Anna lay on her side watching her son, Daniel, as he slept in the bedside bassinet. The monitoring tubes had been removed hours before leaving them both more comfortable. He had finally been allowed to join her in their semi-private hospital room.
The sounds of crying newborns drifted into the room, painting an image for Anna of content mothers nestling their new and, most importantly, normal bundles of joy. Anna squeezed her eyes shut to stop the flood of tears threatening to burst her silent vigil. “Oh God, what am I going to do,” she muttered in a fevered prayer, her lips moving silently as she prayed, “what am I going to do.”
She could feel the tears in her throat, pressing on her lungs like a snake constricting around her chest but still she struggled with it, terrified that the tears would never stop if she let them start.
It had been nearly seven hours since Daniel had graced the world with his presence and he still maintained his silent vigil. The doctors were waiting for his first wail but Anna was sure that they had given up hope of ever hearing it. All they would tell her was that Daniel was perfect in every way. His weight was seven pounds on the dot, his movement and appetite were on par with a healthy full term newborn. The only problem was that Daniel didn’t seem to have a voice; they needed more time and more tests to determine why.
Anna knew this wasn’t going to be easy if her son was born mute or if he had some other disorder. All of her training in college had led her to understand how much care and energy is needed for a child with special needs. Even during her residency, she had seen many parents sitting by their child’s bedside, praying to God to make it right.
Now she was sitting beside her son whispering those same prayers, that God would make it right. Praying that He would give him a voice. She was desperate to hear it instead of the concerned whispers of the doctors and nurses as they came to check on them Anna opened her eyes and took in her son’s sleeping form, his heart shaped lips, his swatch of dark brown hair covered by the silly blue cap, his long body swaddled in the white hospital blanket, his delicate fingers curled in a fist, his outside was perfect but she wondered if there was some flaw within.
“There she is with her wonderful new baby!”
The bright cheerful greeting startled Anna. Her gaze took in the tall graceful figure of Beth, her only real friend in the world. She was everything that Anna had wanted to be since meeting her in the first year of nursing college. She was full of life, her cheerfulness spread to those around her like the warmth of the sun. Patients couldn’t help but smile back, their worries wiped away by the dazzling blue-eyed charm of Beth.
Beth paused at the curtain, her blue eyes taking in the worried expression that cast dark shadows in her friend’s luminescent brown eyes. Anna knew she didn’t look good, her short brown hair lay limply across her forehead and down around her ears, her olive-toned complexion was unusually pale and sickly. Sicker then the regular fatigue associated with childbirth. Still, Beth’s smile didn’t falter with worry; her words were still cheerful and optimistic, but Anna suspected that it took all of Beth’s experience as a trauma nurse to keep the façade going. “Well, let me see my nephew, Anna. I came all this way after working a twelve hour shift to see him and all you’re doing is staring at me like I sprouted wings.”
Anna’s gaze shifted to the sleeping infant, her smile felt rubbery and fake, as her friend crossed the two-foot space beside the bed to peak inside the bassinet. Beth’s eyes softened and her smile grew larger than any smile Anna had ever seen. “Oh Anna, he is absolutely perfect,” she whispered.
Her gaze shifted to Anna and the smile slipped slightly at the worried look on Anna’s face, “Why didn’t you call me? I would have been here for you. You shouldn’t have gone through this alone.”
“I know, Beth. I didn’t want to put you out. I…I felt like I had to do this on my own, like everything else,” Anna answered, her gaze shifted to the window beside her bed.
The busy streets of Vancouver seemed a million miles away, from up here in her glass tower. Life was going on, people lived, people died, people loved and people lost. Anna couldn’t help being disappointed by it all. Couldn’t help feeling strangled like her next breath was hanging in the air, waiting for something. “No not something,” she amended silently,” I’m waiting for Daniel to cry.” It seemed wrong that life didn’t wait with her.
“You won’t be doing this alone, Anna. You’ll have me and you’ll have your little boy,” her tone was light as she propped herself on the side of the bed, “What did you name him?”
“Daniel, his name is Daniel,” tears strained Anna’s voice and she felt the tide of emotion envelope her, “Oh Beth, there is something wrong with him. He hasn’t cried, not once, from the moment he was born. They have done all kinds of tests but they can’t find anything wrong. I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Anna looked at Daniel, sleeping peacefully, wrapped in the blue hospital blanket and white infant gown, his small head clothed in a knitted blue cap, It’s just you and me, Daniel.
Anna’s voiced trailed off, the overpowering swell of emotion draining away with her words. Beth was regarding Daniel as she spoke, her blue eyes shining with intensity, her fingers gently probing the small form as she looked him over. “Anna, I don’t know why Daniel hasn’t cried yet but I am positive he will. He just needs to decide when the time is right,” a mischievous smile lit her delicate face,” I imagine he’ll cry for the first time when he tastes my cooking.”
Anna gave a shaky tear filled laugh as Beth continued. “As for what you’re going to do, you’re going to take some time to bond with your son. Then we’re going to find a great babysitter for Daniel and after that you’re going to come back to the hospital to work.”
“If only it was that easy,” Anna thought to herself but she didn’t say it to her friend. Beth leaned towards the bassinet, her fingers gently rubbing Daniel’s small hand, while humming a song to him. “He really is perfect, Anna. A prince among men.”
“I wish his father was here to see him,” Anna sighed; the cheap snow globe had been moved from the birthing room to the nightstand beside her. The only thing he had left his son besides a mother that was filled with so many fears and doubts. The word, Love, was carved into a white plastic base between two cherubs. The globe itself was cool to the touch and filled with so much fake snow that the miniature town on the bottom was almost buried. Whenever she shook it, the sleepy little town would completely disappear under a blanket of floating snow but sometimes she could see the faintest speck of gold, perhaps a minute detail etched into the village church.
Anna wiped the tears from her face and sighed. Elizabeth smiled at Daniel and her silence about his father, comforted Anna more than any words could. She would make it. Daniel would make it and Beth would be there with them, helping them every way she could. For the first time in a very long time, Anna didn’t feel so alone.
Daniel stirred, his eyes opening slowly as he took in the world around him. Elizabeth dipped her blond head closer to him as she cooed,” Hello, Daniel. I’m your Aunty Beth. We are going to have so much fun together. I’m going to show you all the things you need to do to make your Mommy crazy.”
Daniel’s eyes widened and if Anna didn’t know better she would have been sure it was in amazement of the heavenly beauty of his newfound Aunt. His content movements were the only sign that he wanted something. “Well, your going to have talk if you want something from me you know,” Beth chided gently,” I don’t run for gestures.”
Beth’s light laughter filled the small curtain-draped room filling it with warmth. Anna smiled at her son and her cheerful friend, loving them both and feeling a bond with them that she had never experienced before. For a moment, she could forget about her worries and play at being the overjoyed new mother.
The curtain swayed to the right as a middle-aged nurse poked her head inside, “It’s time for Daniel’s next check up, Miss. Torrez,” she said in a strict tone as if she expected an argument. Daniel’s eyes darted from Beth’s face and looked around him at the sound of the nurse’s voice, his small hand tightened around Beth’s finger, and she glanced in concern towards Anna.
Anna paused at the nurse’s stern appearance. Her heavyset brow and dark eyes sent shivers down her spine and for a brief second she thought about telling her no. Beth’s reaction to the woman made her consider it for a second more. The woman moved further into the crowded space, the light and warmth that had filled it a moment before became stifling. The air hung thick and sluggish, making it hard to breath. “I’m Amy, and I’ll be looking after you and Daniel for the next little while,” she said in a pleasant tone but her voice didn’t match the expression of disgust that filled her heavy face.
Amy pushed past Beth, sending her a dark glance when Beth hesitated for a minute. The contrast between the dark and heavy nurse beside the light and ethereal Beth made Anna uneasy for some reason and she turned on the bed so her legs dangled above the floor. Her hands clenched the side of the mattress and her breath came in short gasps as a sense of foreboding filled her. The first fingers of panic started to grip at her heart and she could already feel bile racing up her throat. “What is wrong with you,” she silently berated herself, “Stop it, stop worrying before you drive yourself crazy.”
As the nurse leaned over Daniel, his gaze moved between Beth’s reassuring face to the dour face of the nurse. His small limbs started moving at an erratic rate, his breathing became laboured and his head turned away from her. Amy seemed unaware of his difficulty and sneered at Anna, “He has such unusual eyes for a newborn. Such a strange grey, almost like a storm cloud at dawn, don’t you think?"
Anna opened her mouth to reply but Amy was already continuing on,” And look, you can almost see a hint of gold. Such strange eyes on such a strange little baby, they must be his father’s eyes.”
Beth, almost forgotten in the exchange, moved back to the side of the bassinet and placed a comforting hand on Daniel’s small chest, smiling lovingly down at him, she cooed, “I think his eyes are beautiful.”
Beth reached down her other hand to lift the now shaking Daniel into her arms but Amy batted her hand away and reached for him. Anna cried out as she watched Amy’s hand slide behind his small form and tried to leap from her bed, landing half on it instead. Her cry echoed through the room and the air felt like it was charged with electricity. Something terrible was happening, Anna knew it, something big was about to happen and she didn’t know how to stop it. Beth glanced at her and then back at Daniel, unsure of whom she should go to when Daniel took a startling gasp and began to wail.
The nurse jerked back as if she had been bitten. Her sneer deepening as she stood there, holding the hand that had reached for him to her chest as if it stung. She paused for a moment, glared at all three of them and without another word; she slipped around the curtain and out into the hallway. Anna felt all her energy drain away and she slid the rest of the way to the floor. Her eyes filled with tears and the tension in the room seemed to snap into oblivion leaving the tattered remnants of silken webs trailing invisibly across her face.
“Anna, he’s crying! I told you there was nothing to worry about,” Beth’s excited voice quickly turned to confusion as she said,” Anna, what’s wrong with you?”
Beth reached for the distraught infant while Anna sat on the floor hearing nothing but the blissful sound of Daniel’s high-pitched scream. Her breasts were already growing heavy from the need to feed him and pain cut through her body over and over again as her muscles finally released their tension.
None of it distracted her from the object in front of her. Simon’s parting gift danced across the bedside table, shaking and bouncing, the fake snow blotting out the image of the village below, the gold of the steeple, shining brightly through the snow storm like a star leading wayward travelers home.
Anna sat there as the first cries of her son faded into shuddering sobs. She watched as the snow globe rocked across the nightstand, jerked as it fell off and shuddered when it finally came to rest in her cold lap.