It was my third time in the fetal nursery. That’s what I had taken to calling the evaluation room directly across the hallway from Labor and Delivery. Fetal heartbeats echoed loudly throughout the room like a person incessantly testing a hot microphone. These heartbeats were hampered only by the screeching of doctors’ and nurses’ pivoting sneakers and crocs, attentive to every sound and move of the babies within expectant and anxious mothers.
I felt like I had failed. Straight-A student. Multiple award winner at every major life stage and age group. Consistently affirmed throughout my burgeoning professional days. And here I lay on my left side, belly exposed with two straps monitoring contractions and my son’s heart rate. I had elevated blood pressure and was nervous. I was told to relax, but the curtain in front of me billowed, taunting my depth perception, as a nurse hustled back and forth caring for an expectant mother. Relax. Meanwhile, the light on the ceiling in my periphery blinked in accordance with an alarm that consistently sang a descending perfect 5th interval. Relax. I heard the woman behind me confessing that she was having regular contractions with a dilated cervix at only 30 weeks. Relax. The blood pressure cuff tightened as the nurse asked me if I had any bloody or significant water discharge. It kept tightening. “No,” I managed to croak. Relax. I took a deep breath, but all that seemed to come out was one slowly developing tear descending from my left eye to the pillow below.