Excerpt – After the Break

PROLOGUE

This wasn’t how this was supposed to happen.

The baby couldn’t be coming now…it was too soon. This was all her fault. She should have taken it easy. Why had she gone to do that last interview? It all seemed so selfish now.

Abby gripped the railing of the stretcher to stabilize herself as the ambulance raced through the city. She focused on the flashing red and white lights reflecting off the windows of each building they streaked past. Her head was throbbing and she felt like she might be sick. A searing pain exploded through her back and abdomen and she had to grit her teeth to stop from screaming out loud.

“Another contraction,” the paramedic said to his partner behind the wheel as he examined the paper coming off the printer attached to the leads on her pregnant belly.

“Better go up to code three…I’m afraid this baby isn’t going to wait.”

Abby gave a small cry at his words. This baby needed to wait.

When the paramedic brought his gaze back to Abby she found herself transfixed by his eyes. They were so blue she was temporarily mesmerized by them. His lips were moving but she couldn’t hear him over the wailing siren.

“What?” she said loudly.

“We’re almost there,” he repeated. “You just hang on until we can get you into the ER. Whatever you do, no matter how strong an urge you feel…do not start to push. Do you understand?”

Abby nodded weakly as she started to cry. She thought about her last ultrasound. How cold the gel was on her growing tummy. How hard the technician had to push to get a clear picture of the baby.

She remembered waiting until the technician had left the room briefly to admit to Seth she had no idea what she was looking at on the screen. He laughed and told her he didn’t either. They joked about hoping they would at least be able to tell what end was up when the baby was born.

Most of all Abby vividly recalled the look on his face when the young woman wielding the ultrasound wand said: “It’s a girl.” He had tried not to let Abby see his eyes fill with tears but he wasn’t quick enough for her. She knew he had been secretly hoping for a Daddy’s Little Girl.

Afterward, they left the hospital and stopped at Starbucks to celebrate – an Americano for him and vanilla steamed milk for her. Perched on stools in the window, watching the rain-soaked people rush by and talked about names for their daughter.

“I think we should give her a really unique name. Something like Neveah.” Abby said, trying to keep her face serious. “Because that’s Heaven spelled backward. Isn’t that pretty?”

Seth considered her and was diplomatic in response. “That’s certainly unique.”

“Or how about Dream?” she said. “Or Apple…like Gwyneth Paltrow.”

Abby smiled over the top of her cup and saw Seth’s shoulders relax as he realized she was joking.

He threw in his own ridiculous suggestions and they laughed at the trouble they could cause their unborn daughter just by giving her a horrible name.

“Well, at least we still have a few months to have figure this out,” Seth finally said.

But now here she was, just a few weeks later, in labor. Time was up and deciding on a name was the least of their worries. The ambulance pulled to a stop in front of the hospital and the back doors flung open. The paramedic, who had been the first one there when she came to after her fall, pulled up the sides of the stretcher and pushed her forward out of the ambulance.

“Abigail Lane. 32 years old. 32 weeks pregnant.” he told the doctors that ran beside the stretcher.

“Witness said she tripped, fell on her right side and then hit the side of her head on the floor. Patient was awake and talking immediately after the fall but unconscious by the time we arrived. She woke up in the rig and was responsive and alert on the ride here. Blood pressure is 132/83 and fetal heart rate is steady at 147. Contractions are coming pretty regular now.

The stretcher moved through the front doors of the emergency room and lights flashed above Abby making her feel like a patient in a TV hospital drama being rushed into surgery.

“Abigail?”

She was vaguely aware of a voice talking to her from the left. She turned and found herself looking into the kind face of a young woman with long dark curls wearing light blue scrubs. A white mask was loosely tied around her neck.

“I’m Dr. Bloom, the obstetrician on call,” she stated with an air of such reassuring confidence that made Abby like her right away.

“It looks like we might have us a baby today. I know it seems early but the prognosis for babies born at 32 weeks is actually very high. Plus we have one of the best Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the country – you are in the best possible place you can be Abigail.”

“It’s Abby, please. Only my dad calls me Abigail,” she said.

“Okay…Abby it is then,” Dr. Bloom said with a smile. “Do you have any questions for me?”

All Abby could manage in reply was a loud moan as another contraction tore through her.

“Another contraction hey? They are coming faster now.” Dr. Bloom said. “Don’t worry Abby, we’re going to do this together. Is there anyone you want us to call?”

Abby opened her mouth – ready to say his name – so used to the idea of the two of them going through this together. Then she remembered the last thing he had said to her that morning.

“Abby?” Dr. Bloom repeated. “Who do you want us to call?”

Such a simple question…and Abby had absolutely no idea how to answer it.