Trapped with my own thoughts.
I’m lying on my side on the crisp, clean sheets of a hospital bed. It’s the only way I feel comfortable. I couldn’t stand, walk, or sit, as they encouraged at the antenatal classes.
I’ve been in labour for six hours. It feels longer. A lot longer.
The midwife I have with me is comforting, supportive, but she’s a stranger. Not my husband.
She’s talked to me, calmed me. Apparently, she’s been doing this for years and I have nothing to worry about.
“You’re doing fine, Emma,” she says, smiling. “Baby’s doing fine.”
She’s nice. Really nice. Yet, I still long for the one I love.
But he can’t be here and there’s nothing I can do about that. The pain I’m feeling now doesn’t compare to the heartache I still feel for him. This pain will go away, eventually. They can give me drugs to dull it.
There isn’t a cure for what I feel for Jamie.
I hate God. I’ve screamed at him for the past two months for taking Jamie away. We should be sharing this moment. He should be rubbing my back, my feet, brushing any loose hairs off my face. Telling me I’m doing fine, and how much he loves me. I should be holding his hand, digging in my fingernails as the pain flows over me again and the midwife reassures me in her soft, patient tone.
“That’s it, love. Breathe deeply.”
I wasn’t ready for this baby. I’m twenty-five. Not young, but not old either. We’d only been married a year, Jamie talked me into it. Being older, he was worried about being an old father if we left it too long. ‘What if it took years for me to fall pregnant?’ he’d argued. Well, it didn’t. Three months later, my breasts had swollen, and I was lucky if I kept my breakfast down.
“Ohhh ...” Another wave of pain. Another huge suck on the gas. In and out until the contraction passes.
“That’s it, concentrate on your breathing. It won’t be long now.”
This woman is so kind to me, and I feel so wretched.
I have no idea what the baby’s sex will be. We wanted a surprise. All that mattered was ‘bump’ would be healthy. Of course, we never considered it would be entering this world without its father.
I moan again as my stomach hardens and another contraction hits. A Tens machine is zapping electric pulses at the base of my spine. The midwife hits the boost button every time the contractions come. She’s in control of the machine now, because twenty minutes ago I’d dropped it reacting to a contraction. It’s another tool to make me forget the real pain I’m in. She knows to press it when I suck hard on the gas, that’s barely keeping me sane.
Apparently, I’ve always been strong and in control with these sorts of things. So my friends tell me. They thought I was strong dealing with Jamie’s death. However, when they left the house and I was alone in the silence... That’s when I’d breakdown. That’s when I would cry and shout. Scream at the heavens with tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt helpless, lost.
What if I don’t bond with this baby? They tell you it takes some mums a while, so not to be worried. I have so much hatred in me right now. I’m filled with grief. It feels impossible to love. Will I be one of those mothers?
I hate Jamie for leaving me like this, to bring up this child. I hate God, if He exists, for allowing it to happen, for allowing Jamie to die. I despise the man that crashed into my husband’s car, drunk and irresponsible.
He died too. I’m glad. Because the hatred I have for that man is so overwhelming it’s debilitating. Killing me. There’s nothing I can do or say. I can’t turn back time, make Jamie drive home earlier, or later, or not at all.
I can’t do it and I have so many what-if scenarios whizzing around my head.
But it’s too late!
I want my husband here, to see his child brought into this world.
“You’re doing great,” the midwife says.
She’s smiling, trying to reassure me. I wipe a tear I’ve failed to hold in. Am I really doing fine?
I involuntarily moan, and inhale the drug that fills my lungs and dizzies my head. The contraction passes and I gain control of my thoughts.
I don’t want this baby. I’m terrified. How can I cope? I’m not fit to be a mother. I can barely look after myself. I’m a mess. I have been for the last two months. I didn’t want to eat, but everyone said, ‘think of the baby,’ so I forced food down my throat but I never tasted it.
What if this baby looks like Jamie, and reminds me every day of him, of the police turning up on my door to share their grim news?
I want time to let my pain heal, as everyone says it will, not to have it with me every day, as I watch this child grow. His child, reminding me each day of him. The man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, snatched from me without warning.
Two months isn’t long enough to deal with my grief.
Another contraction comes fast. I’ve barely got over the last. It’s longer, harder, more painful. I seem to have the gas and air tube permanently in my mouth. Breathing. In and out. Pain but no pain. Like I’m looking down on my body, exhausted, hurting and aching.
The midwife reassures me again and again. She checks to see how far I’ve dilated.
“Not long now, love. For a first child, you’re doing great.”
I have no idea how much time has passed. Every couple of minutes or less - I don’t know, I’m not timing it - this immense ache rolls over me, hardening my stomach to a tension that feels like I will explode. Then it dies. Then it’s back.
I’m starting to not care. About anything. I just want it over. I want this baby born and I will work out the rest. How can I make decisions, how can I know how I will feel until it is born?
I’m too tired to hate. Too tired to care. Maybe I’ll die, too.
Without warning, the next contraction comes and the sensation to push panics me. I puff quickly, short breaths, thinking this will stop me. Something I’ve heard. Not sure if it was my mum, or at those stupid classes. Mum came with me. She made me go. I wouldn’t have gone alone. There I was, a single mother-to-be, but for all the wrong reasons. My husband lost to me only a couple of weeks before. I could see the pity on their faces.
“Emma, do you need to push?”
“Yes!” I moan again, with another urge to push. I start to puff.
“Then push, love. Don’t try to stop it.” The midwife smiles. “Let’s take another look.”
Gently, she helps me to lie on my back and in that moment, I can feel a prickling, hot pain between my legs. The head. It’s the head. I release another involuntary moan, another need to push.
“Yes, the baby’s crowning,” she says with encouragement.
I’m too wiped out to notice what’s really going on, what the midwife is now doing or saying. Everything becomes a blur with pain and pushing, and the eventual cry of a newborn baby.
I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready.
A few stitches later, I’m cradling my baby boy, and admiring his beautiful features. The midwife handed him to me as soon as he was weighed and checked. With nervous arms, I took hold of the miniature being, with his tiny fingernails and pouting ruby lips.
He reminds me of Jamie, with the same shaped nose and face, even though he’s battered from his journey of birth. And fine blond hair, not too much, but enough to make him cute.
I’ll be reminded of my husband every day, all the good things, never forgotten. There will be life after his death. Jamie will live on for years to come through his son. Our boy.
How I ever thought I couldn’t love this child I will never know. It was instant. I felt unconditional love for him the minute I held him in my arms. A natural protection burned within me. I can’t take my eyes off my bundle. So overpowered with joy, tears well in my eyes. I kiss him. He’s perfect. I will protect him and love him until the day I die. There is no doubt in my mind. My life has a new direction.
“You and I are going to get through this. It will be tough. I will be tired, but I love you ... baby James.”
I’m sure that’s what his father would have wanted.