The birth was underway. First the head, then the torso and, finally, the small legs. As the baby emerged from the womb, Lee Harlow’s eyes grew larger and filled with disbelief. He seemed frozen, unable to move.

For a moment, time seemed suspended. No one spoke, and the look on Harlow’s face discouraged questions. 

Quickly, Lee recovered. With slightly shaking hands, he extended the baby to Ruth, who began cleaning the child with a sterile towel. The umbilical cord was cut and tied. The infant was wrapped in a fresh swaddling blanket.

“Looks like he may have slight respiratory distress,” said Ruth, her voice quivering.

“Call Memorial and get a complete work up,” said Harlow, grasping the edge of the table to steady himself.

“I want to hold him,” cried Ann.

“We have to make sure everything’s all right first,” answered Harlow. His years of medical training kicked in, and he took charge once again.

Turning his back to Ann, Lee moved to face Ruth, blocking Ann’s view, and shook his head from side to side.

“We’ve got to put this off, Ruth,” he whispered, after placing his hands on her shoulders. “I’ll get her to the hospital and stall until I can prepare her.”

“Are you all right?” asked Ruth as her voice broke.

His stare was fixated on the baby. Ruth tried to engage him several times and finally slightly tugged on the sleeve of his gown.

“Is something wrong?” asked Ann.

Harlow turned and said, “Ms. Sorenson, we have to take the baby to the hospital to make sure everything’s all right with his breathing.”

“I’ve waited for this day my whole life. Please let me see him before he goes,” cried Ann, grasping her sheets with both hands.

Harlow’s eyes clouded as he looked at Ruth, holding the helpless infant and rocking him back and forth. There was no way to postpone the meeting.

Finally, he nodded. Ruth slowly approached the head of the table. Like a repentant child facing a stern parent, she extended the infant forward.

“Just show her the baby. Don’t let her hold him,” commanded Harlow.

A small teardrop fell from Ann’s right eye as she smiled at the white bundle. Tears flowed freely as she reached for the fold of the blanket to lift it away from her son’s head. As she exposed the child’s face, her smile froze, turning first to panic and then disbelief as she began shaking her head from side to side.
Ann’s voice broke as she winced and sobbed while shouting, “No. God, no! Please no!”

“Make sure you keep her sedated,” said Harlow.

Ann began thrashing and rolling from side to side. Her cries turned into screams.

“That’s not my baby! Where’s my baby? I want my baby!” shouted Ann, sounding like a victim of a robbery.

Ruth tried to comfort Ann as Harlow discarded his gloves and gown. Medication flowed freely through the intravenous line. The nurse anesthetist stood beside Ann and gently stroked her hand. Ann was fighting the sedation, and wild thoughts were ripping through her broken heart as she slowly lost consciousness.

“Steven, where are you? They stole my baby! My baby’s gone! Help me. Oh God please, help me find my real baby!” cried Ann, lapsing into a state of semi-tranquility.

“Dr. Harlow, her husband’s white, isn’t he?” whispered Ruth, as if she was trying not to divulge a state secret.
Harlow stared plaintively at Ann. When he remained silent, Ruth decided not to press.

This baby could not be her husband’s. Not with their genes, Ruth thought wickedly.

It was a beautiful baby, but someone else was the father, she reasoned, taking a deep breath.

No way this baby came from that blond, blue-eyed, Christain Bale clone she was married to! Not this child with his wispy black hair and Godiva chocolate brown eyes. Definitely not with skin the color of dark mahogany...............    @ Amazon, Barnes & Noble and fine bookstores everywhere........


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