It was still dark outside when my husband and I started up I-26 on Feb. 18. We pulled off the interstate at Exit 205. It was a drive I'd been making with regularity.
This morning was different, though. I'd skipped breakfast, even coffee, just like I'd been instructed. I was nervous.
Instead of heading to my OB-GYN's office off University Boulevard like I'd become so used to doing, we parked in the half-empty lot in front of Trident Medical Center.
We checked in at registration, filled out our paperwork and were directed upstairs.
After 39 long weeks, it was time to meet our baby.
Esther arrived before 9 a.m. via c-section on the hospital's second floor, just like we'd planned. We hadn't known that she was going to be a girl, convinced that by waiting we were unwrapping a birthday gift from God, one of life's truly great surprises.
Is there anything so magical as the moment a baby is born? Thirteen weeks later, I'm still reeling from it.
I cried on the operating table as the doctor finished his work. I couldn't believe I'd given birth to another daughter. Our first had been delivered by the same surgeon on the same hospital floor three years earlier. In the haze of my epidural, a ridiculous thought crossed my mind before we'd even chosen Esther's name. How were we going to pay for two weddings?
As a health reporter, it's my job to be impartial. I try to spread my business around town. I see a primary care doctor in West Ashley, a dermatologist in Mount Pleasant and occasionally a chiropractor on Daniel Island. The only time I've ever needed to go to an emergency room, I asked my husband to drive me downtown.
That said, Trident's labor and delivery floor will always hold a special place in my heart. It's where we became a family.
I'm hardly alone. Tens of thousands of women have given birth at Trident since the hospital first opened for business in 1975. A spokesman for the medical center told me last week in the past three years alone, more than 8,000 babies have been delivered there.
Soon, those deliveries will stop.
In mid-July, the hospital will transfer all labor and delivery services from Trident's North Charleston campus to Summerville Medical Center, which is likewise owned by the Nashville-based HCA Healthcare. The lullaby that Trident plays over its loudspeaker each time a baby is born will go quiet.
The move is intended to create more space in North Charleston for Trident's heart, stroke, lung and orthopedic patients. In turn, the Summerville hospital has been outfitted with $53 million worth of renovations to welcome the new staff, patients and parents.
Hospital leaders are excited about the changes. Still, there's a certain wistfulness as they close this chapter and start another.
That's why they've decided to commemorate more than four decades of births at Trident with an e-book titled, "The Last Lullaby." They're asking the public to submit their own stories to be included in the book.
My birth story isn't incredibly remarkable (except to me, of course). But others' certainly are.
I wrote an article a few years ago about a baby who was born at Trident at 22 weeks gestation. The OB-GYN who delivered the child (the same doctor who delivered my babies) tried to admit the mother to a hospital with a higher-level nursery when she went into labor. But they wouldn't take Amanda Segura because her tiny fetus wasn't considered viable outside the womb.
Amanda gave birth at Trident instead. At the time, doctors believed Jayden Segura may have been the smallest infant ever born in South Carolina who survived.
“It was absolutely amazing," Jayden's neonatologist told me. "It’s life right there — happening in front of you.”
If you have a birth story set at Trident that you'd like to share, email up to 200 words and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.