Part 17: Fears and signs
A few weeks after the ultrasound, Wendy falls down the stairs.
She'd noticed from an upstairs window that Nicole's car lights were on, and headed downstairs to tell her, not bothering to flick on the light, she's so used to her house.
But Angel, the family's Portuguese water dog, has dropped a knotted dog toy on the top step. Wendy's foot finds it, and down she goes.
Grabbing uselessly for the railing and letting out a yelp, she manages to land on her rump and bounces down the stairs, wrenching her back, bruising her butt and getting rug burns on her hands as Andy dashes to grab her.
I should call my sister, is her first thought.
Don't call your sister, says Andy. She's sleeping. Lay down. Call the doctor in the morning. He brings Wendy some Tylenol and tries to soothe her.
The next day, Wendy calls Christine Pfeiffer, the midwife, and leaves a message.
Then - she feels she has to - she calls Kathy. After all, "I'm not in this to reassure her. If something's not fine, I'm gonna tell her - even though I don't want to."
- Um, Kath, she says, I don't want you to think it's anything, but I fell down the stairs yesterday.
- What do you mean?
- I fell down the stairs.
- What do you mean, you fell down the stairs? Did you go to the doctor? Are you okay? Did you call Christine? Are you okay? Is the baby okay?
- They haven't got back to me.
- I'm coming right now, says Kathy.
- Don't, says Wendy. I can just go, Kathy. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'll beep you if something's wrong. (She's worried about Kathy taking too many days off from work, days she'll later wish she had with the baby.)
Kathy hangs up the phone, feeling helpless. She remembers falling down the stairs herself once. She was a child, and was carrying her little brother, Chipper. She spent a week in the hospital with back injuries.
Heading to Wakefield to work, she resists the urge to pull off the highway in Warwick to see Wendy. Instead, she waits at the office. And waits. She is close to crying. At the usual Friday morning meeting, everyone can tell something's wrong.
After the meeting, at least five of her coworkers converge on her cubicle. Kathy tells them about the fall, and they begin reassuring her: Your sister's gonna be okay. The baby is in fluid. The baby rolls with it.
Kathy nods - she wants to believe them - and waits by the phone.
At about 2 p.m., Wendy calls. She's seen the midwife, she's heard the heartbeat - "Everything is fine."
"What a relief!" Kathy writes in her diary. "Thank God!"
* * *
June 10, the scheduled date of the next ultrasound, finally arrives. But it's a bad day for baby-viewing.
Kathy's car breaks down on the highway, and when she gets to the midwife's office, only a few minutes late, but still frazzled, she discovers that the sonographer has changed her hours and has gone home.
These events, together with the unrevealing first peek, convince Kathy that it's God's will that she not know the baby's sex. She does not want to reschedule the appointment.
Wendy thinks this is crazy.
"A sign of what, Kath?" she says. "A sign of what? Live in this house for awhile. Problems arise constantly. If they're always a sign, I don't know what I'd do. Don't you want to just be able, one more time, to see it? The sex is no big deal, but you don't get too many chances of looking at it again."
Of course, if the ultrasound does show the sex, all the better, Wendy figures. At least it will stop everybody from asking about it. Plus, it will ease her own worries about whether the baby is okay.
She makes up her mind that whether Kathy joins her or not, she will get another ultrasound.
Kathy, of course, says she'll go with her.
* * *
The day arrives.
This time, no other relatives come along.
"This is Kathy," Wendy says to a new sonographer, quickly pointing out that "this is her baby, not mine."
Wendy lies down on the table again, her feet, in white sweat socks and sneakers, sticking out from under a paper sheet. Again, dark, pulsing shapes fill a TV screen.
"Looks like a girl," says Kathy almost immediately, her hands gripping the edge of the examining table, as Wendy scours the ceiling with her eyes.
"Very active," says the sonographer, Anne Kerns, ignoring Kathy's hint. "Moving around."
"Doll!" says Kathy.
Here are the feet. The spine. The heart, with a good strong beat. The little stomach.
"Darling!" says Kathy. "Look how darling!"
"Sweetheart!" Wendy agrees.
Now an arm. Another arm. Look, says Anne, the baby's moving.
"Doll! It's a girl," says Kathy. Hearing no agreement or disagreement from Anne, she comes right out and asks her:
"Does it look like it? What are you seeing?"