"Can you explain to me again why this house has no air conditioning?" she asked as she wiped the sweat off her face with the corner of their sheet.
"Because San Francisco has a pretty consistent 70-degree temperature year round. I can't help it that it decided to be in the 90's the week before you gave birth." Charlie responded with a chuckle. He felt bad for her, but it truly was a fluke of nature.
"New family rule: no sex September to December. I am not ever going through this again," Nina said as she flopped back on her pillow. "I cannot take this. We may have to go to a hotel if this lasts much longer. Is there another fan downstairs? I think we should definitely invest in more fans." It was not her usual nature to be so irritable, but the heat and humidity had taken their toll on her good-nature.
"I'm going to reserve judgment on that sex moratorium, but I will go get the fan out of the living room. Would you like something to drink? Ice water, tea, anything?" Charlie asked as he got out of bed and pulled on his shorts.
"Oh, Charlie, would you bring me a glass of water, with lots and lots of ice?" Nina rolled toward him with a hangdog look on her face; as if he would be able to refuse anything she requested.
Charlie stopped to check on Owen before he went downstairs to get the fan. The little boy was asleep in his new bed. With the baby coming they had moved him into a twin bed. At four years old it was time he got a "big boy" bed anyway. Charlie had worried about him falling out, but so far, so good. He looked over at the crib in the corner. Only a few days now and there would be a new baby asleep in it. He thought about where they had been last winter, Nina had left him and he was so sick from the radiation treatments for his cancer. Now it was nine months later, he was in remission, had regained all of the weight he had lost and not only was Nina back, but they were married and had a baby on the way. Things had a funny way of working out.
He hurried downstairs and got the fan and Nina's water. As he came back up the steps, he heard the toilet flush. As he reached the top step, he heard Nina's voice call him from the bathroom. He set the fan and water down and went in to see what she needed.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice full of concern.
"Yeah, except I don't think we'll need to go to that hotel now," she said with a grin on her face.
"Why?" Charlie asked.
"Because, we really need to go to the hospital and I think they'll have the air-conditioning on," she answered.
"The hospital?" Charlie asked with a confused look on his face.
"Okay Daddy, I know we went over this kind of quick in the Lamaze classes, but I am in fact in labor now and if you don't take me to the hospital, we're going to have the baby here in the bathroom and that is going to cause major problems with the morning bathroom traffic in this household, because no one gets to use the shower while I give birth on the toilet," Nina retorted knowing her sarcasm would jolt Charlie out of the daze he seemed to have fallen into.
"Hospital, labor, okay I get it now. Let's get you out of here and get on our way," he answered as he helped Nina to her feet. They went back into their room and changed for the trip to the hospital. Charlie picked up the bag they had packed. "Let me just tell Claudia that we're going. I'll be right back."
Charlie knocked softly on Claudia's door and walked in. His sister appeared to be sound asleep in her bed. He sat on the edge of her bed and tapped her shoulder lightly until she awoke.
"Char, what time is it?" Claudia asked wiping the sleep from her eyes.
"It's early, about 4:00 a.m. Uh, Nina's in labor, so we're going to go to the hospital. I'll call you when something happens, or if you want to come down later, I have no idea how long this might take. Can you keep an eye on Owen? He's asleep. I just checked on him. You should call Bailey and Julia in the morning. There's no reason to wake them up, too. Okay?" he asked.
"Absolutely, no problem. Wow! You're going to be a dad, Charlie. Good luck and just remember not to stand too close," she said as she sat up and gave her brother a hug.
"Don't stand too close, what's that about Claud?" Charlie asked.
"So she can grab you. Didn't you see Nine Months'?" she added with a laugh.
"Whatever. We'll see you later and thanks for staying on top of everything here," Charlie said as he got up and left the room. When he got back to his room he saw that Nina had already gone downstairs and was waiting by the door.
"You should have waited for me. I don't want you to trip on all these steps," Charlie said with concern. "Here, take my arm so you don't break your neck before we get to the car."
He carefully put his arm around her and they walked down the front steps to the car that was sitting in the driveway. The great trauma the month before was realizing that Charlie's truck was not going to work as the vehicle for a family that would now consist of a four year old and a new baby that each required their own car seat. A gray four-door had replaced the little white truck. It was the beginning of a new form of domesticity for Charlie.
The hospital check-in had gone smoothly and like Nina had predicted the air-conditioning was on and felt great to them. Nina remarked that if she had thought about it she would have gone into labor two weeks ago when the heat wave began. Charlie changed into scrubs and was about to join Nina in the labor room. But, first he stopped at the nurses' station.
"I was wondering if you could help me with something?" he asked the nurse at the desk.
"Yes, Mr. Salinger, what can we do for you?" the nurse responded.
"My wife is in labor and I think we are going to be here for a while. I have an appointment with Dr. Rabin on 4 West to get some test results. Could someone give her office a message that I won't be able to make the appointment? I'm sorry to ask, but I know they are usually running on a pretty tight schedule up there."
"No problem, I'll call up there as soon as they open. Don't worry about it and go have a healthy baby," said the nurse. She knew that 4 West was Oncology and hoped that the news he was expecting wasn't bad.
"Okay Nina, we need one more big push here. I can see the head, c'mon," the doctor encouraged Nina. She had been in labor about eight hours and it was almost over. Charlie was at her head encouraging and supporting her. She pushed again and then it was over. The baby was wailing. The doctor laid him on Nina's stomach where both she and Charlie could see their healthy baby boy. He was pink and slimy, but perfect in every way.
"Hey, there little guy. I'm your mommy and this is your daddy. We're awfully glad to see you," Nina cooed as she touched his little fingers and toes. He was so beautiful.
"Charlie, do you want to cut the cord?" the doctor asked.
"Yeah, I guess so," he answered. He was completely overwhelmed. Being in the room watching Nina give birth had been beyond his wildest dreams. He reached down and cut the cord joining the two. He leaned over and kissed his wife. "I love you. You are so incredible."
The nurse had taken the baby to wash him and wrap him in a blanket. They would move Nina and the baby to a private room on the OB floor. The nurse had told Charlie that the rest of the family was in the waiting room, so he took the opportunity to go tell them the good news.
As he walked into the waiting room, Charlie could feel his eyes filling with tears. He felt so blessed and it was a little overwhelming to be sharing it with anyone, even his siblings that had been through so much with him. They were all there, Bailey, Claudia, Julia and Griffin, and Owen: his family.
"Well, it's a boy," Charlie said smiling broadly, not even trying to wipe away the tears that were falling from his eyes. "He's healthy and perfect and Nina's great and she did such an incredible job."
"Wow Charlie! A boy. That's so great," said Bailey. He gave Charlie a big hug. "I am so proud of you, Dad. This is so great!"
"So, what does he look like? Does he look like you, or were you lucky and he looks like Nina?" asked Claudia.
"Actually, right now he looks kind of squished, but they say that's normal. He's got dark hair like me, lots of it and blue eyes like Nina. I think he's pretty cute. They're moving them up to a room right now and you can come see him in a couple minutes."
"This is exactly what you deserve Charlie. I am really happy for you," Julia added coming up and giving him a hug as well. Their relationship had changed over the past few months as Julia had become more mature and they returned to more of a normal sibling-type relationship instead of the parental one they had the past couple years.
"Where's the baby, Charlie? Can he come home with us? What's his name, Charlie?" Owen asked as he came over to his big brother. In their excitement, none of them had thought to ask what the baby's name was and Charlie hadn't mentioned it yet.
"Well, Owen, I'm glad you asked. His name is Michael Nicholas Salinger," Charlie said as he picked the little boy up. "We named him after Nina's dad and ours."
They all nodded. It was perfect.
Charlie peeked his head into the hospital room. Nina was lying in the bed with Michael nursing quietly. It already looked so natural. Charlie had stopped on his way up from talking to the kids to get some flowers for his wife. After all of her hard work, she deserved a little coddling.
"Hey, there. Where did you find that little one?" he asked as he came over to the bed.
"Well, I just found him lying around and he looked kind of hungry and pathetic," she answered.
"Pathetic!?! That's my son you're talking about," Charlie answered in an incredulous voice. He set the vase of flowers down on the bedside table.
"Oh, so now it begins," Nina said with a chuckle in her voice. She was cut off by a knock on the door and the entrance of Charlie's oncologist, Dr. Rabin.
"I hope I'm not interrupting," she said as she came in the room. "I got your message this morning Charlie and when I called back up they said you had delivered and were in your room."
"No, please come in Dr. Rabin. Would you like to say hello to Michael Nicholas Salinger? You're his first official visitor," Nina said. Despite the circumstances they had met under, she genuinely liked Charlie's doctor.
"I would be delighted. I am really pleased for both of you. So much of my work is under fairly unhappy situations, so it is a real pleasure to witness such a happy one. You are very lucky parents. But, actually I wanted to come up with some news of my own," the doctor said while pulling out Charlie's chart.
"News?" Charlie asked.
"Well, you did have an appointment to get the results of your six-month scan. I won't drag this out. It looks good. There continues to be no indication of malignancy. You are still in remission. Of course, you'll have to come back in six more months and repeat the tests, but things look very good, Charlie," the doctor said with a smile on her face.
"That is --wow--that is great news. Did you hear that honey?" Charlie said, his eyes filling with tears for the third time that day.
"Of course. How could there be anything but good news on a day that brought us our little one? Thank you for bringing us the news Dr. Rabin," Nina said.
"My pleasure, but it sounds like more company is on its way, so I'll be on my way. Please take care of yourselves and again, congratulations." The doctor got up and shook Charlie's hand on her way out. As she left the room the rest of the Salinger family entered.
They gathered around the bed peering at the newest Salinger. He was small and rather red, but he was definitely one of them. Charlie lifted Owen up on the bed so he could see the baby better.
"Hey, there Michael. I'm your brother Owen," he said. After Charlie and Nina had married, he had started calling her Mom. With the baby here, they were even more of a family.
Charlie leaned down to kiss first Nina and then Michael. The baby, the news
from Dr. Rabin, it was all part of a new phase. The past few years had been
hard, but maybe the curse of Charlie Salinger had lifted. Deep in his
heart, he felt it was possible. He looked again around at the family. They
would always be there, in good times and in bad and now it seemed like the
good times were here.