“It’s so cold in here.” Joel wrapped his arms around himself, trying not to shiver. The thin scrubs they made him change into did little to ward off the chill.
Maybe just because this was his baby that he panicked, but Joel was glad he wouldn’t be delivering many babies as a sports medicine doctor. Being in a hospital delivery room made him question his desire to be a doctor at all. Still, if he could handle the trauma of this magnitude, he could handle anything else his career sent his way. Hopefully.
The team of doctors and nurses helping Winnie didn’t need Joel, or his mother-in-law, and they were just in the way. He and Teri huddled in a corner of the room and in a strange role-reversal Joel held his wife’s mother in his arms while she quietly cried.
He couldn’t offer any comforting words assuring her that everything would be okay because he didn’t know anything for certain. All he knew was that his wife was in distress, his baby was in distress, and there was nothing he could do to help.
It wasn’t like Winnie was awake, so he could coach her through contractions. He just stood there, smelling the sterile room, goose bumps rising on his bare arms, his stomach tight, his heart pounding.
The nurses and doctors rushing around didn’t interact with him and Teri at all. If anything, they brushed them further into the corner to get them out of their way.
Suddenly Joel was assaulted by the smell of burning flesh. What are they doing to her? He watched from across the room as a doctor used a laser to cut through layers of fat. He didn’t think Winnie had an ounce of fat on her, but there was the proof. Oh my gosh! Can skin stretch that far?
Almost as soon as the delivery had begun, a tiny baby was in the hands of the doctor, who barely did an assessment before speaking softly, “It’s a girl.”
“Isabella,” Joel whispered. “She’s beautiful.”
“She’s so small,” Teri squeaked out. “Can she survive being born that small?”
“Modern medicine’s pretty extraordinary.” Was Joel trying to convince his mother-in-law or himself? His lips quaked, and his voice caught in his throat. He’d never seen anything more beautiful and terrifying in his life. Skilled hands cradled baby Isabella as the doctor cut the umbilical cord, then Bella was carried over to another station and the team from the NICU worked their magic.
A tiny oxygen mask was placed over Bella’s face and they readied a tube to be pushed gently down her throat. Another tube was inserted into her belly button, which still protruded with a piece of the umbilical cord.
“Apgar score of two!” a nurse called out.
That’s not good, Joel thought. Bella’s skin was grey. She barely looked alive. Joel felt his chest tightening. The NICU team began gathering their things and wheeling Bella toward the door.
“Wait,” Teri said. “Where are you taking my granddaughter? Don’t I get to hold her? Give her a bottle? Anything?” A nurse turned to her with sympathetic eyes.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse said. “We’ll be taking her down to the NICU to get stabilized. Someone will let you know when she’s allowed visitors. Does your granddaughter have a name yet?”
“They’re naming her Isabella,” Teri said with wonder in her voice.
“We’re going to take good care of baby Isabella,” the nurse whispered. “I promise.”