My mouth fell open. "Really?"
My husband's eyebrows rose. "Right now?"
The doctor rolled his stool around to face us. He rubbed his thighs briskly.
"This is West Virginia," he said. "I don't want to start a family feud. Do you, or don't you? Want to know?"
I nodded. My husband shook his head. I huffed.
My husband shrugged. "I like surprises. So does my family."
I clasped my hands in front of my face and opened my eyes super wide. "Pretty please? I won't tell anyone inside the state."
My husband sighed. "Oh, all right."
The doctor wheeled the stool back to face the screen. He tapped it with his pen.
"See that right there?" he said. "That's what makes your little guy, a guy."
I grinned and clapped. "I did it! I made a boy!"
The doctor gave my husband a little shove. "You okay, Dad?"
My husband leaned closer to the ultrasound screen. His breath fogged it.
"It's a boy? Really?"
The doctor smiled and clapped him on the back. "It's a boy, a healthy son. Congratulations.”
The girls were swinging. "Watch how high we can go," the older one said.
The younger one squinted at me and slammed her feet down to stop. "What, Mommy?" she said. "Why's your face all funny?"
I toed the splat on the porch. "Someone bring me the phone please."
"Mommy, you wet yourself."
I shook my head and spoke louder. "Just get me a phone."
"Right now?" my husband said. "It's coming right now?"
I exhaled my answer. "Yes."
"My dad's in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer and I have someone here in the office with me. It’s really right now?"
I nibbled my lip. "Last baby was born 20 minutes after my water broke."
"I'll be right there."
My eyes bulged. I touched my cheeks. Hot. I crooked my finger to bring her closer, so the whole world wouldn't hear.
"Stimulate your nipples," she said. "It makes the body release oxytocin which can move the process along. Just slide your arms inside your gown." She busied herself tucking the sheets around me, adjusting the monitor beside my bed. I tapped her shoulder.
"Can you close the door, please?"
"Sure thing, honey. Your doctor's been paged. He'll be here any minute.” She pointed at the control panel near the bedrail. "That's the nurse call button if you need me. Don't forget, stim—"
I pressed my finger to my mouth. She laughed as she eased the door shut behind her.
"Can you write it in my chart now?" I said to my doctor. "Put it in all caps: PATIENT WANTS EPIDURAL AS SOON AS SHE ENTERS HOSPITAL.”
Dr. Davis had laughed. "We'll see."
"What do you mean I can't have an epidural?" I said to my labor nurse. "It's in my chart. In all caps. Look it up!"
The nurse fussed with my sheets, patted my hand, avoided my eyes. “They said the anesthesiologist has a more emergent situation right now."
My fingernails bit into my palms. I gnashed my teeth. "What is more emergent than a baby emerging from my body?"
The nurse cringed. Her hands were like nervous butterflies in the air between us. She moved toward the door.
I began to chant under my breath. "I want drugs. I want them now. I want drugs—"
"How about some Nubane, honey?" It sounded like my nurse.
I snarled my nose. "What's that?"
She brushed a stray hank of hair from my face. "I think you'll like it," she said. "It'll take the edge off, help you relax."
I shrugged. "Okay."
Prick. Ow! Warmth. Oooh! I collapsed against my pillows. A moment later a noisy breath leaked out of me.
"That's nice," I told Nurse.
I grinned at the corner of the room by the door, thinking that was where my husband was.
"Hey!" I said. She glanced over. I smiled coyly, blinked a couple times. "Some more, please?"
She chuckled. "Sorry, no.” She perched on the bench at the end of the bed and nudged my knees apart.
I stuck my tongue out at her.
"You're almost ready now," she said. "I'll call Dr. Davis. Again."
"Be nice," Dr. Davis said. "He's just observing. I won't let him touch you."
I snorted. "Is he old enough to hear cuss words?"
The med student cowered. Dr. Davis gave my ankles a squeeze.
"You ready to do this?"
I winced as another wave of pressure and pain seared me.
"Can't you just grab its head and yank it out?"
"Easy," my doctor said. "Don't hold your breath. Breathe. That's it."
When the fire started in my girl parts, I headed for my pillows, determined to escape it.
"Will whoever has their hand on my— Dang it! I can't even say the word 'cause Doogie—"
Dr. Davis stood. "Keep pushing! You're so close!"
The med student approached me from the side. His hot breath misted my cheek.
A fresh more urgent pain arrived. I fell back on the pillow stack and sobbed. Doogie slunk back to his corner. I wanted it over. Now. I heaved myself forward once more and clenched all my muscles and shoved, forced everything inside of me down between my legs. The skin on my face felt tight. And I was so hot. The sprinkler system would trigger any minute, surely it would.
I panted. "Someone fan me! Fan my face! I’m serious! And where is Nubane Lady? Get her back here this instant!"
Suddenly the pressure in my groin dropped, diminished. I squeaked, attempted to sit up.
I felt my nose drain, then my eyes. When the stretching sensation returned, I arched my back and moaned, dug my fingernails into the mattress. More flesh of my flesh slipped out of me.
"And we have a baby, a perfect baby boy."
Everything in me softened, went limp, as if I had no bones. I hung in the moment, concentrating on the freedom from pain, listening to the pounding in my ears slow.
Dr. Davis brought my boy child to me, still slick with his white icing of vernix.
"Tell him, 'hello,' Mom. He's a little blue. He needs oxygen."
I stroked my son's face with my pointer finger. Tears spilled onto my cheeks.
"Gosh, he looks like his dad," Dr. Davis said. "Dad, come over here. Check this little guy out."
"I made a boy," I declared.
Dr. Davis laughed from across the room. "You get what you get, you know."
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