If our baby were born now, there is a chance it could survive, though its lungs may not be developed enough for it to breathe properly. If it stays put, its lungs will begin to produce something called surfactant, which is a lipoprotein that keeps the air sacs in there from collapsing or sticking together when we breathe. Kind of important. Babu is still floating around in the amniotic sac, but now it can tell when it’s upside-down or right-side-up, and it may have something to say about that.
My parents are back for another visit, and I keep waiting for Sarah and me to ring in the occasion with our usual Argument About Nothing. This time: nothing. Not a word of complaint, nor a hint of stress. While we cleaned the apartment, Sarah was so chirpy she almost seemed to be looking forward to having them in our guest room. I found the whole thing disquieting.
Upon arrival, Tom and Lois were the same as always: mom looked around and remarked that we shouldn’t have bothered to clean the apartment for them; dad went straight to the kitchen looking for the crackers to take with his medication. Both events used to drive Sarah crazy; now she just smiled. Later, my dad gently put his hand on her belly and told Sarah he loved her; mom said she’d love to take Sarah shopping at Babies ‘R Us. She was touched by both gestures.
“I love your folks,” she said, as we got into bed. For once, all was right with my universe, and I couldn’t sleep that night, because it was too weird.
Sarah had set up another totally unnecessary ultrasound on Saturday morning so my parents and brother could get a sneak preview of Babu in utero. She was able to pull this off by convincing her brother, Ben, an emergency room doctor, to hijack an ultrasound machine and find us an unoccupied room in the ER. (Membership has its privileges.)
Sarah’s family has no use for privacy, which means that none of them has a problem seeing anyone’s exposed, bulbous belly. Needless to say, my side of the family is slightly more puritan. We’re ever respectful of other people’s space and privacy to an almost pathological degree. In my childhood home, there was a lot of knocking on closed doors. I don’t think Sarah’s family even had doors.
So my wing was obviously pretty squirmy when Sarah hiked up her shirt on the doctor’s table and exposed all kinds of square acreage. When Ben (her own brother!) rolled down the top of Sarah’s jeans, exposing a tuft of her pubic hair, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my brother covering his eyes with his fingers, like a kid during the scary part of a Disney movie.
As Ben rubbed that goop on Sarah’s belly, every Ruby who wasn’t me had his or her eyes glued to the ultrasound machine—rather than the half-naked woman on the table. After a few minutes, Ben located Babu, and the mood in the room was more relief than exuberance. When my folks were satisfied that the undulating grey waves on the ultrasound screen were, in fact, their grandchild-to-be, they said it was wonderful, thanked us, and got the hell out of there.
Later that day, I told Sarah I was glad that we were going to deliver our baby in a room full of strangers.
She shrugged. “That’s OK this time, but for our next baby, I’m going to invite your folks and my dad and your brothers and Ben and Ursina to all be in the delivery room to witness it. I want to be surrounded by family and love.” All I could do was laugh. Family and love are well and good, I said, but don’t hold your breath.