“Well clearly, he has other plans.” Thalassa said. She was now taking in shallow breaths.
“What are we supposed to do?”
“Take me to the hospital!” Thalassa snapped.
“Right, right…” I helped Thalassa into the car we had just bought a month ago. The drive was silent and tense. Thalassa was still breathing heavily, and seemed completely out of it. Hell, I was completely out of it.
Once we arrived at the hospital, the nurses began to rush Thalassa into the delivery room.
“Can I come with her?” I asked a nurse who nodded, and I began to follow close behind them.
Thalassa screamed in pain, and I rubbed her hand and said things that I hoped were encouraging.
“C’mon, you’re almost there! I know you can do it.” In hindsight, it was pretty cheesy and didn’t really help with much of anything, but it was all I could think to say.
It wasn’t until late in the night when Apollo was born. A doctor handed him to Thalassa, and he was… tiny. So tiny that I couldn’t believe that a human being could be that size. It didn’t seem like the nurses could, either.
“He has some apnea…” One of the nurses muttered to a doctor.
Thalassa had gone to sleep shortly after handing Apollo back to the nurses, so it was up to me to ask all the questions.”Is the apnea gonna… stop?”
“We’ll put him in the NICU, and we’ll keep an eye on him, but apnea usually stops on its own as the baby’s lungs get stronger. He’ll be fine.” She turned and started walking away with Apollo.
“Wait, we’ll still be able to see him, right?”
“Of course. We just need to get make sure he’s stable enough.”
The nurse carried Apollo away, leaving me alone with my anxiety. I was overcome with a fear that I hadn’t expected to feel. I had come to terms with having a baby, and I was even somewhat excited at the prospect, but I hadn’t expected to feel as strongly about being separated from Apollo as I did. I paced around the room, hoping that it would relieve my stress.
“Jove… what are you doing?” Thalassa asked, her eyes half open.
“Can you do that somewhere else?” She yawned. “It’s stressing me out.
“Where do I even go?”
“To the library? I don’t know. There has to be one around here somewhere.”
“Where is it?”
“Ask one of the nurses.”
I sighed and went to seek out a nurse. The library was on the first floor where all the other amenities were. I browsed the shelves, unable to find anything interesting in the fiction section. I had somehow floated over to the medical books section where I found a book about birth defects. Despite being slightly repulsed, my curiosity got the best of me and I sat down in a chair and started to read.
. . .
A few hours later, Thalassa was being served dinner. I returned to her room, slightly scarred from what I had read.
“How was your trip?” Thalassa asked. She had become more coherent now that the whole giving birth thing was a few hours behind her.
“I read a book about birth defects.”
She frowned. “Why’d you do that?”
I shrugged. “There wasn’t anything else that looked interesting. I’ll tell you one thing though: it made me grateful that Apollo was only born premature. There was something called a harlequin baby, and it was the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. The baby didn’t even have eyes! They were all-“
“Um… I’m eating.”
“Right. My point still stands that I’m grateful now.” I said. “I’m even more grateful that I didn’t read that book before Apollo was born. I’d be even more scared than I already am.”
“Maybe I should’ve told you to jog around the hospital grounds instead.”
“Probably.” I twiddled my thumbs. “Did you hear about Apollo?”
“Mm hm. Guess we’re staying here longer than we planned.”
“As much as I say I’m grateful Apollo was only born premature, I wish he had been born on time, y’know?”
“I’ve never seen a person that tiny.”
“Neither have I.”
I looked up at Thalassa, who was staring out the window. “When do you think we’ll be able to see him?”
“Soon.” She sipped her water. “I’m sure of it.”
“I hope so…” I fished around my pockets for some spare change to buy a drink. “I think my parental instincts kicked in,” I muttered.
“Why do you say that?”
“I didn’t want to hand over Apollo when the nurse wanted him back.”
“Guess that’s what happens when you’re a parent,” Thalassa smiled, “it’s about time you came around.”
I pulled out a dollar, and stood up to find a vending machine. “Yeah, yeah.”
. . .
I had fallen asleep on the chair next to Thalassa. The nurse woke us up late at night to inform us that we could visit Apollo. He was under a dome and hooked up to a bunch of machines that just made him look smaller than he already was.
“Hey…” I started. “You holding up well?” Apollo probably couldn’t hear me, but it made me feel better to talk to him. “I know this is hard, but you’re gonna make it out okay. I believe in you.”
Thalassa gripped my arm with one hand while the other hovered over the dome separating our baby from us. “All those machines make everything seem so sterile and inhuman.” A small weak laugh escaped her mouth. “Guess that’s what happens when when a baby decides he wants to come out too early.”
“He just couldn’t wait to see his beautiful mother,” I said without any humor in my voice.
“Or his handsome father.”
I didn’t have the heart nor the energy to refute her claim and it just hung in the air, weighing down on both of us.
“It was so much easier to joke around when I didn’t know what was actually going on,” I muttered. “I thought they were just gonna give him a breathing tube, or one of those little masks attached to the tank of oxygen, not quarantine him off.”
“I guess they have to. His immune system probably isn’t very good.”
The doctor walked up to us. “Ah, you’re here. I just thought it would be a good idea to explain Apollo’s condition and what the two of you should expect in the coming months.”
“How long is he gonna be like this?” I asked before the doctor could say anything else.
“Just until he’s a bit bigger and can regulate his own breathing. It shouldn’t be too long,” he started. “We’re probably going to release Mrs. Justice sometime tomorrow evening or the morning after. Apollo will have to stay for a few weeks at least.”
“We’ll get to see him, right?” Thalassa asked.
“Of course. You can visit him whenever you feel like it. We’re just monitoring him to make sure he’s developing properly, not performing any surgery. For a premature baby, he’s in a pretty good condition, save for the apnea, of course.
I nodded. “Y-yeah. That’s always good. I was reading this book,”
Thalassa shook her head, a weak smile playing on her lips.
“And it had some premature babies in it and they were a lot worse off than Apollo. So that’s a thing…”
The doctor nodded. “Yes, there are more severe cases of premature birth. You and Mrs. Justice were fortunate enough to only be six weeks premature.”
Thalassa frowned. “I would have preferred Apollo to not be premature at all, but I suppose it’s all about perspective.”
The doctor hesitated before he nodded slowly. “Yes, I suppose it is.” The doctor excused himself and left us alone.
“C’mon now, you scared him away,” I said. “He’s just trying to do his job.”
“I suppose. I guess I’m just not in the mood for reassurance.” Thalassa shook her head. “I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen. I’m supposed to deliver on time, and then we’d take our baby home once I recovered, not the other way around.”
“But like the doctor said, it could be worse,” I attempted. The silence that followed made me force out a sigh. “This was all so much easier when we were both blissfully ignorant.”
I sat down and buried my head in my hands. “How do premature babies even happen?”
Thalassa shook her head, and rubbed my back. “I don’t know.”
“He’s gonna be fine,” I muttered, and looked over at Apollo, “you’re gonna be fine.”
. . .
“Nate, why aren’t you and Anna married?” Apollo asked while practicing his trumpet.
Anna froze, but Nate just looked over at Apollo and said, “Why do you ask that?”
“Well you and Anna kiss all the time, and Daddy kissed Mommy, and they were married.”
Yeah, and we all know how well that went.