I held him for a couple of minutes, doing the routine check to see that he had all his fingers and toes. He looked a lot like Hank except that his hair was lighter and his eyes were a brighter blue. He was perfect.
The nurses swaddled him, and I held him for just a moment before they had to check his vitals. During the vitals check, Nick’s breathing became labored. They whisked him out of the room for further examination. One by one, the staff filtered out the door. Al took off following them with the video camera in hand. “T, I’ll get some footage of Nick through the observation window.”
The room once filled with vibrancy was suddenly empty and quiet. I gazed at the blood pressure and heart rate monitors and began to wonder what they were doing with Nick. I was alone and for too long. Well more than twenty minutes had passed as I waited in silence. My mind started to play tricks on me. Nurses skulked by without making eye contact. They didn’t even notice that I was freezing from the aftereffects of the epidural. I began to wonder what was going on outside my labor and delivery room door. My body was chilled to the bone as fear began to creep in and paralyze me. Post-delivery was taking much longer than it had with Hank. Something wasn’t right; I sensed it.
After another ten minutes, the double doors slowly opened. Al, two doctors, and an unknown woman finally appeared. One of the doctors was our pediatrician, Dr. K., who had been paged to come in. The sour expressions on their faces were grim. I held my breath and just prayed that Nick had not suffered any complications. I gazed at Al and knew something was very wrong. There was great pain and worry in Al’s eyes. Has our son died?
I have no idea who spoke first. My breathing began to accelerate as I tried to read the doctors’ faces, seeing their serious demeanor. I shifted my body upward, my spine as rigid as a mast sitting on the centerline of a boat.
Dr. K. introduced the other doctor, who began to speak about Nick’s case. He told me that Nick was in an incubator under oxygen in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I let out a big exhale knowing that Nick was okay, only to finish that breath with a sickening punch to the stomach. The doctors had observed several traits that denoted our son might have Down syndrome. My fingers clenched the roughly textured sheets as I realized this was way off course from our itinerary. What happened to our compass reading?
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