The isle of Kybylos, Greece – early April
“Sarah marry me here and now, in this place.”
My breath caught in my throat as I lay wrapped in Adams arms and heard his words. The moon shone brightly over our impromptu bed in the ruins of Aphrodite’s Temple as I rested my head against his chest, listening to his steady heartbeat as is slowed its pace after our lovemaking.
The night had a mystical feel to it, almost as if the ancient Gods themselves were blessing our union. Maybe communion was a better word, for the intensity of our passion was truly magical this night. I felt wrapped in some inexplicable warmth, belying the coolness of the starry night. Afterglow you might say, but still it seemed more potent; intoxicating really.
I smiled at him as I traced my finger teasingly over his chest. “Right now?” I laughed. I placed a quick kiss where my finger had just been, sending an immediate shiver across Adam’s lean frame.
“Well, maybe not this exact moment, but here in Greece. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?” he murmured against my forehead, before placing a gentle kiss on it.
I thought about it for a moment and sighed, trying to imagine the logistics of getting everyone here for the day. Even though I had relaxed some as I had spent more time with Adam, I was still the practical Sarah I had always been. Adam rarely thought of those types of details; when you have money you just decide to do it and it happens. I was wondering how the family would manage to get time away from work and school to get here, where everyone would stay when they did, all the ordinary details of making it happen.
Adam, bless him, was thinking of the day itself and sharing our love and commitment; that was foremost on his mind. To him it was a given that everyone would be there. So, how did I make it happen?
A soft sigh escaped my lips as I leaned up and placed a quick kiss on his lips before sitting up. The night air really was chilly now I thought as a shiver raised goose bumps up and down my arms and legs. I reached for my clothes in a hurry to get them on. Adam sat up too and hoped down off the stone where we had been laying and stretched. His body looked magnificent in the glow of the moon and it was so tempting to drag him back down onto the stone, but by now I was just too cold.
“Bella, what do you think?” he asked, tugging on his jeans.
“Wha – oh you mean about getting married here?” I frowned for a moment as I pulled on my sandals. I had temporarily forgotten what he had said earlier. I blamed it on the beauty of the night, not on anything like age I told myself with a laugh.
“I would love to get married here. But it might take a little time to get it all arranged you know. I mean, getting everyone here and all,” I added.
“Hm, yes I can see that might be difficult to arrange on such short notice. But we’ll manage I’ll bet.” He wrapped his arms around me and noticed that I was shivering even more now. “Cold, bella?”
At my nod he grabbed my hand and we started down the mountain towards the villa. The Aegean lay before us, looking serene and almost glass-like in the night. We could see a few lights in the village below us and hear faint music coming from somewhere below us as well. We quickened our pace and I laughed about how much easier it was to get down the mountain.
The closer we got to the village, the livelier the sounds became and now we could smell wonderful things cooking. Adam’s sniffed the air appreciatively and I smiled, realizing that I was hungry too. My appetite had seemed to increase a bit lately, which of course worried me. I didn’t have the Richland metabolism which just seemed to burn everything off and I constantly worried about gaining too much weight. Not that I thought it would matter to Adam at all, I was still smaller now than I was when we met, but we women do worry about this stuff. Maybe too much, I decided.
As we got to where the first houses were we turned to the left and followed the lane to the villa. It too was lit up brightly against the night sky, starkly white it almost seemed to glow in the moonlight. The flagged pathway that led to the terrace was edged by some kind of flowering bush that gave off a heavenly smell. The flowers themselves were purple and pink I had noticed earlier as we left for our walk up the mountain.
As we came to the terrace Georgio came out to greet us. “Sarah, your son has been trying to reach you this evening. There is a problem with Pam and the baby; you need to call him immediately.”
I settled into the seat of the jet in the airport in Athens and fastened my seat belt. I heard the ‘click’ of Adam’s belt snapping into place at the same time and looked at him; the fear and worry that was written across my face was mirrored on Adam’s. The last 4 hours had been a frightening time for both of us.
Despite a distinct feeling of weakness in my knees I managed to make it to my phone in record time when Georgio delivered the message. Cassie followed me and stood by nervously as I made the call. I listened intently to my son and my heart sank. I immediately started crying and Cassie’s face blanched white as she watched. Adam and Georgio came into the room then and Adam came to me and pulled me close. I handed the phone to him because I was crying so hard.
Georgio handed me a handful of Kleenex and I hiccupped my thanks to him and wiped my eyes while Adam finished the conversation. There was a couch in the room and I went to sit on it and Cassie came and sat next to me, grabbing my hand and holding it tightly.
Adam hung up the phone and handed it to me silently before kneeling down in front of me. “Sarah, it will be okay, you know? She and the baby will be fine. Now, I’m going to start making the arrangements to get us home.”
I nodded and watched as he started scrolling through his phone address book looking for our travel agents number. His brow furrowed in concentration; something that was normally endearing to me but I was so upset right now that it only made me worry more.
“Adam,” Georgio said, “I think I can help you arrange flights a bit quicker. Let me get my phone and we’ll call my sister Reni to help us.”
Adam nodded and followed Georgio out the door, casting a worried look back at me as he left the room. I sighed and blew my nose, a totally ungracious sound and was thankful that Georgio was out of the room and didn’t hear it!
“Okay Sarah,” Cassie questioned, “what the hell is wrong?”
“Pam has preeclampsia. She has had it for a while now, but it’s been very mild and they have just monitored her. But this morning her blood pressure spiked dangerously high and while they are trying to get it down, they are concerned for the baby. They may have to do an emergency C-section.”
I started crying again as I told Cassie what Derek had told me. Cassie immediately burst into tears as well. Derek and Lissa may have been my biological kids, but she loved them as much as I did and I knew she would take this just as hard as I did.
“Cass, she’s not far enough along to have the baby; she’s only 31 weeks!”
“Sarah, lots of women have babies that early. If they can’t get Pam’s blood pressure down I’m sure the baby will be okay,” Cassie said optimistically.
“But every single day they can hold off on that C-section is better for the baby, Cassie.”
“Not if the baby is suffering from the effects of the high blood pressure Sarah. It will be better to just do it and get it over with,” she told me softly, but there was also a firm edge to her voice.
I nodded miserably in agreement and we both sat silently for a few minutes while it all sank in. Finally Cassie got up and held her hand out to me. “C’mon Sarah, let’s go out on the balcony,” she said softly.
I got up and followed her outside into the still and chilly evening air. The sounds from the village were even louder than when Adam and I had walked home; maybe the ouzo or retsina were flowing a bit more freely, who knew? It was a cheerful sound, but it only made my heart sadder.
“Look Sarah,” Cassie said excitedly. “A shooting star – make a wish!”
The corners of my mouth turned up a bit at the memory this stirred; countless nights spent looking at stars and arguing over whether or not you could wish on shooting stars. I took a deep breath and wished, as much as I could; at this point I’d try anything in the hopes that Pam and the baby would be okay.
Cassie put her arm around me and started the chant, my quiet voice joining her in the still of the night:
First star I’ve seen tonight
Wish I may, wish I might
Have this wish I wish tonight…
God, please let them be safe, let them be safe…
I looked up then as I heard footsteps coming out onto the balcony. Adam smiled at me and leaned down to kiss me on the forehead.
“Bella, can you be ready to leave here in about 30 minutes? A helicopter is coming to pick us up and then we can catch a flight out of Athens in about 4 hours if we hurry.”
I nodded yes and Cassie said, “I’ll help you Sarah, let’s go get you packed.”
We were ready when the helicopter got there, landing by the harbor. We hadn’t been there long enough really to unpack much. The helicopter would take us to Mykonos; there we would catch a charter flight to Athens. There was no landing strip on Kybylos, so this was the quickest way. Georgio’s sister Reni (short for Ireni) had made all the arrangements for us. I don’t know how she did it, but I was certainly grateful.
We had one more quick call to Derek before we boarded the jet in Athens; nothing had changed really. Her blood pressure was still dangerously high, but they were monitoring it all. Sometime tomorrow they would make the decision as to whether to do the c-section. If they couldn’t get it under control by then, they would have to go ahead and do it.
It was now midnight in Athens, which made it 3 in the afternoon in El Paso. If they were going to make the decision tomorrow that gave us time and it gave me hope that we could be there in time if they had to do the surgery.
I sighed and leaned my head back against the seat and closed my eyes for a few minutes. The flight would go so much faster if I could only sleep I knew, but my stomach was completely knotted up with anxiety; sleep didn’t seem a very promising prospect.
Adam put his arm around my shoulders and I shifted to rest my head against his shoulder. He leaned his head against mine and for a couple of minutes we were quiet, listening to the sounds of the jet as we prepared for takeoff. We would fly directly to Houston, and then catch our last flight into El Paso, arriving about 2 am local time. Adam had a rental car arranged for us in El Paso as well as a hotel room, but we were going straight to the army post when we got there. We would have to call Derek from the airport and he would meet us at the gate at Fort Bliss to get us onto the post.
“Why don’t you to try to sleep a bit, love?” Adam spoke softly against my ear, just as the roar of the engines started. We were finally moving toward the runway to get in line to take off.
“What?” I asked, not sure if I had heard it all.
“I said why don’t you try to sleep a bit? Make the trip go faster,” he repeated, a bit louder. The engines were roaring wildly now as we started to pick up speed. I guess we had a clear runway because the jet was going faster and faster. Soon, we were lifting off, the nose pointed sharply upward and I watched out the window as the lights of Athens fell away below us. I saw the Parthenon, lit up brightly above the city; I hadn’t really realized how large it was.
It was almost impossible to talk while we were climbing so steeply, so I was quiet a moment until we started to level out a bit. With my head nestled into his shoulder I could hear his heart beating; the steady thump calming me as it always did. I inhaled deeply and caught his scent and it too was comforting to me; helping to make me feel safe and loved. My own heart was pounding alarmingly out of kilter; I was so consumed with worry and while I understood that it didn’t help, I didn’t seem to be able to control it either.
“Deep breaths, love.” Adam whispered. The engine noise had cut back considerably as we reached flying altitude and I tried to will myself to relax a bit. The flight attendant started down the aisle with the beverage orders and Adam asked for two glasses of white wine.
“Oh Adam, I don’t know – my stomach is doing flip-flops,” I protested.
He looked down at me and frowned slightly. “Maybe some ginger ale then? Something you can sip slowly?”
“Maybe,” I answered. The flight attendant had brought the wine and I took a sip and knew that I couldn’t keep it down. I think I must have turned green and Adam immediately took the glass from me and handed it back to the attendant.
“Could we get a glass of some ginger ale perhaps?” he asked, giving her a quick smile. She nodded her head and pulled a can out of the bottom of the cart and filled a glass with ice before handing it to Adam, who was pulling the tray table down into place. He sat the glass of ice down and then popped the top open on the can and poured it over the ice. I stared at it with trepidation, not sure if I even wanted to try it.
“Maybe some crackers too love?”
“No, definitely not,” I told him. “I’ll be okay in a bit Adam, it’s just my nerves acting up, that’s all.”
He nodded and settled back and took a sip of his wine. I watched him grimace and let out a small laugh.
“Not too good?” I inquired.
“Terrible. I’m afraid I’ve become a bit used to retsina,” he laughed.
“And you wanted me to drink it?” I teased, finally starting to relax a little.
“Well, perhaps it’s better if you don’t. I may switch to your ginger ale,” he told me, reaching for my hand. He brought it to his lips and kissed it before looking into my eyes and stating, “God, bella, I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” I answered and as it usually did, it almost over-whelmed me, just how much I did love him. Me, the commitment phobic, not only in love, but going to marry this man!
I took a few sips of the ginger ale and it did actually seem to help a bit. Adam had gotten some crackers from the flight attendant and I realized in the rush of everything we hadn’t had any dinner. I was sure he must be starving.
“Adam, I’m sure you’re hungry, why don’t you see if she can get you something to eat?” I told him.
“It won’t bother you bella?” he inquired, watching my face as I replied.
I shook my head. “No, go ahead.” I reached over and took one of his crackers. “There, you’d better get something because you never know; I may eat all your crackers!”
“What about you?” he asked. “Do you want to try something light?”
“No, we’ll see how the cracker and ginger ale do for now.”
Adam ordered a sandwich from the attendant and he settled back into his seat. I took another sip from the ginger ale and stretched my legs out. We were in first class of course and there were only 3 other passengers sharing this compartment with us. Both of them looked to be settling down to sleep so we kept our voices to whispers as we chatted while waiting for his sandwich.
As Adam was happily munching I reclined my seat and closed my eyes and thought about everything that had happened in the past couple of months with a contented sigh. I was a woman of leisure now, if you consider flying around the world and traveling leisure that is.
After Adam’s injury in Italy I had resigned from my job. Funny, it didn’t even bother me. A couple of months before that I had fussed and fretted over giving up that job, even though I loved Adam. I knew that eventually I would have to find something to do; I wasn’t the type to just sit around all the time, but I had time to figure it all out. No, when we came back to the states I called my boss and told her that I was resigning, and at her protests I followed it up with an e-mail, just to make sure it sunk in. What was important during that time was Adam and getting him back on his feet. So, after a brief stop in Wichita to make arrangements for Bobby to stay in the house indefinitely and clear out my desk at work and take care of financial things we headed off to California for rest and recuperation.
During the last two weeks of January something wonderful happened – Tamara and Mark decided to go to Las Vegas and get married! Adam, me and the boys went with them for a very simple ceremony. I’ve only been to Las Vegas once before, with Randy and frankly, it didn’t impress me much. But it took on a whole new life with Adam. We were only there for 3 days and I enjoyed it a great deal. We didn’t really gamble much; I’m not a gambler by nature and apparently Adam isn’t either. But we enjoyed the hotel we stayed at and did some sight-seeing with the boys. They really enjoyed going up to Hoover Dam and then we went to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. That was pretty cool, you walk out on clear glass over the canyon; it is an amazing view let me tell you!
The boys came to stay with us for two weeks while Tamara and Mark took a honeymoon. Mark’s latest movie had finally wrapped, now they had all the technical work on it to do, but he turned it over to the editors to start work on so that they could take a little time just for he and Tamara. Life just sort of coalesced into something that seemed normal; the boys went to school, Adam and I talked about the future and tried to make some plans. He still feels that we need to sell the house and get something bigger; I am adamantly against it! How funny; to me it’s my house now and I just can’t stand the thought of not having it anymore. I sort of ‘found’ myself in this house. Even more than the trip to Italy this house played a huge part in my settling down in this relationship with Adam, of feeling at peace with him and the relationship. I can’t imagine not living here any longer. He is much more pragmatic than I am; to him it’s only a house and houses can be replaced. I don’t feel nearly as sentimental about my place in Wichita, which amazes me. It was my first place, on my own. A refuge sort of I guess. But the kids are gone and now it seems easy to let it go. I think I may end up selling it to Bobby if he wants it, and that would be okay.
Krista got back in early February, which provided her and Adam some time together. Ryan came with her for a few weeks so that he could check out the job situation there. They wanted to get married in early summer so they would have a bit of time together before school started again in August.
Adam wanted to have a huge wedding for her; she and Ryan only wanted a small family affair. Krista won that battle, but Adam was determined to help her in any way possible. He took over her college tuition costs and had already paid off her loans so she would come out of college debt-free. This she let him do, albeit reluctantly. He wanted to buy them a house, but both Krista and Ryan were united on this front; they wanted to do it on their own. It was a battle of wills; Adam felt he had 20 years of make-up fathering to do and Krista was grateful for his love and devotion, but that was all she wanted. It was never about his money for her and when that finally sunk into Adam’s very stubborn head, things settled down a bit.
That month was a wonderful month, financial tension with Krista aside. Ryan stayed with us at the beach house, while Krista stayed at her apartment. She stood firm in her intention to not sleep with Ryan before they got married. That fascinated me for some reason, not exactly sure why; maybe because in this day and age chastity wasn’t all that common. Adam of course was still smug about it, a typical man I thought.
She and Ryan were happy though, incredibly happy. Little Elk came and spent a few days here with us and gave his stamp of approval. I really like Little Elk and we had several long and interesting conversations while he was here. He is so proud of Ryan, of the man that Ryan has become. I know that he hates the thought of Ryan leaving the Dallas police force, but he is very understanding about it. He taught Ryan to be a man, to walk a man’s path and take care of those you love. That is exactly what Ryan is doing, taking care of Krista. We haven’t met Ryan’s mother yet, hopefully we will get the chance before the wedding. I think Little Elk loves her, but because of the bond he had with Ryan’s father he feels it isn’t right for him to develop a romantic relationship with her. He certainly couldn’t love Ryan any more than he does; he dotes on him; when they aren’t on the job that is!
We laughed about poor Ryan facing his wrath over the phone when we chose to stay in California after Rachel’s funeral. It was all black and white to Little Elk – Ryan was just supposed to make us come back to Dallas. When that didn’t happen, Little Elk was pretty frustrated. So was Ryan, but it was better for him here I think. He was able to talk to Adam and understood much better why Adam wanted to stay here. Little Elk, on the other end of the phone in Texas really didn’t have a clue.
Little Elk watched Ryan and Krista with keen interest. It was like his eyes missed nothing; not the solicitous hand that he placed protectively on her back or arm as she walked or the sparkle in his eye when he looked at her.
One afternoon after watching them for a few minutes he observed, “Those two are like two peas in a pod!”
I laughed out loud, causing the two in question to look over to the patio table where Little Elk, Adam and I were sitting. Krista, Ryan and the boys were in the pool; Krista sitting on the steps and the boys tossing a Frisbee to each other. “I haven’t heard that expression in years,” I said, laughing some more. “But, you are right, that describes them perfectly!” And it was true; they just ‘got’ one another.
Tristan and Geoff were thrilled to have Krista and Ryan here; both of them adored Krista. I don’t know for sure how much they exactly understood about Krista being their sister; I think it was more like they thought she was like Derek and Lissa. But they accepted her and loved her just the same and they all spent many happy hours together out on the beach. Ryan could run the little guys ragged and often did since Krista was still recuperating and wasn’t really active yet. Both boys were going to play baseball this spring, Tristan would play little league and Geoff would play T ball. Adam and Ryan were both excited about it, having the boys play and attended practices and looked forward to the games, always cheering the boys on. Of course, I attended too; you couldn’t have kept me away from baseball! It was so much fun to watch; I almost hated going to Africa and then on to Greece.
Amazingly I had fallen asleep and woke up when we were making our approach to Houston, George Bush Intercontinental Airport that is. Adam was sitting his seat up too and I realized we had both slept through the flight. We both yawned and tried to stretch in the seats, unsuccessful for the most part, but at least we would be landing soon I thought with a grimace as I realized how stiff I felt.
We would have a two hour lay-over in Houston, which would give us plenty of time to stretch our legs and get something to eat. I was hungry and felt sure that Adam was too. At some point while I slept the flight attendant had removed my ginger ale from the tray table so I folded it up and flipped the latch to lock it into place. It was almost 11 pm local time so all I could see out the window was darkness and the lights of the city below us.
We heard the landing gear come down and lock into place and then we were gliding down the runway in a smooth landing. I looked out at the airport as we taxied to the jet way; there were many jets lined up to taxi out to runways or waiting to roll into the jet ways. We sat for about 10 minutes as we waited our turn to get to the jet way and I fidgeted the whole time. Now that we were on the ground I was anxious to call Derek to see if there was any news.
Adam reached for my hand and squeezed it lightly, his thumb playing softly over my hand. I looked at him and smiled and then was rewarded by a kiss. His lovely chocolate-brown eyes smiled at me, helping to calm my frayed nerves a bit and I let out a huge breath that I didn’t realize I had been holding.
“We can call soon, bella,” he told me, reading my thoughts as he so often did.
I nodded shakily; I knew that was true and I also knew that there probably wasn’t any news, but until I heard those words I wouldn’t relax.
“Breathe, love, just breathe,” he reminded me.
As soon as the plane was stopped I was already on my feet and heading to the door; Adam following closely with our carry-on baggage. Once I hit the gangway I was practically at a run to get to a spot where I could pull my cell out and call Derek.
Adam came rushing up to me, panting slightly. “I had no idea someone with such short legs could move quite that fast!” he teased, handing me the carry on with our phones in it. We had to go through customs before we could do anything; thank heavens it didn’t take too long.
We walked to the first class lounge where we could go inside; hopefully it would be a bit quieter in there. I unzipped the bag and grabbed the first phone I came to and switched it on, waiting impatiently for it to power up.
I sat down at a table and Adam went to order us a drink while we made the call. The lounge was mostly empty, other than a couple of men sitting at the bar and chatting quietly. Adam came back with a couple of diet Coke’s and I smiled appreciatively and took a sip. Finally, the phone was ringing!
The ringing gave way to a voice that said, “Mom, are you here?”
“Hi, Son. No, we’re in Houston. We’ll arrive in El Paso around 2 a.m.,” I told him. I hated it, but we couldn’t get on post unless he met us, so he would have to get up for that. I apologized to him for the inconvenience.
“No Mom, it’s okay; I’ll just be glad you’ll be here,” he told me and I’m sure I heard a catch in his breath.
“Derek, what’s wrong? Is it worse?”
This time there was no mistaking the sound, he was crying. “Mom, they are going to do the surgery in the morning; they can’t wait any longer.”
I told Adam briefly what he said and then said “Oh Derek, we’ll be there as soon as we can. Is the medication not working?”
“No, not at all and they feel they can’t wait. She has developed something called HELLP syndrome, which means that she is in jeopardy of developing seizures. And it makes it really dangerous for the baby. The blood flow to the placenta is slowing down, so they have to do it. Surgery is at 7 a.m.” he told me and my heart was breaking for both of them.
“Are you with Pam now Derek?” I asked, tears flowing down my face.
“Yes, she’s right here. Do you want to speak to her?”
“Yes,” I told him, swallowing down a hiccup.
“M-mom?” I heard Pam’s shaky voice ask.
“Sweetheart, I’m so sorry we’re not there yet. Oh baby, I wish I could take this all away so you didn’t have to worry like this. “
“I’m j-j-just so scared for the b-baby,” she got out and the tremble in her voice told of just how scared she really was.
“I know,” I acknowledged. “But Pam, the baby will be fine, it will. It sounds like they know what has to be done and they will do it. Adam and I will be there in a few hours, sweetheart, and we’ll all get through this together,” I promised.
“Okay” she told me, her voice only a whisper.
I heard the phone make a rustling sound and then Derek’s voice. “Mom, just call me when you get to the airport in El Paso and I’ll make arrangements to meet you at the gate. I’m going to go now and try to get Pam to sleep for a bit. I’ll see you both soon.”
“Alright, sweetie. We love you both,” I told him before pressing the end button on the phone.
I looked at Adam, who was waiting expectantly to hear what had been said. I recounted the conversation to him and he asked what HELLP syndrome was and I told him the little that Derek had told me. It wasn’t much, but I knew that the situation was very serious. We sat quietly for a few minutes and finished our sodas and then decided to go and see if we could find something to eat.
As soon as the plane landed in El Paso and we were clear of the gangway I called Derek. We made arrangements to meet at the main gate of Fort Bliss and Adam and I headed for the baggage claim area. Our bags came about 10 minutes later and we grabbed them and headed to the rental car agency. Another 15 minutes later and we were finally on our way to the fortbase, following Derek’s directions. Even though El Paso is a fairly large city, you can’t really miss Fort Bliss and so we got there without too much trouble and Derek was waiting for us.
“Derek,” I said as I hugged him tight, choking back more tears. I had promised myself I would be strong for Derek and Pam and I would do my best to maintain that outlook. Still, he looked haggard, which was to be expected and my mother’s heart ached even more for him.
“Mom, Adam, thank you so much for coming. God, it’s good to see you both!” Derek said as he reached for Adam and gave him a hug too. I watched that, feeling almost stunned. Derek and Adam were getting along really well by this time, but Derek could still be a bit reserved around him. Not tonight though, and it warmed my heart to see it. Adam hugged him back and I heard him say, “We’ll get through this Derek – all of us together.”
We all climbed back into the car and Derek guided us to the hospital, which wasn’t too far away. It was getting close to 3:00 am and the post was quiet with little traffic to delay or slow us. At the hospital Adam parked the car and we all walked briskly into the hospital, following Derek’s lead to the elevators.
The hall lights were dimmed a bit and it was really quiet. Pam was in the perinatal unit, waiting to be moved to surgical prep at 5:00 am. Her eyes were closed when we entered her room and she looked terribly pale, even in the dim light from above her bed. The only other lights in the room were on the various monitors they had hooked up to her; they showed the baby’s heart beat as well as Pam’s oxygen stats, blood pressure and heart rate. The steady beats were comforting to some degree, even though I knew that they were dangerously high.
I walked softly into the room, afraid I would wake her, but her eyes opened slowly as I approached her bed. I leaned down and kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand lightly, appalled at how chilled her hand felt while her face felt so warm. My mothering instinct took total control as I brushed the hair back out of her face and wiped away a tear that slowly trickled down her pallid cheek.
“Hi baby,” I said. “We’re here now and it’s all going to be okay, I promise.”
“Mom, I’m so happy you’re here, we’re so scared. They told us that if they don’t do the C-section the baby could die! But they aren’t sure the baby’s lungs are developed enough to breathe on its own yet. They are giving me steroids to help.” A small whimper escaped her then and she added, “Hopefully it will help.”
Adam came over and kissed her on the forehead and she smiled weakly at him. “Thank you for being here Adam.”
“Wouldn’t be anywhere else Pam. We’re a family and we stick together,” he told her and while he smiled at her I noticed how grave his eyes looked.
“So what else have the doctors told you?” I asked them both. Adam and I both pulled up chairs near the bed while Derek sat on the bed with her. He wrapped his arm around her and as she settled against him and alarm started sounding from one of the machines. Derek shook his head and commented “whenever she shifts positions it goes off. The nurse will be in soon to reset it.”
He obviously spoke from experience because less than a minute later a nurse came in and pushed a button on one of the machines and the beeping stopped. She took a moment to check the digital displays and look as the tape the fetal monitor printed out. “How are you feeling Mrs. Marcus?” she asked Pam.
“About the same. I’m happy my family is here,” Pam told her.
The nurse acknowledged Adam and I with a nod and then did a double-take as she looked at Adam again. To her credit she didn’t say a word, only continued to check out Pam and the machines. She adjusted the fetal heart monitor around Pam’s belly and seemed satisfied that things were as good as could be expected.
“Alright. My advice to you is to try and rest, but I know that isn’t going to happen, so try to stay as calm as you can, okay?” the nurse told her before leaving the room.
We all chatted for awhile about what Derek and Pam had done to get ready for the baby,baby and what was still to be done. Since it was so early they really weren’t ready. I could see that Adam and I would have a lot to do to help them get ready and I started to make a mental list of everything that still needed to be bought and accomplished. Derek and Pam had decided not to know the sex of the baby, so what they had bought previously was for either a boy or girl. Since we were going to know in only a few hours that would help the shopping process considerably I decided.
The baby kicked Pam then, which brought a slight smile to her worried face. Derek, who was sitting in the bed with Pam placed his hand over her belly and caressed it lightly. Pam looked up at him and he bent to kiss her and brush the hair back out of her face.
“I guess the baby has decided that it’s time to get up,” Pam said with another smile. “I only hope that this truly is what is best for the baby.”
“Pam - honey, it is what has to happen,” Derek said softly. “I want both of you coming home safely with me. I can’t risk losing you Pam, I just can’t. I have to believe that God will take care of this.”
For a moment there was only the two of them in the room, sharing their love and their tears as the gravity of his words sank in to us. I knew that we could lose them, one or both, and yet I refused to believe it would happen. But as I gazed at Pam’s red face and slightly bloated legs and hands I knew how easily it could all go wrong. I felt Adam caressing my hand softly and I looked at him and smiled my gratitude at him for being here with us.
We were quiet for a bit and I realized that both Pam and Derek were dozing. I motioned to Adam towards the door and we both got up and headed out the door as quietly as possible. Out in the hall Adam took me in his arms and held me close for a moment and I sank into his warm embrace, breathing him in and feeling his strength.
“Cup of coffee bella?” he asked me, nodding down the hall towards a waiting area that had vending machines.
“Sure,” I told him as I headed that way. In truth it felt great to stand and stretch a bit after so many hours on the plane. “I need to call Cassie,” I added as an afterthought.
“C’mon then, let’s go.”
After a cup of coffee and a call to Cassie it was almost 5 am and time for Pam’s surgery. Cassie was of course beside herself with worry and wanted to be here with us, but I finally convinced her to stay there; hopefully there would be no reason for her to rush back to the states. She and Georgio deserved this time to themselves; a time to grow their relationship and for Cassie to continue to heal and become stronger. She is just so stubborn, but I promised her that I would call as soon as the surgery was done and let her know how it all went.
We headed back down to the room to see Derek getting ready to leave.
“What’s up son?” I asked as he pulled on a jacket.
“Grandma and Grandpa are at the gate; I have to go sign them in,” he told me. He leaned down and kissed Pam and told her he’d be right back. She nodded and watched him leave the room.
“Did they tell you guys they were coming?” I asked her.
She shook her head no and said, “I guess I should have figured though.” A small sob escaped her then and I handed her a tissue.
“Sweetheart, you know how much they love you. They would want to be here. Families stick together!”
She nodded and settled back into the bed. She looked so tired – weary really and I knew what a strain these past few days had been on both she and Derek.
The nurse came in again to check her vitals and the monitors. She frowned when she checked Pam’s blood pressure readouts and let out a sigh when she read the fetal heart monitor printout. “Mrs. Marcus, it’s a good thing your surgery is happening soon, much longer and your baby would be in fetal distress.”
I let out a small cry at her words and Adam immediately wrapped his arm around me. “What exactly does that mean?” I asked.
“As her blood pressure elevates, it causes swelling or edema in the mom’s body. That puts pressure on the womb and the baby. The fetal heartbeat drops and we’re getting to a critical point, where this baby must be born. At different points the baby’s heart beat has dropped to about 70 – 75 beats per minute, but it isn’t sustained. However, it is lasting for longer periods of time now and that means fetal distress.“ At my obvious distress she continued, “We’re not quite there yet, where it has to be a ‘do it now’ situation, but it is a good thing the surgery is happening soon. We need to deliver that baby to ease the stress on mom and baby both!”
I cleared my throat and then asked, “What can we expect for the baby, after its birth?”
“Until the past few days the baby has been normal and healthy. Even though Pam has had preeclampsia for the past few months she and her doctor have monitored it carefully. But once HELLP syndrome started to develop, we don’t have a choice as to what to do. The baby must be delivered. If we wait any longer, there is much more danger for mom and baby both. I’m sure no one wants that. Now, as to what happens to the baby after birth, well, it will immediately be evaluated for any unexpected difficulties, have its APGAR test, be weighed and such. Then the baby will go into the neo-natal unit, where it will receive round the clock attention. Remember, it will be very small.”
“How much does the baby weigh now?” I wondered out loud.
“When we did the last sonogram last evening the baby is about 3.1 pounds. So there are some concerns about that.”
I nodded and swallowed hard, trying to take it all in. “What kind of concerns specifically?” I asked.
“Our most problematic concern will be the baby’s ability to breathe on its own. It will definitely need oxygen support for awhile. Its lungs are still premature, but they have been giving Pam steroids for the past 24 hours so that should help.”
“That doesn’t seem like a very long time. Will it have been long enough?” Adam asked. He was rubbing the bridge of his nose as he asked the question and listened to her answer.
“Surprisingly, probably yes. Think of a womb as an incubator and so things can develop rather quickly. But it won’t alleviate the need for oxygen. It will just be one day at a time,” she told us with a sympathetic smile. The door opened them and Derek walked in with Mom and Dad who both went straight to Pam.
As they talked for a moment I said to the nurse, “thanks so much for the information. We appreciate you taking the time to explain things to us.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied, looking at her watch. “She has about 10 minutes before they come to prep her. When she goes to surgery you folks may wait here in her room or in the surgical waiting area.” She smiled again and then rushed off down the hall.
Those 10 minutes passed very quickly and before we knew it they were taking her out of the room. Derek went with her and Mom, Dad, Adam and I decided to go to the cafeteria. They wanted some coffee and breakfast and Derek told us he would meet us there when Pam went in to surgery.
Adam, Mom, Dad and I sat in the coffee shop and talked a bit as we sipped our coffee and waiting for Derek. I was positive he hadn’t eaten and so I was determined to make sure he got some breakfast. While we waited we filled Mom and Dad in on our trips. We hadn’t seen them since a brief visit in Wichita before we left for Africa in March.
After describing the journey in Africa and how beautiful it was my dad exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to go to Africa. I can’t wait to see the pictures you took.”
My mom frowned slightly and shrugged before stating, “Not me. Sounds like a depressing place from all you hear in the news.”
My mom had always been pretty content with her own backyard. What can you say? Some people have wanderlust and some don’t. I was surprised at how much she enjoyed being in California for my birthday to tell you the truth. I don’t think it’s really fear of the unknown, just that she is pretty happy with the life she has and doesn’t yearn for new horizons. At times I have admired that, her ability to accept life the way it is, to make the best of it and even rejoice in it. Other times I’m convinced that I’d go crazy with that outlook!
“Well Mom, the politics of some of Africa are pretty depressing, but not the land itself,” I told her and Adam nodded his head and reiterated that.
“Yes, it is starkly beautiful in one area and lushly green in others. I very much enjoy visiting there, but I do find the politics too much to handle, Elizabeth. It’s why I went to college in England, to get away from it all; it really can be heartbreaking when you look at the societal footprint that many of the nations leave.”
Mom started to open her mouth to say something, (and it wasn’t going to be a positive comment I could tell!) when Derek walked in the door looking for us. I waved and he headed over to the table.
“C’mon son, let’s get you something to eat,” I said, standing up to head to the counter.
“Mom, I don’t have time. They are prepping her and then I can go in for the surgery. She will be awake; they are giving her an epidural right now. I just wanted to tell you guys what is happening.”
I started to protest and Adam spoke up then, “Thank you for letting us know Derek. We’ll head up to the surgical waiting room then. Do we know about how long it will take?” Adam just looked at me and shook his head slightly when I started to speak again.
“They said once they get started on the surgery, it won’t be very long. If all goes well, ½ an hour at the very most until they have the baby out. If everything goes well they said. Getting everything back into place and closing her will take a bit longer. But it will all be over soon they tell me, so I gotta go.” He stopped and hugged me for a moment and then moved quickly for the door and was gone before I could say anything else.
“Adam,” I started to say and he shook his head and took a breath before speaking.
“Sarah, right now all he is thinking of is Pam and the baby. That is his focus; he’s a husband and soon to be father, let him be!”
I opened my mouth and then closed it again just as quickly. I wasn’t sure what to think about this; Adam had never interfered with something I was trying to say. I mean, he wasn’t harsh or rude, but still it smarted. Derek was my son and I just wanted to take care of him.
The way he wants to take care of Pam and the baby.
All these thoughts washed through me as I realized that Adam was right. Mom and Dad watched me closely, knowing that I was thinking the situation through. Finally Dad, got up and said, “Well come on, let’s get up there. Sounds like it will be pretty quick!”
I nodded wordlessly and reached for Adam’s hand. He raised my hand to his mouth and pressed a gentle kiss on it; maybe it was an acknowledgement of my fear and distress, maybe it was just that he felt bad stepping in like that. He was right, he did the right thing, but as I said, it still smarted.
We were a quiet and somber group as we headed to the elevators and made our way to the surgical waiting room. Our concern hung over us like a big black cloud and none of us were inclined to say anything else as the elevator carried us to the 4th floor. We followed the signs and found the waiting room and took our seats. There was no getting comfortable in them at all though.
To be continued...
Copyright 2010 by Cynthia Hope Hodge