Lorna had cleared the table after an unusually quiet dinner and was loading the dishwasher when the telephone rang. “I’ll get it,” Wade called out. He must have picked up on the hallway extension because Lorna could hear his end of the conversation clearly.
“Of course Lorna is here,” he said cheerily. “May I tell her who is calling? Abby? Abby Coleman? How can I help you, young lady?” His voice had turned cold.
Lorna shook her head. That girl needed to learn how to stay out of other people’s business. Calling here was not going to change anything that had happened that morning. All it would do was upset Wade, which was bound to be unpleasant for everyone.
“No, I will not put her on the phone,” Wade was now saying. “Sunday is family day and Lorna is spending the day with her family. I will tell her you called—“ He was cut off mid sentence. Lorna moved closer to the kitchen doorway. Peeking out of the room, she could see that Wade’s face was bright red. The hand holding the phone to his ear seemed to be shaking. “Claudia? How dare you even talk to me about her? You know nothing about my daughter!” He slammed the phone down with such force that the picture on the wall above the phone shook.
Lorna watched her husband walk down the hall, grabbing his keys from the hook by the door as he walked out. In a few moments, she heard the sound of his pickup truck starting. As soon as she was sure Wade was gone, Lorna picked up the phone. If Abby was calling about Claudia, it had to be for a good reason. She punched in the number from the caller ID. Abby answered after one ring. Lorna didn’t have to say anything beyond hello. Abby filled her in on what was happening, though Abby really didn’t know much.
“I’m at the hospital with her,” Abby said. “They are doing a few tests, but it looks like her water broke. She is scared half to death that the baby is coming now.”
“And you called me because--?”
“Because she is your daughter!” Abby screamed at her. “And because Claudia actually asked for you.”
That was all Lorna needed to hear. She dropped the phone and ran out to her car. All she could think about was getting to Claudia. Had she really asked for her? She hoped so, but was not sure she should believe it. Abby was a bright girl. She could have come up with that story just to get Lorna to the hospital. It was definitely the right thing to say to get her there.
Lorna handed her car keys to the hospital valet and entered the building with a mixture of fear and excitement. She was scared to find out that maybe Abby had lied and Claudia didn’t really want Lorna to be there. She was excited at the prospect of seeing her grandchild born.
Her grandchild. In spite of her best efforts to keep a straight face, Lorna heard herself giggle as she stepped onto the elevator. Before this day was over, Lorna could possibly be a grandmother.
She had regained her composure by the time the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor. The first person Lorna saw as Abby Coleman, pacing in the hallway outside the family waiting room. The care and concern she saw on the young woman’s face almost melted Lorna’s heart. She was happy to see that someone cared for Claudia enough to look out for her.
And at the same time, she felt guilty that she was not that someone.
“How is she?” Lorna asked, forcing the thoughts that she should have been the one showing love and care to her daughter out of her mind.
“I haven’t heard anything more,” Abby said. “Because I’m not family, there is only so much they will tell me. The nurses asked me to wait out here while they do a few tests.”
“Did her water break?”
“Claudia thinks so, but the nurses aren’t sure. That is what they are checking on.”
Lorna was quiet for just a moment. Dare she ask? Not that the answer mattered. Lorna was not going to leave, no matter what Abby said. The only thing that would get her out of that hospital would be Claudia telling her to leave. “Abby,” she said slowly, softly, “did Claudia really ask for me?”
Abby nodded and gave Lorna a shaky smile. “She said, ‘I want my Mommy,’” Abby said. “Then she asked if I would call you and Todd. I thought she probably meant your son, but I had no idea how to get in touch with him. And your husband…. Well, he was not much help.”
Lorna opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a nurse asking, “You came in with Claudia Davis, right?”
“Yes,” Abby said. “I did. And this is her mother.”
The nurse nodded in acknowledgement of Lorna. “Claudia is resting right now. She is back in a room, hooked up to the monitors so we can keep an eye on the baby. If you would like to see her she is this way.”
“Both of us?” Abby asked.
“One at a time, please,” the nurse said. “She is tired and needs some rest. Especially if we can’t get the contractions under control.”
“You go,” Abby said to Lorna. “I will stay here and make any calls you want, but Claudia needs her mom now.”
Lorna was grateful Abby said that. She planned to be with her daughter anyway, but it was much easier to not have to fight to be at her side. She began to follow the nurse, and then turned back to Abby, holding out her cell phone. “Todd’s number is in the directory,” she said. “Could you call him for me, please? He will want to be here, I’m sure.”
She made sure Abby had the phone in her hand before she went back with the nurse. Outside Claudia’s room, she asked, “Her water broke, then? She is in labor?”
The nurse nodded. “It appears she is in labor,” the nurse said. “The contractions are pretty strong and steady, coming at a regular interval. We won’t know if her water broke until we get all of the tests back. If not, we can give her medications that will stop the labor.”
“And if her water did break?”
“Then there is not much we can do to keep the baby from coming. The best we could really hope for is to hold off labor for a day or two. Her doctor should be here shortly to fill you in on what is happening.”
The nurse then excused herself. Lorna was alone in the hallway outside Claudia’s room. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Her knock was answered with a weak sounding, “Come in.”
Slowly, Lorna opened the door. She peered around at Claudia, trying to smile. Seeing her daughter looking so pale and frightened was harder on Lorna than she thought it would be. “Hi, Sweetie,” she said softly.
“Oh, Mom. Hi.” Claudia lifted her head slightly up off of the pillow and reached a hand out. “I didn’t know if you would come.”
Lorna stepped into the room, quickly clutching Claudia’s hand in both of hers. “Of course I came,” she said. “Abby said you needed me.”
“I have needed you all along,” Claudia said.
“And I should have been with you,” Lorna told her.
“I got the Bible you left in my mailbox,” Claudia said. “Thank you.”
“I was hoping to give it to you face to face,” Lorna said. “But you didn’t answer the door. And I was not sure I wanted to take it home.”
“Yeah, it probably wouldn’t have been good for Dad to find it.” Claudia gasped and squeezed her mother’s hand harder.
She could tell from the look on Claudia’s face that a contraction had come on. “It is OK,” Lorna said. She gently began to stroke her daughter’s hair. “Just breathe, baby. It will be over soon. Just breathe.”
“That hurts,” Claudia said when the contraction was over.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, honey,” Lorna said, “but it is only going to get worse.”
“I was afraid you might say that,” Claudia said with a little smile. “Just please don’t tell me that I will forget all about the pain when I hold the baby.”
“I would never say that,” Lorna said. She pulled a chair closer to the bed, so that she was able to hold her daughter’s hand without just sitting on her bed. “That is one of the worst lies that anyone has ever told and it was probably started by some man who felt nothing more than the pressure of his wife squeezing his hand. Which reminds me of another of the worst ever lies—it is not just pressure but actual pain that you will be feeling.”
Claudia giggled. “And yet you did this three times.”
“And I have never regretted it,” Lorna said. “No matter what choices you and your brothers have ever made that I have not agreed with, I have never regretted having any of you.”
“But I sure have made you wonder,” Claudia said. “With the things I have done.”
Lorna sighed and shook her head. “Sweetie, you have never—could never—do anything that would make me wonder if your birth was anything other than a good thing. I have questioned my skills as a mother, but never questioned if having you was the right thing to do.”
“Mom,” Claudia said. “I’m not here because you have done anything wrong. You and Dad are the best parents I could have ever hoped for.”
Claudia nodded. “For the most part. I know I have been an embarrassment to you both. I never meant to do that.”
“You are not an embarrassment,” Lorna said.
Claudia winced and squeezed her mother’s hand as another contraction hit. “Don’t,” she panted, “lie to a woman in labor.” When the contraction passed, she looked toward her mother. “You and Dad have been nothing but embarrassed by me, by this pregnancy.”
“No,” Lorna said. “I have been confused by it. The choices you have made….”
“Are not the ones you would have made,” Claudia finished for her. “You always do the right thing.”
“Not always.” Lorna let go of Claudia’s hand and looked down at the floor. “The way I have pushed you away the last couple of months is not right. I’m so ashamed of how I have acted.”
“I didn’t really expect anything different,” Claudia said. “Maybe I hoped for more, but I didn’t really expect you to welcome me or my son with open arms. I knew Dad would be upset, and that you would try to keep things peaceful at home by taking his side instead of mine.”
“I should have tried harder to find some sort of middle ground,” Lorna said. “I never should have let my husband force me to choose between my love for my children and my devotion to him. And if I was really a good parent, I would have let my love for my children win out over anything else. I should have found a way to be there for you.”
“You are here now, Mom,” Claudia said. “That is what is important.”
Lorna sat quietly, thanking God for her daughter. Somewhere along the line, Claudia had learned a lesson that Lorna was just now getting—forgiveness. Lorna had been stupid, made a lot of mistakes with her daughter, but Claudia was not going to hold that against her. She only hoped she had a chance to make up for everything.
“Wait a second,” Lorna said. She felt a real smile form on her lips. “You and your son? Is that what you said? The baby is a boy?”
With a slight nod, Claudia returned the smile. “That is what the ultrasounds show. A healthy, strong baby boy.” Another contraction gripped her body, and she squeezed her mother’s hand through it. “A healthy, strong baby boy who is in a hurry to make his appearance.”
There was a knock on the door. It opened just enough for Abby to peek in. “I just wanted to check on you,” she said. “I called Todd for you. He said he is in the middle of something with the church youth group, but he will get here as soon as he can. And he said to tell you that he loves you.”
“Thanks, Abby,” Claudia said. “You should go on home. You look exhausted. All this excitement can’t be good for your baby.”
“I’m OK,” Abby told her. “I can stay as long as you need me to.”
“I think you have done enough,” Lorna said. “You need to get some rest, too. Head on home. I’ll give you a call if anything changes.”
Abby looked at her questioningly. “Promise?”
Lorna nodded and smiled. “Yes.” She patted Claudia’s hand. “I promise to call first thing in the morning, sooner if anything happens before then.”
Abby walked into the room. She gently hugged Claudia, careful not to disturb any of the monitors she was connected to. “I will be praying for you,” she whispered.
“Thanks.” Claudia smiled back at her. “Go get some rest. When this is all over, I will be sure to tell you what to expect.”
“You two seem pretty close,” Lorna said once she and her daughter were alone again. “Have you known each other long?”
“No,” Claudia said. “We just met this week. I prayed that God would give me a friend who would understand what I’m going through. Frankie has tried, but she had her Mom and Dad and Richie with her during her pregnancy. Little Clay was very much planned for and wanted, not like this little guy. I just needed someone who was dealing with the same things. And there was Abby, sitting alone in the doctor’s office. I really think she was the answer to my prayer.”
“You prayed?” Lorna asked.
“Yes, I prayed.” Claudia laughed a bit. “You sound so shocked, Mom. You and Dad always said that God was there. I may have turned away for a while, but not for long.”
Again, Lorna didn’t know what to say. Prayer was something that used to come so easily for her. She had taught her children to lean on God in the hard times and the easy times. Lately, though, she had been relying on herself to get through life. God was more of an afterthought. How had she turned so far away from the woman she used to be?
“Did you really mean what you said?” Lorna asked.
“I don’t know,” Claudia said. “What did I say?”
“A little while ago, you said something about wanting me to be here to welcome your son with open arms. Did you really want me to be here for that?”
Claudia smiled as best as she could, with another contraction coming over her. “Yeah,” she said when the pain was over and she was able to talk. “Mom, I have wanted you around for every step of this. The only thing that could have made this pregnancy easier is if I could have shared it all with you. I wish I could have asked you the questions I’ve had to talk to Frankie about.” She yawned.
“I’m going to have a grandson,” Lorna said. The thought made her feel very giddy. She saw that Claudia was struggling to keep her eyes open. She patted her daughter’s hand. “It is OK, Claudia. You get some rest.”
“Don’t leave me, Mom,” she said drowsily. “Promise you won’t leave here.”
“I promise,” Lorna said. “After you are asleep, I will just go stretch my legs a bit, but I will be right here when you wake up, sweetie. I promise, I am not going to leave you alone again.”
She sat with her for a few moments longer, holding her hand until Claudia’s even breathing let Lorna know she was sleeping. “Keep her safe, Lord,” Lorna whispered. “Look over my little girl and her baby boy. Please don’t make them pay for my stupidity.”
Lorna leaned over and gently kissed Claudia’s forehead before picking up her purse and walking out of the room.
Claudia’s doctor was just coming into the room as Lorna was going out. He told her that Claudia’s water had indeed broken, and that there was not much that could be done to stop the labor. His plan was to start steroid injections, to strengthen the baby’s lungs. In the meantime, Claudia would be on an IV to keep hydrated and would get a medication that would hopefully hold off the birth for a day or two.
They decided to not wake Claudia until necessary. Her body was going to be under quite a bit of stress and she could use all of the rest she could get. Not wanting to leave her daughter alone for very long, Lorna bypassed the cafeteria. She realized she really was not hungry. She did feel the need to walk around a little, so she headed to the main lobby and made a stop in the gift shop. Lorna chose a soft blue baby blanket and a plush musical elephant. She thought those would be beautiful gifts for her grandson. Pleased with her purchase—and sipping on a coffee she got out of a vending machine—Lorna headed back to Claudia’s room.
Claudia’s eyes opened as Lorna walked into the room. “You are still here,” she said, watching her mother settle back into the chair. “I thought maybe you changed your mind.”
“Not a chance,” Lorna said. She held out the gift shop bag. “I just had to do a little shopping.”
“For me?” Claudia said, reaching for the bag.
“No,” Lorna told her. “It is for my grandson.”
Claudia peeked inside the bag. “I will just open it for him. I don’t think he will mind too much,” she said. She pulled out the soft knitted blanket. “Oh, Mom,” she said. “It is beautiful. How did you know? Did Todd tell you?”
“No, you did. You said the baby is a boy.”
“I meant, how did you know I would want this one? I have been looking it at for weeks, ever since I started coming up for non-stress tests each week. I told Todd that if it was still in the shop after the baby and I were ready to go home, I would buy it. Thank you.”
The nurse came in there, smiling. “OK, Claudia,” she said. “I have a couple of shots for you.”
“A couple?” she said.
The nurse nodded. “One is to help the baby’s lungs, the other is to help keep him in there longer.” She looked at the screen of the fetal monitor. “His heartbeat looks good, and it seems that he is holding up well to the contractions.”
“That is good, right?”
“Of course. Now, let me just get your blood pressure first. Then I will give you the shots.” She went about her work, writing down the blood pressure reading before beginning to clean the area where she would give the injections. “This should slow the contractions a bit,” she explained. “We will be checking your blood pressure often, though, because some women have a rise in pressure with this medicine. We just want to keep a close eye on it.”
Claudia nodded that she understood. With Lorna’s help, she rolled onto one side so the nurse could inject the medication into her hip.
“Good girl,” the nurse said when she was finished. She handed Claudia the call button. “You might experience some lightheadedness from this. If it gets to be too much for you, press this button. I will be right here. Is there anything else I can do for you?” Claudia shook her head no. The nurse patted her hand. “Hang in there, hon. We are going to take good care of you and that precious little one.”
The nurse had not been gone for more than a couple of minutes when Claudia’s face grew red. “Are you OK?” Lorna asked her.
“I’m not sure,” Claudia said. “I feel so hot.”
Lorna folded back the blanket that Claudia had been covered with. “Maybe some ice water would help,” she said. “Let me go see if I can get some.”
“Mom,” Claudia said as Lorna reached for the door. “Maybe we should just call someone to come in here.”
“Why?” Lorna asked.
“My head,” Claudia whined. “It really hurts.”
“She said to expect that,” Lorna reminded her.
“This is more than just light-headed, Mom. It really hurts.” She then began to shiver.
“Are you cold now?” Lorna asked, reaching again for the blanket.
“No,” Claudia moaned. “So hot. And my head. Mommy, help me.”
Lorna pushed the call button. The nurse was there right away, just as she said she would be. Before Lorna even had a chance to say anything, the nurse was slipping a blood pressure cuff onto Claudia’s arm. “It is going to be OK, Claudia,” she said. As the cuff automatically contracted, the nurse stuck her head into the hall. “I need some help in here,” she called out. “Get Dr. Vibbart up here right away.”
“What is going on?”
“Her blood pressure is up.”
“I thought that was normal.”
“A slight spike is,” the nurse said. “But to jump this high this fast is not normal.” The door opened and two more nurses came in. They were quickly filled in on what was happening and went to work.
“Mom,” Claudia gasped, reaching for Lorna’s hand. “Mommy, I’m scared.”
“Shh,” Lorna said. Gently stroking her daughter’s arm and trying to keep out of the way of the nurses. “It is going to be OK. These ladies know what they are doing. They will take good care of you.”
“I love you, Mommy,” Claudia said. Her eyes closed and her breathing changed.
“Claudia,” the original nurse said. “Claudia, honey, can you hear me?”
The door opened yet again. “What is happening?” the doctor asked as he put his stethoscope in his ears.
“Her BP jumped,” one of the nurses said. “She has passed out from it.”
“Call the OR,” the doctor said, listening to Claudia’s heart. “Her heartbeat is too rapid. How is the baby?”
“Stable,” one nurse said as another picked up the bedside phone to make a call. “The heartbeat has slowed a little, but it is acceptable.”’
“What is going on?” Lorna nearly shouted. “What is happening with my daughter?”
“We have to deliver this baby as soon as possible.”
“OR is ready,” the nurse said. “We can take her now.”
“Claudia,” Lorna whispered to her as the nurses prepared to roll her out of the room. “It is all going to be OK. I promise.” She looked up at the nurses. “It is going to be OK, right?”
No one answered her. They just rolled Claudia’s bed out of the room and down the hall, with the doctor shouting directions as they went.
For the second time in a week, the woman who hated to show any emotion fell to the floor in tears. “Please, God,” she wailed. “Please be with them. Please.”