“All right, time for you to push,” announces the doctor.
“I can’t,” Hayden moans. The fight seems to have been drained out of her.
“Yeah, you can. You can do anything, even this.”
Tears roll out of the corners of her eyes. Maybe she would protest more, but the contraction comes again. She alternates between screams and cries, threats of violence and pleas for help. It’s a pleading that gets me. I won’t touch her again. I can’t put her through this.
I pass the cloth across her forehead, let her squeeze my fingers so hard they might break off, whisper words of encouragement. What a warrior she is, how strong she is, how no one but her can do this. I’ve never been so worthless in my entire life.
“It’s coming! It’s coming!” announces the nurse.
“One last push,” instructs the doctor.
Hayden gives it her all and the baby slips into the doctor’s hands. There’s almost complete silence and then a thin wail fills the room.
Hayden begins to cry. My own eyes feel damp.
“It’s a boy,” they tell us. It’s a blur from then on. The nurse does something with the baby. The doctor tells Hayden to push one more time to rid her body of the placenta and then finally, a tiny bundle of skin and bones and a shock of dark hair is placed on Hayden’s breast.
“A son. We have a baby boy,” my wife says in hushed, reverent tones.
The boy is tiny. His fingers are wrinkled and his toes are curled tight against his foot. His eyes look glued shut and his little mouth opens and closes. Hayden guides the baby to her breast and he latches on, suckling on the nipple without any encouragement. She sighs in relief and falls back against the hospital bed. Her arms droop to the side. My girl is exhausted. “You did good, Slick. You did real good.”
“Is everything alright?”
“It’s perfect,” the nurse tells us.
Relieved, Hayden allows her eyes to drift shut. The nurse nudges me aside to take the baby. I watch as he is bundled up into a blanket burrito. A little hat is tugged onto his small head and then I get to hold him.
“I know you’re going to be strong because your momma is made of steel.”
“I’m still not going to let you touch me again,” Hayden says from her hospital bed. Her eyes are still closed but there’s a smile on her face.
“Too bad,” I reply, hitching my son’s small body higher against my chest. “Because I’m going to need about ten more of these little ones.”
“Maybe once more,” she concedes.
I lean down and press a kiss against her forehead. “At least nine of them.”
“Seven and a half.”
Her eyes flick open. “How do you plan to have a half of a kid.”
“I don’t know. I was just throwing numbers out there.”
“You’re silly.” She closes her eyes again.
“Silly in love with you.”
“A total clown in love with you.”