Read Unexpected Reality Online

Authors: Kaylee Ryan

Unexpected Reality (8 page)

 

It’s day three and so far, no change. Melissa still continues to slumber on, but her vitals are holding strong so her doctor is hopeful. The baby’s also proved to be a fighter. His vitals are strong, as is his heartbeat, which I get to hear a few times a day. I’ve come to crave the sound.

“Good morning,” Lisa, the day nurse, greets me.

“Morning,” I mumble, sitting up in my chair. “I’m going to get some coffee,” I tell her then leave the room. I feel like I need to give them privacy to change her.

I decide to head to the cafeteria to grab a bagel and the largest coffee they offer. I can’t do any more vending machine coffee; surely this has to be better. I sit at a small table in the corner and scroll through my phone. I have text messages from the guys, Reagan, and my parents.’ They’ve all been great, stopping by to see me, keeping me company, and bringing me food and clothes. I have yet to run home to shower, using the one in Melissa’s room instead.

When I get back to her room, both Dr. Ellis and Dr. Robbins are there. This is the first time I’ve seen the two of them together since that first night.

“Something wrong?” My heart drops when I see the intense expression on both their faces.

“Ridge, the baby’s vitals have been dropping slowly overnight. I think it’s best if we deliver today,” Dr. Ellis says.

“Today?” I repeat.

“Yes.”

“Is he okay? It’s too early.”

“He’s good, but I don’t want to wait until there’s a chance that he won’t be. Melissa has had the steroids, and I have full faith that he’ll have no complications. Babies are born at thirty-seven-and-a-half weeks every day. I do feel like this is the best decision.”

“What do you think?” I ask Dr. Robbins.

“I agree with Dr. Ellis. This is what is best for the baby.”

“What about Melissa?”

“Her vitals are strong, and I’m confident that the cesarean will be a smooth process.”

“So, when?” I ask.

“Now. Like I said, I don’t want to let his vitals get down to the risk stage. The sooner we deliver, the less strain it will be on both of them,” Dr. Ellis explains.

“W-What do I do?”

“The nurses will help you scrub in. Get ready to meet your son.”

“I know she says that he’s mine and I’m not disputing, but I haven’t seen her in over eight months. Can we do a test? You know, just to make sure. I feel like he is, but you know, I just . . . Yeah, can we do that?” I ramble. It feels like I’m betraying her by even asking, but it’s something I need to do for my own peace of mind.

“Of course. It takes anywhere from two to five days to get the results, but I’ll put a rush on them,” Dr. Ellis says.

“Thank you.”

“We’re going to take her to the OR. Contact your family and then have Lisa escort you and help you get scrubbed in.”

I nod and watch as they wheel her out of the room.
I guess I better do what he says; I don’t want both of us to miss his birth.

I decide on a group message.

 

Me: Baby’s vitals are dropping. Delivering today. Now. Will text when I know more.
Mom: On our way.
Dad: What she said. Be strong, son.
Mark: We got you.
Seth: Good luck, Daddy.
Kent: Closing up shop early.
Tyler: You got this.
Reagan: I love you, big brother.

 

Their words ground me. I have to stay strong for my son. Yes,
my
son. I feel it deep in my soul that he’s mine, and right now, he needs me. It’s time to get my shit together and be what he needs.

A father.

I power my phone off and slip it into my pocket just as Lisa opens the door. “You ready?”

“As ready as I can be.”

She smiles. “Follow me.”

I do as I’m told, and after an elevator ride and several hallways, we make our way through a set of double doors marked Operating Room. We stop at a large, very sterile room with sinks.

“You need to put scrubs on over your clothes and booties over your shoes. After that, we’ll scrub your hands and put gloves on you, as well as a facemask. You need to be just as sterile in the surgical environment as the medical staff,” she explains.

After getting myself set up, Lisa opens the door to what I now know is the actual operating room. “There is a chair by Melissa. Hold her hand and talk to her. Some say that even though they’re not awake, they can hear you. Some patients say they remember.”

“Do you believe it?”

Lisa shrugs. “I’ve been a nurse for twenty years, and I’ve seen a lot. I’m not sure I’m a firm believer, but I do know that if I were in your shoes I would want to believe it. Help her be here in this moment. Maybe she’ll remember, maybe she won’t, but either way, you’ll have no regrets.” With those parting words, she shuts the door, closing me in.

“You must be Dad,” a cheery nurse greets me. “We have a chair for you, right beside Mom. I’ll help answer any questions you may have during the procedure.”

Swallowing hard, I nod and take the seat next to Melissa. Reaching out, I grab her hand and lace her fingers through mine, mindful of her IV. “Hey, Melissa. So, little man is having some trouble. It’s nothing serious, they tell me, but his vitals are dropping. The doctors think it’s best if they deliver him today. We’re here now in the operating room. I’m here with you, and I’m not going anywhere.” I ramble on and on, my nerves getting the best of me.

I continue, telling her about the daily ultrasounds and how he seems to like to suck his thumb. I tell her that my family is here for all three of us, waiting to meet our son. I tell her how great she’s done, doing this all on her own, and how sorry I am that she’s missing this moment.

“He’s out,” the doctor says, but his voice is tense.

The room is quiet, no cries.
Aren’t there supposed to be cries? Come on, baby, one breath. One breath at a time.

Then I hear him.

“Is he . . . ?” I’m overwhelmed with the sound of my son’s first cries. I’m a father.

“They’re going to get him cleaned up, run a few newborn tests, and then you can hold him,” the cheery nurse explains.

“She’s doing great, Ridge,” Dr. Ellis assures me. “Just closing up and then we’ll send her to recovery.”

“You hear that, Melissa? Did you hear him? His lungs sound strong and healthy. They’re checking him over really well and then I get to hold him. Open your eyes for me. I hate that you’re missing this. He’s your family.” My voice cracks when the last few words fall from my lips.

His cries suddenly quiet, causing me to whip my head around. There, standing behind me, is the cheery nurse holding him. He’s all bundled up in a blanket. My hands start to shake, and my heart beats wildly in my chest.

“He passed with flying colors. He’s already had his bath, and we even did the swab for the paternity test. He’s ready to eat, Dad. What do you say?”

I look back at Melissa, willing her to wake up. She’s missing this. Turning back to the nurse, I answer with, “I-I don’t know what to do.”

She smiles. “How about I take him to the nursery while you change out of the scrubs, and you can meet me there? Mom will be in recovery for a few hours at least before we can move her back to her room.”

“Okay.” I stand and lean over, kissing Melissa on the forehead. “I’ll take good care of him, and we’ll see you soon. Fight, Melissa. We need you.” Rising to my full height, I wait as the nurse places my son in an incubator-looking contraption and motions for me to follow her.

In the nursery, I’m pulled to the side and told that I need to go to the lab for my part of the paternity test. With directions in hand, I head that way. I’m speed-walking, because I want to get back to him. My hearts tells me he’s mine, so I just want to get this over with so we can get the results and move forward.

The test is a simple swab to the cheek. They get me in and out, confirming that the doctor has requested the test to be performed STAT. I make quick work to get back to the nursery. The same nurse from the OR greets me with a smile. “I’ll be your nurse until the shift change this evening. Have a seat in one of those rockers, and you can hold and feed your son.”

My son.

On shaking legs, I take my place in the rocker, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans. I’m scared as hell that I’ll drop him, or hurt him, or . . . I don’t know what, but I’m nervous.

“Here you go, Daddy,” the nurse says. “Cradle your arms. There you go,” she cheers then gently places him in my arms.

He’s sleeping, all wrapped up in a blanket. Suddenly the nerves are gone, the need to make sure he’s okay overtaking me. “Can I unwrap him?” I ask.

“Sure! We actually suggest skin-to-skin contact, especially for those babies who are born early. It helps regulate their breathing,” she explains.

Skin-to-skin contact?
“Uh, what does that mean exactly?”

“You take off your shirt, and we unwrap him. You lay him on your chest, skin to skin.”

“Okay,” I say hesitantly. However, if it helps him, I’m all in.

“Let’s try to get him to eat first.” She hands me a tiny, odd-shaped bottle. “Hold him up a little, like this,” she demonstrates. “Good, now place the bottle to his lips. It’s instinct for most babies. Some of them can be stubborn, but looks like your little guy is a natural.” She beams down at him.

And he is. As soon as the bottle touches his lips, he knows what to do. “How much does he eat?”

“We’ll start with a few ounces every few hours. You need to make sure you burp him after no more than an ounce at a time. The amount spreads out as he gets older. It’s extremely important during the early stages of life to make sure he burps several times throughout the feeding.”

I mentally catalog everything she’s saying. I wish Melissa were here, or my mom.

Shit! I forgot to call them. I’m sure they’re here by now. I’ll text them once he’s done eating.

“Let’s try that burp now, Dad.”

I pull the bottle from his lips, and he whines. I immediately start to give it back to him.

“No, he has to burp first. You’ll learn his whines and cries. He’s just hungry, but this is an important step in the process.

I nod and listen to instructions as she walks me through how to care for my son. If I weren’t so mesmerized by him, I’d feel like a tool. Who doesn’t know how to take care of their own kid? Maybe someone who didn’t have nine months to prepare like most parents.

I bite back that train of thought. I can’t be mad at her, not when she’s lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life. Besides, she was coming to me.

I can’t take my eyes off him as he eats. He has my nose and my chin. It’s surreal.

“Looks like he’s done. You want to try skin-to-skin?” she asks.

“Yeah, but I need to notify my family first. I’m sure they’re pacing the floors by now.” She takes my son from my arms so I can step out in the hall and make the call.

“Ridge,” Mom says in greeting.

“Hey, he’s here. Little boy, cute as hell,” I gush.

“How much did he weigh? How long? I need details.”

Damn, I should know this shit.
“Uh, I don’t know exactly. It’s been crazy. I’m getting ready to do what they call skin-to-skin contact. Why don’t you all come down to the nursery?”

“On our way. We’ve been on the ICU floor, not sure where to go exactly with the situation.”

Yeah, this isn’t normal circumstances, for sure. “See you soon.”

Back in the nursery, the nurse points to an oversized chair and tells me to sit down and take off my shirt.
Well, all right then.
I comply, and she nods her approval. I watch as she unwraps my son then gently places him in my arms.

“Just keep his head supported and hold him close to you,” she instructs.

I do as she says, and the little man shudders and exhales a deep breath, almost as though he’s relaxing. My heart fucking melts. How can a tiny human bring out such emotion?

“Sorry to interrupt, but there’s a family out here looking for a Baby Beckett?” another nurse asks.

“That’s me, I mean him.” I point my chin down at my son.

“We have him as Baby Knox,” she tells me.

“Yeah, that’s his mom’s name, but my last name is Beckett. We’re not married,” I explain.

“I see. Well, we’ll have to keep our records as Baby Knox until the results are back,” she says, frowning.

I’m sure she’s afraid that I’m going to freak out on her—and if this were any other situation, I would have. But right now, all that matters is that this little guy is healthy, and getting his momma to open her eyes.

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