Anticipation… By: Eliza Player
By: Eliza Player
The sun was shining bright that morning, when I called the hospital once more to see if I would be induced that day. The crisp, early spring morning air tickled my nose, and my heart beat timidly, with both fear and anticipation. That little voice spoke in the back of my head, reminding me how foreign this really is.
Seems like just a year ago that I was still caught up in that cycle of addiction and my ultimate demise, but in reality it has been well over three years. As my fear crept up inside of me, all the questions of insecurity that plagued me for years rushed through my mind, marching to that same old broken drum in my head. All the ghosts of insecurity and fear descended upon me once more in that early morning light.
I called the hospital once more, and they said it was time. My heart raced, my mind raced, and all the fear tumbled down on me. I called my mother to take me to the hospital, and once again I was reminded how alone I was in this new venture of motherhood. Sure, I had my parents, but starting off as a single mother can such be an overwhelming feeling.
For months and months I had asked myself why I chose to do this. “Why now?” I wondered. Most of my life I had decided I never wanted children, while I rode through the storms of addiction, jail, divorce, and then my subsequent recovery. So, when I did not get my period nine months earlier, why was there no question in my mind that I wanted this baby? Still seems really foreign to me, at times. I had barely learned to be responsible for myself, and my mind reeled with the fear of being responsible for something so important, another life, a life so precarious, at least in the beginning.
I remember looking around my little one room apartment while I waited for my mother to come get me. I looked at the crib, the stroller, the baby blankets, and the piles and piles of very tiny clothes. My heart jumped into my throat, and the fear began to set in once more. This was not my apartment, but the apartment of some expectant mother that I hardly understood, it seemed. Overwhelmed, I began to doubt myself once more.
Would I be able to do this? I do not even know how to hold a baby, and I have hardly even been around one! Still, I noticed my swollen breasts, thinking about how these things that men once stared at in the strip club, would serve an entirely different role now. Was I crazy? To think I could breastfeed a child, thinking that I could do this all alone, thinking that I could actually be a good mother. The fear rose with all the doubt, as I sat and just waited for my mother to arrive…to take me to give birth to this life growing inside me.
Mom talked in that high-pitched voice of excitement the whole way to the hospital. This was her first grandchild, and my mother had wanted grandchildren for a number of years now. I think that she was just more overjoyed that I was no longer strung out, and in the years I had been clean, I had begun to get a solid grip on my new life.
I wondered, “Did she not fear that I would fuck this one up, too? There was a time I had not so much as been allowed to even carry the Thanksgiving turkey to the table for fear that I would just drop it, with my shaky and insecure hands.
But, somehow…this little tiny life would soon be placed in my hands. “What I am doing?” I thought again. I thought of all the things that could go wrong. What if I relapsed? What if I did not love this child, or what if it was just way too much for me to handle? What if this child’s father found out about this baby and came to beat me up once more? These haunting thoughts raced through my head the whole ride to the hospital, my heart pounding in my throat, reminding me for a panic attack.
Walking into the hospital, with my mother beside me, I felt such mixed emotions. Pride…excitement. But that was also tempered by fear, and a little bit of humiliation. I wondered how many other women walked in here without the child’s father in the picture, and without the desire to have him anywhere nearby. I wondered again and again if I would be able to do this.
Insecurities plagued my mind on and off for the next two days. Apparently, my son was not ready to come out, and he wanted to stay warm and safe in my protected womb. I must admit I have felt like that before, too. But, I thought back to all I had learned in the past few years, and from the pit of my stomach, I knew that sometimes we have to take a leap of faith.
The epidural kept me numb during the two days of constant contractions and slow labor, and for that I am quite thankful. But the excitement in the air and the release of the medication still did not totally erase the self-doubt from my mind.
How do you change a diaper, anyway? When do you feed a baby? How do you know what they need? Will I even recognize the cry of my own child, and what if I cannot do this? My mind spun with all the insecurity in my world, as my mother held my hand and I continued along this path to a life-changing event.
Some innate reason, something inside of me, reminding me that I would be just fine, and I would rise to the occasion of motherhood. I cannot even explain why I chose to go through with something I thought I never wanted, except that something inside of me assured me that this was the right choice. When I first found out about the baby, there was never any doubt that I would have this child, and become a mother. Despite the overwhelming fear, I knew it would all be okay.
After two days, at nearly midnight on March 31, I finally began pushing. For the next forty-five minutes, I pushed with all my might, and my mind seemed to clear, in light of this new mission at hand. “Just push, and push and finish what you have started,” I told myself.
Before I knew it, my head fell back and I heard the infant’s cry. Somehow, I immediately recognized the little sound to be a part of me, and now a new part of this world, of my world. My head fell back, as I lost a lot of blood. I had a hard time keeping my head up, and my blood pressure dropped dangerously as the light behind my eyes seemed to get dim.
From inside the darkness, I heard that recognizable cry, and I knew that my baby needed me. I lifted my head up, and the nurses helped to hold my lolling noggin up. As they brought him over to me, I could barely even reach out, I was so weak.
My mother stood beside me, helping to hold this tiny little thing in my arms, which felt like spaghetti from their weakness. We held this baby boy in the crook of my arm, as he nestled closely, trying to get my milk. So natural that I realized that somehow, I knew exactly what to do. He looked up at me, and I saw a little red face that seemed to resemble my own baby picture, and my heart quickened its pace.
Not from fear, or doubt, or even panic this time, but from the sheer elation of looking into my son’s eyes. I wave of relief spread over me, as this amazing sense of love took over where all the fear had been dwelling. My entire body relaxed with such relief. I realized that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. I realized that this moment would change the rest of my life, unlike any other moment I had experienced before. Then, I knew I could do this, and I sensed that motherhood was a perfect fit for me.
Nearly four years later, the doubts and insecurities have long since passed. My son is the sunshine on a cloudy day, and he has certainly changed my life forever. Being a good mother came naturally to me, much to my surprise at times. And now, the risk of relapse is much farther away than I ever imagined. Now, I know that this little boy has protected my life, just as much as I protect his. We are just two peas in a pod. And I am so blessed.
See the rest of the Pregnancy and Children Short Stories