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Saturday, May 16th …. Continued …
Jim left the house to accompany his father on some lawn care business while I tried to come up with a sensible reason to avoid joining my mother-in-law and aunt in the driveway, manning the annual garage sale.
I couldn’t fashion a plausible reason that I would be leaving when I knew, even then, that my “errand” would be anything but brief. I finally just braced myself, and told the ladies I would be seeing a friend – a doctor – to check on the baby, because I felt off.
To which, of course, they replied, “I’m sure it’s nothing. Sometimes it takes a while for them to wake up and get moving.” I just forced a smile, and willed away the minutes until I could leave.
It amazes me how clearly I remember trivial details of the hours I sat in the driveway, waiting. I don’t remember a single mile of the trip to Joel’s office, but ask me what Seth was wearing that morning, or how much Linda sold a rusty wheelbarrow for, and I can tell you.
By the time I arrived at the medical plaza, it had begun to rain – just a misting, really, but enough that I was irritated my hair was no longer straight and shiny. I stood outside the service entrance to the office, pounding on the metal door, wondering if I could change my reality if I just turned around and left.
A thousand raindrops fell, and yet, he remained still.
Joel finally heard my knock, and ushered me into his office while he finished with his last patient. I spun in his desk chair, absently running my fingers over the phone buttons, counting ceiling tiles, tilting my head to read the embossed titles on the medical journals lining the shelves. I selected a volume on Obstetrics, and began to look for any articles on pregnancy complications.
The phrases started to blur. The sentences didn’t register. Terminology I knew inside out from Seth’s high-risk pregnancy no longer made sense.
A thousand words read, and yet, he remained still.
I heard Joel send off his patient, and lock the doors behind her. He popped his head into the office, reassuring me that he’d only be one more minute. A phone rang, and he went to answer.
I stood, and wandered the connecting hallways of the office, picking up a Dumdum lollipop somewhere along the way. Butter Rum. One of my favorites.
A lap around the building. Then two. Maybe I went ‘round twenty times before Joel called me into an exam room, and we both smiled awkwardly as I climbed on the table. Doctor or not, I know he and I both felt embarrassed as I slid down my jeans, albeit slightly, for him to prepare for the doppler.
“Remind me again how far along you are?” Joel squirted some gel onto my abdomen.
“Twenty-four weeks today.” I stared up at the ceiling, willing my eyes to dry up. C’mon, buddy, prove me wrong, I whispered in my heart to my son. I won’t care if I have to feel stupid for causing a fuss….just prove me wrong.
Too much time was passing, and Joel and I both knew it. An increasingly fast heartbeat filled the room through the doppler speakers, but it was only mine.
As numb and hollow as I was becoming with each passing moment, the silence only reinforced what I already knew in my heart. But poor Joel. For him…..well, it was the hugely unpleasant task of being the bearer of bad news – and not just for a random patient. He had to look down at the face of a friend who sang in his wedding, a friend with whom his wife spent countless hours entertaining on bedrest, a friend who he had dinner with several times a month, and tell her what no mother should have to hear.
We played our parts – the stoic physician, and the brave patient – for about ten minutes before I finally reached up and set my hand over his.
“It’s okay. You can stop.”
He handed me a tissue to wipe up the gel, and I knew he was struggling to look at me.
“Joel.” I waited until he eyes met mine. “It’s okay,” I repeated, even as my lips began to tremble. “Just tell me what to do.”
He seemed to muster up some professional reserve, and helped me to a sitting position. Together, we agreed that I should go to the hospital. He volunteered to make some phone calls that would allow me to go straight to labor and delivery for monitoring, rather than admit through the emergency room. A quick phone call to the obgyn on call at my practice in Nashville confirmed I was doing the right thing under the circumstances.
Joel walked me to the door, and held it open as I stepped out into the now-pouring rain.
A thousand unspoken words exchanged, and yet, he remained still.
I climbed into my mother-in-law’s van, fumbling at the dashboard until I remembered how to turn on the windshield wipers. Only after a moment did it register that the wipers were beating in time to the chorus of “Blessed Be Your Name” playing on the radio.
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say,
’Lord, blessed be Your name’
I took a deep breath, put the car in reverse, and picked up my cell phone to call Jim.
Saturday, May 16th …. To be continued …