“Its a good thing you went into labor before you opened your shower presents,” Mrs. Stewart said to Abby.
“Oh, why?” Abby asked looking over at her pile of presents.
“Because you would have ended up with a bunch of girl stuff!” Mrs. Rivers, Mrs. Stewart, and Momma shouted.
“You thought I was having a girl?” Abby asked as she cradled Zach Junior.
“I bought this adorable dress,” Mrs. Stewart said.
“We got you a pink quilt,” Mrs. Rivers and Jessie-Maria said at the same time.
“I made a pink jumper,” Jaci said.
“And why would you think I was having a girl?” Abby asked. “I do believe the invitation said that any clothes or the like be yellow.”
“Well we assumed that since you couldn’t think of any girl names that you were having a girl!” Mrs. Stewart said. “It happened to me. Fowler and I came up with Gavin at the last second. To think, the entire time he was in the womb, I was calling him Sarah.”
The room erupted in laughter.
“And your father did think you were a Larry,” Momma joked.
The room kept on laughing.
“We never found out which names won!” Grandma Shirley shouted. She looked at Momma’s stomach.
“And from the looks of it, you’re going to be needing them very soon,” Grandma Shirley continued.
“One month to go,” Momma said. “My doctors’ won’t let me go farther than thirty-five weeks.”
“So when are you guys going to ‘move’ to Pittsfield?” Aunt Jane asked as Virginia and I counted the name votes.
“Well the plan is the Monday after Mother’s Day,” Momma said. “I’ll be around thirty-three weeks then. Let’s just pray I can still fit in the car!”
“Yes,” Mrs. Rivers laughed.
“We have the names!” Virginia and I shouted after a couple more minutes of miscellaneous chatter.
“Baby A’s name is,” Virginia started.
“Love!” I finished.
“How cute!” Mrs. Rivers gushed.
“I love it, but your father might be a little disgruntal,” Momma said.
“Why? What did he want?” I asked.
“Natasha!” Momma shouted. “How dare he want to name our only girl Natasha!”
“Hey!” Noel, Megan, Bella, Jaci, Abby, and I shouted.
“Natasha can be her middle name,” Grandma Shirley compromised. “What’s Baby B’s name?”
“Baby B’s name is,” I started.
“Emmanuel!” Virginia finished.
“What does Emmanuel mean again?” Ms. Donna asked.
“God is with us,” Jaci said proudly. “I came up with that one.”
“I was kind of hoping for Gabriel,” Momma said. “It’s a solid middle name though.”
“And finally Baby C’s name is,” Virginia and I said in unison, “AVERY!”
“Christmas Elf!” Noel shouted.
“And what will little Avery’s middle name be?” Ms. Donna joked.
“Joseph,” I said. “God shall add another son…and He did!”
Once again, everyone laughed.
I love my family.
“You can’t be serious!” Momma shouted. “You are not going to take a CAMPING trip on Mother’s Day weekend and when your wife’s going to have triplets any day now!”
“Now, Riley,” Daddy said trying to get Momma to calm down. “This was the only week everybody could come.”
“Not everybody,” I grumbled as I put a spoonful of cereal in my mouth.
“I promise you, Natalie, that I’ll take you camping this summer,” Daddy said. “Just you and me if you want it that way.”
“Still, it’s not fair. Just because I’m in a wheelchair camping automatically becomes one of the things I can’t do,” I said. “Well Bennet’s going!”
“You would just make things even more complicated than they already are,” Daddy blurted. “There are going to be four babies on this trip! Who ever heard of taking babies on a camping trip!”
“Oh so only complete paraplegics and babies are complications,” I said. “Incomplete paraplegics and toddlers are perfectly fine.”
“Somebody’s gotta stay home with your mother,” Daddy tried.
“You can help me pack,” Momma said to me. “If I didn’t know better I’d say that you Steve Matthews are trying to get out of packing.”
“We’ll be back in plenty of time to take all the Florida and North Adams mothers to dinner,” Daddy said.
Momma gave a huge breath.
“Riley, are you all right?” Daddy asked.
“False contractions,” Momma said sitting down. “I’m fine. Your sleeping bag is in the basement.”
“Thank you ladies for understanding,” Daddy said. “We’ll be taking Clifford and Betsy if you don’t mind.”
Clifford was our brand new red fifteen seater van.
“You can’t leave us without a car!” Momma shouted. “Not that we’ll be going anywhere, but you can’t leave your pregnant wife without any form of transportation.”
“Don’t worry,” Daddy said. “Bennet’s not taking his Mustang. He’s going to leave it with you two for the weekend.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to get into that thing,” Momma said in a serious voice. Daddy laughed and walked away.
“So it’s just going to be the two of us,” Momma said. “Just like old times, huh?”
“I guess,” I sighed.
But somehow, this time was very very different.
“The house is so quiet,” I said as I helped Momma pack. “I keep thinking I’m about to hear Megan cry out or see Bella running towards me with a new picture.”
“It sure does seem that way,” Momma said. “It’s kinda creepy just the two of us being in this huge house. What time is it?”
“It’s almost midnight,” I said looking at the clock.
“That’s enough packing for tonight,” Momma said flopping into a chair. I yawned.
“Go to sleep, Natalie,” Momma said. “I’m not going to do anymore packing tonight.”
“Do you need me to help you to your room?” I asked even though I couldn’t really offer her any help.
“No, baby,” Momma said. “I’ll probably not even go to sleep tonight. I took a nap around five. These babies are on a clock of their own.”
“Goodnight,” I said giving Momma a kiss.
“Goodnight,” I said to Momma’s belly and giving it a kiss.
Two hours later, I heard a scream.
“Noel?” I asked waking up. I looked over to her side of the bed and sighed. Noel was off having fun in the woods while I was stuck doing her packing.
“Natalie!” Momma cried. “Natalie!”
“Coming!” I called back. I transferred to my wheelchair and rolled towards her room.
“Momma?” I asked pushing the door open.
“Natalie,” Momma said gravely, “I’m in labor.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I thought I was having Braxton Hicks contractions,” Momma said. “But my water just broke.”
“Where’s the phone?” I asked looking at Momma’s nightstand.
“Honey, you’re going to have to drive me,” Momma groaned.
“What!” I cried. “If you haven’t noticed, I can’t hit the gas pedal. I’ll call 911. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Baby, the hospital in North Adams doesn’t have dispatchers at night. It’s going to take the paramedics at least an hour to get here and at least another hour back. My contractions are super close together,” Momma said. “You’re going to have to drive me.”
“I can’t!” I cried. “Can’t you drive?”
“You can,” Momma said. “We have Bennet’s car. He forgot to take the hand controls off of it.”
“Is there someone we can call?” I asked even though I knew everybody was on the camping trip.
Momma didn’t answer, and I assumed it was because of a contraction.
“Can you get up?” I asked when the contraction was over.
Momma nodded and got up.
I rolled out of her room and picked up the car keys.
“Got your bag?” I asked as Momma stumbled into the kitchen.
“No,” Momma said. “Can you go get it? I’ll get into the car.”
I got Momma’s bag and rolled out of the house.
It was drizzling. I smiled a little.
“Thank You for sending the rain,” I prayed. “Please help me drive. I’ve never tried before.”
“Natalie!” Momma hollered.
I rolled faster towards Bennet’s blue gratified Mustang. I transferred into the driver’s seat.
“Now,” Momma started.
“I have to get my wheelchair in the car,” I said taking off one of the wheels.
“Leave it,” Momma said. “They have wheelchairs at the hospital.”
I sighed. I know it’s weird, but I’m as crazy about my wheelchair as Bennet was about his Mustang.
“All right,” Momma groaned. “Just hurry up!”
I got my wheelchair into the car and turned the key.
The sound of the car stared me a little bit, but then I started to smile. I had officially gone bonkers.
“Now,” Momma smiled. “How do you work this thing?”
“Big lever for break. Little one for gas,” I said repeating Bennet’s words.
I put my left hand on the wheel, said a slight prayer, and pushed down on the small lever button thingy.
The car barely moved, but I was driving.
“Hurry up!” Momma screamed.
I pushed down hard on the gas lever and the car went flying.
“Turn!” Momma screamed.
I gave the wheel an awkward jerk. We missed the mailbox.
“What’s the speed limit!” I asked.
“I don’t care!” Momma screamed.
I was pretty sure the speed limit wasn’t seventy, which was what I was doing, but I didn’t care. My mother’s voice scared me. I went up to eighty.
My left hand was shaking by the time we got onto the highway. Momma’s muffles were getting louder and each one sounded more painful.
“You’re doing good, baby,” Momma said about thirty minutes after I started driving. She started to inhale deeply.
I wanted to start doing eight-five or maybe even ninety, but instead I asked a question.
“Did you call Dad?” I asked.
Momma fumbled for her phone and dialed Daddy’s number.
“Hello?” Daddy’s sleepy voice asked.
“Daddy!” I shouted.
“Natalie, what’s wrong?” Daddy asked recognizing the worry in my voice.
“Get in the other lane!” Momma cried. I turned into another lane.
“What’s wrong?” Daddy repeated.
“I’m in labor!” Momma cried.
“Ah!” I screamed as I barely missed the railing. Driving with only one hand is a lot harder than it looks.
“Where are you?” Daddy asked.
“On the highway,” Momma said.
“You’re driving?” Daddy asked. “I thought you couldn’t get into the driver’s seat.”
“I’m not driving!” Momma screamed through a contraction.
“Then who is?” Daddy asked.
“I am,” I said as I saw the police lights behind me.
“And on the phone?” Daddy asked. “Wait! How are you driving? Why didn’t you dial 911!”
“Cause I can’t wait two hours!” Momma yelled.
“Natalie, where are you?” Daddy asked.
Momma cried out, and I started going eighty-something.
The police siren started to holler, but I didn’t care. I got off at the hospital exit.
“Why are there sirens?” Daddy asked. I could hear him watching everybody up.
“Cause I’m speeding!” I shouted as I avoided a poll.
“She’s actually doing pretty good for one hand and first time,” Momma laughed. She then started to scream.
“How are you driving?” Daddy asked.
“Bennet forgot to take the hand controls off,” I said pulling into the hospital.
“Thank the Lord for Bennet Edwards,” Daddy mumbled.
“You did good, baby,” Momma said giving me a kiss before getting out of the car.
I reached back to get my wheelchair when I heard the sound of a car door opening.
I stared up at the face of an officer.
“You’re under arrest,” He said putting handcuffs on me. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”