This short story by Mirel Abeles was originally published on storiesworthsharing.net
“Water. Can I just have a glass of water?”
“I’m sorry, Ann, but you’re in labor. No drinking allowed.”
“What labor? Nothing’s happening!” Ann grumbled.
“You’re having contractions now.”
“No I’m not.”
“The monitor is showing some activity,” the nurse said.
“But the patient is feeling none!”
The nurse merely smiled and patted her hand. Ann felt tempted to release a string of expletives, but sighed instead.
“Nurse, have you ever had contractions? This is not my first baby, and believe you me, I would recognize one. It’s hot and I’m thirsty and I want a cup of water.”
Once again the nurse flashed her patronizing smile and said, “No drinking allowed when you’re in labor, but I’ll bring you some ice chips to suck on.”
Ann counted to ten and despite her desire to kill, kill, kill, smiled wanly.
This should never have happened. Two weeks past her due date, an unseasonable heat wave, and her kids on vacation, having the maternity ward under renovation and without adequate air conditioning seemed like one strike too many.
At her last appointment, Ann’s doctor had told her to go to the hospital to be monitored every 2 or 3 days until she gave birth. She wasn’t quite sure why today they decided to keep her; there had been no change in the last ten hours. No contractions, no matter what the nurse said, but still no food or drink. Ann was already regretting sending her husband home hours ago to be with the kids. But although hot and cranky and alone, she wasn’t helpless.
Looking down at her distended body, she grimaced. She had never gained so much weight before in any of her pregnancies; she no longer recognized herself. Her body looked like a dirigible with appendages, and by now was as difficult to maneuver. Contractions! If only. Ann felt irritable. She couldn’t wait to birth this baby already; she missed her old vaguely remembered body.
With great effort she managed to shift her body without pulling any of the wires attached or setting off any alarms. Locating the dangling bed controls, she lifted the back of her bed to try and ease some of her discomfort. Ann ran her fingers through her sweaty, matted brown hair and flapped it a bit to cool off her neck. Next she adjusted the foot of her bed. Feeling a bit better, Ann pulled on the gaily printed sheet covering her body and wiggled her toes.
“Hello, feet,” she murmured. “Long time no see.”
Settled more comfortably, she was able to manage a smile when the nurse brought her the cup of ice chips. When the nurse left the room, Ann placed the cup on the window sill near her bed and moved the curtain to hide it.
Ann waited patiently. When the student nurse came in to take her blood pressure and check the monitor for the umpteenth time, Ann put on her best smile and tried again. “It’s so hot in here. Can I have a cup of water?”
“I’m sorry, it says no food or drink on your chart.”
“How about some ice chips to cool me down?”
Once the young woman had left her alone in the stark room with the fresh cup of ice chips, Ann furtively looked around to make sure that no one was watching. She placed the new cup of ice chips on the window sill, and retrieved the first cup. Wonderful! The ice chips were now swimming in water. Ann gulped it down and sighed in relief. Finally!
Throughout the rest of the day, Ann kept on asking different staff members for cups of ice chips which would disappear behind the curtain to be replaced by a cup of melted ice on her bed stand. Luckily, by the time her contractions actually did begin sometime after midnight, she was no longer parched. Her husband, summoned by the nurses, now kept her supplied with ice chips to suck on and to cool her down.
At seven in the morning, their ten-pound baby boy was born.
As Ann leaned back in the bed cuddling the new baby, her husband asked, “So, have a name for him?”
“I dunno, something refreshing.”
Her husband made a face. “Refreshing?”
“Something watery, and cool.” She considered for a moment, then brightened. “How about Ice?”