The nurse ran into the emergency room area and told Angela and Thomas that a private room had been reserved on the sixth floor. So two attendants came into the room and wheeled Angela toward the elevator, with Thomas right at his wife’s side. The large doors opened up, all entered and one of the attendants pushed the number “6” and up it went.
Upon reaching the floor, the doors opened and Angela was taken to room No. 612. It had a window looking outside toward the city and, by now, the day’s sunlight was beginning to set. It had been a long, long day for both Angela and Thomas, and getting into the private room was good enough for them.
The attendants helped lift Angela from the emergency room bed and into a hospital bed … very carefully and gently because of her physical condition. Thomas looked on with some agony in his body, hoping that his beloved wife and child were going to be OK.
A nurse came in and introduced herself as Gladys. She was the shift nurse for the 3-11 p.m. team.
“I’m stopping by to say hello and let you all know that the nurse’s station is just down the corridor, about 5-6 rooms from this one,” Gladys said. “There is a red button by the bed so if you need something or are running into trouble, then please push it and someone will be down here quickly.”
“What if she goes into labor?” Thomas asked.
“That’s why the red button is there, sir,” Gladys said with a smile. “We know that your wife’s condition is pretty tough and have been given orders from the doctor to make sure she gets down to an operating room ASAP.”
“Operating room? What is this about an operating room?” Angela asked. “I’m just going to be induced to give birth to my child on Christmas Day. That’s it.”
Gladys looked at Angela, put down the pad she was holding at the foot of the bed, walked around and stood at Angela’s side.
“Honey, I know that is why you are here,” she said quietly. “This floor is especially for mothers that are going to give birth to children with special needs. The doctor told us that your child probably will have some issues after birth, and this floor — which was just created six months ago — is one of a kind. You will be able to be on the same floor as your child, plus keep track of her care.” Gladys winked at Angela. “We look forward to your baby girl coming into the world.”
Angela offered a slight smile in return, saying, “Oh, OK. I mean, we’ve never done this before.”
Gladys and Thomas chuckled at her humor.
“I think Gladys was saying that everything is going to be fine and for us to relax,” Thomas said. “Of course, that’s easy for me to say from my side.”
The shift nurse walked back around to the foot of the bed, grabbed her pad and said, “Look, I’m going to leave you both alone. Another nurse on duty will be back in here in a bit. Right now, though, you should have everything that you need and just push the red button if you need anything, OK? Take care now.”
Gladys walked out and closed the door behind her.
Angela and Thomas were now alone with themselves, their thoughts and their soon-to-be-born daughter.
“Oh Angela, you’ve been such a trooper all day long,” Thomas said.
“Well you’ve been doing pretty good yourself, kind sir,” Angela said. “I could not have been here without your help, baby. Thank you.”
They both kissed and Angela yawned. “Huh, maybe someone needs a nap?” Thomas said. “See if you can get a little bit of sleep, dear. I’m going to just sit back here and rest myself. I’m here … I’m not going anywhere. Just settle back into the bed now and do the best you can to relax.”
Angela looked at Thomas, then pushed her head back into one of the pillows and closed her eyes. Thomas looked at his wife, smiled, and decided to prop his feet up on the side of her hospital bed and close his eyes, too, for a few minutes.
It was 6:35 p.m. Christmas Eve and all was quiet.
Thomas stirred up in his chair and looked over.
Angela was sitting up in the bed screaming in pain.
“Honey, what is it?”
“The baby. It’s the baby.”
Thomas reached over and mashed that red button. He didn’t need to as a couple of nurses heard Angela from the station down the hall and were coming through the door.
The nurses reached over and grabbed Angela on both sides. They held onto her, with one of the nurses pushing another button that opened up an intercom.
“Yes, we have a woman here in room 612 that needs to give birth now.”
“OK, we’ll get ready here.”
“Please send two attendants immediately. We need to get her down there right now.”
The intercom was turned off, and Angela continued to cry out in pain and discomfort.
Thomas looked up at the clock.
In a matter of minutes, Angela was taken down to an operating room located next to the emergency room. Thomas walked along with her each step. The nurses gave Angela a mild sedative to help relieve some of her pain, and she had quieted down a little bit yet was still in discomfort.
They all got to the OR’s doors. The attendants looked at Thomas and said, “If you want to say something to your wife, then go ahead and do it now because you’re not going to be able to come in.”
Thomas looked down at his beautiful wife. At least he still thought so despite all of the sweat and tears that covered Angela’s face.
“Honey, I love you so, so much. I’ll be here, waiting for you and our daughter,” he said, bending over and kissing her forehead.
All Angela could do was look at him, nod her head and squeeze his hand.
Then she was taken into the OR.
It was now 10:35 p.m. Christmas Eve. Thomas still had not reached out to any of his family, so he went to the waiting room and sat down. He felt tired, fretful, scared, anxious … and lonely. Another father-to-be sat nearby, but he was called away by a nurse within 5 minutes of Thomas getting in there.
So Thomas sat down and put his head back. He just knew that life was really never going to be the same from this point on. It was going to be radically different.
Thomas looked up at the clock.
“God, what is taking it so long?” he muttered to himself, not realizing what Angela was going through in the OR.
The clock moved past Midnight.
It was now Christmas Day.
Thomas could not really sit down for a long period of time. He’d get up, pace the floor, look out a window and see simply darkness mixed in with lights from the hospital’s parking lot.
One thing that resonated with him was the thought of asking for help. Patsy and Father McGregor had stopped by the house, but he could not bring himself to reach out. It was against his stubborn will to call for help.
It was 12:45 a.m. Angela had been in the OR for more than two hours. Finally, someone came out to see Thomas. It was Dr. Backton.
“Hi doc, I’m glad to see you,” Thomas said.
Dr. Backton had his operating room smocks on and told Thomas, “Congrats son, you have a beautiful baby girl.”
Thomas looked at him and said, “Really? Did Angela do OK?”
“We had a little trouble but not a large amount,” Dr. Backton said. “Actually, I felt like there would have been more trouble than we had. Yet she came through really well. Come over here and sit for a minute, Thomas. I do have a little news for you.”
Thomas got a little queasy in his stomach. He followed the doctor over and sat down next to a lamp.
“Son, I have to tell you something about your daughter,” the doctor said. “We did diagnose the unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate correctly. What we didn’t diagnose was … well … how healthy of a screamer she would be. I mean, she’s got a pair of lungs on her already!”
Dr. Backton looked at Thomas, who just had a look of exhaustion and relief on his face.
“Thomas, I will not kid you. There is a long road ahead for your daughter. What’s her name?”
The name. Thomas and Angela had gone back and forth between Lara and Annie. The names come from both sides of their families, and there never was a real, solid final answer.
“Well Dr. Backton, I’m going to ask Angela as soon as I see her and I’ll let you know.”
“That’s fine. I have to head back in there just to make sure everything is OK. Why don’t you come with me and see your baby daughter. You do want to see her, don’t you?”
“Oh yeah!” Thomas exclaimed.
Both men headed back toward the OR area, and Thomas was given some smocks to put on himself. He did and entered the room, finding his wife holding their baby daughter in her lap.
It was 2:18 a.m.
Thomas walked up to Angela’s side and she looked into his eyes. She was filled with relief and joy.
“Look Thomas, look what we got for Christmas,” Angela said. “Here honey, she’s been waiting for her daddy.”
Angela, with the help of a nurse, lifted the child into Thomas’ arms. He looked down and just was amazed by her beauty. Both Angela and Thomas were aware of how their child would look with her unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. It didn’t matter to them. They adored her immensely.
Thomas held his daughter close to his chest, and her little hand reached out and touched him. It brought tears to his eyes.
He composed himself and said, “Angela, we never settled on the baby’s name. We were looking at both Lara and Annie as possible names for her. What shall we call her, honey?”
Angela thought for a minute, then said, “What about Annie Mary Douglas?”
Thomas looked at her. “The Annie is fine, but what does the Mary stand for?”
Angela stared off into a corner of the OR and looked back. “Well, it is Christmas Day and wasn’t Mary the name of Jesus’ mother?”
“Well yes, from what I understand,” he said.
“Since our baby was born on Christmas Day, then why not have her named after Mary?”
Thomas was too tired and happy to say anything else.
“That sounds wonderful. Annie Mary Douglas, welcome to the world.”
Both Angela and Thomas looked on with love at their daughter. She formed as much of a smile as was possible, and it brought great joy to them both.
And so, as mother, father and baby daughter stood in that hospital on that Christmas Day morning, the family became quite aware of not only where they were in that moment. They also knew, in a sense, how much further they had to go.