Part 28: "Hurry up baby"
"I can't believe this day is here," says Louise Allaire, Wendy and Kathy's mother. "I keep thinking we're gonna be sent home."
She is in a third-floor waiting area that's part of the maternity ward lobby, and which has the same emotionally neutral feel of a lobby: a half-wall topped with leafy houseplants; hospital aides pushing patients by on gurneys; and Xena the warrior, slashing away at her enemies, on TV.
"Would you rather be in here or out there?" Louise asks Joe, out there meaning Wendy's labor-and-delivery room, which is on the other side of the building, through a set of double doors and down two hallways. Kathy and Andy are the only ones, besides the midwives, who will be present for the birth, and they are with her now.
"I'm numb," Joe replies.
"Doesn't matter where we perch you?" says Louise, smiling.
"Put me outside," says Joe, with a shrug.
"You wouldn't even feel the rain, would you?"
The rain, which had been threatening all day yesterday, is finally falling.
It is just after 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25.
Kathy rushed to her sister's side when Wendy's water broke at about 11 last night, and then she and Andy stayed up all night timing labor pains. "Who could sleep?" says Kathy when she comes out to the waiting room for a break. "Might miss a contraction. This is the time of my life."
Joe had his own tasks to accomplish when Wendy's labor began. He sent his brother Donny off with a cousin who will care for him for two weeks. In the morning, he tidied up the house and gave a key to Betty, the neighbor who threw Kathy's first shower. Then he joined the others here, Kathy's list of important phone numbers in his pocket, exactly as they'd planned.
Joe's military training has made him appreciate structure, he says. He's always thinking ahead to what's supposed to happen next. And yet, for all that, he is still an expectant father.
"I got lost two times getting here," he confesses. "Took the same wrong exit twice."
* * *
Now it's just after noon.
Wendy, groggy from the epidural she's requested, lies on her side in the bed, her face deep in a pillow, her sister and husband waiting quietly nearby. Peaceful music, selected by Kathy for just this day, plays softly in the background. And a photo of Wendy's daughters, Nicole and Rachel, has been propped on a dresser for her to focus on.
Soon, she'll be ready to begin pushing.
The rest of her family, meanwhile, has moved to a room just across the hall from hers. (Candace Patenaude, the nurse who led the hospital tours, took mercy on them, being so far away, and offered the empty room.)
This, too, is a labor-and-delivery room, and Rachel and Nicole immediately claim the bed. They busy themselves with Rachel's virtual pets or bat one another with rubber snakes they've formed out of a tension-relieving rubber ball. Before long, they'll both be asleep.
Joe is in a swivel chair on wheels, near a window that overlooks the roof and ductwork. He rolls the chair an inch forward, an inch back, an inch forward, an inch back - it's the seated version of pacing - as he distractedly sips a Diet Coke.
Bob and Louise sit closer to the door.
"Hurry up, baby!" says Bob, re-forming the rubber ball and bouncing it on the floor so that it hits the ceiling.
"Don't let her hear that," says Louise. "She'll think she has to go faster!"
They wait. And wait. And wait for little Christiana.
(Louise doesn't even mind that Kathy isn't naming the baby after her - "I told Kathy from Day One: It's your baby. You've waited 20 years. You can name it Duncan Fyffe if you like.")
The conversation turns to Andy, how good he's been.
"He's sort of the overlooked one," says Louise. "It's not his baby. He's putting up with a change in lifestyle for a year, and I've never heard him complain."
"Not easy," agrees Bob.
"There are some men whose own wives are pregnant and they don't treat them like he treats Wendy," continues Louise. "I would call Wendy up and say, 'He's really something.' (She'd say) 'I know, Ma, I know.' Not a lot of men would put up with this." She turns to her own husband - "Would you?" - but it's Joe who answers.
"You know something?" he says. "I think I'd do the same thing, if it was switched around."
Louise nods - "Especially now, after the fact, when you see how much it means."
* * *
An hour passes. It's 1:03.
"I don't hear anything," says Bob.
"You wouldn't hear it," says Louise. "She's not a screamer. She bites down and doesn't make a sound."
Louise gets up, finds the video camera, and tapes each family member in turn - "There's Poppa. There's Rachel Ann. Rachel, do you want to say something to Mommy or to the baby or to Auntie? Hmmm?"
Rachel just rubs her eyes.
"Nicole? You want to sit up?" says Louise, still taping.
"Hi," says Nicole.
"And there's Daddy," says Louise, turning next to Joe. "Where's Daddy?"
"I'm right here," whispers Joe.
* * *
At 1:12, midwife Christine Pfeiffer comes into the room with a progress report:
"She's pushing, (but) the epidural is very effective so we're not pushing as effectively as we could. When you can't feel what you're doing, it's hard."
But "she's fine" and "the baby's fine." It will all be over, she predicts, in 30 minutes.
"Oh, God, I really can't believe this," says Louise when Christine leaves. "Who would've thought? Who would've thought, 20 years ago, when she had her hysterectomy . . . ?"
She thinks back on that terrible time. She remembers getting permission to bring Kathy's two cockatiels to the hospital, to help cheer her after the operation. She remembers bringing her a tree, because flowers seemed so insufficient; her sons laughed at the sight of a tree and two legs, coming down the hall. They knew right away, That's mom.
"Could all be over tonight," says Joe.
Louise looks at him in surprise - it will be over much sooner than that - but then she realizes that he and Bob are talking about the World Series.
* * *
At 1:30, it's Rachel's turn to be restless. She plays behind the room-dividing curtain, invisibly pouncing on her grandmother.
"Ooh, I think it's a leopard or a cheetah," says Louise, playing along until, at 1:44, she throws up her hands - "I don't care, anymore."
She marches into the corridor and plasters her ear against the door of Wendy's room. Rachel follows suit.
"I can hear Kathy's voice," reports Louise, "but I can't make out what they're saying!"
When she comes back into the room, Joe is staring at his list of important phone numbers, just to have something to do.
A few minutes later, they hear a commotion.