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Gangs of New York


Or maybe it will be longer than that. Morris says he might like to have more children. “They say that in three years, women forget about how hard the pregnancy was and they’re willing to do it again,” says Morris. “It may take Jean a little longer than that. But I’ll be ready if she is.”

Everything’s fine and then suddenly everything gets complicated. At week 32, Sarah goes in for a routine stress test that shows no signs of contractions. She comes home, makes herself dinner, sits down to watch The O.C. (the prom episode) with her friend Ondine, and her water breaks. They say there is no mistaking it, and that is true. Ondine goes running downstairs to fetch Hugo from the gym; he sees her blonde head coming through the gym door and he knows instantly what must be happening. Ondine hails us a cab. We rush to New York Hospital, where the contractions start coming hard and fast. Sarah asks everybody who looks like they might be a doctor or a nurse why this is happening. What had she done wrong? Should she not have made dinner? She wants an explanation.

Baby A’s head is pointing south, in the proper position, but Baby B is lying east-west, which puts her at risk of breach. So we’re going Cesarean. Sarah is convinced we didn’t make it long enough and that our girls are in danger.

They give her an epidural, load her on a gurney, and wheel her into the operating room. She is still asking for an explanation as the doctors swab her stomach and a nurse covers her arms with a blanket. The procedure goes quickly. Hearing a few muted cries, Sarah wants to know, “Do they look like babies?” Hugo peers around the curtain that blocks Sarah’s view of her own insides, but all he can see are one baby’s feet. “The feet look good,” he tells her. “Not too tiny.” The weights are announced: Baby A, a.k.a. Scarlett, is three pounds, fourteen ounces; Baby B, a.k.a. Orly, is four pounds, two and a half ounces.

Our lives go into slow motion. The girls are taken to the NICU, where they are placed in clear plastic incubators called Isolettes, while Sarah recovers in a hospital room upstairs. Being in this situation was our biggest fear all along, the situation of the babies’ being not okay. We thought if we did everything right—if we did the injections properly, if Sarah rested and ate well and rested some more—then we could will them into existence. When the nurse takes Scarlett out of her Isolette and lets Sarah hold her for the first time, the numbness that enabled Sarah to climb out of her hospital bed is broken by how terrible she feels that our little girl has to go through this alone.

And then, over the next few days, it all starts to turn. Though we are allowed to stay with them as long as we wish—and can feed them and change them and bathe them—we are largely spectators to their incredible resurgence. Scarlett and Orly are upgraded to the “feeders and growers” category, advanced placement in the NICU. We watch with pride as four-pound Scarlett requires two nurses to hold her little arms down so they can get her IV back in. One day we arrive at the NICU to find our girls reunited in a single incubator. In baggy white kimono undershirts, they’ve both rolled to the inside so that their foreheads are touching. It is clear that somehow they are giving comfort to each other, and all that distress and worry we had been hoarding over the last two years washes away. How could we have ever had less than these two?

A month goes by, slowly, and then we get a couple of days’ notice that the girls are well enough to go home. We surprise ourselves by not freaking out. Yet. As we write this, they are coming through the door.


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