As the nurses took charge the doctor turned his attention towards Ms. Emily Tille. She was a petite woman. She had veiny hands and tiny wrists, short light brown hair atop a long but deliberate face. Her pregnancy had left her body mostly untouched, a small bump and swollen feet, her sharper features more muted, the edges diminished under her added weight. She was pretty, the doctor had thought it since the day they met, young and pretty and pregnant. She lay with her eyes closed, her neck at a slight bend, pushed against the pillow. “Are you okay Ms. Tille? Do you feel all right?” And she opened her eyes for a second, only to close them in response.
It was about as much as Stevens had expected. For fifteen hours he’d watched this woman teeter on the edges of sanity as her body relentlessly pushed her along its biological apex. Hour by hour the strain of labor had taken away all of the pieces she had accumulated over the past nine months, and it was hard for him to see what was left. It started with her courage, her eyes swelling alongside the pain, her nails digging past their breaking point. And then it went after her determination, every push less successful, her breathing without rhythm. And as her strength waned their words no longer reached her, both doctor and nurse unable to communicate. And soon she would look towards the ceiling for a different set of instructions, and her lips moved soundlessly and her hands began to shake, and they noticed that her chest no longer rose. And in seconds she would gasp for air, choking on it, and the nurses would rush to her side where instead of words they spoke in pictures, of a mother and child, of life in unimaginable bliss. And the mother would look at them, and shake her head, and look back towards the ceiling, and start again, and eventually she had no strength left, and then the screams came.
The doctor was witness to all this. He knew that if it were just this once he might be okay, but more and more he saw these things. He thought of his drive home tonight, long winding roads that would belong only to this child and to these thoughts. To the terror on the mothers face as she watched some invisible narrative between the ceiling lights and her sunken face. And he pictured his wife of twenty years who still woke every time he entered the room, and of her cloudy eyes that saw right away all that he had seen and of her lips that would whisper tiny consolations as she wrapped her arms around his chest…
“Emily… Emily. Here’s your son.” The nurses had finished their preparations and began to walk towards the mother, the older one lightly nudging the doctor to bring him back. There was a visible excitement on their faces. The boy had charmed them just as quickly as he had charmed the doctor, and any concern over the mother and the labor was lost in a sea of cooing noises directed towards the child. They stopped and called again, this time Emily opened her eyes. The room was smaller than she remembered. It had tiled beige floors and blue walls that curved around the ceilings. There were wooden window shades blotting out all but the edges of the sun. At the foot of her bed was the doctor and to her right the boy.
He wiggled as he was placed in her arms. He was the warmest thing she had ever held, and so she held him closer. She watched as the faces of her three observers widened in earnestness and she rocked the boy and waited, for any of those same feelings to take over. For a glimpse of what those nurses saw as they whispered by her beside. She put the boy up to her chest, she stared into his face, but she couldn’t see it. The child, tiny and foreign, was completely detached from anything she understood. He belonged to a world that no longer existed, and she wished she could send him back. She pushed the child away and as the doctor took hold she fell onto her side in tears. Stevens walked towards the window, the sun was approaching its highest point and as he tugged on the shade a tiny streak of light cut right across the boys face.
“Emily… It’s okay honey. You’re tired and you need some rest. Your boy will be waiting for you when you’re ready. I can already tell, this is a strong boy and he’ll wait.”
The boy blinked warmly at the world.