Bill had his head between his legs and he started praying.
Please God, don’t take her away from me. Take me, but let her live. She’s the best of all of us and our kids need her. I need her.
“Mr. President.” A voice interrupted his quiet prayers. A nurse was standing before him, his daughter in her arms. “Would you like to hold her before we take her to the NICU?”
Bill looked at them in shock. He didn’t have the energy to stand up so he lifted his arms and the woman bent down so she could place the baby in his arms. “NICU?” He asked, frowning. “Is something wrong with her?”
“Everything looked good during our first exam, but she was born prematurely so it’s just a precaution and we will do further tests.” She saw the man concentrating on the infant. She then gave him a bottle of milk. “I’m not sure if she’s going to take it. She would have had her first breastfeeding…” she let the words die down as he looked at her, his blue eyes tainted with a shade of despair. “I’ll leave you two alone for a moment.” And she walked away.
The baby girl stirred in his arms, her small mouth rapidly opening and closing like a fish but finding nothing to latch on. A small scowl appeared on her face and before the cries would start, Bill caressed her small head.
“Hello, little one.”
Her frown immediately disappeared as she recognized the familiar voice and she gurgled. She looked so small. She practically weighed nothing in his arms.
Bill chuckled. “Yeah, I’m your Daddy.” The newborn slightly opened her eyes and he immediately recognized his wife’s eyes in her. Another blue-eyed Clinton, he thought.
She started sucking on his little finger, so he tried giving her the bottle. “I know it’s probably not as good as what your Mama’s milk would have been, but you have to try drinking it.” After a few attempts and some whimpers, his daughter finally latched on the bottle’s nipple and started sucking. “Good girl.” He said softly. “You know you’re lucky. You’ve ended up with a wonderful mum and I’m sure she’s fighting like hell to get back to us.” A few tears rolled down his cheeks. “And you’ve got a big sister and brother that can’t wait to meet you. And you’ve got me. You will always have me until my last day. You, your brother, your sister and mother are my whole world.”
Moments later, the baby girl fell asleep and a nurse returned to take her to NICU. Bill was conflicted. He didn’t want to be far away from his daughter but he also needed to stay right there to wait for news about Hillary. An agent noticed that. He was a father too and he could only imagine what the man was going through.
“Sir,” He said. “I will follow the baby and I’ll stay posted right outside.”
Bill nodded in thanks. He checked the time. They had taken Hillary to the operating room nearly an hour ago. What was taking so long? He started pacing up and down. He needed answers. Just when he was about to get some, he heard the ding of the elevator and the doors opened. It was Doctor Bartlett. Bill tried to read her face. Was she going to deliver good or bad news?
“Hillary is good.” The doctor interrupted him.
Bill sighed in relief. His wife was still alive. For now, it was the only thing he needed to know.
“It was touch and go at some point there. We’ve managed to stop the bleeding and repair the tear caused by the delivery of the placenta.” She continued “There was a blood clot abruption. We had to administer a couple of units of blood transfusion.”
“Can I see her?”
“They are cleaning her up and she will be up soon. We had to give her anesthesia, so she won’t be awake for a few hours.”
“But she’s okay, right?”
“We’ll know more when she wakes up.” She said tiredly.
“Okay. Thank you, doctor.”
Moments later, he was back sitting on a chair in the room vigil over his wife’s unconscious body. He held her hand in between his and kissed each inch of it. For the second time that year, Hillary was on a hospital bed. For the second time, he had nearly lost her.
“I need you to wake up, baby girl. I need to hear your beautiful voice and tell me that everything is going to be okay.” He paused. “I held our daughter. She’s gorgeous, just like her mother. She’s got your eyes…” he chuckled “… and unfortunately, I think my nose. She still needs a name. So, you’d better wake up if not I’ll be the one deciding.”
It was time to update the rest of the family. Dorothy had the right to know what was going on with her daughter, but first he had to reach Hugh or Tony so they could be with her when he gave her the news. Dorothy was one of the strongest women he had ever known, just like his own mother and his wife, but she was going to be worried for Hillary. The whole family was still in Camp David and it was just past four o’clock in the morning so it took a few rings before anyone picked up the phone.
“Hello?” came a groggy reply.
“Hugh, it’s Bill.”
His brother-in-law immediately woke up hearing his voice. “Hey Bill. How is it going? Did Hillary have the baby?”
He took a deep breath. “Yes. The baby was born. It’s a girl.”
“That’s great. Congratulations.”
“Who’s that?” Bill could hear Maria’s voice in the background.
“It’s Bill. He was just telling me that we’ve got a new niece.”
“Oh, great.” Maria said. “Ask him how’s the baby? How’s Hillary?”
“Hugh.” Bill said hesitantly. “I need you to get Tony, so you can both be there for Dorothy.”
The man was soon alarmed. “Bill, what’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Bill told him he didn’t want to say what happened more than once so he waited for him to get his brother and mother and soon he was on speaker with everyone including Roger.
“Bill.” Dorothy said. “Hugh told me you have news.”
“Yes. There’s a small baby girl who can’t wait to meet you all.”
“Oh my, a girl. That’s wonderful news. How is she? How is Hillary?”
“The baby is good. She’s in NICU for now because she’s a preterm. They just want to make sure nothing is wrong.” The next part was going to be hard to say. “There was a complication. As soon as the baby was out, Hillary started bleeding.” He started sobbing, the images still vivid in his mind. “There was so much blood.”
“Bill, where’s my daughter?” Dorothy asked in a whisper, dreading the answer.
He shook his head, sending the memory away. “Sorry. She’s okay now. She still hasn’t woken up from the anesthesia. They had to do an emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. I… For a moment I was really scared that we were going to lose her.”
No one knew what to say. They had all been sleeping while all that had happened. They also felt bad that Bill had to go through all alone.
“How are the kids?” He finally asked.
“Jason went to bed easily even though he was excited. The kids are all sleeping in the same bed. They are actually cute. Chelsea tried to stay up, but at the end she just fell asleep.”
“Jason is too small, he won’t understand, but Chelsea needs to know what happened so she will know what to expect, but I don’t want to tell her through the phone.”
“Don’t worry, Bill. I will tell her.” His mother-in-law reassured him.
He finished the phone call with the plan that they were all going to come and visit mid-morning. Hopefully, he was going to have better news by then. At the end, exhaustion took over his body and he fell asleep on the chair, still holding Hillary’s hand at the side of the bed.
When Hillary woke up, she immediately recognized the unmistakable smell of the hospital. She felt like she had been there before. The first thing she noticed was the pain, then how foggy her head was. She tried opening her eyes, but the pain shot right through her head. She groaned and immediately closed them back. She started concentrating on the sounds around her. The beeping of the monitor machine and then another sound she would recognize anywhere: her husband’s soft snoring. She opened her eyes again and slightly turned her head. There he was. Uncomfortably sitting on the chair, his head tilted back and mouth slightly opened. She laid a hand on her now nearly flat stomach. She needed to see her baby. She tried to speak but her throat was too dry and no sound came out.
Bill must have sensed something because soon he woke up and he bolted out of the chair as soon as he saw she was awake.
She pointed at the glass of water. Bill brought the straw to her lips, then he pressed the call button.
Hillary slowly gulped down the liquid. “Thank you.” She said in a hoarse voice. “The baby”
“Our baby girl is fine. She’s in the NICU.”
Her eyes widened in panic.
“For precaution.” He immediately clarified. “She’s in an incubator so they can monitor her and make sure everything is okay.”
She nodded. “Wanna see her.”
“You will. But first let’s make sure you’re okay.”
Doctor Bartlett and a medical team arrived. They checked her vitals and did more tests. Bill stepped outside so they could work better. He also needed to call home and tell them that Hillary was awake. He also asked for an aide to get him some clean clothes from the White House. He needed to clean up and look presentable. He could feel a five o’clock shadow on his face and he probably looked as tired as he felt. He stopped by the NICU checking on his daughter and hoping she could be moved to Hillary’s room. The agent had kept his word. He was still posted outside.
Bill nodded at him. “Thanks for staying here. Isn’t it the end of your shift?”
“I can stay another couple of hours, sir.”
“Okay. Thanks again.”
Bill looked at the baby through the glass. A nurse saw him and walked out to talk to him.
“How is she?”
“She’s doing good. Her heartbeat is strong. Her SATs look good. She’s a little underweight but that’s normal, but we haven’t seen signs of jaundice or respiratory distress. She should be up soon for another feeding.”
“My wife is awake. She would like to see her. Is it okay to bring her to her room?”
“I don’t see why not. She could try breastfeeding her. It would be good for both of them. We’ll bring her to you in a couple of minutes.”
When Bill entered Hillary’s room. She was still up with her back against the headboard. “Hey. Look who’s here to finally meet her Mama.” Bill said, keeping the door open for a nurse pushing a hospital infant bed.
“Oh…” Hillary gasped. The nurse transferred the baby in her arms and Hillary beamed with happiness. “Hello, little one.” She held her against her chest and touched her hand with her fingers. “My God, Bill. Look at her.” She cried. She couldn’t believe that she was finally in her arms. After all the times they had tried to get pregnant again and the disappointments and the tears, there she was.
“Yeah.” Bill sat next to her and put an arm around her shoulders as he caressed his daughter’s head covered by a pink baby cap. “We did good. We sure make good looking kids.” He commented and Hillary chuckled.
The baby started squirming and Bill helped Hillary undo her gown so she could start feeding her. She immediately latched on her nipple and started sucking for milk. They spend some time just like that, watching their daughter.
“She was also a champ in her fist feeding with Daddy, but I think nothing compares to mummy’s milk.” Bill said. “Didn’t I tell you that your Mama’s milk was going to be better?”
“I missed her first feeding.” Hillary cried, feeling guilty. “She had to have formula.”
Bill immediately scolded himself mentally for bringing it up. He dried her tears. “Honey, it’s okay. It wasn’t your fault. And you don’t know how thankful I am to have you both here in my arms. Seeing all that blood… I was so scared. I felt so helpless.” He was the one with tears too. “Let’s make a deal. I have to be the one to go first. Because I’m pretty sure I can’t survive without you.”
She tilted her up so she could kiss him. “I’m sorry I scared you. But how about we stop talking about death and concentrate on the new life we created here, on our family and our three kids who are going to be our future.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” He saw Hillary wince. “Are you in pain?”
Once the baby finished eating, Bill took her in his arms to burp her and so Hillary could move into a more comfortable position. He was rocking his youngest daughter to sleep, when they heard a knock at the door. It slightly opened and they saw Dorothy’s head popping in.
“May we come in?” She asked in a low voice.
Bill glanced towards Hillary, asking her with his eyes if she was up for visitors and she nodded.
“Yeah, come in.”
Dorothy walked in, followed by Chelsea and Jason.
“Mummy!” Jason rushed towards the bed. Chelsea was behind him and stopped him before he could climb the bed. She then hugged her.
“Mum, Grandma told me what happened. Are you okay?” She had been anxious to see her all morning. It seemed that one of her fears had come true.
“I’m not great, but better. It’s going to take time.” Hillary reassured her.
“Mummy.” Jason pouted wanting to climb on the bed and snuggle with her.
“Hey, my little angel. Have you been a good boy?” She nodded towards Chelsea telling her it was okay for her to lift him up and put him on the bed with her.
“Hillary.” Bill exclaimed. The message behind was clear: be careful. “Jason, be careful because Mummy is hurting.” And together with Chelsea, Jason sat against the headboard so he could still hug Hillary but without touching her lower region.
Dorothy was standing next to the bed too and laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. She was glad that Bill hadn’t sugarcoated what her daughter had been through and she had all the facts. “The rest of the family is coming later. We didn’t want to overwhelm you all at once.”
“Don’t you want to meet your new sister?” Bill asked with a grin, still gently swaying and making sure everyone could see the new member of their family.
“Baby sitte?” Jason asked.
“Yes, you have a baby sister.” Hillary caressed his head.
“Oh my God, she’s so small!” Chelsea gushed over her. “I’m nearly afraid to touch her.” She gently ran a finger over her small fist.
“Me see.” Jason kneeled on the bed.
Bill walked towards the bed. “Okay. But you have to be very gentle.”
Hillary helped him run a hand over her arm and hand like Chelsea did. “Baby is sleeping.”
“Yes, she’s sleeping because she has a full belly just like when you have your naps.”
“She’s so beautiful.” Dorothy said. “And has she got a name?”
“Yes!” Chelsea exclaimed. “Can we finally know the name? Because you’ve been quite secretive about it.”
Bill raised an eyebrow at Hillary.
“You can have the honors.” She told him.
“Let me introduce you to Hope Emma Clinton.” He finally said.
It was a name that paid tribute to both their sides of the family. Hope was of course the name of the town where Bill was born and Emma was Dorothy’s middle name.
The rest of the day was spent with more medical tests, more family members visiting, phone calls to close friends so they would hear the news from them and meeting their staff to prepare an official statement. But mostly the five of them got to spend time together and be a family.
The press secretary was thrilled to make this statement:
The President and the First Lady are pleased to announce the birth of a 6 pounds 3 ounces baby girl at 2.12. on the 29th November. The First Couple, Chelsea and Jason are overjoyed to welcome Hope Emma Clinton in their family. Mother and daughter are recovering in the hospital and will stay there for a few days since Mrs. Clinton suffered some complications after delivery. The medical team we’ll release a statement with more details, later on.
After hearing the statement they had agreed on, Bill switched off the TV in the room. Hillary was sleeping with Jason curled up against her, Chelsea was reading on a chair. He stood beside the crib and looked down at his new baby girl. Hope. The name carried so much meaning. After all his mistakes, he had been given a second chance that year and now he had hope for the future.