The time that the baby would be born was approaching. I looked at the father and couldn’t help but smile to myself. He was so nervous, so excited to have a son. He kept looking at the patient…the love of his life…so caught up in the emotions that come with having a child together. Their first child. When she was hurting he would encourage her gently and sweetly. “I love you so much,” spoken softly into her ear, “Our baby’s coming.”
The two of them-- a picture of perfect health, athletic, active, tan, mid twenties-- made me think of triathlons, and extreme sports. They were endearingly naïve, yet eager to live life. She had labored without pain medication and had held up like a fortress wall with him supporting her. Even in her most painful moments she remained sweet and mild, ever grateful for our help and advice. I found myself instantly attached and involved with this couple from the moment they arrived. I couldn’t wait for the big moment for their sakes—they were so in love with this baby together.
When the baby came out, the doctor placed it on the mother’s abdomen. The mother, breathless, embraced the baby and the couple cried, completely overtaken with joy. I tried to not intrude as I dried off the baby and changed its blankets to dry ones. All at once, the infant let out a wail, feeble and high-pitched. The sound of it made the new parents laugh with satisfaction.
“Look at his chubby little fingers!” the mother noticed with delight. The infant’s fingers were grasped around my knuckle as I listened to his chest with a stethoscope, counting the swishes for his pulse rate. I opened the chubby fingers to show the father, and ran my own finger over the single crease in the tiny palm.
“Let me take one more good look at him, here,” I said as I turned him. I couldn’t help smiling. The baby was beautiful, skin pink as a tulip, eyes like onyx—narrow and slanted. His tiny tongue, pink and pointed, protruded expectantly. “I think he’s ready to eat, Momma!”
After assisting the mother position him for breastfeeding, I turned to look at the couple. They were still high with the significance of the moment. “You have a beautiful son,” I said as I left the room-- I was completely sincere, “Congratulations.”
The doctor joined me as I started walking down the hallway. "Are you calling the nursery?" he asked.
“I’ll do that right now.”
At the nurses’ station I picked up the phone and dialed the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.
“Hi Judy,” I said grimly, “I have a baby in labor room 4 that I need you to come and check out. It looks like he has Down’s syndrome.”