Betty and Mrs. Axelby were having their usual coffee klatch when Betty felt a little "off". She was nine months along. Stephanie was about two weeks from being one year old.
"Oh, Ethel, excuse me, will ya? I've got to go!" she said with a degree of urgency.
"Sure, Dear. I've got Steffie. Take your time."
Stephanie wiggled in Ethel's arms. She reached for the plate of biscuits; Ethel took one and handed it to her. Stephanie grabbed the biscuit in her little hands and happily munched it with her four little teeth.
Betty stood up and waddled to the loo. Her hips and legs were giving her fits by this time. Ethel laughed.
"Mummy walks funny, doesn't she, Steffie!"
"I'll be glad when this is over! I feel like a giant penguin!" she groused.
"Oh, dear! You've left a wet spot on the settee!" Ethel called.
"Uh-oh…I think me bag of waters has broken! What do I do?" Betty called from the loo.
"I'll call Stephen! Don't worry!"
Betty tried to remain calm. It could be hours, right?
"May I please speak to Captain Peacock?" Ethel stated urgently when Mel answered the phone.
"Izzat you, Mrs. Peacock? How'zat baby comin' along?"
"No. It's Mrs. Axelby!"
"Stand by, I'll get 'im."
Mel handed the receiver to Stephen, "Yes, Ethel?"
"You'd better come home, Stephen. Betty's water broke!"
"I'm on my way! Thank you! You might need to call an ambulance as well. How far apart are her contractions?"
"Not sure. She's in the loo."
"Well, keep an eye on her. I'll see you in a bit; I'm leaving now. Bye, Ethel."
He arrived home to find the ambulance already there. Stephen pushed past the flock of onlookers and gawkers.
Ethel held Stephanie, who was trying to get to Betty.
"Muh-ma! Muh-ma!" she cried, arms flailing.
"Steffie, your Mummy's going to be alright, she's going to have the baby!" Ethel exclaimed, trying to put on a brave front.
"Ba-b-b-Ba-by! Ba-b-b-Ba-by!" she mimicked Ethel's words.
"Step aside! Move over; that's my wife in there!" Stephen snapped angrily as he shoved past.
Betty lay on the floor, grimacing in pain; the paramedics prepared for the baby's birth and assembled their equipment. Stephen's heart broke as he saw her.
"Sir, is she your wife?"
"Yes!" he nodded, "What do you need me to do?"
"The baby's head is crowning, we won't make it to hospital, she'll have to have the baby here!" one of the paramedics announced.
"I've had a Caesarian with our other baby. The doctor said I'd probably have to have a caesarian with this one," she cried fretfully.
"We don't have time, Ma'am," the paramedic urged, "You're going to have this baby here. Now!"
Stephen gasped and his stomach knotted. Betty looked up him worriedly.
"I'm here. I'm here, Betty!" he assured her.
"I'll take Steffie to the park awhile." Ethel said, whisking Stephanie in her arms.
"Da-da! Da-da!" she wailed, reaching for Stephen.
He lightly kissed her cheek as she grabbed for his face, "Daddy's a little busy right now, Sweetheart! Go with Auntie Ethel and have fun at the park. Thank you, Ethel!" he breathed a sigh of relief. What would they do without Ethel?
Ethel traipsed out the door with Stephanie into the fresh air and sunshine.
Betty let out a loud cry.
"Sir, position yourself at her head, kneel down, and she can lay her back on your thighs."
Stephen did as instructed. He could look right into Betty's eyes. He held her hands in his and she squeezed tightly.
"You're doing fine, Darling!" He smiled at her lovingly. She was terrified.
She whimpered, "I don't know if I can do this!"
"Ma'am, the baby is right here! Only a few good, strong pushes are all that are necessary."
"Come on, Darling. Chin to chest. Breathe."
"Oh, 'eck, you're not going to start rabbiting on about breathing again, are ya?"
"Push when you're ready, Ma'am."
The two paramedics held Betty's thighs and she trembled as she exerted herself.
"It would help if you grabbed your thighs underhanded, like this" one paramedic advised as he took her hand and positioned it. Betty obediently did as told. Stephen positioned his head close to hers so he could talk softly.
Betty strained and bore down.
"Doing great, Ma'am. A few more like that and the baby will be here." he coached.
She shrieked as another contraction erupted and she struggled to push.
"Very good, Dear!" Stephen exclaimed. He could see part of the baby's head, "Come on, push! It's almost here!" he coaxed.
"Oh, God! This hurts so bad!" she cried, trembling.
"You're almost done! I-I-I can see the top of the baby's head!" he stammered excitedly.
His fear and apprehension subsided as he caught the first glimpse of his baby.
Betty winced and yowled, straining with all her might. She held onto Stephen's hand like a vise. Groaning and shuddering, tears streaming down both cheeks, hair pasted to her head with sweat, she bore down.
The baby plopped out gelatinously, arms and legs flailing, into the waiting hands of the paramedic. Stephen's eyebrows shot up as he saw his child for the first time. Tears of joy ran down his face and he mopped his drenched forehead. His heart raced.
"It's a girl!" the paramedic announced.
The baby let out a wail to announce her arrival.
"Well done, Love!" Stephen congratulated and bent down to kiss her forehead.
She lay there panting and exhausted. The paramedic held the baby up for Betty to see, "Here's your new daughter!"
"Oooh, they're quite mucky when they come out, aren't they?" she remarked.
"Daddy, would you like to cut the cord?" the paramedic asked and offered a pair of scissors.
Stephen nodded excitedly, "Oh, yes!"
The paramedic clamped off the cord and pointed to where Stephen was to snip it. One snip and it was finished. The paramedics wiped off the baby and checked Betty's vitals. One of them inserted a needle into the back of Betty's hand and started an IV. Betty winced. He taped the tubing to her hand. They collected the afterbirth and umbilical cord in a plastic bag, wrote some information on a sticker, and labeled it.
"Ma'am, would you like us to lay the baby on your belly?"
"Yes, thank you!" Betty replied tiredly. Her breathing slowed down and her adrenaline returned to normal.
They wrapped the baby in a nappy, swaddled her in a blanket, and set her on Betty's chest. Betty lovingly secured her and kissed the top of her head.
Her eyes welled up and tears spilled as she looked at her tiny wonderful little baby daughter. She missed this part when she had given birth to Stephanie.
She touched her baby's back and looked at her angelic face. The baby was about the same size as Stephanie was at birth. She had a head of fine sandy brown hair with ginger highlights. Her little mouth was perfect and she looked to have Betty's chin. Betty marveled at the baby's long fingers and the fine downy hair that covered her shoulders.
"She does look like a 'Katherine', Stephen."
He smiled lovingly at her and touched her cheek. He brushed her hair from her forehead with his finger.
"We have to get them to hospital. Are you coming with, Sir?" the paramedic stated.
"As soon as Ethel gets back with Steffie. I don't imagine they'll be much longer."
Ethel returned just as the paramedics were finishing their paperwork. "Do you mind caring for Steffie? I'm going to hospital with Betty to get her and Katherine settled in."
"Oh, don't you worry about us! We'll be fine. Congratulations!" She hugged Stephen.
"Oof!" he grunted, surprised at Ethel's hug.
The paramedics hoisted Betty onto a gurney with little Katherine perched on her chest. Ethel walked up to Betty and kissed her cheek.
"Good job, Love! She's absolutely beautiful!" Ethel exclaimed.
"Thank you, Dear," Betty exhaled wearily.
Ethel lifted Stephanie so she could see her Mummy and the new baby. She reached for Betty.
"Muh-muh!" She squealed, kicking her chubby little legs. Her little grey eyes danced.
"Steffie, this is your sister, Katherine!" Betty whispered, "Now be a good girl for Auntie, and Mummy will have a surprise for you when she gets home."
Stephanie reached for Stephen, "D-d-d-Da!"
He leaned over, smiled, and kissed Stephanie, "Daddy has to go with Mummy, Sweetheart. Go with Auntie."
"She'll be fine, you two go on." Ethel reassured.
"Ethel, do you have a fag?" Stephen asked.
"Stephen, you haven't smoked in years!"
"I'm afraid I need one after this!" he admitted sheepishly.
"You certainly do! You did good in there and you have a beautiful daughter."
She handed him a cigarette and he put it between his lips. She snapped her lighter as he leaned in toward her, and she lit it for him. He took a long drag, closing his eyes, and exhaled slowly, calming down.
"Thank you, Ethel." He lifted his foot and stubbed out the cigarette on his heel.
He handed the cigarette back to her and she returned it to the pack.
"You did good in there, Stephen."
"I did, didn't I?" he said, grinning widely and beaming with pride.
They rolled the gurney out to the ambulance and loaded Betty inside and Stephen climbed in behind her. The neighbors and bystanders applauded.
He held her hand, staring at his new daughter. Betty's color had returned.
With a wail of the siren, they were off.