“Honey, I think my water broke.”
I shift and turn in bed, barely two hours into slumber after a twelve-hour night. “Your water didn’t break,” I mumble.
“I think it did!”
I sit up and look at my wife. “It couldn’t have broke, you still have over a month left!” She opens her mouth to say something, but I cut her off. “We’ll go to the hospital and get it checked.” Sleep-deprived legs betray me as I stumble into some clothes.
I help her down the stairs from our apartment and into the car, then we drive to the naval air station where I’m assigned. I remind myself that she’s nervous, so I try to tamp down the irritation that comes from too little sleep. I hold her hand as we go into the base hospital and are shown to a room.
She’s breathing harder now, and worry replaces lingering irritation. My fingers stroke her cheek. “It’ll be all right, honey.”
The doctor scurries in and makes a quick check. “She’s going into labor,” he says. “We’ll have to transfer her to Fresno because we’re not equipped to handle babies this premature.”
Adrenaline floods my body as my chest tightens.
I’m fully awake now, and so not ready. We don’t have a bag ready. We need a car seat…car seat? We need a crib! We haven’t even gone to Lamas classes yet!
Somewhere along the way we decide that I’ll go home, pack a few things, and meet her over there as we still had time. I stop off at the hangar my squadron uses to put in for leave, and drive home.
I walk around our apartment in a daze, trying to think of what to bring. I try calling my mother, half a country away.
I try the wife of one of my friends from base. I start blabbing as soon as she answers. “Thebaby’scomingandIdon’tknowwhattobringtothehospital!”
She’s been through this twice before and she calmly lists items I should bring, kindly repeating everything she said because stress has deafened me. I thank her, repeatedly, and she ends with a “Good luck and congratulations!”
I try my mother again, this time at work because I’m an idiot and forgot that’s where she would be. She answers, and any calm I may have collected flees like money at tax-time. “It’s too early!” My voice warbles as I almost break down. “It’ll be fine, sweetheart,” she said, calming me with words instead of holding me tight like I know she wishes she could.
More collected, if not necessarily calm, I gather her things and head to the hospital in Fresno, a half-hour away. I double that time, only getting lost twice.
I pop into the room and she’s laying there alone, breathing and watching TV. “Hi, babe.”
I settle into a chair and hold her hand. “How are you doing?”
“Okay.” We wait for several hours, nary a nurse or doctor in sight. She keeps complaining of gas and I finally flag down a nurse to check in on her. The nurse calls the doctor who pops in a few minutes later. One peek and the room becomes a flurry of activity.
I stand frozen, letting the nurses direct me. It’s over fast, maybe fifteen minutes between the doctor’s entrance and our new son’s debut.
He’s so small. They hand him to me to hold and he fits comfortably in one of my hands. “His suckling reflex doesn’t seem to have developed,” a blank face says. We get only a few moments before he’s off to the NICU.
The next week blurs. My mom flies out to help out for the week, though he stays in the hospital for most of that time. We learn how to feed him with a soft nipple, pressing it up against his gums to allow the milk to shoot out. “You need to prove you can feed him for twenty-four hours before we can allow you to take him home.”
That’s my duty, and I do it, dozing in a chair and waking every few hours for a feeding. Apparently, I do it right, and when my mom and wife come back the next day we’re allowed to take him home. His week in the hospital allowed us time to get ready for bringing him home. The nurse that accompanies us out checks the new car seat and demonstrates how to strap him in safely.
The next few week run together. My mom leaves and her mom comes out. Life becomes vignettes of time.
“Does this diaper look right to you?” “I think it’s on backwards.” “Oh…ah, he peed on me!”
“How do they hold so much?” “Is it supposed to be that color?” “Gah, it got on my hand!”
“Oh, my God!” “What?” “He puked all over!” “Honey, baby’s puke. Everything’s fine.”
We made it though, and we continue to make it, even though that fragile baby is now a surly teen.
Not The End.
This if for MindLovesMisery’s Prompt 34: “My first…” This one is the birth of my first child. Head on over to MindLoveMisery’s blog and read other takes on various “firsts.” If you have a first you’d like to share, join in the fun! Thanks for reading.
Happy Reading and Writing!