There’s no dignity in childbirth.
The first two days are the worst. All that cushioning, nurturing blood your womb’s been holding is not expelled during childbirth. No, it waits until the baby is wiped and measured and wrapped, and you’re resting in bed and then have to get up to go to the bathroom, alone finally after having a gaggle of nurses and the doctor examine your messy, spread-wide vagina for thirteen hours.
My trip to the bathroom was a ginger, creaky shuffle. I made it halfway across the room before my uterus clenched and I felt a pop, and a hot torrent of blood gushed out of me, splatting on the floor like a wet mop. All I could do for a few moments was stare at it, Lamaze-ing.
He- he-, hooo. He- he-, hooooo.
I waddled to the bathroom to get towels, but when I turned around and saw my smeared bloody footprints, the huge pool of bright red blood, and felt gloppiness still oozing out of me despite my best Kegel exercises – I knew I’d make things worse with every helpful squat.
I leaned on the intercom and said, “I made a mess.”
I waited in the bathroom doorway, counting the times I heard the blood splink at my feet. I counted what was still white, what I’d missed: 17 floor squares on the left. The privacy curtains. Three walls. I’d gotten to 22 floor squares to my right when the nurse arrived. I apologized, eyes averted.
“Oh, honey,” she said, wiping my quivering legs with a scratchy white towel. “This is normal. Now you get in the shower and this’ll all be gone when you get out.”
In the shower, forehead resting on cold tile, I watched my blood curlicue in the water and knew that all that blood was coming from where my heart used to be.
I’d ripped it clean out of my chest and all I could do was bleed on everything.
Relinquish: to renounce, abdicate, surrender; to hand over. Relinquishment is in Roget’s under the heading Abandonment.
According to Mama, not only was I abandoning my child, I was giving away my best chance of love. “What about walking side-by-side down railroad tracks?” She wrote me when I first told her. “What about his first word, Mama?”
I folded her letter up tight and shoved it in my underwear drawer with the cocoa butter she’d sent for stretch marks.
I got out of the shower, clean, but feeling the glops gathering inside. Wishing for cocoa butter.
I wrapped a towel hard and snug around my head—the hospital gown was so loose—and scrunched another towel between my legs under my panties and maxi-pad. I creaked and Kegeled back to the bed before another vaginal explosion could mar the room and I eased under the covers. I was sucking in the smell of the bleached sunshine sheets when another nurse came in.
“Would you like your….” Her hand wavered in the air. “The baby?”
“Yes.” Like there was any question.
Hot-eyed, hollow, I bottle-fed my baby while my breasts burned with un-used milk. When the nurse came, careful, kind, with the relinquishment papers, I’d been cradling my son, rocking and whispering love into his tiny ears. Suddenly he was a load of bricks in my arms, his weight foreign. Not mine.
“You can change your mind,” she said. “You have a six month grace period.”
Hope clanged against my rib cage. But.
The baby’s father was a one-night stand who hadn’t even made me come. I had no job. My mother had told me I couldn’t live with her. Were I to keep him I’d either bring him home to a dorm room on a Conservative Baptist college campus, or I’d bring him home to my molesting father and to a savage stepmother who slapped and slugged my younger sisters for dumping shampoo on the floor and forgetting to do chores. Who asked me if I’d give her my baby.
He – he-, hooo. He- he- hoooooo.
I nestled my son on the covers between my knees and signed the papers over his head, then shoved them at the nurse and waved her off. I wanted to feel my baby’s weight one more time. So I could lock his square face, his blue eyes, his perfect knees, his pink tiny mouth, all of him into my memory. My flower.
My best friend, Jill, who’d given a baby girl up the year before, told me that my sacrifice could be someone else’s blessing.
I believe that.
But I haven’t breathed properly since.
© 2009 Stacy Furrer