There was little traffic yet, and we drove through the dark to Jefferson Hospital. The baby kicked impatiently and my body rose again in another contraction, and another . . .
Soon we were in the labor room. I lay in bed determined to relax, disassociating mind from body: relax legs and breathe, relax throat and breathe, relax fingers and breathe - the special way, deep in the abdomen.
We were pioneers in the new art of natural childbirth, and were proud that our two other deliveries had gone well. This one would be a breech, but we were confident. I knew what I was doing. You pulled a blanket over me and brought some water. The good Dr. John Franklin came in and pressed his stethoscope against my belly - here, and there, listening. He left. You held my hand, then pushed your palm against my back to ease the intermittent pain.
The doctor returned in a few minutes and said, "Don't worry. Sometimes the baby is turned so that we can't hear the heartbeat."
It was the pushing time. The good time of delivery, making progress. Then, baby born! Happy Valentine's Day to a new little girl. Sarah Tileston Johnson - finally one named after my family.
The doctor and other attendants turned their backs to us, leaning over the tiny bassinet. I imagined the usual aspiration, cleaning. More people came in and bent over the baby. Time passed. Fifteen, 20 minutes. You squeezed my hand. Tears came to your eyes.
Dr. Franklin turned to us. "I'm afraid she's not going to make it. She's not breathing. It's her heart."
They wheeled the crib over so we could see her, a sweet little round face, looking like her daddy. She was pale and still and beautiful. A strange doctor showed us, lifting her head.
"See the slight thickening of the neck?" Lifting a tiny hand, "The fingers?"
I didn't see.
"She has Down syndrome. Such infants tend to have heart defects. The stress of labor was too much for her."
I was 37, and the odds were in our favor. But we lost.
They moved me to the surgical floor, abdomen still large, breasts filling with milk. I walked the halls. Friendly patients smiled, "Oh, you're having a baby."
"I've had her. She's dead."
Then you took me home.
As we came in the back door, I took the baby blanket out of the dryer. Later, I put away the teddy bear that she would never hold. You dismantled the crib. People brought flowers, and we watched them wither. We hugged our two little girls.
It was her heart.
I don't mention this to anyone on Valentine's Day. But I remember each year, and I know you do, too. It's the only piece left of us.
E-mail Carolyn Tileston Raskin at email@example.com.