“Joel,” Winnie called across the room to where her husband was sitting at the wet bar talking to her older brother, Marshall. “My water just broke. And I think I just ruined your mother’s sofa. Crap!” She’d been laughing at a funny movie with her younger brother, Gage, and Joel’s sister, Emilie, when she felt a gush.
Joel was up and across the room in near comical speed, but his excited smile fell to a mask of horror when he tried to help her to her feet. He yelled up the stairs, “Dad! Call for an ambulance! She’s hemorrhaging!”
“What does that mean, Joel?” Winnie’s heart raced in terror as her family raced around her. Both sets of parents came running down the stairs to the rec room where the adult kids had been babysitting Winnie under the pretense of hanging out and watching movies.
“You’re bleeding, sweetheart.” Joel lifted her from the couch and hurried to their adjoining bedroom suite where he climbed into the large empty bathtub. “We’ll wait here for the ambulance. The blood will be easier to clean up.”
Joel’s mom, Lynnette, hurried in after them. “What can I do to help?”
“Find me my wallet and phone, and pack me some clean clothes. I’ll want to change when we get to the hospital.” He looked down at Winnie, who was now dizzy from him talking so fast. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay,” she answered in a small voice. “Scared.”
“I’m scared too.” He met her gaze. “Are you lightheaded or anything?”
“No, not really. Just scared. Am I going to die?”
“Not likely, but I have a feeling we’re going to meet Bella tonight.”
“I think so too.”
“What color hair do you think she’s going to have?” Joel asked, brushing Winnie’s back from her face. He was obviously trying to distract her.
“Brown most likely, since you and I both have brown hair.”
“Speaking of hair”—Winnie’s mom came up beside her—“Let’s get yours pulled up into a bun so it’s out of your way.” She started finger-combing Winnie’s hair and twisted it up into a loose but secure bun and wrapped a scrunchie around it.
“Mommy, will you come into the delivery room with us?” Winnie shocked herself by asking but the words just popped out.
“Really?” her mom asked.
“Really?” Joel seemed disgusted by the idea.
“Yeah, I feel like having my mom with us is the right thing.” Winnie was confused why she would want her mom instead of Lynnette, who had been helping Winnie for months and had always supported her. Maybe this was a part of repairing her relationship with her mom. For whatever reason, it felt right.
“Of course, I’ll be there with you, honey,” her mom said.
In the distance, Winnie heard the sirens of the ambulance and knew this was it. She was about to go have a baby.
“I’ll drive you to the hospital,” Lynnette told Winnie’s mom. There was no animosity in her voice even though she must have been disappointed. “We’ll follow the ambulance.”
“Good idea. Thank you.” Winnie’s mom nodded.
“Joel, here’s your phone and wallet,” Lynnette said, handing them to him. “We’ll bring your clothes with us. They’re probably just going to put you in scrubs when you get there anyway. I’m guessing a c-section within the hour.”
“You’re probably right.” Joel stood as the ambulance sirens got louder and walked with Winnie in his arms out to the driveway. As Joel helped her onto the gurney, Winnie grabbed his hand.
“Don’t leave me!” Panic filled her heart as she gripped with what little strength she had.
“I’m coming with you in the ambulance,” Joel said, squeezing her hand back. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
“You don’t know that for certain,” Winnie said. It was a miracle they’d gotten this far. She shouldn’t have even been able to get pregnant at all since she hadn’t had a period in two years. Her body wasn’t healthy enough to carry a baby to term.
“No, but I’ll be right here holding your hand no matter what happens.”
“Okay.” She had to halt the conversation as the paramedics hoisted her into the ambulance. As the lights and sirens swirled around her, thoughts and feelings swirled around in her head.
What was going to happen now? Would she go back to New York City? Bring a baby with her? Would she ever be able to dance again? Would she go back into treatment for her anorexia? Would she ever be able to live like a normal person? What if little Bella died? What if she lived? What if Winnie didn’t like being a mom? What if Joel didn’t like being a dad? Maybe Winnie needed to be in a mental institution? Maybe she already was and just didn’t know it.
“Her heart rate is dropping,” she heard a paramedic say. Her world got fuzzy and dark.
“How far along is she?” someone else asked.
“Thirty-two weeks,” Joel said.
“Has she had a difficult pregnancy? Has she been on bedrest? Gestational diabetes?”
“She has anorexia,” Joel told the paramedic. “She had been in inpatient treatment prior to getting pregnant.”
“She’s still dangerously thin.”
“I’m aware of that,” Joel said through gritted teeth. “We’ve done the best we can to keep her fed as an outpatient.”
“Nobody’s upset with you, man. Calm down. Just trying to get a medical history so I can help your wife.”
“Joel?” Winnie tried to get his attention.
“I’m here, babe. I’m right here.” His face came into her view.
“I’m scared too, honey.”
“My brain’s not working right. Too many circles. Too many colors. Too many thoughts.”
“Get an IV started,” one of the paramedics said. “Hang some electrolytes.”
“They’re going to get you feeling better, okay? Only a few more minutes and we’ll be at the hospital and soon we’ll be holding little Bella in our arms.”
“I won’t be a good mother,” Winnie said, tears pricking her eyes. “My head’s confused.”
“Your potassium is probably off or something. You’ll be okay soon. And you’re going to be a wonderful mother.”
“I need help,” she pleaded.
“You have lots of family to help you, honey. You’ll never be alone.”
Winnie gripped his hand as hard as she could. “No, you don’t understand! I need help!”
His brows crinkled with shock and worry. “We’ll get you help. I promise.” Joel leaned forward and kissed Winnie’s lips just before she drifted off into blackness.