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LULLABY AND GOODNIGHT
By WENDY CORSI STAUB
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2005 Wendy Corsi Staub
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I have some good news for you, Ms. Somerset," Dr. Lombardo announces, striding into the examining room, clipboard in hand and a broad grin on his handsome face.
"Oh my God!" Tears spring to Peyton's gray eyes. "When am I due?"
"Due? What are you talking about? The good news is that the Dow just jumped forty-one points."
He's teasing, Peyton assures herself-and nevertheless feels a slight twinge of too-good-to-be-true trepidation. "I am pregnant ... right?"
"You are pregnant." The obstetrician reaches for her right hand and clasps it warmly in his own. "Congratulations."
She heaves a sigh of relief. Not that she had any doubt, really. Four home pregnancy tests can't be wrong. Still, the nurse instructed her to come in for blood work, just to be certain.
So. Now she's certain.
Nine months from now, give or take, she'll be a mother.
"I'm going to write you a prescription for prenatal vitamins," the doctor informs her, flipping briskly through his notes. "And we'll need to schedule some tests. Ultrasound, amniocentesis ..."
"I recommend one for all my patients who are over forty. The risk of certain birth defects rises in older mothers, so-"
"I won't be forty until September." According to her calculations, the baby is due the following month.
The doctor shrugs. "It's your call, really. I'll give you some information so that you can make an educated decision."
She nods, already knowing what her decision will be. Lord knows she's done enough reading in preparation for pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. As far as this informed patient is concerned, the tests would be useless. Even if, God forbid, she found out that the baby in her womb has some terrible birth defect, she would choose to have it. Period.
When Peyton Somerset makes up her mind to do something, she does it. Her way.
She interrupts the doctor, who has launched into an array of possible symptoms she might experience. "Do you mind if I run and get my purse so I can write some of this stuff down in my organizer?"
"You don't have to do that. I'll give you a pamphlet we have that explains everything."
"Great, thanks." Peyton is relieved that she doesn't have to parade, naked beneath an ill-fitting gown, into the adjoining room where her belongings are stashed on a hook.
Yes, technically, he's already seen it all, and then some. But she can't help it. He's handsome.
He goes on, reminding her that this is a combination practice with several doctors and a certified nurse midwife on staff, then moves on to what she should expect at the next few appointments. She barely listens, too caught up in visions of her immediate future. Morning sickness? Maybe. Maternity clothes, definitely.
She smiles to herself, wondering what could possibly be more fun than mandatory spring shopping. She'll need to buy a full maternity wardrobe, nothing frilly or pastel ...
"I strongly recommend that you enroll in a childbirth preparation class," the doctor is saying. "We have one sponsored by our on-staff midwife, and there's also a good one at the hospital that covers not just breathing, but pain medication options."
Peyton back-burners visions of the many Manhattan boutiques that cater to upscale corporate mothers-to-be, and informs Dr. Lombardo, "I think I'll go for natural childbirth."
"You might think that sounds like a good idea now ..."
Yes, she does, and he doesn't know her well enough to realize she can't be easily swayed by delivery room horror stories. Not much frightens Peyton Somerset these days. Or ever, for that matter.
In fact, the only truly scary thing she can think of is not being in utter control ... of her body, her emotions, her future ...
Yes. Control is key.
"But," Dr. Lombardo goes on, "if I had a dollar for every patient who said no drugs in the beginning and changed her mind by the time she was dilated a few centimeters, I'd be one young retiree."
Peyton offers the obligatory chuckle, wondering just how old he is. He looks about her age, maybe a little younger.
Basically, he's your garden-variety Tall, Dark, and Handsome M.D. who could easily be playing the part on an afternoon soap.
"You should also choose a labor coach, Ms. Somerset," Dr. Lombardo tells her.
"Call me Peyton."
He smiles. "Peyton. Get a labor coach. Somebody who's going to be by your side day or night from the time you feel the first cramp until you've delivered the baby."
Peyton forces herself to maintain eye contact and nod. "No problem."
If she had somebody like that-somebody willing to be by her side, day or night, to help her through the biggest challenge of her life-she wouldn't be here in the first place.
She'd be back in Talbot Corners, having a baby the old-fashioned way.
But here she is, in Manhattan, facing childbirth-and parenthood-entirely on her own.
It's your choice, she reminds herself, lifting her chin. You're living your life on your terms. And now there's no going back. Not that you want to....
But for Peyton Somerset, to whom control is key, the future suddenly seems uncertain.
What if she loses her job now that-or because-she's pregnant?
How will she support herself and a child?
Assuming she keeps her job, what if she can't find decent child care?
What if something happens to her baby?
What if something happens to her, an only parent, after she has the baby?
Stop it, Peyton. Since when do you doubt yourself, or your plans?
Insecurity isn't allowed. Period.
"Well? Any questions, Mom?" asks Dr. Lombardo.
Mom. Wow. She's going to be somebody's mom.
"No," Peyton says firmly, her head spinning. "No questions at all."
"I'm sure you'll have some the minute you leave. Feel free to call the office any time, or you can e-mail us if that's more convenient. We're here for you, and we're accustomed to patients who are going it alone."
"That's good." Because she certainly fits that bill. In fact, she's never felt more alone in her life.
* * *
"Mr. and Mrs. Cordell?"
Derry looks up from an outdated issue of Redbook she's been pretending to read while chewing her fingernails down to nubs.
Dr. Lombardo's receptionist is beckoning.
Beside her, Linden promptly gets to his feet and tosses aside a copy of Popular Mechanics or Popular Science or whatever it is that's kept him utterly absorbed for the last twenty minutes. You'd think he'd be as agitated as she is. To Derry's complete irritation, her husband seems utterly relaxed. He's been relaxed ever since he found out that this visit is covered by their insurance plan.
Linden, who always likes a bargain, didn't even complain about coming up with the ten-dollar copay.
"Ready?" he asks, and she nods.
But of course she isn't ready.
Is any woman ever ready to find out why, after more than a year of trying to get pregnant, her period arrives as predictably as the Verizon bill every single month?
Don't worry, it'll happen.
Yeah, right. That's easy for Derry's mother to say; easy for her older sisters to say; for her friends to say. Things are different for all of them. Things are normal. They decided to have children, and they did.
That's how it's supposed to work, but-
She looks up at Linden.
"Okay." She stands and replaces the issue of Redbook on the cluttered table beside her chair. She takes a moment to straighten the table's contents, to neatly align Redbook on top of the other magazines, telling herself that if she does it just right, everything will work out okay.
Yes, if she makes sure all the edges of all the pages are lined up, then Dr. Lombardo will have good news for her.
He'll tell her that there's no medical reason for her infertility. Or that there is, but he can give her a prescription and she'll be good as new by tomorrow.
Don't you think tomorrow is a little unrealistic, Derry? These things take time.
Yeah, no kidding. All right, then she'll be good as new by next week. Or next month. The next time she and Linden try, conception will be guaranteed. Problem solved.
"Mrs. Cordell?" The receptionist sounds concerned. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." She straightens and starts across the room.
Of course I'm fine. I'm not sterile, or barren, or whatever it is they call women who can't have babies.
I have to be fine.
Please, God, let me be fine.
If I can make it to the door behind the reception desk in less than ten steps, Dr. Lombardo will tell me everything's okay.
She counts silently as she follows her husband across the waiting room, conscious of the other couples glancing at them as they pass.
Some do so idly, then quickly go back to their magazines and newspapers and whispered conversations. Others seem more curious, or as anxious as Derry was, sitting there waiting. Especially the women.
They're the ones who are new to this, like we are, Derry tells herself. They're thinking there's hope, or they've just found out that there isn't and they're here to discuss further options ...
Whatever those are.
Derry refuses to allow herself to think that far ahead.
For one thing, she and Linden are flat broke. Much too broke to even consider further options. They're already a month behind on their Co-op City mortgage. He's been urging her to ask her parents or sisters back in California to help them, but she can't do that. She isn't particularly close to any of her family these days. Anyway, her parents are barely surviving on Social Security; her sisters have mortgages and bills of their own.
Besides, potentially expensive medical options won't be necessary for Derry and Linden unless the doctor says one of them is sterile.
And that's not going to happen.
All those tests they took last week are going to show that there's nothing wrong.
After all, Derry made it to the doorway in only eight steps.
So the doctor is going to say that there's no reason she can't get pregnant. That in a year, maybe less, she could be holding a newborn with her auburn hair and green eyes, or Linden's blond hair and blue eyes, or perhaps a striking combination.
That's all she wants. A child all their own, a biological child with Cavanaugh and Cordell blood running through its veins. Is that too much to ask?
"Right this way," says a familiar, perpetually smiling nurse who greets them at the door with a clipboard and a manila folder in her hand. "How are you today, Mrs. Cordell?"
"Fine," Derry murmurs.
In the corridor, an attractive woman with shoulder-length light brown hair slips past them on her way out of the dressing room adjacent to the examining room.
She's wearing an expensive-looking suit the same chestnut shade as her hair, and has a camel dress coat draped over the crook of one arm and a chic leather shoulder bag over the other.
She's the kind of woman Derry has always envied: tall, sleek, slender. Her shiny hair is tucked behind her ears in an effortless yet elegant style. She probably has a perfect manicure, and pedicure, too. Derry, whose nails are ragged from incessant biting and whose wavy tresses are caught back in a plastic banana clip, is just over five feet tall and perpetually carrying an extra twenty-five pounds.
As the other woman passes, Derry does her best not to stare. Or glare.
"Thanks again, Nancy," the woman says over her shoulder to the nurse.
"Congratulations again, Peyton," the nurse replies, beaming.
Congratulations? In this office, that can only mean one thing. The woman is pregnant.
Derry is momentarily stilled by a fierce stab of jealousy as she stares after the retreating stranger in dismay.
You should feel hopeful, not resentful, she chides herself. If she's pregnant, you can get pregnant, too.
But what if the woman paid a fortune for infertility treatments? She looks as though she can afford it. Derry, in five-dollar Kmart clearance sneakers and too-snug ten-year-old jeans, cannot.
She shouldn't even be here, really. Her regular ob-gyn is up in the Bronx, where she lives. But one of her neighbors recommended this fancy Manhattan doctor, saying that if it weren't for him, her daughter couldn't have given her three grandchildren.
Derry would like nothing more than to give her aging mother three grandchildren. Then perhaps they could find the common ground that has eluded their relationship, particularly since Derry moved across the country against her parents' wishes.
"Right in here," the nurse says pleasantly, indicating an empty examination room.
"Thanks, Nancy." Derry nods, as though she and Dr. Lombardo's nurse have always been on a first-name basis when in reality, she never even paid attention to the woman's name tag in the past.
You should be more aware of things like that from now on, she tells herself.
Not that being casually friendly with the fertility specialist's staff has any bearing on whether or not she'll eventually find herself on the receiving end of pregnancy congratulations. But it can't hurt, right?
Linden steps back to allow Derry to step over the threshold ahead of him.
She's careful to do it with her right foot.
Yes, if she steps over the threshold with her right foot, everything will be all right.
Out on the street, Peyton is greeted by a burst of icy air. Overhead, the midtown skyscrapers are outlined against a pastel blue backdrop, milky February sunshine cascading down between them to cast her lanky shadow on the dry concrete sidewalk.
She smiles at the notion of how drastically that silhouette is going to change in the coming months. Glancing down at her stomach as she buttons her long cashmere coat over it, she imagines that it's the tiniest bit swollen. She knows it isn't, not yet. But soon enough, it will be.
A man in a trench coat brushes by her, jostling her slightly with his briefcase. Peyton's arms automatically cross in front of her, shielding her midsection and its precious cargo. In that momentary instinct, she grasps the scope of the tremendous responsibility that awaits.
Another human life is in her hands. Forever.
How can she do this alone?
Too late to turn back now, she reminds herself, reclaiming her staunch Somerset mentality. And you can do it. Plenty of people do it, these days.
Single motherhood may still bear a stigma back home in the Midwest, but it's become commonplace-almost trendy-here in the city, not to mention in the media.
Excerpted from LULLABY AND GOODNIGHT by WENDY CORSI STAUB Copyright © 2005 by Wendy Corsi Staub. Excerpted by permission.
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