Authors: Tracey E. Chambers
Breathing was impossible. God was definitely punishing me. I had done some wild things in the past year, and evidently God was seriously ticked off. Stars exploded before my eyes as the pain continued to increase. I have always prided myself on not being a whiner. I broke my arm when I was nine and barely whimpered. I didn’t even cry when I cut my foot on a jagged piece of metal in the sixth grade. The fifteen stitches were not fun, but I endured them stoically.
This pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. My burning lungs demanded more oxygen. I let out the breath I was holding and instantly regretted it. I clamped my lips together as the scream caught in my throat. I refused to scream. I was afraid if I started screaming I would never be able to stop. Just when I was convinced that my spine was going to snap, the pain began to ease. I took several huge gulps of air and tried to relax before the next pain hit.
I can do this. I can do this. Crap, who am I kidding?
Tears flooded my eyes as I began to accept the inevitable. I was going to have a baby in this dingy little apartment, alone.
When I refused to have an abortion, my stepfather pointed to the door and gave me half an hour to get out of his house. He called me a whore, among other things, while my weary looking mother stood silently by his side with tears in her eyes. I knew my mom loved me, in her own selfish way, but she would never stand up to my step-dad. Her love for her only child did not exceed her need to belong to a man, no matter how worthless and abusive he was.
Wordlessly, I went to the little room that had been my refuge for the past seven years, to pack my meager belongings and gather what I had managed to save from my job at the diner. As I was packing, my mother slipped a couple hundred dollars in my duffle bag and hugged me good bye. Then she turned and left the room. That was it. No questions about where I was going or empty requests to keep in touch. The woman who gave birth to me walked out of my life without a backwards glance.
No big surprise. I was accustomed to the people I relied on most in the world abandoning me, so it didn’t come as a shock to find myself on my own. I found out the hard way that the only person you can depend on is yourself. If you let people get too close to you at best they will let you down. At worst, they will rip your heart out and stomp on it on their way out the door. As a child I learned to erect walls up around myself and never let anyone past them. I refused to let anyone have that much power over me ever again.
Kids at school assumed my aloofness meant I was stuck up, or I was just a freak. I didn’t care. I needed friends like I needed a hole in my head. I could not afford to have people who mattered in my life. I was hanging on to my sanity by my fingernails. My soul simply could not endure any more emotional trauma, so I did what I had to in order to survive--I kept everyone out. If you don’t let people close to you they can’t hurt you. It is a simple as that. Over the years, I learned to build a cocoon deep inside myself where I felt safe.
When the next contraction hit all I could focus on was the pain. My stomach muscles got impossibly tighter and tighter while my spine felt like it was being wrung out like a wet towel. I bit my lips until I tasted the coppery tang of my own blood. I had been informed that it was best to ‘breathe through the pain’ when you were in labor. I really was making an effort to but my body refused to listen to my brain. I tensed up with every contraction as the breath was stolen from my body.
Whoever informed me to breathe through the pain obviously had an easier labor than I did. This contraction was far more intense than the last, and I was already exhausted at this point. I hadn’t prayed in a long time. God doesn’t seem to have time to waste on a pathetic loser like me, but I was desperate.
“God, please, please, just end this. END THIS!!!” I begged.
This is what I was reduced to, praying for death. I couldn’t even find the will to care. A huge gush of water rushed between my legs just as the wave of pain crested. My lips were shredded, and the inside of my mouth felt like a used chew toy. I dug my fingernails into the peel and stick linoleum floor, but it offered no comfort, no respite from the agony. Impossibly, the pain continued to increase as the next contraction hit just seconds later. My abused back arched up off the floor as I began to experience an irresistible urge to push. When I started to push, the room swam before my eyes. All I could feel was grateful as blessed oblivion claimed me.
I guess God decided I hadn’t suffered enough. I awoke to an insane amount of pressure between my legs. My already ravaged body was going to explode. I began pushing again trying to ease the pain. I must have been crying while I was passed out because I could taste the salt of my tears. I was a sweaty mess, my t-shirt was drenched, and my long, curly hair was plastered to the side of my face.
Suddenly, I was distracted by a gentle caress on my cheek. The sensation was feather light; I wasn’t sure I felt it until the next contraction eased. Then, there it was again! A whisper soft touch was trailing down the side of my face. It felt like someone running the back of their hand on my face, trying to dry my tears. I was so grateful just for that small comfort. I quickly scanned the tiny room to check if someone had come in while I was passed out. I saw nothing in my dimly lit bathroom. There was barely enough room for me to lie down. There was no way someone could be hiding in the shower since I couldn’t afford a curtain anyway.
Great, now I was losing my mind. I was in so much pain, so petrified of being alone, that I was inventing imaginary friends to assist me through the worst moment of my life. How pathetic and weak. I took a deep breath, well aware that the next contraction was due any second now. As my stomach began to tighten, the tears started to fall once again. A sound that was reminiscent of a wounded animal escaped my lips and filled my ears. Despite my will, I was shattering under the pain.
Soon the contractions began to come one right on top of the other. The few second respite I had between contractions earlier disappeared. I was beyond exhausted. I could not uncover the strength to push anymore. How long had I been on this filthy floor? Was it minutes, hours, or days? Maybe this was my hell. I felt my head fall back to the floor and gave my body up to the agony.
I heard a low, masculine whisper in my ear, “Beth, you can do this.”
I slowly turned my head towards the voice. I saw nothing. Great, not only was I feeling phantom touches, now I was hearing things. I’d finally lost my mind. I knew it was a distinct possibility with everything I had been through. I was just disgusted that I broke under physical pain. Just as that thought entered my mind, the pressure in my nether regions became excruciating.
“You have to push,” the voice instructed.
Okay, that was it. I didn’t care where this voice was coming from, but I DID NOT need to be told to push. I gave up on my sanity and answered the phantom labor coach.
“You think I don’t know that?!? I have been pushing for hours, Casper! Where have you been?”
I heard a low chuckle and felt a firm hand grasp mine. Instantly, I felt a deep sense of peace. My whole body sighed in relief. My contentment was quickly shattered with my savior’s next comment.
“It is nice to know that you haven’t lost that wicked sense of humor. At the risk of stating the obvious, we have to get that baby out of you and get you both to a hospital.”
I gasped. The voice sounded so much like Logan’s it felt like a slap to the face. A different kind of pain pierced my heart. Way to go Bethany. I mean, why couldn’t I hallucinate Dr. McDreamy to help me get through my delivery? The last thing I needed right now was the memory of Logan haunting me.
After he left I was barely human. I didn’t care about anything anymore. Life, death, and everything in between just ceased to matter for me. I lived for pleasure after that. Logan taught me to live one day at a time, and I found that one day at a time was all I could face. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die was my new motto. I did not care about consequences. I really didn’t care about much of anything. My life became a series of parties and one night stands.
“I’m here, baby. You are going to be okay,” he quietly reassured me.
Yep. It sounded just like Logan, empty promises and all. The guy who told me he would love me forever. He promised I would never be alone again, and I foolishly believed him. I shook my head frantically trying to dislodge the painful memories.
“I can’t. I can’t have this baby. It hurts too much,” I wailed.
“You don’t have a choice. This baby is coming and you have to help him into the world. You can scream, you can cry, but YOU WILL DO THIS,” he insisted.
I could almost feel his breath on my face. I opened my eyes and could just make out the faintest shadow inches from me.
It sounded just like something the bossy jerk would say. Logan was the type to do whatever was necessary in any situation. I had come to rely on him when we were together. He was my rock, my safe harbor in a wicked, scary world. Hearing his voice again ripped the scab off my heart, and I started bleeding again. The pain felt that fresh. I was livid that when I was the most desperate, my heart still cried out for him. Subconsciously, my mind still wanted him, even though he had betrayed me. He had walked away.
When the next contraction hit, I took all of that emotion and anguish and pushed until it felt like blood vessels would burst in my head. There was a ferocious ripping pain and a scream finally tore from my throat.
“That’s it! Scream all you need to. Just push. You can do it,” he urged.
“Get him out,” I wailed. “Get him out!!!”
It was plea and a command at the same time. I could not take another second of the burning, searing pain. I wanted this thing out of me and I wanted it out now.
“The baby’s head is out,” he excitedly announced.
I looked down between my legs and sure enough this tiny head had popped out of my body. The shadow was kneeling between my legs, close to the baby.
“The cord is around the baby’s neck. It’s okay. It’s okay,” he chanted quietly.
I didn’t know who he was trying to convince, me or himself. I felt a couple of tugs.
“Okay. I got the cord unwrapped from around his neck. Once more push should do it,” he encouraged excitedly.
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I was pushing before he finished his sentence. My tailbone was roughly jarred as the baby left my body. The pressure was gone almost instantly. Thank you, God! I still felt some discomfort and light contractions, but it was nothing compared to what I had been through. I let the welcome relief flow through my body while I lay back gazing up at the buzzing florescent light bulb in the bathroom.
After a few seconds, I had almost convinced myself that Logan’s voice was a figment of my imagination when I clearly heard him again.
“I can’t lift the baby. Can you grab that towel off the sink and wrap him in it?”
I searched for the source of the voice and saw nothing again. Not even the shadow I thought I saw earlier. I did see a tiny, blue little being in a puddle of blood on the floor near my feet. My heart lurched at the sight of him. The umbilical cord still connected him to me.
I grabbed the towel off the sink and reached down to the little one writhing and struggling for his first breath. I gently wrapped him in the one towel that I owned. He was covered in blood and white goo so I began rubbing his face with the end of the towel. I am not going to lie and say he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He reminded me more of a wrinkled old man than those darling little cherubs you see on the diaper commercials. After what felt like an eternity, his tiny mouth opened and his chest rose as he took his first breath and proceeded to cry vigorously.
I do not know how long we stayed on that bathroom floor. I was too busy staring at this little person that had shared my body for the last nine months. A smile forced its way to my lips as I touched his fuzzy little head. He turned his head towards me as I spoke softly to him.
“That was quite an entrance little man,” I crooned. “Now what do we do?”
Huge eyes swallowed me as I stared at my son. It was a surreal moment that would be etched into my memory forever.
I never planned to have children. I didn’t want to subject another person to the cruelties of the world. Besides, I was sure I would make a lousy parent. The only “good” parent I ever witnessed was on TV. Real life didn’t work that way. My biological father never bothered sticking around long enough for me to remember him. My mother loved me, but she could never spare much attention for me. She was too busy trying to make herself and our house perfect enough to escape my stepfather’s fists.
Having a child is not something I ever wanted but looking into those eyes I couldn’t find it in myself to regret it. He was perfect. No one had ever hit him, neglected him, or broken his heart. Now, I understood why people chose to have children. It was a fresh start. It was a chance to give someone the life you always wanted. It was a chance to love someone who innately loves you back.