I don’t know where to start. I am so glad that I signed up for a Twitter account right before leaving for Oregon and Colorado, because those “tweets” are now my mile markers through the blur of the past few days.
The evening of Thursday, September 25 Lindsey and I flew to Salem, Oregon. Lindsey, is the Two Little Hands Communications Manager, she also coordinates, executes and assists on my outreach events. If you want me to come speak or perform at an event or conference in the future, contact Lindsey. She sometimes refers to herself as, “Rachel’s Handler” which makes me crazy. I think animals have handlers, not people, but whatever. I like to call her my assistant.
Another character in this cast is Natalie. Nat and I have been friends for 20 years. We went on our first dates together.
In the past 20 years we’ve gotten into a bit of trouble together, like when I accidentally lit her hair on fire or when we were sledding down freeway embankments, when the freeway was under construction, and then there was that time I broke my ankle when I was chasing a goose and a rooster was chasing me! (All true stories I swear) We met in 8th grade. Her locker was two down from mine. Somehow we had 7 out of 9 classes together that first year and we became fast friends. Natalie is officially my #1 Fan. (Sorry! I know a lot of you think you are it… nope, it’s Natalie)
When I began writing songs, I would tape record them and give them to her. She keeps everything, even all of our notes passed back and forth through the years. She is practically my personal archivist! (Nat should we release a “Rachel Unplugged”?? .. nah better not I was sort of grumpy in high school, mostly to try and hide how shy I was) So, if there ever is a True Hollywood Story in the works, they should just go straight to Natalie’s house.
Sometime around, oh… 9 months ago, Natalie and I had a conversation. It was a conversation about the future, her future and how it looked like she was going to become a mother. At that time it also looked like she would be taking on motherhood, for the most part, alone. She asked if I would be her Birth Coach. I said, “Yes!” Her due date was September 21st.
Fast forward to THIS weekend.
Lindsey and I landed in Salem and made our way to the hotel. When we got to our room there was only one bed. I called to see if we could get two beds and they said none were unavailable. We considered two rooms, but decided that is not as much fun as one room. Sometimes I think I am reliving the sleepover days. Those of you who have volunteered at ST! events can attest. We stay up late talk, eat, have pillow fights (not really) and laugh (yes really hard). Two rooms would not do! Plus what if one of us slept in, missed the wake-up call, or had no idea what time the events were scheduled! I offered Lindsey the sofa bed, (nice of me eh?) but she said she doesn’t mind sleeping with her boss… err, not how it sounds AT ALL.
We hit the sack, with a serious “pillow barrier” between us. There is nothing more freaky then stretching out and touching a strange someone, in a strange hotel room, in a strange city. Thus, the “pillow barrier.”
In the morning we met Cory and her kids. Cory came bearing gifts! She brought breakfast scones, drinks, candles, a scarf, jam and other fun stuff.
Cory must read my blog. (Hi Cory!) Because the woman brought me cannoli!! FYI, I also love chocolate covered strawberries, English toffee, anything coconut, lemon or lime, The Cheesecake Factory and massages…(hee hee) Oh, Lindsey is single and is looking for a “tall, dark, handsome, funny, smart, single man.” Just thought I’d put that out there. If someone wants to deliver that to her sometime she would be very appreciative! You can even check out her blog first.
We got ready and went to Salem Heights Elementary. I did a signing, story time with one of the kindergarten classes.
After story time, I got ready for an assembly for the whole school. I had a great time, that’s what counts right? The kids had a great time too.
I have to thank Nacho Cordova! Nacho was our photographer and he did a superb job. (Nacho, how’d you make me look so good?) Checkout our Salem days on his site. Here I am with Nacho’s adorable daughter.
After the school visit, Lindsey and I went shopping. I needed to buy PJ’s, since we were down to one bed, and that’s all I am going to say about that. We went to Macys and I did a quick change in the car. I have a fear of getting busted, no pun intended, because I always have to change in the car.
When we finished shopping, we got lost, like we always do. Lindsey gets so mad at Google Maps, and I think it is sort of funny. I mean how lost can we get? We made a few calls, got our bearings and arrived for the Willamette Valley Down Syndrome Association fundraising concert, starring, yours truly. We had another great show! THAT was a “Silly Pizza” that I will never forget!
After the performance we held a “Meet & Greet” so that I get to meet, chat, share, take pictures with and give autographs to all who want it. I knew it was great show because while I was performing, I could see Lindsey cracking up at the back of the hall as she ran some of the technical aspects. And Lindsey has heard all of my jokes a hundred times. Later she said, “Rachel you are way more fun to travel with when you are sleep deprived!” 😉
We grabbed dinner and went back to the hotel.
Saturday, September 27, 2008.
I got up and started getting ready. Today I would perform at the WVDSA’s Buddy Walk. I was doing my hair and makeup when my phone rang. It was Natalie, she said, “Rachel, my water just broke!” I didn’t know what to say. Did you know that water breaking at onset of labor is very Hollywood? It rarely happens in real life! How could this happen? No contractions for days, everything quiet and hoping to wait until Sunday when I get back and her water broke? AHHHHHHH! She still wasn’t really having contractions either… hmmm
Lindsey called Cory who happily rearranged my scheduled performance time, so I could sing before the Buddy Walk, instead of after. (Thank you Cory and crew!!!) Lindsey pulled up flights. We were flying out of Portland an hour and a half away. I found a flight and booked it and off we went to the Buddy Walk. Before the event we had to eat our cannoli!
The Buddy Walk was another great event. We had our Meet and Greet before the performance.
And with that, Lindsey and I ran to the car and sped to the airport! If I was going to catch my flight there was no time to change clothes. Colored fingers and all, I RAN through the airport, feeling a bit like a speeding orange traffic cone or a flare.
The plane landed early and I called Natalie, she was still at home. I got my car and made my way to her house. Natalie laughed when I showed up at her door as “Rachel Coleman.”
Now, remember Lindsey? She stayed in Portland to fill up the car, return it and get on the original flight straight to Denver. The plan was, let’s deliver the baby and I could pull an all-nighter and drive the 8+ hours to Denver. As long as the baby came by midnight, this plan would be fine. My sound check at the Oh Baby Expo in Denver was scheduled at 8:30AM. Looking back, that was sort of a silly plan!
Natalie, her mom, friend Emily and I went to The Birth Center at 7PM. They checked her and though she was having contractions, it was still early labor. This was not good. As we approached the 12 hour mark, it was clear this baby was not going to be born within the time frame that The Birth Center could comfortably and legally accommodate, considering the broken membranes. We packed up and went to the hospital.
That alone was frustrating. It didn’t mean Natalie could not necessarily have the ideal delivery she wanted, but we both knew it meant we would all have to work much harder for it. I sat alone in my car and cried in the parking structure outside of the hospital. It was almost mid-night and it appeared I would be facing yet another defeat. I needed to leave for Denver. How could I leave? Especially right now? I felt like I had just barely proven myself as the best friend in the whole wide world, turning my schedule upside down, grabbing a flight home and even showing up in bright orange, and now I would instantly be the biggest jerk. How can I go up there and say, “Natalie, I’m leaving.” As I sobbed, and put off the inevitable, my sister Rebecca called to see how thing were going. I sobbed and yelled and let it all out. “I AM SO MAD! I can’t be EVERYWHERE I need to be and I PROMISED! I promised to be HERE and I promised to be in Denver! I PROMISED!” Rebecca listened to my frustration and said, “Ray, it sounds like you need a replacement, a back up for yourself. Can I come down and support Natalie?”
I was stunned. Rebecca is two years younger than I am. We were the ultimate picture of sibling rivalry for most of our lives. She made me crazy. For many years I had no relationship with her, I couldn’t stand her! Then three years ago, I saw how much of that was really my fault, not hers. I offered to be her sister again. Nine months after we made peace, I was able to be at the home birth of her first child. In the past 3 years we have become more than sisters, we are great friends. So, here is Rebecca, who had given birth just 2 weeks ago, 2 WEEKS ago to her second son and she was offering to come down at midnight so I could go to Denver? I cried even harder, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I went up to Labor & Delivery with puffy red eyes, and found the rest of my now puffy, red-eyed team. I asked to have a minute alone with Natalie. “Nat, I have to go.” The tears streamed for both of us. “I have to drive to Denver, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. Don’t hate me.” Natalie looked back at me through tears and said, “Rachel I can’t stand the thought of hundreds of little children being disappointed that you are not there.” I told her Rebecca was coming. We hugged. I kissed her on the head and I cried my way into the hallway, still feeling fairly defeated. Rebecca was already in the hall with Natalie’s mom and Emily. Aaron, my husband was also standing there. Huh?
Aaron and I walked down the hall and he said, “Come on. We’re going to Denver. You are not doing this alone.” I asked where our kids happened to be. Aaron had called my mom, packed the girls’ bags, dropped them off at mom’s house and made it to the hospital in record time, to make sure I didn’t try to go it alone. As we walked out of the hospital we passed this mural on the wall of Starbucks
We picked up a rental car and drove into the night. He took the first shift, since I was exhausted. He blared Rush albums, as I slept. For me it is REALLY hard to sleep through Rush. It is Aaron’s favorite band and… well it’s not at all my favorite band… at all. Geddy Lee’s high pitched voice was piercing through my dreams!! I tossed and turned in the uncomfortable passenger seat and plotted my revenge. What would I listen to while he tried to sleep? 😉
“Hey, wake up. Can you drive?” We were in the middle of nowhere. I sat up. I had slept, on and off, for close to 4 hours. “Yes, I can drive.” We filled up the car and bought some pringles, nibs and a cherry coke for me, a code red for him. I took my turn driving. I sang “The Silly Pizza Song” for 4 straight hours 😉 Just kidding. I listened to Shawn Colvin and did my best to out-sing and out-harmonize her on every single song, singing at the top of my lungs. The sun came up. I kept driving. My phone buzzed with a message from my friend Cathy who lives in NV, she had sent me driving directions to the convention center. (Thank you Cathy!) I pulled up to the convention center at 8AM listening to The Pixies, “Where is My Mind?” Fitting.
Sound check was set for 8:30AM. Whew, that was close! I re-did my hair, and put new make-up on top of old make-up, taped my fingers and put my Signing Time clothes on. I called Natalie. She had finally progressed to 6cm after more than 24 hours of labor. A c-section was on hold. Are you kidding me? I might make it back for the birth? Aaron found a flight back to Salt Lake City and we booked it. I hit the stage. Were my eyes red? Was my voice haggard from dueling with Shawn Colvin for 4 hours? I don’t know. Was my brain foggy from lack of sleep, well yes. I smiled, sang, and told them the truth. “My best friend is in labor and I am her coach. I flew home from Oregon yesterday and then drove straight here all night. Natalie said she couldn’t stand the thought of causing such disappointment for your families, if I did not come.” The Signing Time families in the audience signed “Thank you.” I stayed just long enough to take a handful of pictures and sign a handful of autographs.
Aaron and I ran to the car and sped off to catch our flight back to Salt Lake. He had filled the tank while I was singing.
If I hadn’t gone to Ghana, Africa twice this year, I don’t think we would have made the flight. We did not check-in in time. The computer would not let us check-in, but I have Gold Medallion status because of those Africa miles with Delta and they made and exception and we ran through the Denver airport, me in my bright orange again. As I ran passed, people looked bewildered at my taped fingers and outfit and asked, “Go Broncos?” I had no idea what they meant. Then Aaron explained the Broncos colors are orange and blue and he started laughing. Ok, “Go Broncos!” When we got on the plane I happened to be seated next to a woman who was also wearing orange.
I slept on the plane. This plane landed early too! I ran to my car, dragging my carry-on bag behind me. I imagine Aaron walked to his. I twittered my landing and one of my dear friends, twittered back, “Go! Hurry to hospital! All cake and eating it too!” I had to smile, everyone around me, friends from coast to coast, fans across the country, they were all pulling for me to be there with Natalie.
I called Natalie, “I am back and I am wearing orange again!” While I was gone she had pitocin and an epidural, she had been laboring for over 36 hours and was exhausted.
I returned to Labor & Delivery and got the details. Since Nat was still at 6cm, we were all hoping that 7 to 10cm would happen quickly. The nurses came in and updated me. Emily and Nat’s mom fell asleep. Then the nurse came back in and asked for my autograph. I looked at Natalie and we both started laughing. Then a bunch of nurses came in, all fans of the show. They apologized to Natalie, saying, “Our kids, love Rachel. They’ll never believe we met her!” Natalie said she was used to it, she’d known me forever and it was part of the deal. Besides, we all know how Natalie feels, “There’s no way I am going to disappoint a bunch of little kids.” I handed out Signing Time temporary tattoos and I autographed pictures of me and Alex and Leah.
The evening wore on, Natalie rested. The nurse midwife came to check the progress. Bad news. Still at 6cm. The last 8 hours she had stayed at 6 and now her cervix was swelling and the baby’s head was moulding to try to come through at 6cm. I put on scrubs, so did Natalie’s mom. I kept telling myself, “breathe and don’t pass out.” Technically had two c-sections with Lucy, but had never been the one standing up through it, being supportive, I got to experience the other side of the table.
At 6:38PM my best friend Natalie became a mom. When they brought Baby Nicholas into the world, everybody in the OR room gasped variations of “What a beautiful baby!”
I spent the night in the hospital with Natalie and Nicholas, even changed his first diapers. I help Nat figure out the whole breastfeeding thing. We all slept a little.
The following morning was Monday, I drove home. The house was empty, the girls were in school. Aaron was at work. I autographed 300 Baby Signing Time covers for the upcoming release.
I put them in a box on my front porch and called my Two Little Hands office, “The covers are done. But someone needs to pick them up. They are on my porch. I am going to sleep. Please don’t knock.”
I slept. Around 4:00PM Leah and Lucy woke me up. “Mommy!! You are home!!” My eyes had headaches. My head felt heavy. I squinted at my girls, reminding myself, “Oh yeah, that’s right I am a mom too.” I sort of unpacked. I sort of helped the girls with their homework. I felt like I had been gone for ages. Was there even food in the fridge? Leah came down the hall around 6:00PM and said, “Something smells weird in the hall!” I was too foggy to care. Besides a lot of things could smell “weird” in a hall. Awhile later I walked down the hall and noticed, “Hey something smells weird!” It smelled like something was burning. “AARON I SMELL FIRE!!! COME HERE!” Aaron ran down the hall and we went from room to room. It was strongest in Leah’s room. I double checked outlets to see if a plug had gone crazy, but found nothing. Aaron ran downstairs to see if it was coming from the basement. We couldn’t find it! No smoke, just that smell. Some of our neighbors had an electrical fire in their wall a few months ago and I was not going to risk it. “I AM CALLING 911!” I yelled as Aaron came back up stairs and put his hands on the attic ceiling entrance in our closet, to see if it was hot.
The 911 operator told us to “Get out of the house.” I grabbed Lucy, put her in her power wheel chair, and we went across the street. Aaron and Leah followed us out. We could already hear the fire engines coming. I guess our neighbors heard it too because they all came pouring out. They could see I had been, tired, crying, upset but they didn’t know it had not been about the “fire.” A simple, “Are you okay?” was answered with a flood of tears. “I am so tired!” Is all I could get out… and then, “See I flew to Oregon…” and then I stopped. I mean really! Really? Did all of that really even happen? Who would believe it. “I’m just really, really tired.” I repeated.
The firefighters could smell the burning, but they couldn’t find the source. Aaron finally went in with them and came out holding Leah’s favorite hat.
And then he turned it around.
The sweet smell of burnt acrylic. Leah burst into tears, “That’s my favorite hat!” Yep, her favorite hat that accidentally got tossed on top of her desk lamp and ended up with a lightbulb shaped hole burnt right through it. So, if any of you are going to Disneyland anytime soon, I would sure appreciate it if you kept an eye out for a new “Grumpy Hat” for my daughter. See… I am tired. Really, really tired.