The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
By Mary Clements Fisher
Baby on her aching back, another on her hip akimbo, baby in her bulging belly, this young woman so much like Jesse rushes to the bus stop with hair flying, lips tight, and, oh no... .a shoe untied—she stumbles on the pavement. Don’t fall. Please don’t fall. My wish granted I step off the bus and up to the curb as she steps down. The doors swing shut. I turn around. She hits the door with fire and fuck-it fury. A resounding crash and clatter. The driver glances at me in the side mirror, wondering if I’d fallen back against the door and cursed. I wince and wave to open up. He sees ‘this Jesse’. Doors open. She heaves herself and two and a half more up the steps to sit down in the handicap seat, a moment of rest on the Number 3 bus before drop off, or maybe a transfer to the 22 if she works downtown. As the bus turns the corner, I walk slowly, head up for the moment. Maybe I’d saved her a tiresome wait. Maybe some trouble if she’d been late for daycare or work. I’d helped her. A little. Maybe.
As I walk down the block, I bend my head against the wind; my tears well up and drip warm, tiny drop after tiny drop against cold cheeks until I taste the salt and lick it off my lips. Pregnant women used to make me smile every time. Not today. Not anymore. Fear still trumps joy two years later. Two years ago, I quit wearing mascara; otherwise, raccoon eyes would top my weary, wrinkled, white-gray face—every day. I haven’t slept through the night these past two years. Just one nightmare replays in a continuous loop, and guilt glitters in the street lights as they cast shadowed bars on the wall.
In three more blocks, heading downhill, thank God, I round the corner and step inside a coffee shop. My favorite barista starts my latte, nonfat, decaf, with a heart. It’s just a few blocks from the hospital where it happened. I collapse in a chair and put my head down on the table. The staff knows to let me be. Fear of what this is doing to her and to me, our marriages, grips my stomach. Shame and regret choke me, eventually settling below my breastbone like a cancer. All I had to do was open the door. Find out what was going on behind it. That door didn’t muffle the cries of anguish and pain. I could hear it. Something was wrong in the pitch of the nurse’s voice. Suddenly, a man hovers nearby—I smell damp wool, see his hand hanging at his side. I must pull myself together, pull myself back out of this sucking, crushing quicksand of thoughts.
I raise my head to refocus, staring at the purple house across the way. It’s the color of a deep bruise, almost black on the shady side. My eye catches another mother pushing her newborn right past the window and in through the coffee shop door. She’s bending over, tucking the fluffy blanket closer around her baby’s chin, and pulling her petal-pink cap down. Dozens of new mothers and mothers-to-be stroll by coming or going to the hospital clinic for a checkup. All smiles, bursting with expectations, full of good news. I smile in spite of myself. My Jesse smiled for nine months before 2:22 a.m. on July 3rd.
Now January, the skies are overcast, and like my mind, streets disappear behind fog; yet, I feel hot, breathless. I pull off my scarf wrapped tightly around my neck and shrug my coat off. Am I still crying? Stop it. What if someone asks if I’m alright? It’s not polite to say, “No. No. I’m definitely not.” She would regret asking this crazy woman if I started on why I cry. So I say, “I’m fine. It’s fine. It’ll be okay.” That’s what I did before—as I leaned on the door of room number 5.
The hall outside her room was cold, filled with a white, glaring silence, menacingly quiet before it happened. Heavy breathing, a shout to push, a deep groan, and then a deafening grunt, then a scream of pain. It’s been four hours since someone said it’s time to push. How much longer before I break down the door? I rush this time to the nursing station. No one looks up. I tap a bell on the desk and ask where the doctor is. “She’s with another woman and will be done soon.”
“Not soon enough for room number 5,” I whisper and turn away. I go back to the door and press my head against it to wait and listen. Another shout, “Push harder, harder!” An explosion of sound, part straining, splitting muscles, part animal cry, part terrified child, my child, as another child tries to push its way into the world. The sobbing starts—is that my daughter or me? Did I hear a baby cry? I did. I did hear a baby cry. I fall backwards when Jesse’s nurse pushes back the door and rushes out. Panic fills her face, not joy or pride of a job well done. I almost trip her before she slams the door again and starts running down the hall. I don’t run after her. I don’t call out for help. I don’t immediately burst through the once-again closed door. Erik, Jesse, and new Bennett are behind the door. The air goes heavy with a sickening frozen silence. Then I hear a man’s wailing, “Nooooooooo!” and dreaded silence once again.
As Eir, goddess of medicine and mercy, undaunted and unstoppable. I’d break through this door, break through the silence and the pain, scream my eagle-like battle cry, scoop up my bleeding, broken daughter and her beautiful baby in my arms, and soar on phoenix wings out through the window and toward the warmth of a rising sun, on soft breezes sailing over the cityscape, to a safe, warm nest of my making, tending to Jesse as I do now but with methods and medicines beyond the scope of mere mortals to heal her torn muscles, repair the destroyed walls between here and there, and restore her bruised happiness and betrayed trust. Not months and a year, but hours or a day pass before we glide back whole and well to earth and home. Sweet baby B would snuggle in her mother’s arms, not mine, at night and early morning when she cries for mama’s milk, for mama’s touch. Jesse would welcome friends to see her miracle, her marvelous Bennett, not hide in the dark, ashen-faced afraid of her uncertain future, without the strength to raise her head. Cheeks on mother, like child, would bloom with rosy softness, not pale at every piercing memory and pain. Jesse would stroll to this very coffee shop proud and pleased, meet me with her pink bundled Bennett, and greet me with her ringing laughter and a kiss, not cringe and worry that she’d never walk out into the light as a whole person ever again. She’d walk through this door full of life and hope. We’d talk about that wondrous night when things went wrong but were put right because I was brave and strong.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.