My bedrest can no longer impede the inevitable. With an unsettling rush of wetness encountered during a painstakingly slow bathroom trip my saddened, my blue eyes swell in horror.
Two tense words permeate my entire thoughts: Oh no.
I quicken my cautious shuffle to get back to Jason. Shaken by this late-party newcomer, he frantically pushes the nurse call button. Click, click, click. Muttering, “Why isn’t she coming?” his previously buried desperation surfaces.
Finally entering the room, nurse Angela’s attentive eyes look me over as I sputter, “There is a wetness….it’s clear…” Fleetingly, Angela’s eyes almost imperceptibly widen before she quickly contracts her eyelids, concealing her worry. Angela rushes me downstairs, to the on-call doctor who will confirm if it is amniotic fluid. On-Call Doctor does not smile. On-Call Doctor does not offer a warm greeting. Reluctantly, I ascend the exam table, surreptitiously hoping to be swallowed up by the taut plastic covering. Becoming one with the plastic and metal would trump any interaction with this hardened exterior of a doctor. Bracing my body with my hands–and my mind with thoughts of being anywhere but here–On-Call Doctor’s apathetic hand grazes my leg, swabbing a bit of the transparent liquid. On-Call Doctor’s stingy words transiently cloud the silent room,“If this swab turns blue, it confirms we have amniotic fluid.” Keeping his head down, his wire-rimmed, oversized glasses repeatedly slide down his sizable, crooked nose. Long silver tines of hair fall harshly over his wide forehead. With each attempt at brushing the hair spikes back, they obstinately fall back.
Hunched in the wheelchair again, the tightening around my abdomen harshly hugs me. The ride back to my room is filled with a hundred tiny bumps, my legs shifting side-to-side, my elbows knocking the armrests.
“It’s all done, Jason.” Startled by my reappearance, Jason nearly drops the book on his lap. I clumsily push myself out of the rolling wheelchair. Pausing mid-stand, legs bent at a 45-degree-angle, I rest both hands on the wheelchair armrests. With a last slide to the right, nurse Angela firms her grip on the back of the chair, arresting the tiny, slippery wheels. Surviving the lonesome expedition, I crawl into the sandpaper-like blanket, usurping more comfort from it than On-Call Doctor could muster. Waiting for On-Call Doctor’s unwanted verification amplifies the acuity of the situation.
I can’t do this.
I am prepared for being largely unprepared as there was no time for birthing classes, no time to read the pamphlets and books, no advice or talks from doctors on what to expect. A tremble forms in the base of my thighs, shaking each muscle from hips to knees.
Yes I can! I have to!
Fumbling to grab the corner of the stiffly bleached blanket, I pull it over me, swaddling my legs. The harsh fibers scratch my knees.
I don’t know how to do this!
My facial sobriety relents. Not able to hold back a moment longer, the room instantly blurs through the pooling tears in my lower eyelids. Choking my next inhalation, commanding sobs heave within my chest; flagrant echoes reverberate within the stifling walls. Rapidly descending tears escape, a salty waterfall flowing down my cheeks. Each drop dampens the bristly weave stretched around my legs.
I have no choice.
Jason, breaking his silent, distant gaze out the window, jumps off his cot, knocking it into my bed. Clang! The cascade of tears ebbs for a millisecond as I turn to see him stumble to my bed.
“Why is this room so small!” Jason’s sharp words scold the miniscule space. Turning away again, sobs resume.
“Jason, I’m scared.”
Wrapping a knowing arm around me, a squeeze pulls me into his shoulder. Resting my head in a secure nook of his arm, my eyes close, decisively evicting the tears. Thinking beyond the impending birth, my heart races.
What do we do once she is born?
Terrified of the words, a hoarse whisper escapes my throat, “I don’t think I can hold her once she’s born. I just don’t think I can do it. I don’t want to see her.” These shockingly monstrous utterances tear at my motherly soul.
What will she look like? She cannot possibly be like a normal baby. She is too premature and with too many abnormalities. How do I bear to look at her? How do I hold her? Will she break or fall apart?
These vile thoughts make me wretch in disgust. What kind of mother does that makes me? What kind of mother is afraid of her baby? What kind of mother thinks her baby will be scary, or ugly, or freakish in any sort of way?
“It’s okay, Babe. You don’t have to. No one will think less of you if you don’t. That’s your choice.” Jason’s effort in consoling me works marginally. Despite what others feel, I would think less of myself. How will I live with myself if I let this one opportunity get away from me? I will never get a chance to hold her again, and she needs me.
I’m not ready for this.
Watching my shivering legs, terror fills my gut. Large waves of nausea settle in my stomach, threatening to overtake my throat. Meekly, I ask the question to which I already know the answer. “Do you want to see her?”
“I think I do. Is that okay with you?” Jason’s tender gaze to me issues no judgement, yet pleads for approval.
“Of course. I don’t want my feelings to affect what you need to do.” Admiration for Jason’s strength resounds, deepening my own revulsion. Why I am letting my own baby terrify me more than I have ever been?
Angela’s voice preludes her angelic face peering from behind the curtain,“Laura?” With her return, my fingers nervously pull the taut woven fabric around my thighs. “It was confirmed to be amniotic fluid. That means your labor will progress pretty rapidly from here. We are moving you back downstairs.”