A couple of new Mahoney's in McMaster Hospital
A couple of new Mahoneys
in McMaster Hospital

A little something I post every year on Valentine’s Day, for reasons that will become obvious as you read this (if you haven’t read it before…)

My wife Lynda is at work, seven months pregnant and enjoying if not every minute of it, at least every second or third minute of it. I’m at home, painting the nursery. I’m painting the nursery because our twins are due in just two months, and we’re afraid they might be early – you know, like two weeks early – because they’re twins.

So there I am, painting away, and the phone rings. Too late, I missed it. Then it’s ringing again, but my hands are full of brushes and rollers and it’s just too much trouble to go into the next room and answer the phone, except that…

…the darn thing rings again.

This time I know it’s important, if not an emergency, so I high-tail it to the phone and pick it up just in the nick of time. It’s Lynda. She sounds… well, panicked, her voice all quavery, on the verge of tears. “I think my water broke,” she says, and provides details that are watery, messy, and a little scary.

I’m thinking, nah, not possible, we’re two months early here. Clearly she’s misread the signs.

“What are you doing?” she asks me.

“Painting the nursery.”

“Paint faster,” she says.

I’m off like a blue streak to the pharmacy where Lynda works, ready to bundle her into the car, prepared to make the hospital at something resembling four times the speed of light. When I get there Lynda says, “Hang on. Gotta finish up a couple of prescriptions first.”

Excuse me?

It’s obvious to everyone in the store that something is not quite right. “Nothing serious,” I explain to one woman. “She’s about to give birth, is all.”

Twenty minutes later she’s ready to go. We’re in the car. I start the car and we are outta there…

…or so I think.

“Wait!” says Lynda.

“What? What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I forgot my boots.”

I stop the car, run back into the pharmacy and get Lynda’s boots.

She’s weeping a little on the way to Markham-Stouffville Hospital. “I’m scared, Joe. I’m two months early.”

I’m scared too, but I need to reassure her. I don’t know what to say. Lamely, I say, “Everything’ll be okay,” and take hold of her hand. She accepts the hand — for a bit, then gently places it back on the steering wheel. “Two hands,” she says. “Wouldn’t want to get in an accident now.”

I agree, and make it to the hospital accident free. There, we take the wrong hallway, then figure it out and pass a woman facing the wall, a man gently rubbing her back. A glimpse of the future?
Soon we’re in the birthing room, a cheery nurse catering to Lynda’s every need. We’re in good hands, I think, but soon it becomes clear that Markham-Stowville can’t handle little babies that want to arrive two months early. The closest hospital that can is McMaster, in Hamilton. Two young, hip paramedics arrive and transfer a stoic Lynda onto a rolling stretcher, and take her away. I drive to Hamilton, alone in the dark, in the rain. Knowing that I’ve got the easy part.

Lynda’s just over thirty-one weeks – not a big deal, we’re told. Lynda is given medicine to speed the babys’ lung development up. She’s given other medicine to delay the birth as long as possible. Our spirits are good. We’re lucky Lynda’s thirty-one weeks and not less, like many others that come through this ward. Some babies, we’re told, come as early as twenty weeks. It’s heartbreaking — their chances for survival are not good. At thirty-one weeks, the success rate is close to one hundred percent.

Two days later. It’s Valentine’s Day, and our babies have decided they want out now. Decisions are made. Lynda is moved from a cosy little room with pleasant music to a sterile place of white walls and shiny metal beds. I count eighteen people in the room. The anesthetist has a funny little dog on his stethoscope. Lynda is pumped so full of drugs she can’t talk properly. I worry about her.

Our doctor’s name is Lightheart. Did I mention it was Valentine’s Day? Doctor Lightheart explains the use of forceps to her intern, then promptly demonstrates, deftly delivering Keira. Keira lets out a healthy wail and is whisked away to the level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit where I hope they don’t mix her up with another baby.

Suddenly Erin’s heartbeat drops to half the normal rate. The atmosphere in the room changes instantly. Doctor Lightheart reaches inside Lynda farther than I would have imagined possible. Her hand is poking at Lynda’s belly from inside, like a scene right out of Alien. I didn’t know you could DO that!

Finally, the forceps bring Erin out. She doesn’t cry like Keira did – just a brief, muffled chirp. This is because she’s been fitted with a respirator, but she’s fine. She, too, is whisked away to the intensive care unit.

The room empties.

It’s Valentine’s Day.

And I am the proud father of two.