Tim awoke to the captain’s announcement in progress.
“…we’re in a holding pattern over Nashville. The airport is fogbound and we’re awaiting a break in visibility to get clearance to land. We’ll keep circling for now, but if we don’t get an opening in the next 20 minutes, we’ll be moving to an alternate city to land. We’ll keep you posted.”
Tim reached for the in-flight magazine to look at the airport maps. He tried to guess where they would go if they could not land here. What would be his connection to Norfolk? How long a delay would he agonize through as his wife continued her labor? Was it over? Had he missed it? Would he arrive only to see the baby already here?
Tim stopped the wild speculations as the captain came on the speakers again.
“Folks, it looks like the fog is lifting. We’re fourth in line for landing. All connecting flights had been grounded, so your regular itineraries remain unchanged. We’re only 17 minutes behind planned schedule.”
Hope and gratefulness swelled in his heart. He prayed a quick thanks and went to the lavatory. Back at his seat in a few minutes, the flight attendants prepared the cabin for arrival.
In the terminal, he checked for his connecting gate and boarding time. He had a few minutes and took the opportunity to call Norfolk. He knew Andy and Sharon had taken his wife to the hospital. He called Andy’s cell phone from an airport pay phone. Andy answered on the second ring. Tom didn’t get a chance to speak to his wife. She was busy dilating, sweating, and breathing through painful contractions with Sharon at her side. Andy reported she was at 7 centimeters and contractions getting closer. Tim gave them his flight information and arrival time. Andy promised to call Jim and Michelle to pick him up. They hung up and Tim boarded his second flight.
At the Norfolk airport Tim mentally debated about waiting for his bags. He could come back to the airport later and get them. In the end though, he didn’t have to wait for them. He was in the back of the plane and by the time everyone got off and walked the length of the terminal, his bags were available on the carousel. He slowed, paced his bags, and snagged them off with barely a break in his stride. He exited the terminal and spotted Jim’s car at the curb.
Tim tossed his bags in the back seat and climbed in. Jim’s car was a massive Ford LTD Crown Victoria that had been an unmarked police cruiser. It had the 351-cubic-inch Windsor V-8 engine and Ford’s 7200 series Variable Venturi carburetor. Tim only knew these details because Jim told him repeatedly. Tim just knew the powerful vehicle responded well to Jim’s heavy foot on the accelerator and he would not have chosen any other driver to race him to the hospital. Jim placidly returned nods and friendly waves from police officers as he sped past their radar positions. Jim was not a cop, but he loved being mistaken for one in his LTD. He never got pulled over in the six years he owned the car. In what seemed like a few moments, Jim pulled up in front of the hospital. Tim jumped out and headed up to the delivery room.
Tim entered the room and noticed the smells first. It startled him to experience it and associate it with calving season.
“Mammals and their smells,” he noted. He decided not to mention it and walked to his wife’s bedside.
She was sweating. Her face was flushed and Sharon was spooning ice chips to her. Tim kissed his wife’s forehead as she smiled and relaxed at his arrival. A nurse came in pulling on gloves and peeking under the sheet.
She greeted him by asking, “Are you Dad? We’ve all been waiting for you. She’s just reached 10 centimeters and it’s time to start pushing.”
Tim stepped back as more people came in to set up equipment around the room. A large basket thingy with an overhead light was rolled near the foot of the bed. Tim noticed the monitor on the stand at the head of the bed. It connected to the elastic belt around his wife’s tummy. A slow paper fed and folded from it. He picked up the paper folds and began looking back at the squiggly line showing the contractions he’d missed.
Stupidity emerged again as he pointed to a part of the readout and said, “Wow. That was a big one. Did it hurt much?”
His wife glared at him and Sharon let him know the epidural had not started until after that event. Tim put the paper back down and shut up. They heard a woman yelling from down the hall. Soothing voices murmured encouragement in garbled phrases back to her. Tim realized the hospital wing was full of women giving birth. Women in varying stages of labor advanced their individual experiences as doctors and nurses flitted from room to room.
“It’s like ‘Whack-a-Mole’ in reverse,” his idiotic brain thought (thankfully, not aloud).
Just then, it was their turn. The doctor came in, took his place at the foot of the bed, and put his arms under the sheet to check. He had been in and out of the room briefly for the past hour. He nodded and decided to stay this time.
“We’re close,” he said. “Just some pushes and we’ll have a baby for you.”
Tim was surprised at how quickly the baby arrived. It wasn’t at all like the movies. There was no screaming or other theatric nonsense. The doctor calmly reported the downward progress of the baby. The nurse coordinated breathing and pushing. Tim tried to keep up without hyperventilating. The baby moved downward during some contractions even without extra pushing.
“Very smooth,” Tim thought. “This is easy.” His idiot brain ran on silently.
In what seemed like moments since Tim’s arrival, a baby boy was taken to the lighted basket thingy. Doctors and nurses did some quick suctioning, wiping and weighing of the newborn before wrapping him in the standard striped blanket and placed him on his mom’s chest. Everyone smiled and congratulated the new parents. Mercifully, Tim’s brain had no words.