"Due to your advanced age, I'm recommending that you undergo an amniocentesis," the obstetrician, Dr. Newman, told Abigail. "While chances are overwhelmingly good that your baby's perfectly healthy, this test will help to put our minds at ease."
"You mean where they stick a needle into my belly?" Abigail couldn't help but feel a bit apprehensive.
"Yes, but the area will be anesthetized, so all you'll feel will be a tiny prick," Dr. Newman assured her. "It'll all be over with very quickly, and we'll have the results back in just a couple of weeks."
Abigail shared the news with Jack, and asked if he'd be able to go to the appointment with her.
"Of course I'll be there," Jack assured her. "We're in this together, you know." He smiled and kissed her lips.
A few days later, Abigail lay back on an examining table with her abdomen exposed as a long needle was inserted into it. On the ultrasound screen, she watched her baby move its tiny arms and legs and prayed that the needle wouldn't touch it. She sighed with relief when the needle was withdrawn filled with fluid. Then she went back home and rested for a couple of days and waited for the results.
The telephone call she'd been waiting for finally came a couple of weeks later.
"Good news," Dr. Newman's nurse told her. "The results of your amniocentesis are back, and everything looks perfectly normal. I can also tell you the baby's gender, if you want to know."
"Well...sure, I suppose so."
"It's a boy."
Wow! I hope he looks just like Jack, Abigail thought. She couldn't wait to tell her husband the good news. Jack arrived at the usual time and hugged and kissed his wife hello.
"The doctor's office called today with the results of the amniocentesis," she told him.
"And it came back perfectly normal."
"That's great news, honey!"
"And that's not all." Abigail smiled mysteriously. "I know what we're having," she continued in a singsong voice.
"Do you really want to know?"
"Come on, Abby..." Jack chuckled, but there was a hint of impatience in his voice.
"It's a boy."
"Hot dog!" Jack shouted, joyfully picking Abigail up and spinning her around, gingerly, of course.
"I take it you're happy," Abigail said.
"Happy? I'm ecstatic!"
The next day, Jack called Abigail to tell her he was going to be a bit later than usual coming home from work, as he had an errand to run. He entered the house carrying a large bag, from which he pulled a genuine rawhide football and an infant-sized football jersey.
Abigail was startled for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Don't you think it's a little bit early for that?"
The spring term at college came and went and, to her relief, Abigail didn't go into labor before the end of classes. She didn't know what she would have done if she had.
She didn't register for classes during the summer, and as Jack only taught summer school P.E. part time, he had a lot more free time as well.
Abigail's labor pains started around midnight one night in June. The contractions were so strong that they awakened her, and her water broke and flooded the bed.
"Jack, it's time," she said, shaking her husband awake.
Instantly alert, Jack hurriedly dressed and drove his wife to the hospital, where she was admitted and taken to a room.
Abigail was hooked up to an I.V. and monitor and quickly examined.
"You're dilated four centimeters," the nurse told her. "You'll be ready to deliver in a few hours."
At first the contractions weren't that bad, but as time wore on, they became much stronger, and Abigail found herself having to depend on the breathing exercises she and Jack had practiced together in the prepared childbirth classes they'd taken.
It was in the early morning hours that the nurse finally examined Abigail and told her that it was time to push.
"Would you like to watch the delivery?" the nurse asked.
"Oh, yes!" Abigail replied. "I didn't even know you could do that."
"Of course you can, if you want," the nurse told her with a smile.
The nurse placed a mirror between Abigail's legs, and Abigail and Jack watched in wonder as their son came into the world.
"Oh, Abby, I just love you so much!" Jack told his wife when it was all over and he was holding his son in his arms. Tears flowed from his eyes, and they flowed from Abigail's as well.
Joanie went to the hospital to visit the family the next day. When she arrived, Abigail was sitting up in bed holding the baby while Jack sat proudly beside her.
"Would you like to hold him?" Abigail asked her longtime friend.
"Of course, I'd love to!" said Joanie. The infant barely stirred as Abigail handed him to her.
"He's beautiful!" Joanie declared as she looked down into the tiny, red, wrinkled face. "What's his name?"
"Jackson Foster Parrish." They'd chosen the name months earlier.
"Oh, that's a lovely name!" Joanie said.
"How are Chachi and Tony and Lisa?" asked Abigail.
"Everyone's fine," Joanie told her. "Chachi still works at the radio station. Tony's getting really good grades in college. Lisa's still dating Matthew. He's getting around much better now. He only has a slight limp."
Abigail hadn't seen much of Ellen or Ellen's family since she'd announced her pregnancy the previous December. Abigail and Jack both wrote it off to jealousy.
Later that same day, two well-dressed men whom Abigail didn't recognize, one of whom carried a camera, also came by to visit Abigail.
"We're from the city newspaper, and we'd like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind," said the man without the camera.
"All right," Abigail agreed.
The man asked her a few questions about what her life had been like since emerging from the coma, the man holding the camera snapped several shots of her holding Jackson, and then both men thanked her and left.
The next day, Jack walked into Abigail's hospital room carrying a newspaper. "Looks like you're in the spotlight again, hon," he said with a wry smile.
'Coma Girl Gives Birth' shouted the headline, and right underneath it was the photo of Abigail holding Jackson. Abigail felt a mixture of pride and dismay.
"I guess I'll always be 'Coma Girl' to the rest of the world," she sighed.