This is Six: Bethany Meyer

This is Six: Bethany Meyer

Kris Woll interviews Bethany Meyer, a contributing writer in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood:

Bethany MeyerWhat was your inspiration for writing this piece? Have you written about this age/stage?

My third son was 6 when I participated in this series. The natural pace through which he navigates life is slower and more thoughtful than that of his brothers. Observing him at age 6 required that I slow my pace—so fast in comparison—to match his. Once I did that, I fell in love with him all over again.

I’ve written about this age before, but it’s most endearing to me after watching how it transformed my third son. Precious is the word that comes to mind to describe it best. Six is precious, and that was lost on me until the third time around.

What is it about age 6 you liked the most? The least?

A 6-year-old begins taking little risks, and he can do that because he feels loved and secure at home and at school. It’s a privilege to witness that shift occur in my kids.

That sense of independence is also a sobering reminder that childhood is finite and our kid’s time with us is short. Each step our child takes away from us also brings a brand new set of parenting worries. The worrying sometimes eclipses our ability to enjoy and celebrate our child’s breakthroughs.

What do you wish you knew before you had a 6-year-old, or what advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering at that particular stage?

When my oldest son was 6 years old, he had not one, not two, but three younger brothers! If I could go back, I’d tell myself to walk away from the dishes, skip the shower, lay the baby down, pull that 6-year-old boy onto my lap and envelope him in my arms. Six-years-old is a mix of big and little. But mostly it’s little.

What other age/stage in this collection (which explores 1-10) is one you would like to explore more—or do you often find yourself turning to—in your writing?  

Details are more accessible to me if I write a story almost immediately after it has happened. If I wait—a week, a month, a year—to write it down, it collides with the other thoughts in my head like “have I bought toothpaste yet?” and “where did I put the soccer cleats?” Knowing this, I find myself writing about whatever ages my kids happen to be at the time.

There are few things funnier than 4-year-old boys. They are an endless supply of material for a humor writer. I miss having one in the house, and I do love to read about that age.

How do writing and mothering fit together for you? How has that fit over time?

My life is so kid-centric right now that my children are typically my muses. It’s strange being the only female in a house with five males. I look for the funny in that because it helps me keep things that are beyond my control in perspective.

Writing about mothering has been a natural fit for me. Being a Mom is so integral to my story, but it doesn’t singularly define me. Raising children turned me into a Mother. Putting my stories about raising children down on paper has turned me into a writer. I wonder whether my subjects will be different a few decades from now?  I’ll just have to keep writing to find out.

What is your advice to other mother writers?

Write, write, write. Ours is a genre that seems saturated, but the voices are as unique as the experiences. Writing, for me, is therapeutic, and when another parent connects with something I’ve written, it validates both of us. Parenting is an enormous responsibility. So many of us are leading parallel lives, but if we don’t talk about what we’re experiencing, the weight of it can feel isolating. Yours could be just the anecdote that someone needs to read to get her through a particularly challenging time.

What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece? From this collection?

For readers whose children have passed these ages and stages, I hope they nod their heads and smile as they read along. Maybe reading an essay will unearth a tender memory nearly forgotten.

For readers who are just beginning their parenting journey, I hope this collection excites them about how robust the first decade of childhood will be!

Read Bethany’s “This is Six” essay in This is Childhood, a book about the first years of childhood and motherhood. 

It Could Be Worse

It Could Be Worse

By Heather Tharp

Tharp.1It could be worse.

It could be worse.

It could be worse.

I repeated those words in my own mind for months leading up to the heartbreaking news that I had just received.

My baby, my first born, my son was in desperate need of another open heart surgery.  Except this time, his fragile, tiny heart needed a titanium valve to save his life.

It could be worse.

As I watched him grow weak, sick and lethargic over the last few weeks, I knew something was wrong.  I knew in my heart, my gut; that something was wrong with him.

His increasing need to be by me, with me, on me all day long seemed different.  He cried for me; to be in my lap, to rock in the chair and to sleep in my arms.  I wearily complied through exhausted eyes and rocked, cuddled and cried wondering what was wrong with my baby. I craved for normalcy.  Why did my baby have to be sick?  Why couldn’t he be healthy and happy?

No, stop it.  It could be worse.

As we went to the doctor’s office, I hoped and prayed that they would have answers for me.  With a glimmer of hope, we stepped into the waiting room.  I held him in my lap for the fear that if I put him down he would begin to cry inconsolably again.  As I held him, I looked around the waiting area at the pictures hanging on the wall; gleaming smiles of other little children that this doctor had saved.  Some of them obviously had other health issues, not just heart problems.  I sighed.

It could be worse.

The friendly nurse called his name and we went into the examining room.  After hours of tests, multiple doctors, and nurses rushing hurriedly around me, they told me the news.  “He is experiencing Congestive Heart Failure.”

Failure.  Funny choice of words, because that was exactly what I was feeling at that moment.  My baby was suffering, hurting, dying and I was powerless to fix it.  I felt completely out of control and had no way to help the situation.  I fought back the tears as they admitted him immediately to the Children’s Hospital.

The next few days were a total surreal experience as they tested, poked, x-rayed, and prodded my eight-month-old baby.  I sat on the sidelines, nodding and smiling; trying to understand all the medical jargon that they were throwing at me.

“Uh-huh. Ok. Mmmhmmm.”  Whatever, doc.  Just fix my baby, ok?  Make him be normal.  Make him laugh again.  Let him grow up to be a happy, healthy boy that can live and love like he deserves.

“Luckily, he has a pretty good chance at living a full healthy life after all this.  It could really be worse,” they said.

It could be worse.

It could be worse?  What could be worse than this?  My infant is getting ready for a surgery in which you are about to open up his chest and reach in and replace a part of his heart with a piece of metal!  It could be worse?

Turns out they were right.  It could be worse.  And in the days following his surgery, I met worse.  While my baby came through surgery with flying colors, I saw many other children on the pediatric floor that didn’t.

While spending the next nine days in PICU, I met quite a few other parents that were equally as weary as me.  While our dreary eyes met across the hall, we gave a polite smile or sometimes a glazed stare.

We knew what the other was going through; thinking.

We knew the feeling.

We knew that dread that we faced every time we returned from the bathroom, the cafeteria, or the vending machine for lunch.  That dread that hits you in the gut when there are three doctors standing in the room.

What’s wrong?  Why are they all in there?  What happened in the five minutes I was gone?

Oh, nothing?  Just some residents doing their rounds?  Ok, good, let me just take a moment because I think I stopped breathing for a minute there.

While spending those days on the PICU, I couldn’t help but notice that it could be worse.  While my guy was getting better each day, breathing on his own, eating, sitting up, and playing with toys; others were not.

While they removed lines and tubes from my baby, others were being wheeled down the hallway for more tests.

While the medicine drips slowly disappeared in our room, they popped up in the neighbors’ rooms.

While I was finally able to hold my fragile baby again, other mothers’ arms were empty.

It could be worse.

As the days passed, I met a mom whose baby had been in PICU for months.  Her son was sedated and hooked up to so many machines, I lost count after about ten.  As we chatted here and there, we became friendly and I found out that her baby was born with gastroschisis, a congenital condition in which the baby is born with the intestines on the outside of the body.  Her little boy underwent several surgeries to repair it and they were still trying to fix him.

It could be worse.

As we exchanged glances through the window that separated our children’s PICU rooms, I felt for her.  I felt guilty and selfish because I was cursing nature and God for making my baby suffer.  Meanwhile, this mother was feeling the exhaustion and anguish of her own struggles.

One day, as we were chatting, she told me how her husband had to stay in their hometown, which was about 100 miles away, because they couldn’t afford for both of them to miss work.  He would visit on the weekends and she would stay in the hospital with the baby.

I felt lucky because we had the luxury of living within driving distance of the Children’s Hospital.  My husband and I were able to see our baby every day.  My heart sank for her, having to face all this hardship alone without her husband by her side.

It could be worse.

Although, as we talked more, I realized how upbeat she was considering her situation.  She seemed so positive and optimistic.

During the course of a conversation, she looked to me and then her eyes motioned to the room across the hall.  There was a flurry of activity going on in there, with doctors and nurses rushing in and out; family members crying and holding one another.

She said to me, “You know, this kind of stuff really gives you some life perspective.  You know, how you think you got it bad and then you see others like that.” She motioned again across the hall with a nod of her head.  “It could be worse.”

Heather Tharp is a writer and teacher living in in the Midwest with her husband and two children. She writes about life perspectives and motherhood at http://www.dalaimama-ecogirl.blogspot.com/.  You can also connect with her on Facebook www.facebook.com/dalaimamablog and Twitter twitter.com/dalaimamablog.

Subscribe to Brain, Child

 

Weaning Ella

Weaning Ella

By Jill Christman

spring2007_christmanMy daughter Ella was just over two on the morning of her last breastfeeding. She’d stumbled in from her own room around five a.m., as usual, scrambled up into our bed, and latched on. Humming and suckling, she slipped into sweet sleep. Most mornings, this was the method by which my husband and I got to be those rare parents who sleep until eight.

This morning was different because I needed to catch a flight, without Ella, to interview job candidates for three days at the Modern Languages Association Conference in Washington, D.C. I’d never been away from Ella for a night. Not ever. I lay awake and watched Ella nurse, feeling sick with love and the specter of our separation, touching the tiny droplets of sweat on her soft temple, watching her jaw pumping out the rhythm of our bodies together.

My husband Mark and I had decided that this forced separation would be the perfect weaning window, and I knew chances were good that this would be the last time she and I would lie together like this: cuddled, content, sleepy and sleeping. I must have drowsed off myself because the next thing I knew the morning news was mumbling in my ear and the clock glowed six thirty. In that alarm clock moment I did what I had always done when I needed to get up without Ella: I slipped my finger between her lips and my nipple to break the suction, held a gentle pressure under her chin until her sucking wound down and her mouth relaxed. And then I got out of the bed.

In the dark, on the way across the room to the shower, I realized what I had done. I had failed to mark the last time as the last time. Standing frozen in the warm stream of the shower, I felt as if that moment should have been something more. What should she and I have done? Lit a candle? Whispered a prayer? Shared a promise?

Think of all your last times in love. Did you know they were endings? The end? This time, so rare, I had known, and I had let it slip away.

*   *   *

On the plane to D.C., my heart was breaking and my seat belt was broken. The buckle clicked, but when I leaned forward, the whole mechanism slid easily along the nylon strap. No resistance. No help at all in a crash, but then again, who are we kidding? Nonetheless, I notified the flight attendant, who couldn’t get the darn thing to clamp either, and then there we were, a whole plane waiting on the tarmac because of my seat belt. I dismantled the thing and put it back together. It worked! The mechanics were cancelled, we took off on schedule, and the flight attendant offered me a free drink for my heroism.

I didn’t want to be on that plane. I wanted to see my baby. I ordered a Jack and Coke. Why the hell not? I wasn’t nursing, after all. I wanted this high-noon cocktail to feel liberating. Instead, I deplaned with a big, fat headache.

*   *   *

We met with the job candidates in my gloomy hotel room. By day, I dressed in a loose jacket to hide breasts that grew larger with every interview, and at night, when all of the candidates had gone, I peeled off my professor clothes and climbed naked, a mother again, into the shower. I needed to express milk—enough so I’d fit into my clothes, not enough to encourage production. She’s not here, I told my body. Give it up.

Ba ba is our family word for breastmilk. Months before I found myself in that dim hotel shower, wet and weeping, I read a sidebar in a parenting magazine that had made me smile. A recent study out of Australia reported that nursing toddlers say their mothers’ milk is “as good as chocolate” and “better than ice cream.” No wonder Ella was crazy for ba ba. Sweet goodness and a cuddle with mom. That’s some soda fountain.

Standing under the warm stream, I lifted my hands up under my breasts and they felt like full IV bags, liquid heft. What a waste to squeeze it all away, I thought, but I did. I did.

*   *   *

After three days in D.C., I was afraid to go home. What would we be now?

On the plane, I obsessed over our reunion, and all the possibilities scared me. Maybe she would run towards me, short arms flailing, demanding to be nursed. My husband and I had discussed this, of course, and he had been firm. He knows my weaknesses.

“You will say no,” he told me on the phone. “You weren’t here. It was hard. We’re not going to do this to her again.”

This made sense. But I wondered about the other end of the spectrum. What if she’s mad? What if she feels abandoned? What if she doesn’t want to see me?

When I pulled up in the car, Ella was waiting at the glass storm door, leaping intermittently. I watched her press her face and both palms against the glass and jump, a haze of breath and nose smear. From the driveway, I could see she didn’t plan to punish me for going away. Instead, she was all over me with hugs and stories. In those first happy hours, she said nothing of ba ba. I was enough.

But there was a bedtime ritual yet to be performed, and part of it was going to be missing.

After a bath with four rubber ducks, I dried her in the frog towel and got her into footie pajamas. My heart was in my throat. Ba ba time. “Hold me,” Ella said. “Mommy, hold me.”

“How about a book?” I said with forced cheer. “Do you want to read a book with Mommy on the couch? And then Daddy will read you some more books in the big girl bed?” I heard the false notes ringing from my lips, and I knew she could too. Ella’s two, but she’s no fool.

The book-reading on the couch went fine: My Opposites. Mis Op-puestos. “Ooh,” I said. “Look! The green snake is lo-o-ong. En español, largo. Can you say largo?” Her pronunciation was surprisingly good. I sounded like a parody of a bedtime parent. When the book was over, we headed back to the bedroom. I was as cheerful as Christmas morning, but Ella was onto me. She dug her heels into the area rug beneath the dining room table.

“I want some ba ba,” she said. Mark and I made eye contact. This is what we’d been waiting for. “I want some ba ba.”

I threw my head back and laughed (a friend of a friend had mentioned this technique and in this moment I had nothing better). “Oh no,” I said, still laughing, “You don’t want ba ba. You’re a big girl!”

Mark repeated my message, smiling at Ella, and then directed his expression to me and hissed, “Redirect! Redirect! Don’t come in the bedroom. You’d better just stay out.”

By now, Ella was on the floor, sobbing. “But I needba ba,” she countered. “But I needba ba.” At this point, nobody was saying anything just once.

I walked to a part of the house where I could not hear the screams. My breasts were aching. By the time I returned, maybe ten minutes later, the sounds were muffled. Reading sounds.

Mark appeared triumphant about an hour later, rubbing his eyes.

*   *   *

At seven the next morning, Ella scrambled up into our bed. She flopped on her belly and turned her face toward me, breathing softly. Her breath smelled like sweet corn. I fluffed a pillow to keep her head up with my head, not in the habitual place, breastside. I rubbed her back and hummed. This seemed to make her happy. But then she flopped around. “I need you to change my diaper,” she said. “And then it will be seeping time.”

I did. It was not sleeping time.

“I need Something,” she said, capitalizing the something A. A. Milne-style.

Mark watched us through a cracked eye and chose this moment to intervene. “Do you want some water? In your sippie cup? Are you thirsty? Here you go.” If he hadn’t been supervising, would I have folded? Would it have been our little secret? I still wonder who was weaning whom.

Ella slapped the cup away. “No. I need Something Else.” Amazing. She couldn’t seem to remember what she wanted. She couldn’t seem to remember what those dark, early morning moments had been for throughout the first two years of her life. But we could see her mind working. Redirect. Redirect.

“I need Something Else.”

Mark gave options. Juice, soy milk, Kix.

She rejected them all and turned to me, half-remembering. “Roll over,” she demanded. “Roll over.”

Since I was facing her, I started to roll away, obediently, a woman without a plan.

“Noooooooooooooooooooo! Roll over! You need to open up the ba bas.” She pulled on my heavy black shirt. “You need to open them up!”

*   *   *

And so it went—a cycle of remembering and forgetting until time did its work and made nursing a vestige of babyhood, an artifact, something that happened “last night”—Ella’s umbrella term for all things gone by.

Later on the first full day of my return, Ella had seemingly forgotten about nursing again, and we made oatmeal cookies. After the margarine and the sugars, I reached up to turn on the KitchenAid, and without being told, Ella put her hands flat on the countertop and said dutifully, “Only Mommy or Daddy can touch that machine.” I wondered: If she can forget breastfeeding, the nearest and dearest thing she has known, after only five days, how can she remember anything at all? How can she hang onto something I’ve told her maybe twice about a mixer, and not be cognizant of the soft keystone of her young life?

In the weeks after D.C., even though I could reach out and touch her whenever I wanted, I missed Ella. I missed my baby. The relationship changed—it had to—once the nursing was over. I cuddled her, and she let me, but it wasn’t the same. I had nothing to offer her that was mine and mine alone to give.

That can’t be true, can it? It felt true.

We held back from each other, doing a kind of dance to avoid physical closeness that might remind us of what we once shared. I keep trying to figure out what this feeling was like—this stage on the letting-go continuum between giving birth and dropping her off for her first day of school—but since Ella is my first child, I can only compare this shift in intimacy to the end of a romantic relationship. Not a messy, dirty breakup, but the kind born of time and change—the kind you both know has to come. Okay, so you talk and talk and talk. It’s over. This is it. This is the best thing for everyone. But his stuff is still in your apartment, the hide-a-bed couch is a back-breaker. This is a time of transition. You agree he can stay for three more weeks until the lease starts on his new place. He can even sleep on his side of the bed, but he can’t roll over onto your side.

But you know how many moles he has on his back. You know how he likes a swirl of honey in his coffee, but not the whole spoonful. You know he’ll never replace the cap on the toothpaste, even if it’s a flip top designed for recalcitrants like him. You know everything. But you can’t touch him when he’s feeling sad about leaving. You can’t, because if you do, well, there you go, you’re back in it, and you’ll both have to begin the separation all over again.

This is how Ella and I felt, and I know her well enough that I can speak for her, too. Here’s the difference: She wasn’t leaving. Not yet. For now, she’s not going anywhere, and we need to figure out what our new intimacy is going to look like. We need to figure out what replaces what we’ve lost, what we’ve grown beyond. This can be exhausting.

A week after my return, this involved a turkey and hummus sandwich with the crusts cut off at 3:30 a.m. A picnic. The next day, I sighed and said to Ella’s babysitter, “I don’t want her to think that this is what we do—we wake up in the middle of the night and have picnics! But she was hungry. She ate the whole sandwich. I can’t just let her be hungry.”

The babysitter laughed. “Well, she was having midnight picnics before, wasn’t she? It was just a different caterer.”

In nursing, Ella and I had located each other. Seconds after the doctor tossed her onto my belly, she rooted around and found what she needed. Knowing nothing but what I’d read in books, I followed her lead. Here you go, Baby. Here you go. Shhhh. Since then, we had known no other way of being.

But motherhood is about letting go—first from our bodies, then our arms, then our sight, then our homes—and then? Weaning falls hard on this spectrum, forcing me to see the life Ella will live far beyond me, where she will learn to find her own sustenance, her own comfort.

I have never seen a child of mine grow up. I am starting to see what it looks like.

Jill Christman’s memoir, Darkroom: A Family Exposure, won the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction and in 2011 was reissued in paperback by the University of Georgia Press. Recent essays have appeared in Barrelhouse, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Iron Horse Literary Review, River Teeth, and many other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She teaches creative nonfiction writing in Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program and at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she lives with her husband, writer Mark Neely, and their two children. Visit her at www.jillchristman.com.

Brain, Child (Spring 2007)

Subscribe to Brain, Child

Ann Hood: Exclusive Essay

Ann Hood: Exclusive Essay

How to Smoke Salmon

BC_FA2013_Final_layoutMy son Sam and I stand side by side in our tiny backyard in Providence, shivering. It’s late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, the sky a battleship gray and snowflakes falling furiously around us. I have to squint up all six feet five inches of Sam when I talk to him. At seventeen, although he is man-sized, he still has a round baby face and the final hurrah of blond in his darkening hair.

“Do we just stand here?” I ask Sam.

“We have to tend it,” he says.

It is the smoker I got for Christmas, and Sam and I are smoking all kinds of pork—loin, ribs, chops—for a New Year’s Eve supper. When I watched him start to put the smoker together, the instructions still in the box, I couldn’t help but remember all the Transformers and Leggos he used to construct without ever referring to the directions. Some things never change, I think as he adjusts air vents and reads the temperature dials. And other things, I think with a pang in my heart, change a lot. Like: the piles of college applications on the desk upstairs, the SAT study guide beside Sam’s bed, the schedule of auditions hanging on the kitchen bulletin board.

Soon, theater programs around the country will be sending Sam their decisions. Which means in the not so distant future, Sam will go away to college in Pittsburgh or Chicago or Ithaca. I swear, yesterday he had to stand on a stool to layer the sliced apples in the pan for apple crisp. I used to lift him into the grocery cart with one swoop, and teach him how to choose a ripe avocado.

Now he regularly makes polenta for dinner, bakes bouche de noels, feeds my husband and me almost daily.

“Needs more water,” Sam announces. He is blurry in the snow, moving back inside to refill the jug.

Eleven hours. That’s how long it took for that meat to smoke perfectly. At a certain point, I went back into the house, to the warmth of the fire in the kitchen fireplace. But Sam stayed out there, the snow becoming an official blizzard, the wind increasing. He learned how to use that smoker that night, and for months afterward he smoked clams and oysters, tomatoes and garlic for salsa, briskets and more ribs.

Spring came, and with it those college acceptances. I watched Sam’s face light up whenever an email dropped in his box with good news. He had wanted to be an actor since he was eight, and now he was on his way to a BFA program six hours from our home in Providence. For his own going away party, Sam smoked pork tenderloins. I looked out the kitchen window at him tending that thing. It was a mystery to me how it worked; I just let Sam be the smoke master. Around me, his half packed duffel bags lay on the floor. A box of books. Linens for his dorm room bed. The next day, our bellies full, we drove him to college.

The sadness that comes from your first child leaving home is, of course, not the saddest thing of all. But the ache, the sense that something is missing, the way you keep looking up, expecting him to burst through the door in his size 13 shoes, it is real. In an instant, family dinner changes, shrinks, quiets considerably. The smoker sits, alone and untended, amid the falling leaves. Then another winter, another snowstorm. But this time the smoker remains unused, half-hidden in snow.

To read more order Brain, Child’s Special Issue for Parents of Teens.

Labor of Love

Labor of Love

By Crystal Stranger

BIrthI don’t want a Cesarean. The young surgeon tells me from behind his cold blue eyes that my body just isn’t going to fully dilate on it’s own. It’s for the baby’s health and I have no other choices remaining.

After an effortless pregnancy, this extended birthing struggle has taken me thoroughly by surprise. I never had a day of morning sickness, and barely looked pregnant until the two weeks before labor started. Contrast that with eleven days of continuous labor, four times being admitted to the hospital, then a full day and night of trying to induce stronger labor with medications. Yes, it is time for this baby to come out. A wave of pain washes over me, and the room turns black.

I scream out for the midwife to take the catheter out, it hurts too much. “The catheter could not cause such pain,” she says, and checks my dilation. Her probing fingers still inside me, she looks up with a shocked expression. After being barely five centimeters dilated for the longest night imaginable, the baby’s head is now crowning, although there is still a lip. She runs across the room to grab the surgeon, who coincidentally had just come in to check on surgical preparations. By the time he walks across the room and checks me I am fully dilated. My little angel is pushing her way out.

A loud beep comes from the monitor next to me. Everyone in the room freezes for a moment and stares at the computer screen. Panic sets in. The surgeon starts yelling at all the nurses in the room. He is a surgeon, not a delivery room doctor, but he takes charge as if he has carried out hundreds of deliveries.

An oxygen mask is pressed forcibly over my face, ostensibly to quell my screaming. The midwife tells me the baby’s heart rate has dropped to nothing and they have to do an emergency delivery. They hastily convert the hospital bed to a delivery apparatus. Poorly so. One leg’s stirrup is loose and my foot is flailing around threatening to hit the nurses running hither and thither.

The surgeon coaches me to push. My mom starts singing spiritual songs in her off-tune way and tells me to be calm. Wrong thing to say. How am I supposed to be calm right now? Seems condescending to me somehow. I know I’m probably being utterly irrational but I detest her more than anything in the world at this moment. She is my mother, I feel really awful to hate her. But still I tell her to shut up and just let me do this.

The first push does nothing. The second push and the baby’s head comes halfway through. It is stuck in the birth canal. I’m stretched so far open and everything seems so still. Someone pressed the pause button and all the crazy motion in the birthing room is frozen while waiting an eternity for the next contraction. The third push and her head comes out entirely, all the pain is gone. What a relief! The fourth push combined with a gentle pull by the doctor, and her body is fully out.

What is that purplish thing with dark curly hair? I guess that is my daughter. It’s not reasonable to think I’ve given birth to a giant raisin. The umbilical cord is draped around her neck and her little hand is gripping it, pulling it away from her throat. Was it choking her? She is gasping for air. She hasn’t cried. Is she ok?

They whisk her away and I continue to worry about her as the midwife sews me up. Seven stitches are all it takes to repair being ripped open like a seam of a too-tight evening dress. My best friend shows me the bruises from where I was squeezing her hand mercilessly. I hear an iPhone making noise from somewhere, buried in the disaster zone of a bed. My boyfriend, an officer on a ship in the North Sea, has been talking with me the whole day and night. He has been just as supportive during the pregnancy as if the baby is his.

I wish there was some way I could believe he was the father. But he isn’t. The father wanted nothing to do with me or the child once he found out I was pregnant. He’s a surgeon. Leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth about doctors. Ironic now that our baby was delivered by a surgeon. I’m so grateful I didn’t have the C-section surgery. The phone keeps making noise. I want to talk to him, but I can’t handle talking to him right now.

They bring my baby back in the room. Synne I will name her. It means ‘gift of the sun’ in Norwegian. The nurse pushes her up to my breast to drink. She looks up at me with her big blue eyes as she eagerly takes the nipple and pulls on my breast with her little hands.

Crystal Stranger is a freelance writer and tax specialist who lives in Hawaii when not travelling the world with her infant daughter. 

Subscribe to Brain, Child