cleared my mind and enjoyed the scenery. The drive through the mountains just a couple hours after sunrise gave me plenty to take in. It was two hours of peace.
This drive was nothing like that.
Instead, my mind was racing. Is everything going to be all right? What are we going to do? What if he comes early? Who can take the boys for a few days so I can focus on Michelle and the baby? Dear God, what if he’s born today? No, that’s not going to happen. But it could happen, so we need a plan. Damn it, I don’t want to be thinking about this. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen. This isn’t what we planned.
Normally, those kinds of thoughts would be limited to some kind of inner monologue. That day, it was out there in the open. I spent half the drive talking to myself. It was one of those moments where, looking back, I probably looked somewhat crazy to anyone who happened to be driving by. But, at that time, I didn’t care what other people thought. I cared that the plans we had made for baby number three were in cinders, and that we needed to come up with a new one.
Sprinkled throughout my ramblings were prayers. Some of them were in the form of questions, asking God why this was happening. Some were one part of a dialogue, with me imagining the other side of it and trying to make sense of the discussion. Most of them, however, were pleas—pleas for Michelle to be safe, for the baby to be safe, for all of this to be over soon (but not too soon), and, maybe most of all, for me to make it to the hospital in time to be there when my wife needed me the most.