The Pregnant Widows Club, a novella, Chaptella 7

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The waiting

Somehow Iris and Ivylynne got all the club together in the intensive care waiting room at the same time.
Iridella's supervisor was overwhelmed by the mass of protuberant abdomens and sensible shoes. She sat in the corner, reading Parents magazine and wishing she had a beer.

Iridella had been discovered at 8:30AM. Someone called the company nurse who took one look and called the company doctor who advised her to call 911 immediately. It took a half an hour for the EMTs to arrive and twenty minutes to get them through the security at the front desk before they were shown a service elevator that could acommodate them.
It took another fifteen minutes to get her to the hospital, and twenty more before the admissions staff in the ER would accept her supervisor's say so that she had medical insurance.
Somehow, her purse had been left at the office.

The doctors weren't sure what to do with her. Her gravid state precluded some x-rays and other testing procedures. Her personal GP and OB/GYN, when consulted, knew of no pre-existing conditions that would lead to such a state.

She had had, well, was still having, a seizure. It looked more like a coma, but it wasn't. She responded to light and pressure and temperature and sound, but incoherently.
The interns were poring over the medical journals and databases looking for precedents.

The club wasn't sure what to do. They didn't know anything about Iridella's family or her husband's family. They didn't know what to do except hang around the lounge making the nursing staff anxious that one or more of them would drop her load right there on the waxed flooring...
The priest showed up, took one look and ran off to phone his pyschiatrist, who advised him to find a woman counselor with letters after her name to come deal with the obsessive need that these women had to blame a man somewhere, somehow... or at least a woman who had not yet expanded her horizons and realized that sisterhood was more important than kow-towing to the AMA in exchange for a symbolic pat on the head.

Dr. Emelia Spleen waltzed into the waiting room and the assembled worthies, those that were awake, sat at attention.
She surveyed the wreckage and ordered them to get there fat asses home and look after themselves. She would see to Iridella. Something akin to a herd of crippled elephants waddled out of the hospital and into the night. The priest was eternally grateful to the pregnant redhead with the sideburns and the large brass ring through one eyebrow, but he wasn't sure how to express it. She turned to him, cocked that decorated brow and said,"Padre, if you have any influence around this deathhouse, then do me the favor of getting someone who knows what they are doing to come talk to me."
He reflexively bowed and backed out of the lounge before running to consult his Rolodex.

Dr. Spleen commandeered a wheelchair and sat contemplating the vending machines, scanning her memory to see if she could think of anything that matched Iridella's symptoms.
She had seen many reactions to the physical burden of prenancy. She herself had had a couple of weird ones. For almost a month, her left breast's nipple had swollen to three times normal size and stayed that way, leaking pre-milk fluid.
Then, one day, while she was swimming, she felt something twitch and the next day, her breasts were equally swollen.
Then there was the thing with her sense of smell. For weeks,
she couldn't go anywhere without being able to pinpoint where every cat and dog and squirrel in the city had peed. That was mind-blowing. She was a medical professional who was overwhelmed by something she couldn't really deal with. Until she rediscovered the Atomic Fireball jawbreakers, from Ferrara Pan. That did the trick.

Someone in the legal department of the St. Cecilia Sanitary Napkin company had managed to get in touch with her parents. They could think of nothing in their family's medical past that could foreshadow Iridella's condition. They, with characteristic thinking along an ancient pattern, asked if maybe her body was rejecting the foreign genetic material from her husband... And the secretary hung up on them in mid vitriolic exhalation. This informative exchange was related to Dr. Spleen fairly quickly. Oddly, she seemed to think it was significant. She requested that someone get in touch with the husband's family and ask about their medical history. Anything was possible, she believed.

She remembered her first pregnancy, with the teenager. All of fifteen years ago, that was. A lifetime ago.
She had just finished her residency, so she believed she was ready for anything. Her husband at the time, Erlfo, had just switched careers again, from circus acrobat to nightclub bouncer (the change in pants alone could explain the conception after four years of trying), and there was an air of expectancy in the house... They weren't ready for what emerged, though. She had acquired an infection sometime during her residency, a viral nastiness that didn't choose to assert itself until she was in her third month. She was bed-ridden for the better part of four months, not quite well and not quite unwell, but riding on the swell of fear about her child.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the infection tapered off, and she came out of her bed a new person. Everything felt and tasted and smelled different. She even had to have her glasses prescription changed,as for some strange reason, she could see better.
She felt ennervated during the last weeks before the real ordeal began, the delivery itself.
She been scheduled for an induction, but her water broke early and she drove to the clinic full of trepidation. They ran some tests and sent her off to the hospital, where she spent a day and a half waiting for her cervix to dilate properly before they performed an emergency c-section. Baby and mum were in the hospital for a couple of weeks. The child was under observation for breathing difficulties and the mum was being treated for a sudden and odd anemia.
Then, one day, she and infant were home alone, trying to deal with each other. Erlfo was in the hospital himself, having found a difficult customer a bit faster and more adept at damage than he. He still walked a bit stiffly and sucked his breath when he had to pee.

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