“Please step out of the room.”

I’m pushed backward, and doctors and nurses all run to Cleo. I turn to my left and notice my baby—the words ‘my baby’ sound weirdly foreign—on a small cot with a light over him. He screams while a nurse wraps him up in a blanket and checks him over. She turns to me and hands him over with a smile.

“He’s very healthy and beautiful.”

Hands touch my shoulder, pulling me back a step, then the door to the room where my baby was born slams shut. I don’t understand what’s happening. I have no idea what’s normal. But one thing I am sure of is handing a baby to a father and pushing him from the room isn’t normal. I sit down on the seat in front of the nurses’ station and just stare at him. He’s perfect. Too fucking perfect to be related to me, that’s for sure.

“What shall we name you?” I say to him as if he has an answer. Of course, he doesn’t, he just screams. People start rushing in and out of the door I was just shoved through.

“… too much blood. She needs more blood,” one nurse says into the phone. They don’t even bother looking at me with a newborn in my arms. “It was high-risk. She knew it but did it anyway.” This comes from the midwife who was with us during the whole birth. She stops when she sees me, pauses and her eyes flick to the floor.

So, I stand holding my son in my arms. “What’s going on?”

She gazes past me as Cleo is wheeled out from the room, non-responsive, on a bed and rushed past me with a doctor on top pumping her heart. “You weren’t aware?”

I stand holding my son in my arms, looking in the direction they have just taken Cleo. “Aware of what?”

The nurse gazes to the floor again then back up to me.

The baby stops crying.

“She has a heart condition. She wasn’t meant to give birth.”

Her words shock me.

Why didn’t she tell me that?

And why on earth did she get pregnant if she knew she shouldn’t have kids?

The nurse is called, and she runs away, leaving me sitting here with a brand-new baby in my arms and a mother who I don’t know will even survive the night.

2

Darby

Creed is pacing the floor in front of me, the baby is asleep in my arms. It’s been six hours. Six long hours. Not long after Cleo was taken away, they took my son from me to check him over and brought him back one hour later. Then they proceeded to show me how to feed and burp him and change his nappy. All the while, his mother’s in surgery, and I’m her next of kin.

How the fuck that happened I don’t even know.

“Sit,” I bark at Creed. He stops, looks to the baby and reaches for him.

I cling to him, not wanting to let him go. Not yet. He’s mine, I know he is. I don’t need any testing to prove it.

“You need to eat and move.”

I shake my head, but he keeps reaching for my son anyway and takes him from my grip. Just as he does, El walks in holding their child with a bag of food and hands it to me. “Eat, please. For me.” She smiles.

I open the brown bag and pick at the muffin which is neatly wrapped in a cardboard box, but food isn’t my priority right now. I want to know that Cleo isn’t leaving me with a baby, that all of this was a lie, and this nightmare is merely some trick she’s concocted to prove to me I am the baby’s father. I take the baby back from Creed, and we all sit and wait. It takes another two hours for the doctor to finally come out and let us know what’s going on.

“She’s in recovery.”

Those words are all I hear. I don’t care about the rest, not right now.

“Where is she?”

He stops talking and starts walking, so I follow him to a room. “You can’t go in with the baby.”

Creed is next to me and takes my son. I do as the doctor says and put on a gown and mask. Cleo’s so still when I walk in, she doesn’t move once. Her eyes are closed, and right now I want to see those eyes because they are the eyes of my son—blue as blue can be. I reach for her hand, placing mine in hers. She has tubes everywhere, and I’m afraid of what that actually means. What everything really means.

“When will she wake up?”

The doctor is gone and the nurse who’s checking her fluids glances to me then back out the door. “We aren’t sure. You should just keep praying.”

“I don’t pray.”


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