Part 14: A faraway train
"Look at me! I got goosebumps from you guys!" says the waitress at the Jade Dragon, holding out a bare arm to Kathy and Wendy and their mother Louise as they enter the restaurant.
The waitress is a neighbor of Wendy's, so she knows where they will be heading after dinner:
To see the midwife.
To try to hear a heartbeat.
The three have just come from Warwick's City Park. Kathy and Wendy walked briskly to an aerobics tape, as Louise followed some distance behind them, trying gamely to get a little exercise, despite a bad knee.
Now they're hungry - and Kathy and Louise are excited.
"Watch 'em not be able to find it," mutters Wendy, trying as usual to lower expectations and spare everyone a big disappointment. But the words only bounce off her happy mother and sister, who talk and laugh and share food across the table and seem immune to fear.
Wendy catches their contagious mood, though she can't help glancing at a rather sullen woman in a nearby booth, who looks like she may give birth before her fortune cookies arrive, she is that large.
"Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod," Wendy groans into her beef and mushrooms. She reminds herself, "You've got a long way to go."
* * *
"Wen, there's a baby in there," Kathy reassures her sister after she steps on the scale and they discover she's gained 12 pounds in three months.
"But it's only a little dot," says Wendy.
Now Christine Pfeiffer comes in. She is one of the midwives on the staff of Toll Gate Obstetrics and Gynecology, a bright, pleasant warren of rooms in Warwick.
"You're good, everyone is good?" she begins, in her lightly straightforward way. "So what's new, anything?"
Wendy, warding off criticism, confesses: "We go out to eat a lot. My sister takes me out to eat every night. I'm gonna change. I'm gonna change my ways."
"How much did you gain in past pregnancies?" asks Christine.
Sixty pounds with Rachel.
"So you don't want to do that again," says Christine.
"You'll do better," Christine assures her. The typical pregnant woman gains 35 pounds; ideally, she should gain two to three pounds a month.
There's good news on her clipboard, though: Wendy's lab work from the last visit was fine, her blood pressure's good, she is immune to German measles - all systems are go.
Now let's hear that heartbeat.
Wendy exposes her belly for Christine to coat with a lubricant, then Christine slowly moves an instrument, a kind of microphone, over the smooth terrain.
Immediately, the room fills with a soft whooshing sound, like rain in a windstorm. It goes on for several long minutes, but is punctuated by nothing as rhythmic as a heartbeat.
Kathy bites the corner of her lower lip. Wendy rolls her eyes around in a searching way. What if . . . ?
And then comes a sound - choom, choom, choom, choom, choom - like the chugging of a faraway train. Wendy and Kathy look at one another, eyes wide.
"Hear it?" says Christine. "It's there. That's it. It's there."
Louise hugs Kathy close to her, then leans over and kisses Wendy.
"This is just fine for 12 weeks," says Christine. "This is perfect."
"It's beautiful," says Kathy, tears falling down her face.
Tears are normal, too, says Christine with a smile. So "we're right on track."
Outside, stars gleam over the peaceful parking lot. Wendy looks up with relief.
"Now I know it's real."