For Maria Gillsby the fifth Tuesday of the fifth month of the fifth year went unsaid to what would happen in the fifth hour of the new day.
Maria, sure that her shift would have the same curse as it did in the previous four years, settled in at the nurses’ station. The two day nurses filled her in on the empty rooms, no babies had been born in the hospital in nearly a month. Maria positive the night would change the emptiness.
“Are you okay Hon, you look a little nervous, you feel alright?” One of the nurses asked.
“I’m fine, just tired. “ Maria replied.
The two nurses were new to the hospital; one fresh out of nursing school, Maria didn’t want to alarm them of the curse, one herself learned after working alone for the first time while delivering a baby. It wasn’t her curse or the one of the hospitals, but the devil himself, waiting for the birth of his son.
As she watched the clock tick slowly towards the hours, she prayed for each hour to be silent and wished her night away. Her shift, which started at seven, would end at seven in the morning. Her replacement, a retired pediatric nurse who was pleasant and friendly. She had hoped to have someone to talk to during the night but with cutbacks, the small hospital couldn’t afford to pay for two nurses on night shift in a hospital that barely survived the desolate area.
The surrounding town, once bustling businesses, began to fail after a freak hailstorm hit in 2010. Homes pelted with baseball-sized balls of ice, cars damaged, businesses destroyed. Families lost loved ones. Emergency persons were unable to get to those trapped in cars and buildings. For 24 hours, the hazed greenish sky rained large balls of hail down on the trifling town. News reporters broad casted from a distance as they watched the town diminished into a pile of rubble. Many people thought it was the end of the world. A town of prided religious beliefs buried beneath several feet of balled ice.
It was the stoning of the devil himself.
After retrieving another cup of coffee and pacing the vacant maternity floor, Maria returned to the desk and flipped through some old charts. No reports of pregnancies, miscarriages or other events documented. Closing the metal clipboard, she sat back in the chair and caught a glimpse of headlights turning into the dark parking lot. Her eyes shifted to the clock. 3:05 AM. She shook her head in fear and sat still. A call from downstairs would announce if needed in the ER for assistance. A few minutes went by and nothing, no call.
“This is dumb, I’m waiting for nothing, and it’s not possible to happen again. I’m just driving myself crazy.” She said aloud.
She stood up and went to the first room across the hall. Dark and quiet she turned on the T.V. An old black and white movie played on a local channel. A comedy starring one of her childhood favorites. Settling into the chair she took a piece of gum from her pocket, her crave for a smoke was biting at a long ago habit. Relaxing she lost track of the clock, its tick of minutes lessened when she heard the whoosh of the elevator door open. She sprang to her feet and clicked off the TV, her heart thumbing the beats of the now still clock.
“Good mornin’ missy, how you on this fine night?” It was Gerald the night janitor.
“Hi, Gerald. I’m fine, you?”
“Glorious missy, just glorious.” Maria smiled as the wheels of his cart squealed past her. She pulled the stale gum from her mouth and dropped it in the wastebasket next to the desk. The only trash other than the empty paper coffee cups. She pulled the plastic bag from the can and handed it to Gerald, he handed her a fresh bag and said.
“Gerald, how long have you worked here?”
He stood back on one foot, his left hand pressed to his lower back, his right rested on his chin, he looked up, one eye closed.
“Let’s see, been here fer, thirty-eight years this May. Yes‘em started workin’ here to help pay fer my daughter.”
“Thirty-eight years that’s a long time. Besides the storm of 2010 have you ever heard of or witnessed anything strange at the hospital?”
With a frown of concern, he replied. “No, no ma’am can’t says I had. It’s been quiet though, more than normal. You okay missy?”
“I’m fine Gerald. You’re right though it’s been quiet, too quiet.”
“Yes’em. Bye missy.”
“Bye, good to see you.” He nodded as he walked passed her and pressed the button to the elevator. The sound of the doors opened as Maria took her seat behind the desk again. She pulled out a deck of cards from the drawer when she heard another man’s voice.
“Excuse me is this labor and delivery?”
“Thank you, thank you very much.”
Maria stood and peeked around the corner of the wall that separated the nurses’ station from the narrow hall. A man stepped out of the elevator, holding the door with his foot he leaned forward and pulled a wheelchair from within the cube.
She turned and looked at the clock. 4:17 AM. When she turned back, a pregnant woman sat in the chair in front of her, her husband a smile on his face said.
“She couldn’t wait til daylight, go figure huh.”
Stuttering for words Maria asked. “How far along are you? Are you sure it’s labor?”
“This is my fifth pregnancy I’m sure it’s labor and if I’m right it won’t take long to push.”
“Yes ma’am, we have four boys at home.”
“Oh, my. Well let’s get you settled and see what’s going on shall we.”
Maria took the handles to the wheelchair and turned the woman towards an empty room. She instructed her to undress and laid out a gown. Asking the husband to step out while she examined his wife, Maria’s eyes darted to the clock.
“I’ll just be a minute; your husband needs to fill out the paper work.”
She stepped through the doorway and reached for a clipboard with a layer of papers.
“If you don’t mind I need you to fill out the necessary papers, in case I need to admit your wife.”
“We filled them out downstairs; they said they tried to call you. Sorry my wife insisted we come up here to have the baby. They said down stairs no one was here but then another nurse said you might have been in the restroom.”
“Another nurse? Was there a doctor downstairs?”
“No, they said they can’t call him in during the night for childbirth, unless there is a problem.”
“A problem? Yes, of course, what could go wrong?”
She bit down on her lip and went back into the room. The woman had changed and was blowing deep breathes out.
“How far apart are your contractions? Did your water break yet?”
“5 minutes. Yes about two hours ago.”
Time. 4:23 AM.
Maria pulled on a pair of latex gloves, snapping the wristband. Lowering the mechanical bed, she laid the head down and told the woman to relax. The woman bellowed out air as she hummed guilt of pain.
“It’s going to be our fifth son, you know. My husband is so excited to have another boy…”
“A boy? You know for sure it’s a boy?”
“Heee, heee, hee….hoooooo. Yes.”
Sweat beaded on Maria’s forehead as she wrung her hands together. A silent prayer of help from the almighty she vowed to be a better person if he’d save this woman from the clutches of the evil that will come forth. She pushed the woman’s legs apart and pulled her gown up over her belly. Swollen, the roundness of pregnancy painted a picture of beauty on the woman’s skin. Stretch marks, old and new, gave her skin the traveled marks of love.
“I’m going to feel your stomach first then examine you…down there.”
Time: 4:25 AM
She gently pressed her hands into the woman’s stomach, and then pressed the stethoscope to her lower abdomen, listening to the heartbeat, strong and good she let out a sigh of relief as she watched the grimace face of the woman. Maria asked if she lived nearby.
“We only…heee, heee heee…moved here few months ago. Heee, heee, hooo.”
Time 4:28 AM
“I’m going to examine you now just relax.”
“My name is Trisha.”
“Nice to meet you Trisha. My name is Maria.”
Maria squeezed some oil on her fingers and brought them close to Trisha’s vagina, that’s when she saw a wet patch of hair; the baby had crowned and was coming out.
“Okay Trisha looks like this baby is coming right now. Don’t push or anything I need to grab a few things. We’re going to have to deliver this baby quickly though. All right? Quickly.”
“Is there a problem? What’s wrong?”
Maria raced out of the room and called down stairs for help, pointing to the husband to go into the room she grabbed the cart with all the supplies she’d need. Requesting the husband help, she tossed him a paper gown and instructed him to wash up to his elbows.
“What’s wrong, you’re scaring me.” Trisha moaned.
“Nothing Trisha, your baby’s head is almost out we need to deliver, now. You’re going to have to push hard okay, can you do that?”
Time 4:32 AM
Maria laid out instruments that would help in case the baby needed assistances. Scissors with their sharp edge glistened against the bright light.
“Take a deep breath and push. Push Trisha with all you got.” Trisha inhaled and pushed, exhaling until her head fell back.
“Again, come on you can push this baby out. It’s your son push.”
Trisha’s eyes’ meet her husbands, fearing the baby might be stuck he encouraged her to push. Taking deep breathes together she screamed as she pushed harder and harder.
“It’s not coming, it’s stuck. Do something.”
“He’ll come, push again. Come on you have to do this.” Maria poured mineral oil over the top of the baby’s’ head, pulling the skin from around Trisha’s vagina to help the baby through the opening.
Time 4:49 AM
“You’re not trying hard enough, now push.” Maria yelled.
“She’s doing the best she can, can’t you see she’s in pain and tired.”
“You don’t understand if this baby isn’t born before 5 AM…all hell will break loose. Push.” Maria gritted her teeth and snipped the skin below the baby’s head. An episiotomy she didn’t want to perform. Trisha stopped pushing and lay back in the bed.
“What did you say? Why before five? Where’s the other nurse why hasn’t anybody come to help?”
“You can’t stop you have to push this baby out…or you’ll die.”
“It’s Tuesday, May 5th 2015. The fifth month of the year, the fifth year of 2010, don’t you get it? The fifth son? Don’t you know?”
“Push damn it, push.”
Trisha took a long deep breath and pushed. Her hands wrapped around the bed rails shook as her knuckles turned white. The baby’s head slowly slid into Maria’s hand, she turned its face upward, suctioning its mouth before demanding another hard push. Trisha bore down as hard as she could. The baby’s body coiled into Maria’s hand.
A sigh of relief Maria whispered. “Oh my God you did it, you did it.”
Time 4:56 AM
The baby let out a loud cry as Maria laid it on the bed to clamp the cord.
“A girl? It’s a girl. Your baby is a girl.” She laughed and looked at the father. He smiled and frowned at the response as if unaware to what she had said. Maria turned to look at the mother, now leaning forward to catch a peek at the newest bundle when she tilted her head back and let out another scream.
“What? What is it?”
“My son, that’s my son.” The father pointed to the head emerging from between Trisha’s legs.
“No, no, no. Twin? Are you kidding me? You didn’t say anything about twins.”
Maria handed the father his crying daughter and shoved her hand to the baby’s head, pushing him back inside.
“What are you doing, you’re going to kill him.” The father laid the baby girl on his wife’s chest and grabbed Maria’s hand. Struggling she pushed him back. Her strength came from fear.
“If you allow him to be born, your wife will die.” The husband looked to his wife, their eyes engaged, the cry of the baby girl stopped, and her body motionless. Maria had to make the decision to save one life or kill another.
She shoved her hand harder up into Trisha’s body and grabbed the fathers head, pulling his hair downwards she yelled at him to breath for his daughter. Trisha screamed with mercy for Maria to stop. Her body wrench up tight she let her head fall forward.
“Please God help me, help my babies.” She cried.
“Yes, pray, pray louder because that’s all you’re going to have for the next minute.” Maria watched the second hand on the clock flicker between the minutes in a teasing fashion of slow motion.
Time 4:59 AM
The father breathed small breathes into his newborns mouth as her chest rose and fell. No movement.
A force against Maria’s hand made her brace her feet in a harder stance.
“You’re not taking another mother, you hear me! He’s not your son.” She yelled.
Trisha tired, wanted to give up. In pain, she reached for her husband and whispered to take care of their children, to let them know how much she loved them.
“Don’t you give up, you hear me don’t give up. That’s what he wants. He only needed you as a host to his son. You have to be strong for that baby girl. Your other children, yourself. Don’t give up on me Trisha. One more minute you can hold on one more minute.” Maria commanded.
Time 5:00 AM
The pressure from holding the baby weakened her arm, it shook, but she held onto the baby’s head until the last second of the minute when she was thrown across the room. A deep growl came from between Trisha’s legs. Her husband without thought plunged his hand against the head of the baby pushing it back in. Trisha screamed in pain just as her body went limp. Maria stood up; pulling the gloves from her hands, she helped hold the baby in while they both watched the clock strike 5:01 AM.
Gently releasing the pressure on the baby, his head slid through, she suctioned and nose and mouth and pulled him out. His cry a blessing, Maria smiled at the father as she picked him up and placed him next to his sister. The baby girl gasped and let out an ear-piecing screech, blinking her tiny black eyes.