It felt unreal, flat on her back, florescent fixtures floating by overhead one after another. Mag glanced to her right where her mother, Alice, marched in silent disapproval, her lips held thin and tight. She glared straight ahead. For relief, both for her sore back and for emotional comfort, she turned to the left where her doula, Caroline, walked while holding Mag’s hand. When she saw Mag look up Caroline gave her hand a slight squeeze.
“You’ll be fine,” Caroline mouthed.
The gurney stopped abruptly and one of the nurses ushered Alice and Caroline through a side door – the scrub room. The baby was three weeks early and Doctor Makely did not want the other women in the delivery room. Caroline had successfully argued him out of that position, securing spots for herself and Alice. It would be c-section. That fight Caroline had lost.
Mag’s mother had made it abundantly clear she did not think it wise to have this baby. It would ruin her life.
“Who’s going to hire someone like you?” – meaning a thirties-something overweight unwed mother.
“Mom, I already have a good job…” Not a great job, but secure – an agricultural loan specialist at the Department of Agriculture.
“But what about your chances of promotion? A baby will tie you down.” Never mind for the last ten years a week never went by that her mother hadn’t asked when she was going to get married and produce some grandchildren.
The lead nurse leaned to the side and hit the big door-mounted button. The panic doors to the delivery room swooshed open.
“Don’t worry,” the other nurse, the one near her head, assured. “Doctor Makely has done thousands of c-sections.”
Mag offered up a weak smile.
“Hello, Maggie.” Doctor Makely appeared at her side, gloved hands held aloft out of contact with anything. “We’re going to give you a regional anesthesia, so you can remain awake. This is Doctor Chandra. He’s your anesthesiologist.”
Another man stepped over. The thin dark face behind the mask had friendly brown eyes. “We will be using a combined spinal epidural today.” His sentence ended in an upward lilt, making it sound like a question. “It works very quickly. I assure you, you will not feel any pain, but will remain fully awake and will be able to hold your baby.” This too sounded like a question.
A spike of pain interrupted Mag’s return smile.
“We will start that right away.”
Mag’s mother and Caroline came in just as two nurses finished transferring her from the gurney to the delivery table.
“You sit right here,” Doctor Makely told Alice, pointing to a stool near the head of the table. “If you get up you’re out of here. If you feel faint, let the nurses know and they will get you out of here.”
Alice sat as ordered, grim faced.
“Who’s the father?” The phone call home had been grueling. Mag knew her mom would not be happy that she had managed to get pregnant. She felt so stupid, but it had all happened so fast, and she had been so happy. At last, the perfect guy. Only weeks later she found out he was married.
“His name is Bob. He works for the State Department.” They had met at Finnigan’s Bar and Grill. She had gone with some friends after work. He kept making eyes at her all evening, then at last came over and introduced himself. Oh, Bob had been smooth. Real smooth. Bastard.
“So why don’t you get married?”
“He’s married mom.” The silence on the end of the phone was like eternal damnation.
Caroline settled near the head of the table opposite her mother. Two nurses positioned screening over Mag’s diaphragm.
“Are those really necessary?” Caroline objected.
Doctor Makely glared at her and shot a glance at Alice. Caroline understood the silent message. He wasn’t going to take a chance on a civy fainting dead away in the middle of his c-section.
Caroline began massaging Mag’s shoulders as the medical crew settled into their routine.
When Alice found out Bob was not only married but black she had a fit. “This baby is a big mistake, sweetie. It will be too much for you, for it, to go through life… It will be hard. On you. On it.”
“It’s a girl.”
“Yes, dear, but think of the hardships she’ll face… no father.”
Her mother’s reaction made her angry. She had never been like that. When the time came Mag tried to dissuade Alice from flying out to DC, but her mother had insisted.
“You’ll need me there,” her mother told her.
“I have a doula.” Of course Alice had pooh-poohed that.
It was a very odd sensation. She was fully awake, yet only vaguely aware of the activity occurring behind the screens. Not that she felt nothing – just what she felt did not feel as if it was connected to her in any way. Gross movements. Shifting of weight.
A tiny squall came from behind the screen. Doctor Makely stepped to the side and held the baby up in both hands for Mag to see, the skin at the sides of his eyes crinkled from the smile behind his mask.
“A healthy baby girl,” he announced before handing the infant off to a nurse. Mag held her arms out, but the nurse turned away to place the baby on the weighing table.
“Soon,” Caroline assured her. “They have to clean her up first.”
Then the nurse came back, Mag’s newborn baby girl already swaddled and wearing a cap. “She’s beautiful,” the nurse said as Mag cradled her in her arms.
Alice leaned in from the other side, reached out, and put her pinky in the palm of the child.
Mag glanced at her mother. Her mother’s face was alight with joy.
“She’s so tiny,” Alice cooed.
© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.