On Monday, Doctor Johnson said, "The baby is still in breech position. We might want to think about an eventual c-section. If she moves, things will be fine, but in my experience babies usually flip into head down position long before this, and the ones that don't usually have a reason for not doing it, like a short umbilical cord, or" and Doc Johnson looks at Fi meaningfully, "a very tight pelvis is making it hard to maneuver."
Which is why, two days later, as Michael stood in a hallway next to the surgical theater in the obstetrics ward at Miami Dade General, dressed in disposable surgical scrubs, he's not in any way surprised to be there.
But not being surprised is having very little effect on his nerves. He's been preparing for this for two days, trying to be calm about it. As Dr. Johnson said, it happens all the time, that one in three babies in the US is born by a c-section, and for Fi's age group the numbers are even higher, but right now, as he's standing there, on the other side of that door a stranger is shoving a needle into Fi's spine, and Michael is having a very hard time being calm about it.
He almost wishes he smoked, or could smoke, because he'd at least have something to do with his hands besides clench them.
The door swings open as another scrub bedecked person heads in. He can hear dull voices, a quick laugh, Fi's, and that helps to relax him a little, whatever is happening in there can't be that bad if she's laughing, and then she shrieks which blows relaxed all to hell and gone, and only the fact that him bursting in is likely to startle the guy with THE NEEDLE IN HER SPINE keeps him from kicking open the door and strangling whoever made her sound that way.
The longest minute of his life passes before he hears her voice again. She's not yelling, and then there's another laugh, which is probably good, followed by retching, which makes his hands clench again.
Ten more minutes pass before the door opens and one of the nurses lets him in.
She's lying on a surgical table. When she hears him come in, her head turns toward him.
"How are you feeling?"
"Really good, right now. Getting the epidural wasn't fun, but it was so worth is. Nothing hurts at all. I'd forgotten how great that is."
He stands next to her head and strokes her cheek, trying not to burst into scared questions about why there's an oxygen tube in her nose.
"She did just fine with the epidural," a nurse chimes in. "A contraction hit right while he was inserting the needle and she stayed perfectly still through it."
"Is that why you shrieked?"
Fi gives him an indignant look, or at least as close as a person in a hospital gown, with a paper bonnet over her hair and an oxygen tube in her nose can. "I did no such thing."
He can see them setting up a drape between him and the top half of Fi and where the surgery takes place. It's probably a good thing he won't be able to see them cut her open.
"We're going to get started. In a few minutes, you'll have a baby."
One of the nurses offers him a rolling stool, so he can sit next to her head. He does, one hand on hers, which is strapped to an extended arm on the table, and the other touching her forehead. Her eyes are closed, and he's focused on her eyelashes, trying not to hear what the doctors are saying to each other. He already has nightmares of Fi cut open and bloody, no reason to try and imagine what's happening on the other side of the drape.
After what was either a very slow few minutes or a very fast half hour (he's not sure which, though Elise's official time of birth would seem to indicate about seven minutes went by) a small cat meow sounding cry fills the room, and a nurse is asking if he'd like to cut the cord.
Fi's eyes are open now, so he kisses her and tells the nurse no. Elise won't remember this moment. But Fi might, so he'll stays with her, holding her hand until a woman in green scrubs hands him a very small, very warm bundle of tightly wrapped blankets, and both of them get to see their daughter's face for the first time, together.
She's tiny. He finds himself thinking that and feeling silly for it. Of course she's tiny. That's what newborn babies are. If they weren't tiny, that'd be a problem.
She's also pink, very warm, and quiet. Her eyes are open, the murky gray-blue of a newborn, and not really focused on anything, but moving around, looking at everything avidly.
Fi can't move her arms, so he holds Elise close, so she can nuzzle and kiss her. Fi does, whispering something, he's not entirely sure if they're words, and if they are words, if they're English or Irish Gaelic, but he figures that doesn't matter.
"Does she have hair?"
Michael peeks under the crocheted cap they put on Elise. "Yes. Lots of it. And it's black."
"Good." Fi giggles a little. "She's squinting at me; the same way you do when you run into something you find confusing."
"I'd imagine this whole thing is confusing to her."
Fi laughs at that, too. The morphine might be making her a little silly.
For a long minute, they just look at her.
"She's got your nose," Fi says.
Michael smiles. "I was just thinking how much she looks like you."
"Mr. Westen," the voice sounds almost hesitant to break into this moment.
Michael looks up and sees one of the nurses standing next to him.
"We're going to be moving Ms. Glenanne to the recovery room now. If you've got some people in the waiting area, now might be a good time to let them know the baby is here."
And for the first time in probably three hours, it occurs to Mike that Madeline and Katherine, and probably Sam, maybe Jesse, are in the waiting room.
"Oh. Yes." He starts to hand Elise to the nurse.
"You can take her with you. I'm sure your family wants to see her."
"Right." And it hits him. This is his daughter. He'll be taking her home in a few days. He'll be there for her first steps, first words, first day of school, first date, and a flood of other images come crashing onto him.
It's a good thing he's sitting down, because he feels his knees go week and his hands start to shake.
Now the nurse looks like she wants to take Elise from him. "Are you all right?"
"Sit tight for a moment. Do you need me to take her?" Michael shakes his head no. "Okay. Don't stand up until you can do it without dropping her."
"Michael?" Fi's voice. He can hear the unspoken echo of the nurse's question.
He strokes Elise's face, crying. "She's real, Fi."
"Lean down here." Michael does, and Fi kisses him. "I know. She's real, and she's here, and she's perfect."
"Oh God. She's is." His breath is coming fast, and for once he's not feeling any need to try and calm himself down. He can see the nurses and Doctor Johnson all want to get moving. And someone probably needs or will need this room soon, but he sits on the stool and says, "Can we have another minute?"
Doctor Johnson says, "Sure. But we do need to get moving soon."
"I know. Just..."
"We understand. Take your minute."
Michael holds her, looking at this tiny pink person with dark blue eyes, his nose, and a baby version of Fiona's face, and he can't imagine how he could have possibly been this blessed or lucky. He's not a religious man, though he's always believed in God, and for the first moment in his life he understands the idea of reverence, because it's the only word he can think of to describe how this moment feels.
After a few seconds, he feels his control coming back. He kisses Fi one more time. "I'll see you in a few minutes." She nods, and he stands.
He holds Elise against his chest, and whispers against her head, "Time to meet your grandmas. And probably Uncle Sam and Uncle Jesse."