As Jennifer was being wheeled into the delivery room, fully dilated, she realized she may have only one or two more minutes of privacy. She went over the conversation from last night with her sister.
She had finally confessed to Sara of her one and only marital indiscretion. Unfortunately, sleeping with Jason from work after a wine-fueled business dinner, almost exactly nine months ago, and him NOT wearing a condom, could prove to be the ultimate indiscretion. Out of total guilt, she had come home that night and insisted her husband have sex with her.
Like that would change, or fix, anything.
She could remember the conversation with Sara word for word. Her sister was the only person whom she had told.
"But why? I thought you were in love with Alex?"
"I was. I mean I AM. It just happened."
"And this Jason knew
you were married?"
"Of course. I never took my ring off."
"I'm not sure. Maybe I was curious?"
"Curious? About sex? What the hell?"
"Not about sex, per
se. About sex with Jason."
"What's he got that Alex doesn't have?"
Jennifer had looked away, ashamed. She thought about ending the conversation right there. Fortuitously, Jason had left the company shortly thereafter, eliminating a potentially very awkward situation.
Finally, she looked back at her sister, whose brow was wrinkled in confusion.
"Jason is BLACK!"
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."
"Why didn't you experiment in college, for christ sake?"
"I was with Alex for the last three years of school, you know that."
"Are you trying to tell me that this baby is Jason's?"
"It might be. I had sex with Alex the same night. Afterwards."
"OH MY GOD!"
Jennifer nodded and didn't say anything. Her hand went reflexively to her belly, feeling the kick of her baby. At least she knew it was HER baby.
"And you don't want to leave your husband? You love him and want this baby with him?"
"Is…is, is Jason like, black black?"
"So you don't know what's coming out of you tomorrow, or whenever?"
"No, I don't."
Her water broke three hours later.
Now, resting in between contractions, she was left alone momentarily, as the doctor and nurse went to make sure the anesthesiologist was on stand by. She had requested an epidural if a C-section was able to be avoided.
She was shaking from fright. As if child birth wasn't traumatic enough, she might be giving birth to a black baby, who would be the only black person in the room. With her husband standing at her side.
She began to take deep breaths. They would think that was normal.
In minutes, there was the doctor, assisted by two nurses and the anesthesiologist off in the corner, reading a magazine. Alex was at her side, grinning through his mask and holding her hand.
She wanted to cry.
They did not have sex so often that they could not pinpoint when conception occurred. Alex thought he knew which night it was. And he was right. He simply didn't know a man had been there hours before him.
Her labor was progressing and the doctor was positioned between her upraised and spread knees, cooing encouraging things in a soft voice.
"Ok, push, Jennifer. You can do it."
If ever a woman was ambivalent about wanting the baby to leave her body, it was Jennifer.
She finally gave an almost violent thrust and could feel the baby fill her birth canal.
"Great Jennifer, almost got it. Push again."
Both nurses sat poised for the hand off. The anesthesiologist continued reading. He would not be needed.
"I see the head, we're almost there. One more push, Jennifer."
Fuck it, she thought. It's judgment time.
With a final thrust of her hips she felt the baby's head crown and then the doctor's hands cupped the cranium and began to pull gently. She watched his face closely.
Alex was watching the doctor as well, squeezing Jennifer's hand tightly, his left hand nervously stroking her sweaty, matted hair.
"Here it comes, shoulders are clear. One more Jennifer. One more."
She screamed and pushed, her vocalization more out of fear and frustration than pain.
"Great Jen. Hey, it's a boy!" They had not wanted to know the sex beforehand.
The doctor's expression did not change. She could feel the little feet pass her vaginal opening, and her son was now in the doctor's hands.
He reached back and took a towel from a nurse, reached back between her legs and appeared to be wiping the amniotic fluid off the baby.
He handed the stained towel back to the nurse, but did not hand her the baby. He finally rose from between her sheet covered knees and came around the bed and handed her a jet black baby, shiny as a cadet's boot, umbilical cord intact. The doctor laid the baby against her bosom.
There was dead silence in the room.
The anesthesiologist had put aside his magazine and lowered his mask. He was staring, unblinking, at Jennifer.
Alex had taken two steps back from the bed, letting go of her hand. He also lowered his mask.
He wore a look of confusion that seemed to be melding into pain.
He kept looking from the baby to Jennifer and back again.
The doctor hovered awkwardly. He had been poised to hand a pair of sterilized scissors to Alex to cut the umbilical cord, but now his hand lingered at his side, opening and closing the scissors. Some instinct made him not want to give a sharp object to this man.
He finally reached over and cut the cord himself, set the scissors on a tray, took the baby from Jennifer and handed it to a nurse, who quickly cleaned the baby off more completely and, reading something in the doctor's look, left the room with the little boy, who had yet to make a single sound.
"We'll let you folks have some privacy," he said, taking the second nurse by the elbow and steering her out the door. The anesthesiologist had vanished.
The room felt like a crime scene to Jennifer.
In a matter of minutes, three lives had been ruined.