Anna thought she had two months until the baby would come and so she didn’t worry too much about collecting baby things. She had a few outfits for when the baby first came, but not much more than that. She bought materials to sew a blanket and other linens for the baby’s room. She worked slowly on that project. Walking around her neighborhood was a must to keep her sanity. Sitting alone in her house everyday was taking its toll. Amedeo and Emiliana were her saints. They checked on her everyday and took her for her checkups. They were her adopted parents and friends. At eight months she had a checkup and everything seemed normal. The next day she was sweeping her floors. She didn’t know why, except for her own satisfaction. Mid morning she was collecting the dirt in the dustpan when she had a severe pain in her abdomen. She ignored it and finished her chore. She sat down to rest and felt better. She hated just sitting around, so she decided to work on the quilt for her baby. She sewed away for several hours and completed the top. She took the backing, batting and top to her table to cut and pin. She had it all ready to sew together and carried it back to the room where she did her sewing. As she reached the door of her sewing room, the sharp pain returned. It was even worse than earlier in the day. She dropped everything in her hands and stood for a moment in the doorway; hoping the pain would subside. For just a second it did subside; then it hit her again with a vengeance. She nearly fell to the floor with the severity of the pain. She crawled over to her chaise and laid down. She thought the pain might go away as it had done earlier. However, it only grew in intensity and endurance. It took all her strength to stand up and grab her purse. The stairs frightened her in her debilitated state, but she made it to the bottom without falling. She felt like a vice was squeezing her belly and at the same time stabbing her pelvis. She made it to Amedeo’s door and banged with all her might. He immediately knew something was horribly wrong. He pulled her in the door and called for Emiliana. Amedeo got out his old, seldom used car and together they took her to the hospital. Once at the hospital, Anna’s pain was nearing unbearable levels. She thought of the ‘one through ten’ pain level charts she had seen on the walls of the hospital where she lost her first baby. “This would be a fifteen,” she thought as she tried not to scream in agony. While they were checking her in she suddenly lost consciousness. The staff took over and wheeled her off to an operating room.
She woke up several hours later, but had no idea how long she had been out. She felt her belly and it was flat. A nurse came to check on her and she said nervously, “Where is my baby? Where is she?” The nurse came to her side and said, “She is fine. She is a little premature and we need to make sure everything is working. We will bring her to you as soon as we can. You must rest. You have been through an awful ordeal. The doctor will come and see you in a little while and explain everything to you.” Anna made sure the nurse understood that she wanted to nurse her baby. “We will bring her soon,” she repeated. She began to feel pain in her abdomen, but not the same as before. She knew instinctively that they had given her a C-section and she was feeling the incision. She wanted to stay alert for when they brought the baby to her, but she felt so groggy and was soon asleep again. What seemed like a little while later, the nurses came in to sit her up and give her medicine. “Will this hurt the baby if I nurse her?” she asked of the pills in the cup. They told her no, and not to worry about anything. Finally, another nurse came in with a rolling bassinet. It was clear on the sides, so Anna could see the tiny bundle wrapped in pink inside. She put her hand over her mouth and started to cry. The nurse handed her the baby and everything else in the room disappeared. “Hello, my sweet, precious daughter,” she said. Another nurse took over and told her she needed to try and nurse the baby to get her milk going. She gladly followed their instructions. The baby latched on hungrily and Anna winced a little in pain. “Now,” said the nurse who had brought in the baby, “we must fill out her paperwork. What is her name?” “Amalia Kate,” she replied with a smile. “And, who is the father?” Anna’s smile disappeared and she had to contemplate what to say. “Oh, hang the spies!” “Her father is James Alan Grant,” she said. She managed to answer the rest of the nurse’s questions while the other nurses fussed with her and the baby. “May I have a few moments alone with her?” she asked of them. They told her she could have her for ten more minutes and then they would take her for more tests. Anna ignored the pain in her neck from looking down at her baby. “You are perfect. They don’t need tests to tell me that you are perfect. I love you so much, little one,” she said softly. Amalia slept sweetly until the nurses came and took her. They gave Anna strict orders to rest. She was unbelievably happy about her baby, but still so tired. She quickly drifted off into slumber. When she woke later, she called a nurse to help her to the bathroom. It was a huge ordeal and she was glad when she was tucked safely back in her bed. They brought Amalia back to her so she could nurse her again. “I must be turning into an Italian,” she thought as she was unashamed of baring her breasts for the nurse to help her attach the baby. She finished one side and turned the baby to nurse the other. She was still quite exposed when the doctor came to the room. She couldn’t cover her breast since the baby was still nursing. “Ah, here is the doctor who saved your life,” said one of the nurses. And, as if on cue all the nurses left the room at once. Anna wasn’t sure if the baby was finished yet and wished she could ask the nurse. She opened her mouth, but could not interrupt the mass exodus out of the room. She looked again at her hero doctor. He was absolutely gorgeous. The kind of Italian man that sculptures are made of and stories told about. Her butterflies seemed to be under anesthesia, but they were faintly moving in her belly. He smiled and came to sit beside her bed. “I am Dr. Carlo Marino,” he said in perfect English. “How are you feeling?” he asked. She was having trouble finding her voice. “Um, I’m not sure. I guess I’m okay. I think you are here to tell me how I am doing?” she said. He smiled again, “Yes, of course. I do not need to tell you that you have been through tremendous distress. I will not go into all of the details with you right now, but you were close to losing your life and your baby last night. Your uterus has serious abnormalities and it’s a miracle you kept the baby as long as you did. Basically, your body is not made to have babies. I tied your fallopian tubes during the procedure to prevent further pregnancies. If you were to get pregnant again, I am nearly positive you would die. I hope you will not be angry with me taking that liberty, but it is my job to help save lives.” He paused to see if she had anything to say. “I lost another baby about two years ago,” she said. “That would explain the scarring we saw. Well, all that matters now is that you have a healthy baby and we will care for you until you are strong. Everything will be fine,” he said and patted her arm. She had stopped nursing Amalia and covered herself up. He called the nurse to come and get the baby so he could check her incision site. His touch was so delicate and caring and he put her at ease. “Where did you learn English?” she asked. He told her he had studied medicine in Boston. “Well then,” he said, “Everything looks good. I want you to rest and I will check you again tomorrow.” She looked him in the eyes and said, “Thank you.”
Early the next morning she was able to bathe, clean her hair, and put on a little makeup. She felt a little more human after that. Her milk came in making it much easier to nurse Amalia. After she settled back in her bed, they brought her the baby so she could hold her. A few minutes later Amedeo and Emiliana came for a visit. “I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you two taking care of me the other night,” she said after their initial greetings. Amedeo said bitterly, “Your rotten husband should have been here to take care of you and he does not even know he has a beautiful daughter!” Anna had the thought that the spy network had probably already informed him about the baby. She didn’t want to think about him. She was convinced that had he wanted to be a part of their lives, he would have come home. He had been gone four months so far. She turned her attention back to Emiliana who was holding her daughter. “She is so lovely,” Emiliana said. “Yes, she is,” Anna said unashamedly. They stayed for about half an hour and then excused themselves telling Anna she needed to rest. The nurse came and took the baby so she could nap for a while. She was so happy that she loved this hospital and the wonderful staff who had taken such good care of her. A little before noon, she woke to see Dr. Marino sitting in the chair next to her. He was busy making notes in his tablet. When he realized that she was watching him, he smiled and put down his work. “How are you today? You look lovely,” he said. “I feel good today,” she replied simply. “I do not want to ask you questions that make you uncomfortable, but I must say what kind of man leaves his beautiful wife when she is having a baby?” She smiled nervously. “He travels and is gone most of the time. In fact, he doesn’t even know about her.” Carlo raised his eyebrows, “Is the baby his?” Anna thought the Italians do not hesitate to ask very personal questions. “Yes, of course,” she replied. “Well, if I were your husband I would not ever leave your side,” he said firmly. This did make her uncomfortable. He sensed it and changed the subject, “All right, let’s have a look at the incision.” When he was gone, they brought her a big meal. She was glad. It seemed the past several days of trauma and nursing a baby had made her ravenous. “The doctor ordered this for you especially,” the nurse told her. Anna blushed a little and then demolished the food on her plate. The handsome doctor came to see her again in the evening. They chatted for a while. He was single and spent most of his time at the hospital. She told him about her books and that she lived here so she could have a peaceful place to write. That wasn’t entirely true, but it was becoming more so as the days went by and she was more attached to Trieste.
In three more days she and Amalia were ready to go home. Amedeo came and picked them up. Emiliana had been busy while Anna was in the hospital. She found a housekeeper to come and help Anna and also take care of the baby. Her name was Gisella and she had a serious exterior, but an obviously soft and caring heart. Amedeo told her that Gisella had lost her husband a year ago and had never had children. She was in her forties and still very energetic as if she were in her twenties. She had already cleaned the house from top to bottom, finished all of the linens for the baby’s bed, set up the bassinet in Anna’s room, and had done enough baking to last a week. The house smelled of fresh bread and rich soup when they came upstairs. Anna was starving and ready to have some home cooked food. Gisella laid the baby gently to bed while humming a sweet tune. Anna decided in that moment that she wanted Gisella to be with her for the rest of her life. “Grazie, Gisella,” she told her when she came to the kitchen. “Sieda! I get you some food!” Gisella said. The soup was heavenly and filled every inch of her being with comfort. “Now I must ask you about where I sleep,” Gisella said sheepishly. “Let’s set up a bed for you in the baby’s room. She doesn’t need that much space,” she replied. As they all settled into a routine, Anna felt so happy. The only speck of unhappiness she had was thinking about James.
After a week, Dr. Marino came by her house to see her. “Darling, you have been through so much. I will make house calls for you here.” Gisella took the baby and he gave her an examination. A very thorough examination, Anna thought. His gentle touch all over her abdomen was just about more than she could handle. She had to bite her lip to get through it without letting out a sigh of arousal. He held her hand and spoke close to her face as he told her that everything was healing well. “I must come once a week to check your progress,” he said before leaving. She was beginning to wonder if all this “checking” was necessary or if he was somehow attracted to her. “Surely not, he is such a handsome man. I’m sure he has a line around the block of women,” she reasoned with herself. The next week, his caresses were sending her through the roof and his hands were getting dangerously close to her breasts. He caught her biting her lip again and asked, “Are you alright? I’m not causing you any pain, am I?” Her voice squeaked, “I’m fine.” His good bye kiss was more on her mouth than on her cheek. She was used to the familiar Italian greeting, but this was something else entirely. After he was gone, Gisella said, “Anna, he is in love with you. No doctor kisses their patient like that.” “That’s what I was afraid of. I have no idea why he would be in love with me,” Anna replied. Carlo came week after week, well beyond the time when her incision was healed. He never expressed his feelings with words, but his touch said everything. She kept reminding him that she was married and he would ask, “Oh, and where is he now?” She had absolutely no idea and could not give him an answer. She would just shrug her shoulders and give him an innocent smile. Once, he kissed her full on the mouth. She pushed him away and said, “No, please don’t. Although he is not here, I am still married.” He nodded, but still ran his fingers through her long brunette hair. “You are so beautiful, Anna,” he said and she felt a shiver go through her body. “I need to travel again,” she thought after he was gone.
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