“In here, dear,” said the nurse, showing Emily into the small room, most of it taken up by the steel operating table. Emily had already put on the starched blue-flowered gown, and had an IV needle in her arm. She felt cold. “Can you get up here?” asked the nurse. She had straight gray hair cut severely, but a kindly face. She took Emily's elbow to help her up onto the table.
“Get comfortable,” said the nurse, whose name was Joan. “It looks like we'll have another warm one,” she said.
Emily knew the inconsequential chatter was meant to put her at ease, but it grated on her nonetheless.
“Now just lie back and relax,”said Joan.
Emily lay down, and the nurse put her feet up in the stirrups, her air efficient and businesslike. She unfolded a sheet and draped it over Emily. “The doctor will be here in just a moment.”
Emily felt a tear slide down her cheek. She gasped for air, and struggled to sit up. “I can't do this,” she said. “I can't!”
The nurse put a supportive arm around her, giving her a little hug.
On the day of Jared's birth, Emily's mother came to the hospital. Emily could scarcely believe it, she had not seen her mother for nearly 3 years, but she came. She held Jared close to her, only the tip of his nose and his wrinkled forehead showing above the blanket. She began to feel the stirring of an enormous love in her, and buoyed by it was able to smile at her mother. “It's nice you could come, Mom.”
Emily's mother sighed, then smiled back and reached out a tentative finger to touch Jared's cheek. “He's a sweet baby, isn't he?”
Emily smiled down at him, the most perfect baby in the world. His tiny hands, his curled feet . . and when he yawned, it was utterly irresistible.
“Mom!” Jared slammed into the kitchen, dropped his backpack and ran to pull on her skirt. “Look what I made you!”
“I think your middle name should be enthusiasm,” Emily said, bending down to give him a hug. “What did you make?”
“It's a Valentime card, and I made it myself. It's to say I love you for Valentime's.” He held out a construction paper folded in half, with a squiggly crayon heart and other artwork around the edges. In big letters it said TO MOM, JARED.
She gave him another hug. “It's the most beautiful card anyone's ever given me.” And it was the truth.
She got the phone call as she was getting ready to go to the store, and drove immediately to the park where Jared's class was having a field trip. The teacher and Jared were coming down the hill as she got out of the car; he was holding his side and wincing. He had a wad of kleenex pressed to his hip, and was biting his lip.
“I'm so sorry,” said Mrs Kellogg, the 6th grade teacher. “He fell coming down a steep place; he was running. I tried to wash it out, but he probably should see his doctor.”
“Thank you,” Emily murmured, putting her arm around her son, who relaxed against her. “I'll take him there right now.”
Dr Mason was able to take Jared in right away. She asked if she could come along, and the nurse let her stand by Jared's head while the doctor performed the small operation of cleaning out the wound and sewing it up. Smoothing Jared's hair, she noticed that his lips were pressed together and and his face was turning red.
“Does it hurt?” she whispered.
“It's all right if you want to yell,” she said. “It's all right, isn't it, doctor?”
“That's fine,”said Dr Mason. “Won't bother me.”
Jared drew a deep sobbing breath, and let out a young boy's yell. “Good job,” Emily said. “You're doing fine.”
When the doctor had finished and applied a large dressing, Emily took him to the babysitter while she went to work. She gave the sitter the pain medicine, and patted Jared goodby. “He probably will just want to rest,” she said.
As she went down the driveway, Jared called to her.”Mom.”
“I love you, mom.”
“Love you too.” Her heart gave a little bounce of joy.
“Mom,”Jared said shyly.” I'd like you to meet my girlfriend. This is Kaylee.”
Emily looked up at a thin dark haired girl who smiled nervously. Emily stood up and held out her hand. “It's a pleasure.”
“We – “ he stopped and cleared his throat. “We're planning on getting married in a few months. We've known each other quite a while, we actually met in freshman art class, but she never could come out for a visit before.”
“That's great news! I'm sure anyone you love must be a great person.” Emily held out her arms to hug Kaylee, who looked a little surprised but hugged her back.
“It's so great to finally meet you,” Kaylee said shyly. “Jared talks about you all the time.”
“I'm excited,” said Emily. “A wedding . . .” And grandchildren someday, she thought to herself. I'm so glad I didn't . . .
The nurse's arm was around her, supporting her but easing her back. “It's normal to feel a little uncertain,” she said soothingly. “It'll pass. Just try to relax.”
“No, but --” Emily tried to say.
“Here's the doctor now,” said Joan.
“Well, well,” the doctor boomed above her. He was a large presence, filling the small room, dominating it. “Feeling a little nervous? That's only normal.” He lowered his voice. “Has she had something to calm her?”
“Just getting it,” said the nurse. Emily felt a pressure as the nurse injected something into the IV in her arm. “That will help you relax.”
“Now just think of a relaxing place, someplace that you enjoyed, maybe a vacation spot . . .” The doctor moved her knees apart, and she felt something cold touch her.
“This will only take a short time, and then you can be on your way . . .”
She felt a fog envelop her, felt her anxiety slipping away . .. it had only been a dream, she told herself. And the dream was over, was gone now, destroyed . . .
“No!” She pulled her knees together, and struggled to her elbow. She grabbed the IV and jerked it out of her arm.
“I'm not doing this. Get away from me!”
“Emily!” the nurse gasped. “You don't know what you're doing.”
“I know exactly what I'm doing,” Emily said. She looked the nurse in the eyes. “Don't lay a hand on me or I will sue the pants off you.”
In the parking lot outside, dressed once more in her own clothes, she leaned against the car, put her hands on her stomach and looked down. “Baby,” she whispered, “don't worry. We'll make it together.”