Two-year-old boy acting strangely, much improved since admission. Stable. EEG read pending. Mother railing at us: I won't leave my child alone in the hospital. I have other children to feed. I don't get benefits or a salary, I have to make my hours. Why are you keeping him here?
He went home.
I did not realize just how cynical I have become, O Best Beloved, regarding childbirth. Today it was all erased. Young couple, early twenties, she glowing even in the midst of contractions - a beautiful girl with a child's face and a smile that lit the room. He smiling, convivial. "This is the first time I've been out of a tie and dress pants in so long I don't quite know what to do." They have benefits, insurance. They are private patients of Dr. P, who decided not to deliver at $downtown_hospital because of the construction. "Jackhammers right across from the room. I looked at her and I said 'Honey, do you want to have a baby like this?'" They came to $other_hospital. We are seeing them, for Dr. P.
He has a digital video camera, shows it off. "Easiest touchscreen ever!" They have had bags packed for a month - one for her, one for him, one for baby. It will be a boy. The nursery is ready.
She winces, takes huffing breaths, grips the bedrails. Lamaze classes. He coaches her, softly, concerned, kisses her when the contraction passes. They ask about dilation and station, take an interest in the fetal monitor. She debates getting an epidural with an easy cheer. "How long can I wait? If I can stand the pain, I don't want to have to stay in bed."
They are happy people, positively ebullient with the thought of their baby-to-be, and over this room there is no spectre. There is no unspoken question of where this child's meals will be coming from, whether there will be money to pay for medical care, if we should be tailoring our drugs to Medicaid's limited formulary. In this room, there is no shadow - it is banished from my mind almost as soon as I enter, before it even takes form.
I almost wanted to stay to see the baby delivered, O Best Beloved, just to bask in the radiance of that couple and the potency of their joy. Because that is how it should be and how I wish every delivery felt. So beautiful.
And I never knew how badly I needed to see it again until my cynicism was abruptly washed away.