Pain washed over me and I tumbled through the crashing heaviness as though it were waves pulling me under. It seared hot through my body, the back of my eyelids blazing red as though I were blocking out the sun. Travis squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead but I pushed him away. I’ve always been like that. My own mother could never calm me with a tender pat on the back even as a child. When I am fighting with the pain I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want a cold cloth. I don’t want a drink of water. I don’t want to stand up or walk or sit down. I don’t want anything. I just want quiet.
This is different, though. I have to keep reminding myself of that. This pain is very different. This was not pain I was fighting. This pain had a reward.
Last June I had been wrapping up a public relations internship at the local children’s hospital. After the week long turmoil leading up to the annual televised fundraiser, by the time that last tote board tallied up our record-breaking amount, I was a wreck. This had been the busiest week of my life. I worked hectic 14 hour days putting together media kits, scripting interviews, and making sure there was an on-air schedule to fit in every grade school class in five counties.
I ducked down a dark hallway and into an empty bathroom. I ran cold water and splashed my face. Why was I so dizzy? I ate today didn’t I? Wasn’t there a sandwich tray in the boardroom at lunch? It seems like forever ago. I’ve been awake for days. It was a tuna sandwich, I think. Tuna with pickles, like my Papa used to make. Orange Tang to drink. My belly heaved and I lunged forward, barely making it to the stall as the remnants of my lunch came up. After sitting for a few minutes with wet cold paper towel on my forehead I chalked it up to stress and decided to skip the celebratory wrap party with all my co-workers and head home.
“I bet you’re pregnant.” Nicki said, as we were getting ready to go out dancing the next weekend. I threw a magazine at her and pulled my dress down over my head.
“You’re nuts. I can’t get pregnant remember!? Besides we were both careful. The odds are in my favor!”
“Well…I didn’t want to go out dancing and maybe have a drink and have to worry…So I bought you a pregnancy test on my way here.” She tossed the box at me. “If it’s negative we go have a drink, go dancing and forget about it! I just have a hunch.”
Laughing, I grabbed the box from her, rolled my eyes and told her she was crazy. I took the box with me to the bathroom. I read the instructions. Pee on stick. Wait 3 minutes. Pink = Yes. Blue = No. Easy enough.
Within thirty seconds a bright pink plus sign stared me in the face. I blinked, shook the stick, read the directions again, put it down, timed exactly three minutes, and looked again. Shit.Over the next twenty-seven weeks spent I in the maternity ward of the same hospital that had taken care of me as a child, my adult body was pushed beyond it's limits by the little man inside me. I wasn’t strong enough to take care of both of us. They hooked me up to machines that would administer all the fluids, medication, lipids, vitamins and minerals we would need.
They told me it was not smart to have the baby. They told me the risks. They told me my options. They told me my actions would be "justified". They told Travis to consider the fact he may only be bringing one, or possibly neither of us, home from the hospital. Poor Travis. We’d only been together less than six months. I could tell he was a good, kind person. I knew how lucky I was to have him support me through this. I may not have known him long, but already I could see him being a good father. He stayed by my side when most other guys would have gone running.
Everyone who loves me was really worried. In particular, my father. He could barely hide his anger towards my decision to take this chance. I tried explaining to my mother.
“It just feels right to me. I can’t explain it. Everything happens for a reason! I never in a million years thought this could happen! If something so terrible is supposed... I feel as though there would be something in my gut telling me it’s wrong. What if it’s my only chance!? If I never get pregnant again I wouldn't be able to forgive myself. I need to try. I have to try. I'm not scared.”
Another wave of pain writhed through me. I clenched Travis’ hand. The pain faded off but I knew it would be mere moments until it was back. I looked around the Labor and Delivery room. There was an incubator standing by. Surgeons on call with an operating room prepped. So many precautions being made, fearing the worst. But I had meant what I said. I’m not scared. I’m ready for this. I felt another contraction coming on and began to push.
They didn’t know what I knew. Having this baby wasn’t going to kill me. Having this baby was going to save my life.