Part 29: Darling daughter
"It's born! It's born!" says Louise. "Listen to it!"
Joe, Bob, Nicole and Rachel are with her in the hallway now, outside of Wendy's closed door, listening hard to the happy clamor - the muffled sound of a mewing baby being adored by delighted grownups.
"She's all done," says Andy, opening the door just a crack to share some news.
"What's it look like?!" demands Louise.
"Looks like Nicole," he says, then closes the door again.
And now there's more waiting, as the baby is cleaned up, weighed, measured.
Joe reaches for the doorknob, but resists barging in. Tears well up in his eyes.
"Be nice if your mother was here, huh?" says Louise. Joe rubs an eye with a finger, then puts his hands in his pockets and sways a little on his feet.
When nurse Candace Patenaude comes out, she says, "She's a beautiful little baby. She's gorgeous. Everybody's fine."
Joe cranes to see inside the room - "I saw it!" He holds his hands a foot apart to show how big she is.
"What does she weigh?" Louise asks Candace.
"I'll let them tell you," she says.
"What does she look like?"
"I'll let them tell you," she says.
The exiled family is so desperate for news that when Candace comes out with the placenta in a plastic bin, they rush to look; Louise even takes a picture.
Nicole, meanwhile, has been using the phone in the room across the hall. "I called Grandma," she says. "She was hyper. She wouldn't listen to me."
At 2:12, Candace comes back to the door.
"Just Joe first," she says.
He disappears inside, and Andy comes out.
"Could you hear her cry? That was a helluva time," he says. "I'm ready to take a shower and get something to eat."
Rachel asks, is Mommy coming home?
Not yet, says Andy. "Just you and me and Nicole are going home." Rachel is not pleased.
She wants her mother back.
Finally, the door is flung open.
The family pours in to the room to see Candace make a little ceremony of handing the swaddled baby to Wendy.
Wendy holds her there in the bed for the briefest moment, and looks at her face. Then she lifts her up to Kathy.
"Oh!" says Kathy, bending to accept the gift.
Christiana Marie weighs 8 pounds, 10 ounces. She has wide-set eyes, squeezed tightly closed and tiny bow lips. She has dark ringlets all over her head. Her new relatives say her pert little nose looks like Kathy's and that her square chin looks like Joe's.
"Wendy, you did a perfect, perfect, perfect job," says Louise. "Oh, my God, she's gorgeous!"
"Oh] Thanks!" Kathy blurts to her sister, laying a finger against her eye. "Want to hold the baby? Let Wendy hold her." And she places Christiana in Wendy's arms.
"She's a heifer!" says Wendy, surprised.
"She looks just like me," says Kathy. "She's got dark hair, too! This baby is beautiful]"
"The perfect delivery," says Candace, who cried a few tears of her own with Christine.
"These two ladies were great," says Andy of Candace and Christine. "They were great. Great. More like having your mother here than doctors."
"I just thought I couldn't do it - finish," says Wendy.
I quit. I don't want to do it no more, Andy says she cried. But "we had a good crew in here and we got the job done."
"Oh, I'm so tired," says Wendy - and famished, besides; she hasn't eaten in nearly 18 hours. "I can go anywhere I want, right?"
"Sure," replies Candace. "Where do you want to go?"
To the cafeteria with Andy and Rachel. But Christine says, no. The anesthesia hasn't worn off completely. Candace says she'll have something brought up for her.
Till then, there are other kinds of nourishment.
"C'mere, doll," Wendy says, calling Rachel over. "Sit right here. Rachel.Guess what. Mommy's not pregnant no more, so now when I hold you in bed, you don't have to say, 'I wish you didn't have that stomach!' "
Kathy is on the other side of the room with Candace, learning how to suction spit-up from the baby's mouth with a rubber bulb.
"Sweetheart!" Kathy cries to Joe when she does the job. "Did you see that? I did it!"
Christiana is crying now, but not loudly or shrilly. "I can get used to that cry," says Joe.
"We never thought we'd hear that cry," says Louise.
"She's so pretty. She's so pretty," Kathy coos, as Christiana grows quiet. "What a pretty girl. She's a pretty girl. Look at how pretty she is. Where's Auntie Wendy? Where's Auntie Wendy? Where is she? Want to see Auntie Wendy pretty soon?"
She lightly touches the baby's feet and hands with the back of her own hand, and tilts Christiana's face toward Joe to kiss.
"Perfect, Wendy. Perfect. How perfect you did this!" says Kathy, bouncing at her knees to lull the baby.
Kathy is silent a long minute, trying to express how she feels.
"Complete," she says finally. "Just complete."