Chapter 21: Epilogue: The Cat’s In the Cradle
Chapter 21: Epilogue: The Cat’s In the Cradle
A child arrived just the other day,
Came to the world in the usual way,
But there were planes to catch,
Bills to pay,
He learned to walk while I was away,
He was taking before I knew it,
And as he grew, he said
I’m gonna be like you, Dad,
You know I’m gonna be like you….
The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon,
When you coming home, Dad, I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, yeah,
You know we’ll have a good time then….
~~Cat Stevens The Cat’s in the Cradle
January 11, 2007
She wasn’t due until the middle of March, but Shelby’s water broke on a cold, bleak Thursday morning, in the middle of a fiscal meeting. It started as a small trickle, which gave her time to excuse herself and get to the ladies’ room with her cell phone. In the bathroom stall, she dialed her obstetrician’s office and was told to go straight to the hospital.
The contractions hadn’t started yet, so she called Edgar, and told him to meet her at Dominican, and then she calmly drove herself to the emergency room. All the while, she wondered if the doctors would be able to stop the labor if her waters were leaking. Was it possible? What about the risk of infection?
Her hopes were dashed when she was brought into an examining room. The maxi pad she’d used to stop up the seepage of amniotic waters was soaked through. There were traces of meconium in the waters too, which indicated fetal distress. Soon, she was given a thorough examination, hooked up to a fetal heart monitor, and told that if her labor didn’t start soon, she would be induced. An injection of surfactin was given intravenously, and Shelby was told that this would help mature the baby’s lungs. Then, there was nothing left to do but wait.
“The kids are with Michelle,” Edgar told her when he arrived. He looked breathless and shocked when he saw Shelby hooked up to the fetal monitor, with the IV feeding her the required dose of medicine for the baby.
“I don’t even know what started this. I’m not even in labor yet. The doctor says I’m dilated 4 centimeters; and effaced 70%, but I’m not having contractions. He says he’d let me go for a little while if the baby wasn’t showing signs of distress,” Shelby told him.
“What sort of distress?”
“Meconium in the water.”
“Eww, you mean the baby took a crap in there?”
“That’s so damn poetic, Edgar. Babies don’t do that unless they’re stressed out Something’s wrong!”
“Okay, I’m sorry. I know. If that’s the case, why are they waiting around for you to go into labor? Why not do a C-Section?” he asked.
Shelby frowned at him.
“That’s major surgery, darling. I’m sure they’d only do that if it was a last resort!”
By 7:30 that night, Shelby still hadn’t made satisfactory progress with any contractions. Her obstetrician, Dr. Dillon, decided it was time to start a line of Pitocin, which would artificially stimulate contractions. Two hours later, she was in hell.
Though Edgar had coached his wife through the last two labors, nothing could prepare him for a child birth that was induced with pitocin. Though any labor contraction was painful and difficult to bear, coaches and laboring mothers were told to expect that the contractions would start out, peak, and then taper. As labor progressed, the contractions would increase in intensity and in frequency, but they would still maintain the same rhythm. With pitocin induced contractions, a laboring mother could expect no rhythm. The peaks and tapers were more like jagged starts and stops. Some would be mild, others extreme, and one never knew what to expect. Sometimes, there wasn’t even a break between the end of one contraction and the beginning of the next. Then, there could be a long spell of five minutes before another one hit. Edgar gave up trying to coach Shelby to breathe when she gave up trying to. Finally, all she muttered was a string of swear words under her breath that would make a truck driver blush. During one respite, she fell silent; her face flushed, her hair matted, and her eyes rolled back into her head. Dr. Dillon came in for an examination, and she instantly pulled her head up off the pillow.
“Don’t you fucking touch me,” she moaned.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Frog, but I have to see how you’re progressing,” he told her firmly.
“You’ve seen everything there is to see down there,” she gasped.
Then, she let out with a tortured moan as he began the examination.
“We need to prep you for surgery, darling. It’ll be all over soon.”
“Surgery! What the hell!” Edgar cried, “Why put her through all of this only to take her to surgery now? Why now?”
“We have a cord prolapse. This is an emergency,” the doctor replied.
Nurses began swarming into the room to prep Shelby for the procedure. One of them approached Edgar.
“Follow me. You can scrub up and watch,” she told him.
He only had time to cast a worried look to his wife, wave to her and blow her a kiss as he was led from the delivery room. Out in the hallway, he ran into Alan, who had just managed to close up shop and make it to the hospital.
“How’s it going? Niece or nephew?” he asked breathlessly.
“C-Section. They’re prepping her now. I’ll let you know how everything goes. Wait here,” Edgar called to him.
Alan knitted his brows in concern and watched his brother leave with the scrub nurse. Minutes later, the rolling bed with Shelby was whisked down the hallway towards the bank of elevators and the waiting OR.
Shelby was laid out on the surgical table and draped so that neither she nor Edgar could see the site where the surgery would be performed. Edgar stood at her side, dressed from head to toe in a light yellow surgical gown, with matching shoe covers, a matching cap, and a mask to cover his nose and mouth. Shelby could hardly recognize him, save for his eyes. Her auburn tresses were covered with the same sort of hair covering that Edgar wore, and oxygen prongs had been shoved rudely up her nose. Every now and then, she tried to adjust them, but a nurse would inevitably come by and put them back the way they had been. From the waist down, she was completely numb; thanks to the epidural she’d been given prior to being rolled in to the operating room. With the exception of the nerves she felt pending the surgery, Shelby felt so much more serene now. There was no more pain!
A heart monitor was attached to her forefinger that measured her own vitals, and the intravaginal scalp monitor that had been inserted earlier was still in place, monitoring the baby’s vitals. It gave Shelby the shivers knowing that there was a tiny probe screwed into the top of her baby’s head, but she knew that both of her other children had endured the same ordeal and had come through it just fine, with no memory of it. This one would too. When it was over, there would only be a tiny scab left as a reminder of the procedure. Then, suddenly, her baby’s vitals went cold.
Shelby felt a moment of panic.
“Don’t worry. We had to unhook the monitor,” one of the nurses consoled her.
“Oh, ok,” she replied, willing her heart back down to a normal rate. She had seen her pulse dramatically spike up.
The doctor ran a brief series of tests to see if she was numb enough for the surgery to begin. Then, she saw him smile through his mask. She could tell he was smiling by the way the corners of his eyes crinkled up.
“This will all be over in about 45 minutes. You won’t feel any pain, but you’ll feel some pressure and some pulling sensations. Are you ready?”
“Do we know what you’re having yet?”
“No. We couldn’t tell in the ultrasound. The baby had it’s legs crossed…”
“Ah, well, the moment of truth is at hand.”
“Dad, are you ready?”
“Yeah, as ready as I’m going to get.”
Edgar watched as an impossibly small isolette was rolled into the room, along with a bunch of equipment. Nurses stood by the ready, and the neonatal specialist was already on call.
Shelby felt pressure as the first incision was made. Edgar reached out with his gloved hand and took her hand, squeezing it lightly. They locked eyes as the doctor continued cutting into her abdomen, and the surgical nurse suctioned away the blood and fluids. The drape hid what Shelby felt as an immense pressure that made her groan.
“Does it hurt?” Edgar asked in alarm.
“No..he’s right, though. Pressure,” she panted.
“It’ll be over soon. He’s going in for the baby. Look now, see,” one of the nurses prompted them.
There wasn’t much to see through the drape, but they both could tell that the doctor was indeed doing something inside of her.
“The shoulders are delivered,” he called, ‘Time?”
“11:54,” the surgical assistant replied.
Then, he pulled a tiny, wet bundle out and held it up to the light for the waiting parents to see.
“It’s a boy!” he announced.
Before either of them could look at him too closely, he handed him to one of the waiting neonatal nurses to be carefully examined.
Tears streamed down Shelby’s face. She hadn’t heard her baby cry.
“Is he alive? She asked.
“He’s alive and seems fine. The neonatal specialist needs to have a look at him.”
“Edgar, please go see….”
Edgar shuffled off in his funny shoe covers, and Shelby watched him go, but before he made it halfway across the room, she suddenly felt her vision go gray. She closed her eyes, and heard a faraway voice that sounded like a nurse yell out in alarm,
“Doctor, we have a bleeder here!”
The steady beeping that had been her pulse began to slow. She could faintly hear a commotion in the room. Edgar was being thrown out, and he was protesting. Her son was starting to cry. Suddenly, she could see him clearly for the first time.
He was so tiny; so fragile. His hair was such a pale shade of blond that it hardly looked as though he had any, yet he had plenty. And then there was his delicate bow of a mouth. The top lip was curved just like…
If there had ever been a doubt in her mind before, there was none now. Before her mind faded to darkness, she had just a moment to whisper a prayer.
‘David. Come to your son. He needs you.’
Modern medicine had saved Shelby in the nick of time, and she lay still and sleeping; as pale as the sheets she rested on, in her quiet room. David dared not check in on her, but he could sense her presence. In the room with her were Edgar and Alan. Only two visitors at a time were permitted, and because of her delicate state, only family could be allowed. That was all right. He could send her an anonymous bouquet of flowers, and he knew she’d understand. His chief concern was the child. He’d heard Shelby’s message loud and clear. When she’d lingered on the side closer to death than life, she’d reached him.
Somehow, she knew the truth, now. She’d even told him their son’s name. David stood outside the nursery windows, peeking in at the rows of newborns, bypassing all of the incubators with pink cards, looking at only the blue ones. None of the infants’ tags had first names on them. They were all registered by last names: Baby boy Jones, Baby Girl Hastings, etc. He didn’t see any Baby Boy Frog.
Then, he saw a smaller room, partitioned off the main nursery. David moved over to these windows and saw that the babies here were either very small, extremely large, or hooked up to monitors and machinery. There was even a set of tiny little triplets in isolettes next to each other; two girls and one boy. The sign stenciled on the door read ‘Neonatal Intensive Care’. The newest additions to this ward were conveniently kept right up front, so that parents and relative could ogle their newborns. That’s precisely where David found ‘Baby Boy Trammel-Frog’.
His son was swaddled from head to toe in hospital issue blankets. A cap had been put on his head to keep his head warm. One of his baby blue eyes was open, and the other was closed. When David looked closely, he could see the palest blond eyelashes ever imaginable…
Were his own eyelashes that pale? Had he ever been that small?
He looked at the blue tag on the incubator. ‘Baby Boy Trammel-Frog weighed in at three pounds, nine ounces. He was seventeen and a half inches long. No, David didn’t think he’d ever been that small. Marko, maybe…
That thought made him smile, and somehow, he could almost imagine that his son smiled too.
“Someday, you’ll meet your Uncle Marko. And your Uncle Dwayne, and your Uncle Paul, and your Uncle Laddie and your Aunt Alex, too,” he whispered to his small son.
One day, when he was old enough.
The baby’s eye met David’s in an unfocused gaze and then fell shut. David watched his baby sleep for a moment and smiled.
“Good night, little Owen. I’ll see you again soon,” he promised.