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Chapter 16 - The Prodigal Son

September 1992

I found an excuse to sleep on the couch every night. The one that worked best was that the baby and my back needed the cushions. For the past six months since my husband has been home, I managed to sleep here every night. I had not managed to stop dreaming of bloody oceans and teeth.

Tonight was different. I felt an intermittent cramp growing. It started around one o’clock this morning, and it hadn’t stopped. I was hoping that it would go away, but it hadn’t yet. I was watching the clock. It had been ten minutes since the last cramp, and I was hoping there wouldn’t be another one tonight.

“Ah!” I yelled into the empty living room. This was not going to go away. “Chuck!” I yelled into the dark. No answer. “Chuck!” I yelled again. “Chuck!” This time I screamed.

Chuck ran into the living room and stubbed his toe on the coffee table. “Fuck! What’s wrong Lilian?” His voice was full of concern, and that calmed me a little.

“I think I’m having a baby,” I said through clenched teeth.

Chuck panicked. “What? You’re not due for another couple of weeks.”

“He doesn’t care.”

Terrorized and clueless, Chuck asked, “What do I do?”

“Take me to the hospital.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Hang on.” Chuck ran to the bedroom and put his shorts and t-shirt on, slipped his sandals on, grabbed his keys and wallet, and returned to me. “Okay, let’s go.”

“Could you bring me my house shoes and my purse?”

“Sure, baby. Where are they?”

“My shoes are in the closet. My purse is by the nightstand,” I said slowly trying to overcome the cramp. It was easing up now, so I thought I could make it to the car. “Hurry.”

Chuck ran back to the bedroom and returned with my shoes and purse. I slipped on the shoes with Chuck’s help, and we started to the car. Chuck walked beside me with his arm around me.

“Now take it slow. It’s not coming right now, so we have time to get to the hospital,” I told Chuck as we backed out onto the road. He nodded but punched the gas. As we merged onto the highway, another cramp hit full force. It made my eyes roll back into my head, and I made a small yelp. Chuck pushed on the gas harder.

We arrived at the hospital in one piece, but Chuck was a mess. Chuck talked with the officer and admissions as the nurse wheeled me into the maternity ward.

The nurse told me to undress and crawled into bed and that the doctor would be in soon. Chuck walked in after I had already undressed and helped me crawl onto the birthing bed. When the doc finally arrived, he ordered a shot of muscle relaxer. I stared at the calendar on the wall. September. It’s the sixth, I thought.

“Are you ready to be a mommy?” Doc asked.

No. “I’m ready to get this bowling ball out of me.”

Doc laughed. I smirked and tried to breathe while a new cramp ripped through my body. Doc punctured the amniotic sack with some instrument that looked like a really long knitting needle. A huge rush of reddish-brown fluid flowed out of my vagina into a plastic pouch that the nurse put under my butt. I saw Chuck wince and turn his eyes to mine. He looks scared. I couldn’t help him. I was scared, too. A cramp hit harder and longer this time. I guessed the correct term now was contraction. It sure as hell didn’t feel like a cramp anymore. An involuntary yelp escaped my throat, and Chuck grabbed my hand and rubbed the back of it. The nurses attached a belt around my abdomen to tell us when my contractions were coming. It didn’t help me to know, but I suppose everyone else liked the warning.

“Are you ready to push, Lilian?” Doc asked me as he returned to the room after eight hours of labor.

“Yes,” I said this a little more forcefully than I meant to.

The Doc seemed to understand and didn’t take offense. Instead, he smiled and asked Chuck to hold my left knee while a nurse held my right. I pushed for thirty minutes.

Finally, I pushed with all my might, and Chuck watched as his son’s head emerges. Doc told me to relax to keep from tearing too much, and I did.

“One last push, Lilian,” Doc said.

“You can do it, Sweet Pea,” Chuck encouraged.

I relaxed until I feel another contraction, and then I pushed with everything I had.

“Her name is Andrea Gail Wickham,” I told the nurse when she asked what name we wanted on our daughter’s birth certificate.

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