Novel Pieces – The Other Half

Another segment of my current novel project.
This section has not been edited.

June 18th, 1980

  At 8:57, the ambulance returns to the hospital and the on duty paramedics bring a woman in through the emergency doors on a stretcher.  The woman is laying on her side, with a distended belly far beyond what seems possible.  

  In their haste get the proper help for the woman, the paramedics moved too quickly through the doorway, catching the corner of the stretcher on the automatic door and nearly tipping over.  The woman lay silent and motionless through the commotion on the stretcher, made no motion to catch herself from a potential fall, even as her body slid on the stretcher.  She remained as she was, curled around her belly as though it were a pillow.  Her thighs closely follow the curve of her belly until her knees, where her calves are tighly folded back.  The heels of her feet touch her bottom.  Her arms wrapped tightly around the belly, each hand gripping the lower part of it’s sister arm.  

  Straightening the stretcher, the EMTs are quickly met by the triage nurse just past the threshold of the hospital emergency door.  

  “What’s the status?” she says.  The nurse goes to the right side of the stretcher and helps push it along.

  “Call said probably overdose.  We prepped the Narcan, but delayed dose.  Vital’s are stable and Sats are at 93%.” the attending EMT reports to the nurse.   He refers to the clipboard in his hand, while continuing to push the stretcher forward, waiting to hear which direction the patient needs to go.   

  “Is she responsive?” the nurse fires back, snapping her fingers in front of the woman’s face.  The woman opens her eyes, stares blankly at the fingers before her eyes, but makes no other movement. Her shirt has risen at her back, exposing the skin of her back.  The nurse reaches across the woman and lifts the back of her shirt further.  A bluish tint and patches of red angry sores can be seen.  

  “It may not have been an overdose this time, but she’s been using for a while and it’s just a matter of time.” The nurse says, pulling the woman’s shirt back down at the back.  “Pulse?” The nurse asks.

“Sluggish”

  “Take her to the intake room for more assesment.”  The nurse reaches for the woman’s wrist to check her pulse and is taken a back by the size of her stomach.  “Fuck! What is she pregnant with? When is she due?”

  “No idea.  There was no one with her when we rolled up.  Dispatch says a male made the call, but he didn’t stick around.”  the EMT reports to the nurse.  

  “Stop moving.” The nurse tells the EMT’s, and the stretcher slows to a stop in the hallway infront of the doorway of the intake room.  “When are you due, honey?” she says to the woman on the stretcher.    Not waiting for a response, of which there was none, the nurse puts her hand on the top of the woman’s stomach, slipping them under the woman’s arms and adds a bit of pressure.  “She’s contracting.”  The nurse leaves her hand on her stomach while she consults the second hand on her watch.  

  A second nurse comes out of the intake room, and stands beside the triage nurse waiting for directions.  With a head nod from the triage nurse, the EMT reaches across the stretcher and hands over the clipboard to second nurse.  

  “We need to take her to treatment room 2.  Strap a contraction monitor on her and prep for a possible emergency C section”  The triage nurse takes her hand from the woman’s stomach and turns her attention to the intake nurse.  “She doesn’t seem to be responsive so she may be in shock.  Or still high.  Either way, get that baby needs out.”  

  “Has a doctor been assigned?”

  “Dr. Franklin is covering that block.  I’ll divert his inflow to Dr. Dylon until this is sorted out.”  the woman was wheeled away by the intake nurse, the EMT returned to his collegue at the door of the emergency department and the triage nurse returned to intake to review the next case.

 

***

 

  “Is she allowed to be with them?” the Charlotte asks.

  “Yes, sadly.  There’s nothing we can do to stop her from seeing her babies.  Especially since somehow neither one of them seem to show signs of addiction.”. Merlinda, the head nurse in the maternity ward, kept her eyes on her work,  moving around clip boards, flipping through charts for compliance, focusing on maintaining the flow of the maternity ward.

  “Neither of them?  There’s more than one?” Charlotte asks.  She pulled the chart out from the pile she was monitoring, and flipped through again, looking to cover up her missed detail.

  “Yeah.  Twins.”

  “Oh, I didn’t see that in her chart.”

  The head nurse sighs.  “It’s in there.  We aren’t supposed to stay with the mother when we give them their baby to visit.  The mothers need time to bond and take ownership of the baby before they are released from the hospital.”

  “But, she’s a drug addict.  What if she doesn’t know what to do?  What if she hurts the babies?” Charlotte says.

 “We haven’t heard from child services yet.  We’ve done our part by reporting it, but until then we follow procedure.”   Charlotte frowns at hearing this.  “If it makes you feel better, linger around for a bit, claim the mother needs extra help seeing as it’s twins.”

  Charlotte turns to leave the nurses station and is about to head to the nursery.  

  “Charlotte,” the head nurse calls out.  Charlotte stops and turns her head to look back at the head nurse.  “You can’t save them all.”

 

  Charlotte heads to the nursery to check on the babies.  Charlotte often visits the nursery, even when not part of her normal rounds.  She makes a point to introduce herself to each baby that comes into the ward.  As she enters, she greets the babies she has already met.  She pauses at each bassinette, says the babies name and gives a small nod and a smile.  She sees the new guests in the far corner of the room, and her smile widens.  

  “Them babies are a bloody miracle, if you ask me.   The mother isn’t… the mother is lucky.”

  “And we’re lucky to get to see those babies.” Charlotte says to the nurse working the nursery this morning.  She walks towards the new babies.  Both are in the same bassinette, wrapped in identical white blankets.  

  “Oh, I remember being so young on the maternity ward like you.  I was so excited to see each wee baby that came in.  Was so proud to be a part of their young little lives.”

  “I hope I’m always this excited.  I can’t imagine that seeing brand new babies would get weary.”  Charlotte sees the name on the bassinette says Baby Girl LastName.  “These babies have no names?”

  “The mother hasn’t given one.  She hasn’t said much of anything from what I hear.”

  Charlotte leans down at the babies.  One is swaddled tightly and remains still and asleep.  The second one has started to stir and struggles to turn her head to face her sister.  “Shh shh,” Charolotte says as she scoops up the small fussy bundle. The baby grizzles and attempts to nuzzle into Charlotte.  

  “They both need to be fed and bathed.  You can take them to their mother now.  See if she wants to take part today.”  

The babies are bottle fed.   How do hospitals bath babies?  

  Charlottes returns the small bundle close to her sister, and rolls the bassinette out of the room.

  The room is dark and quiet when she rolls the babies inside.   

  “Ms LastName?  I’ve brought your babies for you.  It’s time for them to feed and I thought you might like to bath them.  I’ll stay and give you a hand.”

  “You can just leave them over there,” the mother’s voice is heard through the darkness.

  A small noise comes from the bassinette.  Charlotte smiles with hope that the baby recognizes her mother’s voice.  

  “I didn’t know they were awake.”  the mother says.  

  “Let’s get some light in here so we can see what we are doing.”  Charlotte brings the bassinette to a stop at the foot of the bed and moves to the window opposite from the door to open the curtains.  She parts them slightly, letting enough task light in, so as not to startle the fresh eyes of the babies.  

  “Do you have to do that?” the mother says.  She squints at the bright light, sitting up at the head of the bed, pillows propping her up into a sitting position, her feet stretched out towards the foot of the bed.  She sees the basinette at the foot of the bed, and pulls her feet towards her, tucking her feet under her as though something was about to nibble on her toes.   The swelling of having recently given birth made her wince in pain.  

  Charlotte continued on her mission, and returned to the basinette.

“Would you like to hold them while I get the bottles out?”  Charlottes asks.  One baby is still asleep, the other has her eyes open slightly, opening and closing her mouth.  A small noise escapes her.  Charlotte puts her left hand on the baby’s swaddled feet, and lifts them up slightly.  Using her right arm, she quickly slids her right hand under the newborns bottom and up towards the head, which she craddles in her hand, the bottom supported by her forearm.   LIfting the baby up, she crosses her arms and adjusts the baby so that the head is now craddled in the crook of her left arm.  

“Uh, no, that’s alright.  I’m tired.  You can feed them.”  The mother moves her body towards the end of the bed, and rolls to her side turning away from Charlotte.  

“Ms. LastName, the babies need to spend time with their mother.  This is how they learn to trust you.”  Charlotte walks with the baby to the side of the bed the mother faces, and lays the baby down infront of the mother.  She stays close until the mother finally puts a hand on the baby’s tummy.  She gets the idea that the mother might push the baby off the bed.  
“Why don’t you sit up again, and feed this baby, while I feed the other one.”  scooping the baby up again just as she did a minute ago, Charlotte stands at the side of the bed, waiting.  

  With reluctance, the mother sits  up again in the bed, as she was when Charlotte first entered.  Leaning across the bed, Charlotte places the baby in the mother’s arms, ensure the head was well supported and in a feed position.  

  “Now what?” the mother asks.  

  Charlotte fetches the warmed bottle from the shelf under the bassinette and holds it out to the mother to grab.  The mother looks at the bottle, but makes no move to take it.  Leaning across the bed again, Charlotte turns the bottle and gentle rubs the nipple across the babies lips.  The baby latches on and turns her head slightly towards her mother.  

  “Hold the bottle here.  Just a little at a time.  Their stomachs are so tiny right now.”  Charlotte returns to the bassinette, and scoops up the second baby.  The head rested in her palm, while the baby’s body ran the length of her forearm.  Grabbing the second bottle, Charlotte takes a set in the armchair close to bed.  Quickly getting her in position, the young nurse tries to wake the still sleeping baby by rubbing the nipple of the bottle across her lips, just as she had done for her sister.  Without opening her eyes, the baby latches on to the nipple and lazily draws formula from it.  Charlotte looks down at the face of the baby she is holding.  The baby has opened her eyes to tiny slits.  With a sigh, the baby starts to pull from the bottle with more vigor, her eyes opening wider, to take in Charlotte’s face.  

  “Have you chosen names yet?”

  The mother has been staring off at the wall behind Charlotte.  At hearing Charlotte’s voice, she turns to look at her.  “No,” she says.  

  “What names have you been thinking about?”  Charlotte asks.

  “I didn’t think of any names.”  the mother says.  The baby the mother is holding lets out a small cry, and releases her latch on the bottle.  The mother looks down at the baby and frowns.  

 “Just give her a moment.  She might have an air bubble that needs to come up.  The mother looks that the wall behind Charlotte again.  She holds the baby in the same position in one arm.  The bottle is in her left air, she keeps it suspended in air.  

  “It helps the nurses if a name is chosen.  As well as speeds up paperwork for you later on.”  Charlotte looks at the mother, who’s eyes have unfoccused.  

  “Huh?  Well, they don’t have names.”

  “I had thought of two names when I first laid eyes on them.”  The mother looked at Charlotte while she spoke but turned her atttention back to the wall, still holding the bottle in mid air.  The baby in her arms had fallen asleep.  “Would you like to hear them?” Charlotte proded.

  “Sure,” the mother said, her mouth loose and open.  Her eyes unfoccused again.

  Charlotte looked down at the baby in her arms.  The baby’s eyes were open, although she didn’t seem to be staring at Charlotte.  It was more observing.  “Charity and Faith.” Charlotte said without looking up.  

  When there was no response from the mother after a moment, Charlotte returned her gaze to the mother, who’s eyes were closed.  The bottle she had been holding in the air was now laying on the bed, with the hand that had been holding it lying lifeless at the end of her arm, palm up.  Fearing that that mother might drop the baby, Charlotte quickly got to her feet, placed the baby she had been holding in the bassinette, and went to fetch the second baby.  

  “Ms LastName?  Ms LastName!  Open your eyes.  Are you alright?”  Charlotte said sharply as removed the baby from the mother’s arms.  

  The mother flinched as she came to, and saw Charlotte was trying to take something from her.  

  “Hey, that’s mine” the mother said.  She pulled the baby closer to her chest with both arms.  Charlotte stopped and let the mother take her baby.  The mother looked down at the bundle in her arms.  The commotion had woken the baby in the mother’s arms, and she let out a cry.  Startled by the noise, the mother pulled the bundle from her chest to look at it.  The mother’s face morphed from one of alarm to one of annoyance.

  “Oh.  Here.” the mother said, holding the baby out for Charlotte to take.  

  Charlotte took the baby, and swiftly pulled the baby’s head close to her neck, letting it peer over her shoulder and gently patted the back.  “Shh shh… it’s alright.  I just startled your mom.  It’s alright.” Charlotte cooed to the baby and rocked back and forth slightly.  

  When the baby had settled down, Charlotte placed her beside her sister in the bassinette.  Both girls closed their eyes, faces towards each other, and their chests rose and fell in unism.  

  “Those are church names.”

  “Hmm?” Charlotte turned to face the mother again.  

  “Those names.  Charity and Faith.  Those are church names.  I don’t know what religion you are selling, but I’m not buying it.”  

  “I’m not selling anything, Ms. LastName.  Sometimes when I see little ones, names just happen to pop into my head.”  Charlotte picked up the bottle she had used to feed back on the shelf under the bassinette.    

  “I don’t know what I’m going to name them, but it’s not going to be any church name like that.”  

  Charlotte moved to the side of the mother’s bed again, and picked up the bottle the mother had dropped.  A large dark stain was on the blanket from the formula that had leaked out.  “Charity so she remembers that not all gifts are material, and some gifts don’t seem like gifts at all.  Faith to remember that life is full of lessons, but sometimes the lesson isn’t for us.”  Charlotte returned the second bottle to the bassinette shelf.  

  The door to the room suddenly opened, and a man walked through the threshold.  He paused in the doorway when he saw Charlotte.  

  Charlotte felt the air change in the room, and suddenly needed to leave quickly.  “I’ll send someone to get you a fresh blanket.” she said as she wheeled the bassinette out the door.

  “And don’t say I’m the mom, either.  I haven’t decided on that either.”  the mother said to Charlotte’s back as she exited the room.  

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