Here, an excerpt from my novel and work-in-progress:
Her mother had bought her a fluffy red robe with yellow and brown and white kitties embroidered on the sleeves and back. She would wear it as she paced the hospital floors, waiting for her first son to be born. She would wear it later, when the doctor said her baby was sick and they would take him down the hall, without her.
“It’s a boy,” the doctor had said and put the lumpy mess on Lainey’s chest.
And for a few precious seconds she looked down at the child who was not immediately adorable as she’d been promised, and fumbled and cried and tried to figure out what to do with the little boy.
Lainey and her husband touched his skin for the first time and bent in to cup his soft head and squeeze his smashed toes. In their inventory, it took them a moment to realize the room had become quiet. And, in the next moment, frantic.
The baby’s face was turning red, then dark, then blue. Lainey thought this was normal for a moment, a moment when the normalcy of everyday life was replaced by stirrups and IVs and pushing.
But indeed this blue stage wasn’t right, and they scooped the baby away. They saw what she didn’t and took him, without asking and without telling, and did what needed doing.
Lainey would sit with that in the first hours and days of her new motherhood and die a hundred times over, that she wasn’t the first one to sound the alarm. Had it happened that quickly? That no one knew, then everyone knew, a collective realization? Or had it happened at leisure, had the doctor trusted her, bestowed parenthood upon her, only to turn and see she’d let the baby turn blue?
The doctor and nurses set about him like a beehive. Lainey and her husband didn’t think to be scared, they thought only to wait. Nothing would happen to their baby simply because it hadn’t dawned on them that it could.
And so she lay in bed, while someone took care of her and everything that happens after birth. And they waited without tears or questions. Her husband leaned over the top of the bed and curled around her, their elation brimming and pushing against the mood of the room, the somber air. Their baby was here! It mattered little right then that their baby was moved down the hall, out of their sight. He would be back. And they would be together.
They didn’t talk about the urgency, the blur, the baby being taken and no one checking with them, the new parents. Instead, they held hands and settled on a name.
Now with years behind them and life’s losses around them, Lainey looked back at how innocent they were in that hospital room, how they’d never dreamed it would go wrong.
Even as the doctor told her in the doorway, not bothering to come all the way to her bedside, that the night would tell us more, even as her own mother reached out to touch her arm, even as the nurses made noises and advances of comfort. Even later as she spent days scrubbing up to go into NICU and rocking her baby among monitors and tubes and nurses, even then, she never doubted.
And she hadn’t needed to. That day, when she brought a baby into the world, the world had turned over and let her keep it, love it, take it home in a blue onesie.
And it wasn’t until now, years later as he played soccer in the green wet field in front of her, that Lainey remembered her mother’s hand on her arm. She thought about moments like that, when life stood on its own two feet and you could do nothing but wait while it fought to find balance, to make up its mind, to stay or to go.
How sometimes you do nothing and it’s enough, how other times you fight and bargain and beg, and it does nothing.
Lainey closed her eyes on the soccer field against the shove of grief that rose up, the thought of how much she’d been given that day heavy against how much she’d lost since then. Her mother, her best friend, was missing her baby boy grow up.