Authors: Caroline Anderson
He shrugged. âI don't know. Where the hell is the obstetrician?'
âKate, we've got to open her up and find out,' James said decisively, and she nodded.
âWant me to lead?'
âIf you like.'
She didn't. Not really. It was the sort of situation where things could go wrong very fast, and although the baby's heartbeat was fine at the moment, she was very wary. Where
the obstetrician? âWe'd better call Obs again, and get a neonatal team standing by just in case. Are there any SCBU beds available?'
âI have no idea,' he muttered, scrubbing fast. âThis is ridiculous. Where are they?'
âI'll chase them up,' one of the theatre nurses said. Kate nodded. She was the only person who wasn't scrubbing or busy, and they didn't have time to waste. She was going downhill fast.
Faster than they'd realised, and when Kate opened her abdomen, there was nothing to indicate such a sudden deterioration.
âOK, she's got a ruptured spleen, but it's encapsulated, and there's no free blood in the abdomen. It must be obstetric,' she muttered.
âShe's crashing,' the anaesthetist warned simultaneously, and James frowned, whipped back the drapes and swore.
âShe's bleeding. She must have a placental abruption. We can't wait, I'll have to do a C-section. Can you stall the spleen?'
âSure. Someone chase Obs and SCBU, please!' she snapped, and then a paediatrician came in, followed by a neonatal nurse pushing a crib.
âThank God for small mercies. Suction!' James said, and Kate desperately tried to deal with the flood of blood and amniotic fluid as he opened the uterus and wriggled the baby free, passing it to the waiting paediatrician.
âSyntocinon!' he snapped. âWe're going to lose her if we can't get this bleeding stopped! Kate, deal with this.' And he handed her the placenta, grabbed a large pack and pressed it hard down on the inside of the uterine wall over the haemorrhage while the anaesthetist injected Syntocinon into her thigh to make her uterus contract.
Then a thin wail pierced the air, and he closed his eyes and laughed softly under his breath. âNow, that's music to my ears,' he murmured, and, looking up, he met her eyes and smiled. âSo. That's one of them safe. Now, what's happening under here?'
He lifted the pack cautiously, and to their relief the site was just welling gently. As they watched, the uterus started contracting and the flow stopped completely. His shoulders dropped.
âOK. I think we're out of the woods, but I'll let the obstetrician check the placenta and close the uterus. Does anyone know where he is?'
âDelivering triplets, but he's nearly done. They're all out and fine. I'm in two places at once,' the paediatrician said with a wry grin. âStill, this little chap looks good and he won't need me. We'll get him shipped up to SCBU and check him over thoroughly. Well done, guys. Not bad for a GS team.'
James snorted, but Kate couldn't keep the grin off her face.
There was no way she could have done thatâwell, not with his confidence. She hadn't done a C-section for years, and then only a few. He'd been fantasticâcalm, decisive, confident.
He deserved that jobâand if it was anything to do with her, she'd make sure he got itâ¦
like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
For three hours, she'd said nothing that wasn't directly connected to what they were doing, but now it was over, and he straightened up, walked away from the table and stripped off his gloves and gown and hat, chucking them in the bin as he passed.
He'd finished the driver alone while Kate checked the pregnant woman, then they'd left the driver with the orthopaedic surgeon and moved with the pregnant woman to the theatre next door, because there hadn't been time to wait.
And thank God they'd had that other theatre available.
She'd left him and the obstetrician closing and gone to check the driver in Recovery, and now everything was under control.
Except his private life.
âGood work, McEwan. That wasâ¦amazing.'
She was sitting in the staffroom, fingers curled around a mug of coffee, and he helped himself to one and sat down beside her, his head tipped back against the wall and his eyes closed, drained now that the adrenaline rush was over.
âI only did what anybody else would have done.'
âNo. I couldn't have done it. I don't think I could have remembered where to startâJames, you were fantastic. You saved that baby's lifeâand the mother's.'
He turned his head and looked at her in astonishment, then smiled wryly. âI've probably seen a C-section more recently than you, don't forget. Freya's only eighteen months old. And don't run away with the idea that I wasn't scared to death, because I was. Well, sort of. There wasn't a lot of time for that. Still, it worked, thankfully, and everything seems fine now. And I couldn't have done it alone, so thanks for coming in.'
She smiled, her eyes warm and approving. âMy pleasure. I haven't had so much excitement in years, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.'
He grunted and sat up, taking a long slug of coffee and sighing before meeting her eyes again. âLookâI'm sorry about earlier. I'm going to have to do something about this.'
Her smiled faded and she pressed her lips together and nodded. âYou are. You need to talk to your mother. She's scared of the responsibility, you know.'
He stared at her incredulously, unable to believe his ears. âWhat?'
âYou heard. She's worried there'll be an emergency and she won't know what to do, and she's frightened she won't cope alone.'
He closed his eyes and dragged his free hand over his face. âOh, that's crazy. She can't be serious.'
âShe isâdeadly serious. It's not you she thinks can't look after the children, it's her, and she doesn't know how to tell you.'
âIs that what this is all about? Good grief. So how was she when you handed Freya back to her and went out?'
âFineâand I didn't hand Freya back to her, I put her back to bed and she went straight to sleep. She whinged for about a minute, tops, and your mother was amazed.'
He laughed, unable to believe it. âJust like that? How did you know that? I mean, I know that, but she's my daughter. You don't do kids. You're too busy ticking your boxes.'
She gave a wry laugh. âThat's what you think. I've been brought up with random children arriving in the house from who knows what kind of circumstances for almost my entire life, and getting kids back to sleep when they wake in the night is second nature to me. And the only thing wrong with Freya was that she'd been disturbed and wanted to go back to sleep.'
He shook his head in disbelief. âYou're a marvel. I leave you alone with my family for five minutes and you've got them all sorted out. I should hire you.'
âIn your dreams, McEwan,' she said drily, and he snorted.
She was in his dreams, all right. In his dreams, in his thoughts, in his arms. She was so deeply enmeshed in his life he couldn't imagine what he'd do without her. He put that out of his mind and turned towards her. âSoâwhat do I do about my mother, oh wise one?'
âWell, I left her with my parents' phone number in case of emergencies, but she really isn't confident. Which is silly, because I'm sure she's perfectly capable. She brought you up, didn't she, and you survived.'
âMmm. Maybe that's the trouble,' he murmured. âI was a horror. Rory's a total angel compared to me. If there was something to climb, I was up it, and if there was something dirty or muddy, I was in it. By the time I was five I'd broken both arms, been in hospital with concussion and nearly killed myself falling down a cliff. And I took everything to bits. I took the iron to bits when I was six and turned it on to see how it worked, and set fire to the ironing board. It's a miracle no one was killed. They got me a really complicated construction set after that to keep my fingers out of mischief, and enrolled me in the Cubs. At least it gave them one night a week when they didn't have to worry.'
âPoor woman,' she said, smiling sympathetically. âNo wonder she's so stressed. You've damaged her for life.'
âI'd better ring herâapologise for yelling at her.'
âIt might be an idea. And you need to sit down and have a nice long chat and see where you go from here, because I really think she'll struggle to have them for a whole weekendâand we're on this weekend. And, no, I can't manage without you. You've seen the sort of thing that can go wrong, and Jo just hasn't got the experience to handle it.'
His relief evaporated, and with a heavy sigh he got to his feet. âI hadn't forgotten. Don't worry, Kate, I'll sort something outâget some back-up of some sort. Maybe Helen can have them. And in the New Year I'll get a nanny. I want that jobâand I intend to get it, if there's the slightest chance. So I will get it sorted. Properly.'
She studied him in silence for a moment, then gave him an enigmatic smile. âI know you will. Now, go and ring her, and I'll check the post-ops again, and then we'd better go and get ready for the day.'
After the events of the night, the day was relatively peaceful.
Their two RTA victims were doing well and had met their new baby, and when he went up to check on them, they were both highly emotional and almost embarrassingly grateful.
âThank you so much. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost them both,' the driver whispered unsteadily.
âMy pleasure. You just concentrate on getting better and enjoying the baby.'
He left them to it and went to see Tracy, and found her sitting up in her chair looking hugely better.
âHey! Nice haircut. You look fabulous,' he said, sitting down on the edge of her bed and admiring the short, choppy styleâa much safer choice for someone with trichophagia, and the first line of defence, usually, so he wasn't surprised to see it.
She touched it self-consciously, but she looked pleased. âI'm going to have it coloured. Mum said I can have highlights, but I want to do it purple.'
He laughed. âWell, it's your hair, but are you sure purple would suit you? You're quite pale. The highlights might look more sophisticated, but you've got to do what makes you feel best.'
âYou think highlights?'
âWhatever. It's not my hair, but the good thing about it is, whatever you do, it'll grow out. How are you otherwise?'
âBetter. My stomach's stopped hurting, and I can eat now, just sloppy stuff, but I'm so hungry. I haven't really been eating for ages, and Mum says I need to catch up.'
âYou do, but take it easy and don't have too much at once for a while. Let your stomach heal, and you need to keep taking the pills to stop your stomach acid from damaging the wall until it's healed properly. The dietician will give you a list of things to avoid for a while, but you need to play it by ear and only eat the things that don't upset you. Apart from that, as far as I'm concerned you're doing really well, and the mental health team are happy to treat you as an outpatient, so you could go home today or tomorrow if you feel ready.' He hesitated, then said, âAny word from your boyfriend?'
She shook her head. âMy friend said he's really sad.'
âThen maybe you need to ring himâor give me his number. Let me talk to him.'
She scribbled it on a piece of paper, and he put it in his pocket and stood up. âYou take careâand I want to see the hair when you come back to Outpatients for a check-up.'
He went back to Kate's office and rang the number, but it went straight to the answering machine. Lessons, he thought, realising that the lad was still at school. He'd try him later. He couldn't get his mother, either, so she'd probably gone to Cambridge to visit her sister.
Which meant there was nothing for it but paperworkâstarting with Tracy's discharge.
âJames, hi. Are you OK?'
His laugh sounded a little off-kilter, and she sat up straighter. âWhat's happened?'
âUmâyou know that car you had, that was like my life? Well, another bit just fell off it. Are you busy?'
âNo-o,' she said cautiously. âWhy?'
âBecause I've been a complete idiot, and I'm stuck. I put petrol in my car.'
âIt's a diesel car.'
âSo it has to go to the garage and be pumped out and rinsed through and decontaminated and filters and fuel lines and stuff changed, and it's going to cost a fortune, and I really don't need it right now, and I'm sitting in it with the kids waiting for the recovery truck to come and get me, and Freya's crying and Rory's hungry and this is going to take ages and I just want to
, really. And I hate to ask, butâ¦'
She laughed, even though it wasn't funny. âOK, where are you?' she asked, standing up and wriggling her feet into her shoes.
âOn the road out to you, just off the bypass. You can't miss us.'
âGive me five minutes.'
She was there in four, and, sure enough, he was standing by the car waiting for her, arms folded over his chest and looking thoroughly disgusted.
âYou're a star. I can't believe I was such an idiot.'
âI'm sure it's easily done,' she said. âRight, kids, come on, let's go home and have some tea while your daddy sorts out his muddle, shall we?'
And scooping up the baby's bag and Rory's booster seat, she installed him in her car while James sorted out Freya and her seat, then she looked at him over the roof. âI'll see you at home whenever. Don't worry about them, I'll get them into bed if you're still not backâand I'll cook for you.'
His shoulders drooped with relief. âThanks. I owe you.'
âAgain?' she teased, and, getting into her car, she drove home.
âSo what were you doing at school today?' she asked Rory while she loaded the dishwasher.
âChristmas stuff,' he said, little legs swinging under the kitchen table. âWe made cards and angels and things and hung them on the tree.' He put his head on one side and rested it on his hand, studying her earnestly. âWill you help me write a letter to Father Christmas? You said you would.'
âYes, sure. It sounds as if Freya's asleep, so we can do it now. Stay here, I'll get some paper.'
She slipped through to her side of the house and went back armed with a sheaf of coloured paper and some pencils, and settled herself down beside him.
âYou'd better kneel up so you can reach,' she said, and put some paper in front of him. âRight, what do you want to say?'
âDear Father Christmas.'
Well, that was easy. âDear Father Christmas,' she repeated slowly as she wrote it out nice and clearly on a separate sheet. âRight, you copy that, and we'll do the next bit.'
She watched him, his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in concentration, and she was sure if she could see behind James's mask when he was operating, he'd be doing the same. It made her smile, and Rory looked up at her and grinned.
âThere. Done it. Now “I want”.'
âDon't you think it should be, “Please may I have”?' she suggested, and he nodded.
âOK,' she said, and wrote âPlease may I have' on the sheet he was copying from, then turned to him. âHave what? What do you want to say now?'
âa mommy for christmas.'
Her heart jammed in her throat, and she felt her eyes fill. âOh, Rory, sweetheartâI don't think Father Christmas does mummies,' she said gently, her heart breaking. âI think he only does toys and stuff like that.'
His face fell, that wonderful sparkle in his eyes dying right away and taking her heart with it. âBut I don't want toys,' he said, sounding bewildered and unbearably disappointed. âI've got toys. I want a mummy. Grandma always says Freya misses her mummy, and I thought, if we had a mummy, then Freya wouldn't cry when Daddy goes to work and Grandma wouldn't get upset and cry, too, and everybody would be happy, and Daddy wouldn't cry any more. I hear him at night, sometimes, when he thinks we're sleeping, and I hate it.'