Part 30: Tears and whispers
The night after the baby's birth, as Kathy lies sleeping in the next bed, Wendy sneaks down to the nursery. It is like some automatic impulse, she says: She has to "go check."
She stands there looking at Christiana Marie - a baby so much like her own two girls that Wendy cries.
Do you want to hold her, the nurse on duty asks.
No, says Wendy. Just looking.
She worries that to do more than that is to get too close. She doesn't want to fool around with dangerous emotions.
"I didn't bond through the whole pregnancy. Then all of a sudden . . .? Sitting down, rocking in a rocking chair? No. I didn't want that at all."
For all Wendy's determination, however, she cannot control her postpartum tears. They come in bursts at unexpected times, causing her to bury her face in her hands or flee into the lavatory.
One time, she cries in front of Kathy, an awkward situation for both of them, since neither sister wants the other to feel bad.
And after that, Kathy takes to feeding and changing the baby in a separate room, so as not to inflict pain on Wendy.
* * *
Andy, too, is kind to her.
He understands without being told what she is going through, Wendy says. When she tries to explain her tears by saying, I thought the baby would look like Joe, but she looks like Nicole and Rachel!, he tells her, Wen, no matter what the baby looked like, you would be crying. But it's going to be all right.
At one point, he and Rachel leave Wendy's room for a while, then return with a teddy bear.
"That's so when we're not here," says Andy, "you got a baby to hold onto."
* * *
As the afternoon wears on, and more family members visit, Wendy seems less fragile.
Bob, Louise and Jamie show up - Bob carrying a foil-covered tray of littleneck clams, a favorite food that Wendy's had to avoid during her pregnancy.
"I know you were dying for them," Bob says, setting them down, and Wendy immediately dives in.
In a little while, Kathy brings in Christiana Marie - all fed, burped, changed and bathed - and hands her to her grandmother, who cradles her in a chair by the window.
"She smells like a baby," sings Louise, after leaning in close for several meditative moments. "Like a little flower bud. A little rosebud. Oh, my God, she's so perfect. She looks like my kids!"
"This is better than having a dog," says Jamie, looking on. "Can I have her, Joe?"
"No, no, no, I'm sorry," says Joe. "Can't have that one, no. That's not like renting a video."
Joe proudly tells how, the night before, he was holding Christiana - stiffly, at first, then less so. "And I went and kissed her. 'Don't cry,' I said, 'your father is here and no one will ever hurt you.' And she stopped crying just like that! I told Mickey this morning: Wow, check this out, man! I got the magic words!"
Louise looks up.
"God had a hand in this," she says. "I just know it. I think he was guiding it from a year ago." Even the way the baby was born on a Saturday, when Andy wasn't working, seems miraculous to her.
"Everything worked out," agrees Joe.
"Nana's sweet potato!" says Louise, focusing again on the contented baby. "Doesn't she look like one? A sweet potato? She's a little yam. She's a fat little turkey! She loves it here]"
Kathy is standing on the other side of the room. She is so quiet that someone asks, are you tired?, and she nods - "It's a good tired."
* * *
The next day is discharge day.
Though Kathy has offered Wendy her guest room, thinking she may want to be near the baby, Wendy declines. She wants to be home - home and not pregnant, that will feel so good.
She and Kathy have packed up their clothes and gifts and are ready to go. All that's left to do is dress Christiana for her first-ever trip in the car. But first she needs changing.
Go ahead, Kathy tells Wendy. I want you to do it.
And so Wendy does. She cleans, diapers and dresses the baby, gazing tenderly at her face the whole time. ("It felt good," she says later.)
When Wendy steps out into the hallway, several nurses make a point of hugging her goodbye. The way they do it - whispering how special she is, how they feel for her - it's as if they'd been holding it in for two days. They walk away quickly, in tears.
Now she and Kathy head downstairs and climb into separate cars - Wendy with Nicole and Rachel; Kathy and Christiana with Joe.
Hang back a bit, Wendy instructs Nicole. She doesn't want Kathy to see her crying, crying all the way from the hospital to the highway.