One-and-a-half hours post-birth, nurse Joleen conducts another heartbeat check. Jason delicately takes Sophia, holding her at an easily accessible angle. Carefully placing the familiar two fingers on Sophia’s chest, nurse Joleen holds very still. Her stone-like face is eerily static; her mouth does not mime the seconds as they tick on the wall clock. Relenting her fingers, her eyes turn downward, prominent with concern.
“I will be back. I need to find the on-call doctor.” Her urgency is palpable. In a brisk walk, nearly a jog, she abandons us with our lifeless Sophia resting comfortably in Jason’s warm, steady hands. Her pony tail sways in what could be misconstrued as joy.
Tears filling my eyes, my gaze fixated on Sophia’s face. Watching her chest for any sign of life, my hope for the rise and fall of her breath cannot force her petite body to persevere.
“Is it over?” My almost rhetorical inquiry meets an expected silence. Jason’s saddening face mimics mine as neither of us want to utter words more dreadful than that.
Leaning closer to me, allowing one final look at our sleeping angel, Jason quietly counters with an equally non-specific reply, “I don’t know, Babe. Maybe.”
Nurse Joleen returns to the room with purpose and diligence, guiding the on-call doctor with the leading motion of her hand. He glides around her, as if her assistance were a nuisance. His strikingly sterile glare through his wire-rimmed glasses remains sharply framed by his dangerously spiked hair. Shivers tingle down my spine, forcing my shoulders into an awkward shuddering spasm.
This is not just the on-call doctor. This is On-Call Doctor.
Dispassionately, his chilly aura passes through the room. Shrouded in annoyance, he hastily pops the earpieces of his stethoscope in his deeply ridged, gaping ears. Without heeding her tender skin under the grossly large stethoscope, he holds the ridiculously large, circular, metal piece to Sophia’s chest. Bowing his head to avert eye contact, he listens.
Five seconds go by. As his expressionless round face turns to us, raw, insincere words painfully dice the air. Like icy pellets stinging our souls, his throaty voice offers four dreaded words, “I’m sorry. She’s gone.” Turning to nurse Joleen, his deep tone doesn’t waver, “Time of death, 3:10am.”
Stealing the spot Sophia so tranquilly warmed, the bitterness of knowing she is no longer with us unbearably sits on my chest. My previously expressed doubts hauntingly whisper in my ears.
“I don’t think I can hold her once she’s born. I just don’t think I can do it. I don’t want to see her.”
Now, I don’t know how to let her go.
As my tears replenish the dried salt tracks on my reddened cheeks, Jason whispers what we both were thinking, “We are so fortunate to have had her for as long as we did.”