Authors: Amy Andrews
Finn and Evie only vaguely heard him as they both held their breath, straining to hear a little cry through the rush and hurry around them.
‘He’s not crying,’ Evie murmured.
Finn kissed her forehead as the suction was turned on. ‘Give it a sec.’
But there was still no gurgling first baby cry. No annoyed, indignant wail at having a plastic tube shoved up its nose. They could hear terms like
get an IV
need to tube him
and Evie turned her face into Finn’s shoulder and cried, quietly this time, as a scenario she’d been part of on many occasions played out.
Only this time it wasn’t some anonymous person off the street—it was happening to her.
‘He’s going to be fine,’ Finn said, his head close to hers. ‘He’s going to be fine.’
If he said it enough times, it might just be true.
Then he heard
and he looked up as the tone of the sats monitor changed.
Sats improving. Heart rate picking up
He kissed Evie on the head. ‘They’ve tubed him,’ he whispered. ‘He’s improving.’
Evie looked up, the normal sound of the sats monitor like music to her ears. She turned her head towards the flurry of activity around the cot. ‘How’s he doing?’ he asked.
The neonatologist turned around. ‘He was a little flat. He needed some help with his breathing—not unusual at twenty-eight weeks. Hopefully we can get him straight on to CPAP. We’ll put in an umbi line and given him some steroids down the ETT. We’ll take him up to the unit now, it’s the best place for him.’
Evie nodded vigorously. ‘Of course, go, take him,’ she urged. She wanted him in the best place, with the best people looking after him, but she couldn’t deny how bereft she felt. She’d given birth to him but she hadn’t even touched her little boy yet or seen his face.
Her arms ached to hold him. To be near him right now.
She turned to Finn. ‘Go with them,’ she said.
Finn frowned. ‘What? No Evie, he’s in good hands, I’ll stay with you until you’re settled upstairs and then I’ll go and check on him.’
Evie, feeling strong now, dashed at the moisture clinging to her cheeks. ‘I don’t want him up there by himself, Finn.’
‘He’s going to be surrounded by people,’ Finn said gently.
‘No.’ She shook her head vehemently. ‘Not people who love him. That is our son up there and I want him to know that every second of every day we’re right beside him. Go, please, please go. If you don’t, Finn, I swear to God I will, placenta delivered or not.’
Finn caught the eye of Marco, who indicated with a quick flick of his head to hop to it. But he was torn. He wanted to be with his son, but he didn’t want to abandon Evie either.
Evie grabbed his sleeve. ‘I’m going to be fine,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry, I know I’ve been a mess tonight but I’m fine now. And I need you to do this. Promise me you’ll stay with him until I can get there.’
Finn blinked at the zealous glow in Evie’s eyes that turned them from soft hazel to a supernatural hue. He nodded, knowing it was another promise he could keep. ‘I promise,’ he murmured. ‘But don’t be long.’
Evie gave a half-laugh. ‘I’ll try. Now go!’ she urged as the cot and the team headed out of the cubicle.
Finn stopped by Marco, who was pulling gently on the umbilical cord to deliver the placenta. ‘I have my mobile. Call me as soon as you’re done here.’
Five hours later Ava strode into the isolation room they’d put little baby Lockheart in because there were some perks to being on staff and because they were quiet enough at the moment to allow it. Not that it was exactly isolated—large windows on three sides kept it fully visible to the entire unit.
She smiled at the nurse making notes on a computer console before spying Finn sitting in a chair beside the open cot, valiantly trying to keep his eyes open, his head bobbing up and down as he intermittently lost the battle before regaining control.
‘Finn,’ she said bending down to push her face closer to him when he didn’t seem to register her presence.
He looked as if he’d been pulled through a hedge backwards. His jeans had a stain down the front and his shirt looked like it had been crumpled in a ball in the corner for a week. His stubbly look was bordering on haggard. His feet were bare.
Finn shook his head as his name was called again and the figure in front of him came into focus. ‘Ava.’
She pushed a takeaway coffee towards him. ‘You specialise in looking like hell, don’t you?’
He gave a half-smile, accepting her offering gratefully. ‘Only for you.’
Ava looked at the cot, seeing more tubes than baby. ‘Big night, I hear.’
Finn nodded. He stood and looked down at his son, who had rapidly improved in just a few hours and was now only on CPAP via the ventilator to lightly support his own breathing rather than the machine doing the breathing for him.
‘This is just the half of it. Evie needed a manual removal of her placenta then part of it was left behind so she had to have a D and C as well. She only got back to her room at six.’ He still felt sick thinking about the fist that had squeezed a handful of his gut when Marco had come to tell him the news personally.
Ava nodded. ‘I know. I’ve just come from there.’
Finn looked up, eager for firsthand news of her. ‘You have? How’s she going?’
‘She’s sleeping. Bella’s with her.’
Finn nodded. He had called Bella a couple of hours ago because he didn’t want Evie to be alone. Lexi had been his first instinct but she was also dealing with a newborn and he figured she needed the sleep more. Bella had popped in briefly to see the baby, taken a picture, then gone to her sister.
‘Evie made me promise not to leave him until she got here.’
Ava smiled. ‘Of course she did. She’s a mum now. And what about you? How are you feeling now he’s here and it’s all a little more real?’
Finn shook his head. ‘More like surreal.’ He looked down at his tiny son, just over one kilo, everything in miniature but all still in perfect working order. His chest rose and fell robustly despite his little bird-like ribcage and his pulse oximeter bleeped away steadily in the background, picking up the strong, sure beating of his heart.
‘I’m scared. Worried. Petrified.’
‘But he’s doing well, yes?’
Finn nodded. ‘But I keep thinking about all the possibilities. Immature lungs. Intracranial haemorrhages. Infection. Jaundice. Cardiac complications. I can’t breathe when I think of all the things that can go wrong.’
‘Well, that’s one of the hazards of knowing just a little too much, I guess. But this little tyke is probably stronger than you think. He’s a tough guy, just like his daddy.’
Finn felt his heart contract and then expand so much it felt like it was filling his chest, the cold bands that had clamped around it the day Isaac had died shattering into a thousand pieces. He gazed at his son. ‘I love him more than I thought it possible to love anything.’
Ava smiled. ‘Of course, you’re a dad now.’
Three hours later Finn was watching his son take his first breaths off the ventilator. He’d done so well the team had extubated him and popped on some high-flow humidified nasal prongs. He’d fussed at first, his little hoarse squawk pinging Finn’s protective strings, but with a couple of sleepy blinks he’d settled and was, once again, getting on with the business of breathing unassisted.
Finn was watching his son through the open cot’s glass side panel when he heard some squeaking behind him and turned around to find Bella pushing her sister into the room in a wheelchair.
‘Evie?’ Finn stood, shocked by her pallor, covering the two steps separating them quickly, sinking to his knees in front of the wheelchair. She had dark rings under her eyes and her lips were dry. ‘Are you okay? I don’t think you should be out of bed.’
‘She shouldn’t be,’ Bella agreed. ‘But she threatened to pull her drip out and make a run for it if I didn’t bring her.’
‘I’m fine,’ Evie dismissed. Nothing else mattered to her right now more than seeing her baby. The little boy who’d been impatient to make his entry into the world.
He’d been the first thing on her mind when she’d woken from her anaesthetic and after letting weariness, exhaustion and well-intentioned people fob her off for the last few hours, she’d made her stand.
‘Push me closer, Bells,’ Evie demanded, bouncing in her seat a little, trying to get a better view. If she’d thought she could walk and not faint, she’d have been by his side already.
Finn stood. ‘Here. Let me.’
Bella stepped back. ‘I’ll give you two some privacy,’ she said. ‘Ring me, Finn, when Evie’s ready to go back and I can take her, or I can sit with the baby for a while if you like so you can stretch your legs.’
Finn nodded his thanks and pushed Evie over to the cot side. ‘Here he is,’ he murmured. ‘Master Impatient.’
Evie felt tears well in her eyes, overwhelmed by the fragile little human being they’d created dwarfed by the medical technology around him. He was wearing the tiniest disposable nappy Evie had ever seen and a little blue beanie. He looked like a doll and the mother in her wanted to scoop him up, clutch him to her breast, slay anyone who dared come near him, but the doctor knew he was better off right where he was for now.
She flattened her palm against the glass, too low in the chair to be able to reach in and too sore and weak to be able to stand but feeling the strength of their connection anyway. Their unbreakable bond.
‘Hello, baby, I’m your mummy,’ she whispered.
And she listened as Finn pulled up a chair beside her and recounted what had happened since they’d left her in the department. About how their son had improved in leaps and bounds and how incredibly stable his blood gases and body temp and sugar levels had been.
‘He’s done everything right, Evie.’ Finn placed a hand on her knee. ‘He’s a real little fighter.’
Evie nodded, tears blurring her vision. ‘Of course,’ she said, placing a hand over his and giving him a squeeze. She looked at him. ‘He’s just like his daddy.’
Finn’s heart almost broke at the shimmer of tears in her eyes. He never wanted her to hurt again. He’d watch her go through hell last night and then she’d gone through even more without him, and he didn’t want to ever be away from her again. He wanted to wrap them both up and love them for ever.
Finn turned his hand over and intertwined their fingers. ‘According to your father, he has the Lockheart brow.’
Evie laughed. ‘My father’s been?’
Finn nodded. ‘He and your mother called in briefly earlier. She agreed.’
‘My mother?’ They’d been making some inroads to their relationship in the last months since Bella had received her new lungs but Evie knew there was still a long way to go.
‘Well, they’re both wrong,’ she said, gazing at her son’s tiny face. Even all wizened, she could see the mark of Kennedy genes everywhere. ‘He has
your nose. I don’t know about those fabulous cheekbones, though …’
Finn stared at them as he’d been doing for the last eight hours, trying not to remember why they were so familiar. ‘They’re Isaac’s,’ he whispered, finally admitting it. ‘According to Lydia, Isaac had cheekbones that belonged in Hollywood.’
Evie glanced at him. His voice was tinged with sadness and humour and regret. ‘I’m sorry he never got to see his nephew,’ she whispered, holding tight to his hand.
Finn nodded. ‘So am I. He’d have been a great uncle.’
And for the first time in a long time he remembered the happy times he and Isaac had shared instead of how it had all ended, and he could smile. How Isaac had always managed to find a baby to cuddle or a toddler to give a piggy-back ride to, wherever they’d ended up.
The baby squirmed, making a mewling noise like a tiny kitten and waving his little fists, no bigger than gumballs, in the air, dislodging a chest electrode and tripping an alarm. Evie’s gaze flew to the cot, her pulse spiking as a moment of fear gripped her, suddenly understanding how nerve-racking it must be for her patients to be in an unfamiliar environment with strange machines that made alarming noises.
‘It’s okay,’ the nurse said, unconcerned, as she pushed the alarm silence button. ‘Just lost a dot.’
She located the AWOL chest lead and replaced it back just below a collarbone that looked to Evie as spindly as a pipe cleaner. ‘There we go, little darling,’ the nurse crooned. ‘All fixed.’ She smiled at Finn and Evie. ‘Is there a name yet? Because we can call him little darling for ever but he might get teased when he goes to school,’ she joked.
Evie looked at Finn and then back at the nurse. ‘We hadn’t got that far,’ she said helplessly, already feeling like she’d failed her tiny little son twice. Once for not being able to keep him inside where he’d desperately needed to stay for a good while longer and now not having a name to give to him.
‘Well, there’s no rush,’ she murmured. ‘But a wee little guy like this needs a warrior’s name, I reckon.’
Evie couldn’t agree more and as the nurse fussed over the lines in the cot she knew with sudden clarity what to call him. ‘Isaac,’ she said to the nurse. ‘His name’s Isaac.’