This was written on September 12, 2011, one hundred and seventy-two long days after March 24.
We are driving on the 134, past Eagle Rock and over the hill that provides panoramic views of Downtown and the Pacific. My nerves are running laps between my heart and head, my knee is bobbing up and down, my mouth is unable to deliver the thoughts streaming in. We sit quietly as we roll down the hill towards our exit.
I am surprisingly confident. I am painfully terrified.
It was like this once before, almost exactly, except we were breaking the speed limit and Kari was screaming in pain and I was on the phone.
"Yes, hello. My wife just fell on her belly. We are driving to you now. Is Dr. Wu there?"
I hung up in a haze and relayed the news. The doc is there, I told her. It’s going to be okay. Maybe we’ll meet her now, we mumbled to one another while she lay sideways, clutching her belly.
"Something isn’t right." she said with measured doubt. Her eyes signaled the coming calamity.
"We’re almost there," I replied.
I hugged the right lane and exited frantically, my right arm extended towards Kari, my left doing the driving. Every last ounce of hope I could muster went into that right arm, down through my elbow, past my hand and into the life inside that broken belly.
My mind raced about where to go. I contemplated the ER for a split second before deciding on Labor and Delivery. I stopped near the valet, just in front of the double doors, and barely had enough time to shift the car into park before leaping off the seat and running into the building.
"I'll be right back," I blurted out as I slammed the door shut.
I ran past the security box and down the hall, past the waiting room where balloons and family members waited anxiously, and straight into the nurse's station at Labor and Delivery.
"I need help!" I yelled. I stopped to catch my breath in a desperate plea with my body and mind to remain calm. My stomach was somersaulting around my insides. My heart pounded ferociously, each chamber pumping and moving my blood, which was laced with a fear I had never known before.
"My wife just fell on her belly and something isn't right. Wu is our Doctor and she's full term. I need a wheelchair"
I must have floated back to the car, back to Kari doubled over on the front seat. There is no memory of getting back to her, of lifting her into the chair, of hurtling her towards the ultrasound machines. We were just there, suddenly, with a team of frightened nurses. One of them pulled out a fetal pocket doppler and placed it on her belly.
In the agonizing sound of nothingness, time stood still.
We gently roll past the valet, past the double doors and head for the parking garage. Our hands lock together in a sweat. We nervously kid about our new willingness to happily pay for parking. I ignore the obvious, even though The Day is still more fresh in my mind than any other day of my life.
We take the stairs out of the garage and head towards the outside entrance. We walk past the valet and through the double door entrance. I can see pieces of my former self scattered around the place, my dismembered ghost calling out to me from the tiled floor, from the ceiling, from every little nook and cranny. My innocence in one corner, my naivety in another. Luck stares at me from under a chair, and unwavering optimism glares at me from down the hall. I stare at them with indifference.
She sits on the table, I pace the compact room, shuffling back and forth, my nerves still running laps, my hands still moist. There are few words between us.
There he is. Our frail, sixty-nine year old Dr. Wu, who delivered both our girls, one who was resuscitated after a thirty-six hour labor by a team of six NICU Dr's and nurses, and one who they tried to resuscitate. His eyes fill with empathy, with a gratefulness that we are able to be here again.
"How are you?" he asks. "Any morning sickness?" He asks in a way that suggests he is hoping with all the hope in the universe that there are other signs of pregnancy, that he finds a heartbeat.
"Okay, let's have a listen."
And there it was. The most beautiful sound of all, so primal and miraculous and hopeful.
Another beating heart.
We are now six months along with a growing baby boy. He's due in early May. We really, really, really hope he makes it.