(Part Seven) Push!
The pain was subtle at first. When it started I thought I had just eaten something that didn’t agree with me and I brushed off the small throbbing cramps along the underside of my monstrous belly as indigestion. In the last few months of my pregnancy I was experiencing heartburn on a daily basis. I woke up with it, showered with it, ate with it, and studied with it. It was constant and whenever I ate something it would just get worse. But I had to eat. The little one inside of me demanded it.
“Everything ok?” asks Claire.
“I’m not sure.” Another cramp seizes up. My book falls to the floor as my hands clutch my throbbing belly. This time the pain shoots down my left leg and seizes up my lower back. I feel something wet slide down my legs. “What the hell?!” I shout. “Claire something’s wrong.”
“I think you’re going labor.”
“No! It’s too early. I have another three weeks. I can’t be going into labor. No! Something’s definitely wrong.” Panic floods my voice. I’m not ready. This can’t be happening now. I have to finish my finals. Then the baby is supposed to come.
“Tammy.” Her voice is soft. Hands reach up and gently push at my shoulders. “We have to go to the hospital. The baby is coming.”
No this can’t be! Oh God! What am I going to do? I can’t be a mom. I’m not ready.
Grabbing my unused gym bag, Claire stuffs some clothes, my toothbrush, hair comb, and a few other miscellaneous things in it. She grabs my purse and unplugs my phone from the wall.
“It’s going to be ok. Just keep breathing. I’ll drive you.”
It’s mid-day. Thankfully, most of the students are out at classes or at part-time jobs. My shuffling feet echo across the empty hallways. We pass by dorm room doors covered in little notes – reminders about weekend parties, lunch dates, and midnight studying sessions. A few random pictures are posted up. Each one filled with smiling, half-drunk faces. My knees sag and I look away and down at my belly with Claire a constant by my side.
By the time we get to the hospital my contractions are minutes apart. Claire has to tug my arms to help me get out of the front seat. My legs are shaking and I collapse willingly into the wheelchair pushed in my direction. A friendly nurse asks me if I need any water. He is tall and lean from years of working on his feet. His dark hair falls forward, half hiding his grey eyes. I shun his help, avoiding his outstretched hand, and instead turn to Claire. I don’t want a stranger’s help. Particularly an attractive stranger.
When they wheel me towards a room I grab Claire’s hand and drag her with me. Her small legs trip to keep up but she doesn’t complain.
“Don’t leave me alone, k?” I ask her.
“I’m not going anywhere.” She helps lift my feet up onto the bed before sitting down in the chair next to me.
For the next hour I labor under the pain. It comes in waves and soon entire body is slick with sweat. The sheets under me grow damp and a strong musky smell starts to develop in the room. Claire opens the window a crack and a cool breeze is my only relief. The handsome nurse comes in to check on how far along I am. I blush as he probes under the hospital gown, measuring my cervix with his fingers. His touch is strange, almost violating, even though its impersonal. I realize this is the first time I’ve been touched by another man since Jacob.
“We’re almost there!” he beams.
“How much longer?”
“Another thirty minutes at most,” he says. “Do you want us to call….er anyone?”
I think of Jacob and the fact that he hasn’t returned any of my calls in the last five months. I think about what he will say or if he would even come. Would he laugh at my grotesque belly? Would he even want to be part of the delivery? Or would he sit in the waiting room hating his life and resenting me and the baby?
“No, no I don’t think I want to call anyone,” I reply.
“She’s good,” says Claire. “Can you go make sure the doctor knows she’s close?”
“Of course,” he says. The look of pity on his face is unmistakable as he leaves without saying another word.
As soon as he’s gone I start to cry. “I don’t think I can do this Claire.”
“Of course you can! It’s just another hour and then – “
“No I mean the mother thing! I can’t be a mother! Not right now. I’m not ready.”
“You’re going to have to be ready.”
“This isn’t something I want to do. I should never have kept it.”
“What are you saying Tammy?”
“It’s not just that I can’t be a mother. I don’t want to.”
“You’ve never said this before.”
“I know. It’s not something I’m proud of.”
We both go silent. I can Claire is debating what she should say. She probably thinks I’m just being hormonal; scared of what is about to happen and in denial. I can see her forming the words, telling me I’m just overreacting, that I am going to be a mother and a good one at that. But she shuts her mouth and starts to stare at the floor.
I want to tell her I’m sure. That I’ve been sure of this ever since I first found out I was pregnant, but I can’t. I’m supposed to want this baby, right? I mean doesn’t every pregnant mom want her baby? At least, that’s what I’ve been told most of my life. But the fact is I don’t. I don’t want this baby. I want to be a carefree college student. I want to stay out late partying. I want to meet boys and go on dates. Giggle at the movies and sleep in until eleven on weekends. I don’t want to deal with a screaming baby or worry about diapers and bottles and baby clothes.
“Claire,” I say, gripping the bed posts as another contraction starts to hit me. “Can you call my mom and dad?”
“Sure!” she perks up.
“Tell them to contact a lawyer too”
“I’m going to give up this baby. I don’t want it.”
She dials slowly, taking in the gravity of my statement. The sound of my baby’s heartbeat fills the room. It’s rhythm is recorded, unfolding onto spools of white paper collecting in a basket at the bottom of the machine. The wind has died down and I no longer feel a cool breeze across my face. I turn away from the window when the doctor and nurse come into the room. The doctor feels inside my gown, her fingers are cold through the gloves and I wince at their touch. She tells me I’m ready and the nurse drapes a sheet over my legs and he hikes my gown. It bunches underneath my swollen belly.
“Ok Tammy. Get ready to push,” says the doctor.
Claire stares at me, her phone to her ear, her hand cupped over the microphone.
As I bear down, screaming as the pain of my body rips apart finally hits me, I can hear her tell them “yes, a lawyer, she’s not going to keep the baby.”