“I think I’m getting my period.” George makes tea. I gather heating pad, books and the remote. The bonus of pregnancy and breastfeeding is no periods. It’s been over two years and I don’t remember it hurting this bad.
I fall into a nightmare. I can’t breathe. I think I might die, but the pain dies instead. A minute later it is back. It feels like labor and reminds me of the miscarriage. I dream I am dead greeting people at my funeral. I hear my son ask for me, “Where’s mommy?” I try to answer but my mouth disappears. I hear screams. They get louder and then George’s voice calls out. “Sharon, what’s the matter?”
“Get me to the hospital.”
He drives too fast with Nathan in the car. I close my eyes and clutch the seat. No crying. It will scare them.
I walk into Emergency while George parks. They put me on a gurney. Faces ask questions. I tell them what I know. It’s my stomach. It hurts. Like labor. They ask the date of my last period and I laugh. They think I’m delirious.
George finds me. Nathan sleeps on his shoulder. An intern comes in, looks at the chart and says he’ll be back, but he does not come back. Orderlies come and take me to X-Ray.
A lady with ice fingers asks, “Is there any chance you are pregnant?”
The X-Ray lady frowns. “I have to check something.”
It’s cold in here. I have shivers under the cramps.
X-Ray lady is back. “This won’t take long.” She straightens my legs and disappears. “Hold Still”. The machine groans. She turns me and shoots again. And again. And again. And one last time.
I pee in a cup. A thin pale woman takes my blood. I want to ask if this is her bedtime snack, but don’t.
Someone takes me back to George. He sits with eyes closed holding Nathan. George isn’t asleep, I hear him chanting. “Is there any Remover of Difficulties, Save God?” The nurse and Intern come. “We need to do a pelvic exam.” I make George stay. The intern does it and the pain stops. I tell them it’s gone now and we want to go home and they tell us to wait.
George and Nathan sleep in the chair. I am too cold and happy to sleep. I am okay. Whatever it was has stopped.
My own doctor walks in. He looks irritated. Why is he here in the middle of the night?
I say, “I’m sorry they woke you up. I’m fine now.”
He nods. “You are pregnant.”
I look over at George. He is awake and hears. The questions are coming too fast to say them. My doctor answers the first one.
“Your uterus was tipping and that can cause cramps. The pelvic exam most likely repositioned it.”
“But they X-Rayed me.”
“What did that do to the baby?”
His mouth tightens. “I’ll let the intern who ordered it explain.”
George lays Nathan on the chair and covers him with his jacket. He takes my hand in both of his and kisses it.
My doctor returns and stands with crossed arms behind the intern. For one second I felt sorry for the intern. He glances around the room and clears his throat. “There’s a chance the baby may be affected by the X-Ray.” Possibilities include retardation, cancer, miscarriage, still birth. “Of course there’s no way we can tell now. There’s just as much chance baby is fine.” He looks at me and then at the ceiling. “I can’t give you any advice here. But if you want an abortion, I’ll make the arrangements.”
I want to yell. Make him understand what he did. I won’t end the pregnancy on chance. But I will wake every morning and pretend there is no baby, so if this baby dies I won’t care. And when my body reminds me there is someone else in it, l will imagine a little girl because we already have her name. And then remember my first girl and why I don’t count on miracles.
I stare at him and pour my thoughts into that glare until he cannot take it. He mumbles “Sorry…” and leaves.
I go home with instructions to rest. George cooks and does the laundry. I heat left overs and fold clothes. Nathan plays on the floor next to the couch. We watch Big Bird, Grover and Cookie Monster. He naps with me and we ignore my belly.
Six months later I am in the hospital hooked up to intravenous medication that makes my heart race and my body sweat. The doctor says it will keep me from going into labor. “What is it doing to the baby?”
He tells me not to worry. This is keeping the baby safe.
I want to see my boy. They say he can’t visit and I say I will check myself out unless he can. George brings him one afternoon. George holds him and Nathan won’t talk to me. He looks at the beeping machine attached to my belly, and the tubes hooked up to my arms. He says, “I wanna go home.”
George calls me that night to tell me what Nathan said after they left. “Mommy came back.”
The contractions stop and they send me home with medication, and stronger warnings to not do anything. My mother comes for a week to cook meals. She doubles recipes and freezes them. My father comes to get her because he’s run out of the meals she cooked for him.
Nathan still plays on the floor next to me, and asks me to read him books. But when George comes home he runs to him, and stays until bedtime.
Friends tell me they are praying for me.
I try, but I don’t know what to pray for. Maybe this baby isn’t supposed to be here. The early exit attempts were thwarted. Maybe the prayers are prolonging the stay.
I have a doctor’s appointment and George comes with me. We bring along a friend to stay with Nathan in the waiting room.
On the way I feel extra kicks, and stretches. I can’t get comfortable and George asks what’s wrong. “You don’t want to know.”
The doctor confirms my suspicion. “You’re in labor again…but you’re further along and the baby is viable.”
When this happened with Nathan I was a little worried and mostly excited. Now I feel nothing.
We get to hospital, I hug Nathan goodbye before sitting in the wheelchair, wait for George to sign admittance papers, and smile when the nurse asks how I am. We get to pre-op and I point out the veins that work best.
The ceiling of the operating room looks familiar. Last time I didn’t count the tiles. I can see 10. The sheet suspended above my chest hides the rest. George is in position, holding my fingers. His eyes smile like they did last time. My doctor’s head peeks around the sheet. “You doing okay? I’m ready to start.”
I am ready to get this over with. I nod and close my eyes. I can’t look at George this time. I feel the tugs, and the pulls. Hear the splashes and then the cry. It’s loud and my heart jumps. “It’s a girl!” George kisses my fingertips and disappears.
My girl is four pounds thirteen ounces. She is here six weeks too soon but she cries, poops, pees and breathes. George holds her in one hand.
We give her the Arabic name “Bahiyyih”. She’s named after the daughter of Baha’u’llah. I am reading a biography about her and she is described as being small but powerful. That is what the nurse says when she wheels in her basinet to my hospital room. She will be able to stay with me because as tiny as she is, she is strong. Her lungs are fully developed. She nurses on the first try and sucks so hard it hurts.
In a family of late sleepers, this girl wakes and giggles with the sunrise.
A Persian friend says her name means “Light upon Light”. Her middle name is Dawn and that is the name we call her because it’s easier for people to pronounce, especially the grandparents.
George says we should have named her “Noon”.