The neighbor looked at both of them and said, “Thank you for listening to me. I know you have a lot to do with your baby coming very soon. It’s just that I never have really talked about Thomas much over the years.”
“Hey, we understand,” the wife said. “My husband and I are glad you came down to visit with us because we want all the support … in a healthy way … that we can get.”
“Thank you,” the neighbor said. “I must be getting home now. The sun is setting and darkness falls pretty quickly. Thank you again and I’ll be seeing you all soon.”
She got up from the couch, got her purse and the husband helped her to the door. As he opened it, he leaned over and gave her one final hug. He also whispered into her ear, “You are a kind soul. Don’t ever forget it.”
The neighbor smiled briefly, yet walked out of the door briskly.
After closing the front door, both the husband and wife looked at one another and let out a sigh.
“That … was … tough,” the husband said.
“Yeah, what a brave woman, honey,” the wife said.
“Well I know another brave woman, too,” he said, sitting back down on the couch next to her. They looked at one another in the eyes for a minute, simply enjoying the present moment and remembering their love for one another. He reached over and gently kissed her on the lips.
The wife started shedding a tear. She didn’t mind, especially after hearing the neighbor’s story. In fact, for both of them, that neighbor helped put their own situation into perspective.
Not that it improved anything, but it let them see how much their lives will be affected by their baby.
Both of them thought it was a good idea to head off and get some sleep. Their weekend was ending and the husband was going back to the work grind in a matter of hours.
As morning dawned, the wife woke up first and managed to get out of bed and head for the bathroom. She made it about halfway before feeling a bit weak, reaching out for a nearby chair and plopping down in it.
That noise woke up the husband.
“Honey, are you OK?”
“I don’t know. I’m feeling a bit weak right now and don’t know why.”
The husband turned over and looked at his wife. He looked at her and felt like something was not right.
“You look a little ashen in the face, honey,” he said. “Do you think I ought to call the doctor’s office?”
“Yeah, that might be a good idea because I need to go to the bathroom and don’t have the strength to get there.”
The husband quickly got out of bed, got next to his wife, helped her up and guided her into the bathroom. She was OK after that and he left her alone.
The husband closed the bathroom door and stayed in the bedroom, waiting to see if she’d need any help. A few minutes passed … then a couple of more. He wasn’t hearing any noise from the bathroom and, despite their own boundaries around each other’s private times, felt the need to check on her.
He opened the bathroom door to find her slumped over on the commode.
“Oh God no!” he said.
He reached over and grabbed his cell phone and dialed 911. Once the operator came on the phone, he started telling her about the situation. An ambulance was on the way.
The husband put his phone down and had it on speaker.
“What do I do about my wife?” he asked the operator.
“Is she conscious?”
“OK, you want to raise her head up. Being slumped over like that for a long period of time isn’t good. Just help her keep her head up and the ambulance is about two minutes away.”
The husband was panicked. Here his wife was, carrying their child … and the thoughts about the child’s health and well-being ran through his head like a freight train.
“Sir, the ambulance is right outside your front door.”
“How can I get to them and open the door while I’m holding my wife, damn it?”
“OK sir. Your wife, sir, has she moved any since you have been next to her?”
“No she’s not. How do I get to the door and … ”
“Let her head rest backward for a minute, sir, and you go to the front door. How far are you away from it?”
“About 10 seconds.”
“OK sir, they are there. You hear them?”
“Yes I do.”
He rested his wife’s head backward and ran to the front door. He opened it and directed the paramedics to his bathroom. They got in there and started working to bring his wife back into a conscious state.
The husband was beside himself. “What’s going to happen here? She’s pregnant and nearly going to be giving birth!” he said.
“Sir, grab your phone and step outside while we take care of your wife, please,” a paramedic said. “Thank you.”
“Sir, we can see that. I know, sir, this is a rough time for you. Grab your phone and go into the bedroom, please.”
The husband did so, and sat on the edge of the bed. Emotions from sadness to anger ran through his entire body like an out-of-control freight train.
He kept looking inside the bathroom here and there, seeing the paramedics put some type of saline pack into his wife’s arm and move her off the commode and onto her back on the bathroom floor.
One of the paramedics walked out of the bathroom and went outside to grab the gurney that they secured just outside the front door. They didn’t bring it in immediately because they weren’t sure that they would need it.
Now they knew that they would.
The husband saw it come into the bedroom and said, “What are you doing?”
“We’re going to put your wife on here and take her to the hospital. She needs a lot more care right now and we want to make sure the baby is safe.”
“Is she alive?” the husband asked.
“Yes sir, we have a pulse and we also checked on the baby, too. It kicked for us.”
The husband heard that and it caused a momentary sense of relief, yet he could not let his guard down.
After a few minutes, the paramedics brought his wife out on the gurney and took her to the ambulance. The husband had grabbed a pair of sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a sports cap to put on.
“Look sir, follow us to the hospital, OK,” the paramedic said. “We’re about 4-5 minutes away but we’re going to pick up the pace. Just follow us, turn your lights on and you’ll be OK to be behind us.”
“OK thanks,” he said.
So the ambulance pulled out from the home, swirling red-and-white flashing lights on top, and the husband following in his truck.
They motored through 3-4 intersections and arrived at Mid-Town Hospital’s emergency room entrance. The ambulance pulled in and the husband parked just outside. He got out and hurried to his wife’s side. He saw her and it scared him. He’d never seen his wife so vulnerable and uneasy. For years, she had been the rock of their relationship … and now, he had to be the tough one.
Paramedics got her into an emergency room area and nurses began coming to her aid. The husband tried to get in and stay by his wife’s side, but he was redirected to sign paperwork in the admitting area. At this point, all he could do was leave it in the hands of the physicians.
He got the paperwork from the main window and sat down. He started filling out paper after paper. Insurance. Health conditions. Authorization for care. On and on it went … almost as much as signing a mortgage on a home.
A nurse called out from the door.
“Douglas, Thomas Douglas? Would you please come this way, sir?”
Thomas looked up and started walking briskly with the nurse.
They arrived at the room where his wife was being taken care of now.
She had regained a semblance of consciousness and looked up at him.
“Oh honey …” was all she could get out before she started to cry.
“Ah Angela, please don’t cry dear,” Thomas said. “It’s OK. The baby is OK. Everything is OK.” He grabbed her hand, leaned over and kissed her forehead.
Their primary care physician walked in the room at that time.
“Hi folks, sorry I couldn’t get here sooner,” Dr. Fred Backton said. “I had two other patients with emergencies and was able to take care of them. So it looks like Angela had some complications this morning, right?”
“Yes, she lost consciousness at home,” Thomas said.
“I understand. Angela, can you hear me?”
“Good. We’re going to run a few tests this morning on you and the baby. I am not sure right now, but we are pretty close to your birth date. I’m not sure if you all are prepared for this, but if things look like it would help mother and child together … you might be having a baby today.”
Thomas and Angela looked at the doctor puzzled.
“What do you mean? She’s not due for another month or so,” Thomas said.
“That’s true, and I know that her child has special issues going on, too,” he said. “I’m looking to make sure both mother and child are safe and well. Let me see what the test results come back and look like. Thomas, she’s going to be here at least overnight. I’ll get the nurses to work on getting her a private room. In the meantime, I’d like to have a minute with you outside. Not long, just a minute.”
The doctor went over to Angela and said, “You are OK. The baby appears to be OK, too. These tests, Angela, are important so do your best to simply follow directions over the next few hours and I’ll see you again soon.”
Thomas and Dr. Backton got outside the room and started walking toward the nurse’s station. The doctors stopped Thomas halfway down.
“Thomas, tell me what date it is?”
“What? Well, it’s December 23.”
“Right. Are you against having a Christmas baby?”
“Doc, what are you talking about? Is there something you didn’t say in there that you want to tell me now?”
“Yes. Angela needs to give birth to her child soon. I’ve seen this situation occur in other mothers and it is really imperative that she give birth because not only of her health but that of the child’s, too.”
“Are you talking about inducing labor?”
“Obviously, Thomas. We need to get more alert and a bit stronger before getting this done. I want your child to have as best a shot at a healthy life as you do.”
“Well, we both know that she’s going to have issues, doc. You already have told us about her cleft lip and cleft palate. I mean … what if she has other issues?”
The doctor leaned over and grabbed Thomas’ forearm. “Look, I did not see any other indication of other issues beside that one. We can tell a lot faster now than 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Why don’t you go and get a cup of coffee or a Coke at the hospital restaurant? She’s in good hands right now. You should simply take a breather … for your good. I’ll be around for a little bit, making sure the orders are in for her care. Once the test results come back later this afternoon, then I’ll have a better gauge on how to handle this situation.”
Thomas looked at the doctor. He was tired, frustrated and simply was not able to think too clearly himself.
“OK I’ll go off and spend a few minutes getting some food or something. Will you call me?”
“Yes, either I or someone from my office will call you within 3-4 hours. Just go, take care of yourself and I’ll chat with you later.”
They shook hands and went their separate ways.
Thomas took a break, sat down at a table and started eating a Turkey sandwich with chips and a Coke. His heart rate was to the moon and back, yet he did his best to calm down.
After 20 minutes, he got up, threw away his stuff and started walking back down toward the emergency room area. Thoughts ran through his mind. “What about the baby’s care? Will Angela be hurt for life? How will my boss understand that I’m not at work because my wife almost lost our baby? Why can’t my family support me at this time? Who cares about us?”
Just as he got back into the waiting room area, he looked over and saw two familiar faces sitting next to one another.
The neighbor and their pastor.
“Patsy? Father McGregor? What are you doing here?” Thomas asked.
“I heard the ambulance roll by my house, and I had a hunch that Angela was sick,” Patsy Abernathy said. “She really didn’t look that great last night. But I was too caught up in my own stuff to even say a word.”
Father Jeremy McGregor of St. James Episcopal Church looked over and said, “Yeah and Patsy called the church office to let us know what was going on. She holds some pretty deep clout at the church, for an old-timer, and told us what was going on with you and Angela.”
Thomas just looked at them both and broke down. He put his head in his hands and started weeping. Father McGregor and Patsy both wrapped their arms around Thomas and simply held him. Thomas had been so lacking of support and nurturing for himself in these past few hours. In fact, Thomas had not had much support at all during these months with Angela’s pregnancy.
He just cried for a few minutes, then grabbed some tissue Patsy had given him and blew his nose and cleaned up his eyes.
“Father, you know my wife and I aren’t really churchgoers,” Thomas said. “I mean, we do believe in God and stuff but we just don’t get into that church stuff a lot.”
“Yeah, you’re not alone in that world and I’m not here about all that right now,” Father McGregor said. “I’m simply here to support you at this time, offer a shoulder to lean on or cry on, and help. That’s it.”
Patsy looked at Father McGregor, then at Thomas. “Hey buddy, I’ve watched Father McGregor grow into quite a priest. He and his wife are good people. Yet I know … remember … what you are going through. Remember?”
She winked at Thomas.
“Yeah, I know you do, Patsy.”
All three sat down in the waiting room area for a minute, then Thomas got up and asked if he could go in and see Angela. He was told yes, just wait a couple of minutes and he could go in. He asked if he could take another person in with him. The nurse said, “Only one other person, sir. She’s OK with two people for a short period of time but not long. I’ll get you back there.”
Thomas walked over and said, “Father, could you come in with me when I see Angela now?”
“I’d be honored, Thomas. Of course I will. Patsy? Are you OK out here?”
“Of course, just tell her I’m here, too, and that I love her,” she said.
They were led to Angela’s room and she was hooked up to a saline solution as well as a heart monitor. She had been cleaned up a little and had some juice next to her on a table.
“Hi honey,” Thomas said as he walked toward her. He leaned over and kissed her on the lips. “Umm, look who came to check on you? Father McGregor from St. James.”
Angela looked at him, squinted her eyes and saw that, yes, it was the priest that she’d seen at St. James when she and Thomas went on occasion.
“Ah hello Father,” she said.
“Hi Angela. Your friend Patsy called me this morning … by the way, she’s outside and sends her love to you … and told me about what’s going with you, Thomas and your baby.”
“Oh no, she told you? I didn’t want many people to know because it would be just too much trouble for others to hear.”
“Well, Patsy is one of those wonderful souls that has been a member at St. James for more than 30 years. She’s helped so many people out that are in need, especially families who have children with craniofacial anomalies and other special needs. She’s a pretty incredible woman.”
“We know, Father, we know,” Thomas said.
“Angela, is there anything that I can do for you while I’m here right now? I cannot stay long in the room myself, and I want you and Thomas to have your time.”
“No Father, there really isn’t anything. The only thing I can think of is if you’d simply say a silent prayer, I guess, for the baby’s safe birth. I’ve been told that I’m going to be giving birth in the next 24 hours so …”
Thomas looked at her. “Wait. Who told you this?”
“Dr. Backton. He came back in here after he sent you off for some food and coffee. Look honey, he told me the straight stuff. I asked him to be really honest with me and don’t hold back. He didn’t and told me that it would be for the child’s best, and mine, if I gave birth to our baby girl in the next 24 hours. I said OK, let’s do this.”
“But you were passed out this morning, barely conscious at home. Were you conscious when you responded to him?”
“Very conscious. I want this baby to have life, Thomas, and by damned it’s going to have a healthy, happy life. You are going to be a father for Christmas … and I’m going to be a mother.” Angela leaned over and gave her husband a long, loving kiss.
Father McGregor said, “Well it sounds like a couple is going to receive a great Christmas present. You still want me to say a silent prayer for you both, Angela?”
“No, put some words to it, pastor. Give it some oomph!” They all three laughed a little and Father McGregor said, “OK, hold hands and give me your free ones.”
“Let us pray,” he said. “Dear God, we give thanks at this time for Angela and Thomas. They have been so brave, so wonderful, so persistent in their preparatory care and getting their home ready for their baby girl. Lord, we do know that this beloved child is going to need help from the angels above for her life. We ask you, God, to bring peace and serenity to this family now. Watch over Angela in these next hours. Guide and guard Thomas in his life. May this child be a blessing to them and to many. We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” Angela and Thomas said quietly.
“I’ve left my phone number with Patsy. She can give it to you, Thomas. Let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help you guys. It has been wonderful spending time with you today and I’m glad that I got to know you both a little better. I’ll keep your baby girl in my prayers as I go about my day today.”
“Thanks Father for coming by,” Angela said, tightly grasping his hand. “I really appreciate it.”
“Me too, Father,” Thomas said.
“You’re welcome. Bye now,” Father McGregor said as he walked out of the room.
To be continued …