‘Where have you been?’ she growled at the anaesthetist when he gave her a cheery greeting.
‘It’s always nice to feel so appreciated,’ Charlie joked as he read CJ’s chart, checking that both mother and baby were doing well. ‘OK. You have no allergies so let me go get you some—’
Before Charlie could finish his sentence, CJ had another contraction but this one gripped her abdomen even tighter and, quite involuntarily, she gave a push.
‘Was that a push?’ Donna asked. They all waited and when CJ involuntarily pushed again, Charlie chuckled.
‘Well, you don’t need me any more,’ he joked.
‘Yes. Yes, I do.’ CJ grabbed him by the front of his shirt and dragged his face closer. ‘Give me something. Anything!’
‘I can’t, CJ. You know that.’
‘The window has closed?’
‘The window has closed,’ Charlie confirmed.
‘Open a door,’ she whimpered, and let go of his shirt.
‘CJ.’ Charlie smoothed a comforting hand over her forehead. ‘You’ll be fine. The baby’s fine. There seems to be an abundance of people in here, so I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.’
CJ reached out a hand but he was gone. Her window was shut and so was the door. Why couldn’t he open it again? She stuck out her lower lip. ‘I don’t want to do this any more.’
Donna laughed. ‘You’re doing a great job and the fact that you’re saying you want to go home proves that everything is moving along nicely.’ When the next contraction gripped, CJ pushed again. She rested her head on Ethan’s shoulder between contractions and closed her eyes, conserving what energy she had.
It seemed to take for ever but three hours later Donna told her to give one more push and the head was finally out. The cord wasn’t around the neck and they waited while the shoulders rotated. CJ had managed to get comfortable on a beanbag as her legs had eventually given up supporting her.
Ethan held her hand tightly, dabbing her forehead with a damp cloth. She hadn’t wanted him to go and he’d made no move to leave. Now…they were almost finished and she could hardly believe the man she’d known for only a few weeks had stayed to help her through this.
CJ knew it was ridiculous but…she loved him. Whether it was the love of a lifetime or a love of utter gratitude, she had no way of knowing. Perhaps it was the hormones or the intimacy of their present situation but her feelings would not be repressed. The next contraction started to grip and she squeezed his hand once more.
‘That’s it. Good girl. Keep going, CJ,’ Donna coached. ‘Snatch a breath—one more push and—’
CJ felt the baby leave her and was amazed at the immediate sense of loss. The intimacy only she could share with her child was over. Everything was silent for a second or two and she didn’t even realise that Ethan had let go of her hand to quickly assist Donna—and then it came. The most glorious sound in the entire world—the cry of a newborn babe.
Donna placed the child into CJ’s waiting arms. ‘You have a daughter.’
The loss she’d just felt vanished into thin air as she held her little girl for the very first time, kissing the soft, downy head.
‘Oh, baby.’ Her eyes filled with tears that spilled over. ‘Baby, you’re here.’
‘What are you going to call her?’ The question came from Ethan, his voice not quite so steady. CJ looked up to see his own eyes glistening with tears. She reached out a hand to him, which he took, drawing him closer.
‘Ethan…’ Her throat was scratchy and sore and with the swell of emotion she felt, it was no wonder it was hard to speak.
‘Really? I think you can think of a prettier name than that,’ he whispered with a soft chuckle.
She laughed and swallowed. ‘Will you help me?’
‘Name her?’ When she nodded, he smiled. ‘I’d be delighted and honoured.’
The child in her arms slept, their gazes held and slowly but surely he moved in closer. The kiss he pressed on her lips was the most natural thing he’d ever done. The feeling of coming home was the most natural feeling he’d ever felt.
And he was at a loss to explain why neither terrified him.
* * *
‘Have you come up with any more names?’ Donna asked as she came around to check on CJ. CJ was sitting in bed, propped up by pillows, feeding her beautiful daughter. ‘Everyone’s on tenterhooks to find out what you’ll call her, and discover who has won the competition.’
‘Who picked the right date?’
‘Idris at the supermarket. Robert chose the correct time of birth so now we’re just waiting on the name.’