Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Not yet

This morning I was at my desk, waiting to hear back from L about her trip to the sonogram place to check on the baby's growth. Around 11:30 she called me on my office phone. When I picked up I could hear her laughing to someone else, so I thought everything was fine. "I'm in a cab to the hospital," she said. "The baby's heart rate was low, so they want to hook me up to a fetal heart rate monitor." The doctors had told her that I should meet her at the hospital. A nurse had walked L out of the office to make sure she could catch a cab to St. Vincents downtown.

I had a conference call at 12, and was supposed to attend a hearing at 2. Everything was different now. I emailed a few attorneys and my secretary to tell them I had to go to the hospital. At first I tried to be discreet but I couldn't find the words so I said exactly what was happening. I didn't care who knew. My wonderful secretary came to my doorway and helped me think of things I needed. We decided I should take the subway. I gathered a few work items, grabbed my lunch and the New Yorker, my headphones. "You know, this could be it," I said.

I was so nervous I got out at the wrong subway stop, walking briskly up 7th Avenue in my ill-fitting dress shoes at a clip that made my lower legs ache. St. Patrick's Day revelers were everywhere, laughing and plodding along in their stupid green t-shirts. A lot of green Yankees paraphernalia and orange wigs. In the hospital I remembered how to get to Labor & Delivery, but I had to stop at two different nurse's stations to find L. I thought of the other times I had made similar trips, navigating an unknown hospital to find my wife hidden in some small undistinguished room.

She was lying on her side in a hospital gown, a nest of tubes and wires snaking out from her belly. The room was filled with the constant, reassuring thrum of the baby's heartbeat. She was smiling. Everything seemed to be fine.

We sat there for almost two hours, as doctors and nurses came in and agreed that things seemed perfectly normal. We watched a little bit of TV: some CNN, some TLC, the "Full House" episode where Michelle learns to tie her shoes and Uncle Jesse admits he never graduated high school and decides to go back. It wasn't as poorly written and un-funny as I feared it would be; it wasn't bad at all, except for the unnervingly intimate close-ups. I've never seen a sitcom with such tight close-ups. It was like "60 Minutes" or something.

Ultimately they discharged us; L got dressed and we staggered back out into the day. A part of me had hoped this would be it, that the day would end with a baby. But I suspected we would probably just head on home. The doctors concluded that the low heart rate had been a fluke: maybe L had been sitting in a weird way, maybe the baby had been squeezing the cord or something. Who knows. Nothing to worry about.

We stopped at the bookstore visit with our friends, and ate lunch at Subway. We both returned to work rattled. I had a couple of beers at the office's St. Patrick's Day happy hour, organized my personal emails and eventually went to hip hop. Class was great tonight; we had a sub, and he was doing really intricate, asymmetrical stuff, based on the California style of krumping. Then I came back home to see my pregnant wife and wind down this day.

Now at day's end, I'm glad we were able to go through a dry run of things. L told me she had initially gone to the wrong floor of the hospital. Now she knows which floor to go to, and I know which subway stop to take.

On my subway ride down to the hospital, I had started to get excited. If the baby was going to be born today I could just wear my suit at the hospital for the next few days, my nice starched shirt getting wrinkled and soft after a couple days of broken sleep. This necktie would always remind me of the day my daughter was born. The work I brought would have gone untouched, but I might have read the New Yorker. We didn't have a lot with us, but it would have been enough.

There was that sense, riding the train down to see my wife and my daughter, that this could be it. The question kept rising in my mind, and the realization that there was no wrong or bad answer made me revel in the asking: Why not today? Why not right now?

Eventually, soon, we can answer. But not today.

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