Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
I went into labor with my second baby at 5:30 in the morning, the same time I woke up in early labor with Scott. I sat on the commode, my water slowly leaking, trying to work out a game plan for the rest of the day.
I breathed in and out, working through each contraction, not too concerned with timing them since my water was obviously broken. Across the hall, nestled inside the bookshelf, a huge spider clung to the wall, and as much as I despised it, it became my focal point. I’d have to walk past that spider. Damn Nate for not being here to kill it.
“No, damn him for not being here for this baby,” I said. I didn’t want to cry right now. I just wanted to stay focused, get out of the bathroom, past the spider, wake Scott, will my way past the spider again, and get out of here.
Within fifteen minutes, we were in the car and on the way to Mom’s house. The sun was barely rising into our part of the world when I banged on her door and told her it was time to go. I waited in the car for her, breathing through a few more contractions, and then we were on our way. Because I didn’t trust Scott to be inside Mom’s messy house, my brother came with us to watch Scott at the hospital. I couldn’t chance it that social services would come take my first child while I was delivering my second.
The first hour or so of being at the hospital was a blur, a flurry of activity and nurses and student doctors. This was a teaching hospital, a much different experience that my first time around. The pain was increasing by the minute, and it was so much more excruciating than it was with Scott.
“I want to do this natural again,” I cried, squeezing Mom’s hand, tears streaming down my face. “It hurts so bad!”
“I know, I know,” she said.
“Where’s the father?” one of the nurses asked while checking my IV.
“He…works out of town,” I said.
“He’s in prison,” Mom leaned in and whispered, as if I didn’t really know where my husband was.
I gritted my teeth against both my anger and the next contraction, and as the worst one yet rocked through my body, a doctor poked his head into my room and offered me an epidural.
“YES!” I cried before I could change my mind. I needed some relief from the fire burning inside my belly. A part of me wanted more than that, some relief from the fire burning inside my heart. I shouldn’t be here with Mom. I should be here with Nate.
Time passed at a snail’s pace but blessedly less painfully. Students filed in and out while nurses and doctors pointed to my most intimate parts. It felt like I was on display at the circus.
“We have a single mother in labor, quite young, and she’s been given an epidural. This is her second baby.”
I looked maybe 12 years old right then, though I was 19, and the judgment on their faces burned through me. Yes, I was young, and yes this was my second child and I was pretty much single. “Get over it,” I wanted to shout. They clearly all had their lives together, and it felt like I never would.
My mom and the only friend I had each stood by my side when it was time to push. The epidural did its job a little too well and they had to tell me when each contraction hit. It was harder this time, telling my body to push but not being able to feel if it was actually cooperating.
I remembered then that I had my newspaper tape recorder with me to record our baby’s first cry for Nate. I wanted him to have that much, if nothing else.
“What’s that for?” one of the doctors asked, freezing and raising his eyebrows.
“It’s just for my husband,” I said, “Since he can’t be here.”
“He’s in prison,” Mom whispered again. It seemed important to her that they know where he was and that she was here filling in.
“Well, ok, you can have it on, but if something happens, we need you to turn it off.”
So I don’t have proof to sue you if something goes wrong, I thought.
I pushed for an eternity, not feeling the pain but certainly feeling the exhaustion. In between contractions, I rested, but at one point, the racing heartbeat of my baby ceased to sound, and the room grew eerily quiet. Everyone stared at the monitor, all holding our breath, waiting.
“OK, Angie,” one of the doctors said with as much fake enthusiasm as she could muster. It was obvious she was concerned now. “We need to get this baby out of you. You’re going to make that happen right now, on the next contraction. Let’s do it!”
She sounded like she was coaching the next play in a football game or something, but I knew she was worried. The baby’s heartbeat was gone, and whether that meant it had stopped or not, we wouldn’t know until the baby was out.
I pushed with all my heart and soul. If my baby needed out right now to live, by God, I was getting him or her out.
I felt the little life pass from my body into this world, just that slight bit of feeling shuddering through my body. Whether I physically felt it or just knew it, I don’t know, but the baby screamed so loud, there was no doubt that little heart was beating now.
A boy! Another beautiful boy! I suspected he would be a boy, and here he was, screaming, one fat pouty lip quivering, so unhappy to be naked and cold.
Taking him into my arms, I covered him in kisses and marveled over his beauty. Such a long and difficult pregnancy, so much pain during and still, but all so very much worth it.
“Could you turn that off now?” one of the doctors asked, pointing to the tape recorder. A group of them stood over me, and I caught snippets of comments about how bad the labor damaged me. I was worried, but the little man in my arms kept me distracted.
As the doctors worked on sewing me up (terrible, unusual tears, they said), the nurses cleaned up and weighed my new baby boy.
“What’s his name?” asked Stacy, a student nurse who had earlier told me this was her first labor and delivery.
“Brian,” I said. I smiled, a little inside joke with myself. I named him after a time of innocence, a happy time in my life. Brian of the third grade, my boyfriend for the whole year. We used to spend as much time on the phone as we could. For Christmas, I bought him a Rubik’s Cube, and he bought me a blue wallet with a rainbow on it. It was one of the happiest times of my life, even in the middle of one of the hardest times of my life — the year I was attacked by a dog, the year I thought Mom left my abusive stepdad for good, the year she went back to him, and the year our house burned down. Brian was joy in the middle of all of that, and now I had a Brian again, a joy in the middle of so many bad things. I could never tell his dad.
“Well, Brian looks great! He’s beautiful and he weighs 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Nice work!”
“That’s my girl,” Mom said, pushing my hair off my forehead.
Another healthy baby. What more could I ask for? Well, a husband who was there, for one, but I wasn’t willing to let him spoil this moment.
Later, in the recovery room, I was surrounded by the little men in my life. Scott cuddled on one side of me, while Brian was tucked in and fed on the other side. The phone beside my bed rang and Mom answered it and handed it to me.
“Looks like they got my message,” she said.
“Hey baby.” I was surprised to hear Nate’s voice. Mom had called to let the prison know I had our baby and they allowed him a free phone call. I smiled at Mom and thanked her. I know she didn’t want to involve him, but she made the call for me, and I was grateful.
“I miss you,” I said, suddenly feeling so alone with so much responsibility.
“I know, I know. I wish I could have been there.”
“You could have.” Silence.
“Please don’t start. I’ll get out of here soon and I’ll make it up to you. To all three of you. I promise, things will be different. Now tell me about my new little man!”
I recounted the whole day for him, but I thought there was no way he could ever make up for missing Brian’s birth. You just can’t get that back and celebrate it later. It would never be the same.
“I have to go,” he said after a while. “They said my time is up. But…I promise you, baby, I promise. I will never screw up again. I’ve been so stupid. I can’t believe I missed this.”
I could hear the tears in his voice. Maybe he meant it. Maybe he would really try to do better. Maybe he really learned this time, and maybe his promises were true. But I wasn’t sure I believed anything he said anymore.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!