Daniel paced up and down the long corridor, his hands tucked deep into his pockets. His face was lined with worry and he had a dishevelled air about him as if he had dressed up in a hurry, which he had. His mobile phone had gone off around midnight, waking him up and confirming the moment he had been dreading. Frantic, he had grabbed the keys to his flatmates car and rushed out, hoping he wouldn’t run into trouble with the law on his way.
He had arrived at the hospital quickly and shown to the East Wing. He had now been standing outside the ward for more than forty-five minutes. The medical staff occasionally shot him a sympathetic look without breaking their stride as they walked in and out of the rooms. The corridor smelt faintly of disinfectant and medicines. He shivered with a mixture of fear and anticipation. He hated waiting, and he hated hospitals.
While he waited, he read the health information posters on the walls again. One of them was about maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index. He considered his own tall, lanky frame and decided he was in the healthy range. There were other posters about smoking, heart disease and others but he soon lost interest. He looked at his watch again. It was just past one in the morning.
A few months ago, when Sarah had first told him she was pregnant, he had been completely taken aback. He was absolutely sure that he was not ready to face this responsibility. He remembered that she called him early one evening as he was leaving the campus.
“I need to talk to you Dan” she had said. “It’s very important”
“I’ve just finished my afternoon lecture and I have football in about half an hour” he replied. “I’ll call you when I’m done”
“No, this can’t wait” She insisted. “I need you to come over to my place now”.
Something in her tone made him change his mind. When he heard the news, he had slumped onto her bed, his face ashen.
“How come this happened?” was all he could utter.
Sarah stared at him incredulously. “What do you mean ‘how come this happened?’ when we have been back together for six months?”
Daniel sighed and put his head in his hands. He didn’t need this right now. How could he be having a baby with his on-and-off girlfriend? They were not even sure of themselves yet, so how could they raise a child?
“It’s just…” he paused nervously. “It’s completely wrong timing”
“Well I’m not exactly thrilled about it either!” Sarah said, raising her voice. “Do you think I planned this to happen?”
She paused and added: Just last week, my mum said she was glad I got through high school without getting pregnant! And now this.”
“Are you sure?” he asked again.
“Yes I’m sure, I took the test three times” Sarah replied.
He looked up and asked her: “Are we going to do this?”
She nodded. “I’m not going to get an abortion”. And that was it.
Slowly the realisation had set in. After four months, Sarah put her studies on hold, left the university campus and went back home to live with her mother. His routine on campus had carried on undisturbed except for the telephone calls and occasional visit to see Sarah. They had talked and argued a lot over the past few months. She was sure they could raise a baby with the help of their parents while they continued studying. He could foresee a lot of problems, but Sarah would not have it any other way. During one of his visits, their argument had become so heated that Sarah’s mum stepped in and sent him away, asking him not to come back until the baby was born. She was the one that had rung him tonight to say Sarah was now in the hospital.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the door to Ward 256 opened, and a midwife poked her head out.
“Daniel Cooper? They are ready for you now, come in.”
He held his breath as he stepped in. The room was bright and modern, and he felt a little intimidated by the two other women there. Then his eyes took in the sight of Sarah, his girlfriend, sitting up in one of the beds, with a tiny baby wrapped in a white blanket in her arms.
“Go on” the midwife urged. “I’ll be back in a few minutes”. She stepped out of the room and shut the door.
Sarah turned her head towards him and smiled weakly. Her hair was messy, and her face was devoid of make up, making her look much younger and rather vulnerable. She looked tired and overwhelmed by the experience she had just been through. He smiled back at her as he approached the bed.
“Are you alright?” he whispered.
“Yeah, I guess” she said slowly.
Daniel shifted from one foot to the other, unsure of himself.
“How about the baby?” he asked nodding towards the bundle in her arms.
“It’s a girl” Sarah said, looking down at the little face.
Daniel moved nearer to take a closer look.
“She’s beautiful” he breathed.
“Yes she is” Sarah smiled. “Here, do you want to hold her?”
Daniel nodded and held out his arms. He felt his throat tighten as Sarah placed the warm little body in his arms.
His baby daughter looked at him with curious blue eyes and made little baby sounds.
“She looks just like you”, Daniel said, holding the baby close to himself. “She’s got your eyes”
“Hmmm” Sarah said and winced.
Daniel stared at the little girl again, and stroked her hair. He held out his little finger and the baby grabbed it and held on to it tightly. He felt his heart melt and he knew that, no matter what happened, this little person now meant the world to him.