“Let the dad do it. You know, bonding and stuff.”
I looked up at her and nodded—tiny pink mitten in one hand, the baby’s left arm in the other.
“Right, right. Sure. Okay, baby. Bye-bye, baby.”
I turned around slowly, motioning silently for the dad to come over. He was still at the side of the delivery table, clutching his wife’s hand. He looked unsure. I would be unsure too. After all, this was a real, living, breathing baby. Technically their third, but the only one alive. A sudden death at age 2; a miscarriage; and today. Today was going to be different. Today, they were going to start doing everything right: exclusive breastfeeding, immunizations, regular checkups.
She was so beautiful. Her big, watery eyes shined up at us like stars. The midwife had instructed me to dress the baby instead.
I fussed around with the baby’s clothes. I buttoned up her blouse wrong; it took forever to get the chloramphenicol dabbed into her eyes; one of her booties kept falling off. But still, somehow, she was remarkably peaceful the entire time. Grasping at my fingers with a strong, healthy grip; cooing softly at me from beneath the incubator. She was only minutes old, too. Minutes.
We were both washing our hands thoroughly at the sink. The blood that had splashed onto the floor during the mother’s afterbirth had been mopped up, and the midwives were cleaning the rest of the room. This was my third delivery, but she had seen at least five. And we had both witnessed twins—premature, fragile, heart-breaking twins. One of hers had lived though, fighting for life, stubbornly gaining 25g each day. So she too remained stubborn, monitoring the baby and the mother all day and night. She slept at the clinic more than she did at home. She would be a fantastic doctor one day.
“Look at the dad,” she said. She poked me lightly in the ribs. The midwives had instructed the father to wash his hands, then finally let him approach the incubator. He was standing there silently, beaming from ear to ear. The joy was infectious.
“He’s so damn happy right now,” she giggled. “He’s just so, so happy.”