Did you bond with your baby the minute you held him or her? Most moms do. But sometimes, it doesn't happen that way. Today, I'm sharing a short story written by one of my writing friends, who, by the way, had not yet had any children. This story was written for an assignment I gave to my writing group and I thought it might speak to some of you.
|Photo by George Hodan|
by Megan McLachlan
Marina sat in the waiting room, gently rubbing her protruding belly. Sitting below the hospital intercom, her ears buzzed every time a doctor was needed, as the speaker bells clanged so loudly.
“How you feeling?” said Jack, touching the back of her hair.
“Surprisingly, OK,” she said. “I just can’t wait to get him out and home.”
She had waited eight months, two weeks, and three days for little Jeremy to arrive. She had spent every waking moment dreaming of what he would look like, hoping he’d be healthy, spending weeks painting the nursery. She had done everything she read about. Invested in an organic mattress. Purchased stuffed animals without any small objects that could get lodged in a throat (she opted for a squirrel). Bought a baby jogger stroller so she could take the baby on her workout, as she was wasting no time getting back in shape. Everything was set in place.
Suddenly, a tall, thin nurse came into the waiting room, with a wheelchair.
“Mrs. Hutchens?” said the nurse. On her name tag, it read “Shelly.” Marina was struck by the woman’s appearance. Hair in a bun, no makeup, huge nurse shoes, not a twinkle of jewelry. She looked like she had been rundown by the world. Marina was a little bit nervous that she would be helping bring new life into hers.
“That’s me.” Marina waddled up and right back down into the wheelchair.
“Love you, babe,” said Jack, with a squeeze of her hand.
As Shelly wheeled Marina toward the hospital room, a young man and pregnant woman entered the emergency room, addressing the front desk worker.
“Hi. My name is Jose, and my wife Jessie’s in labor.” He looked about all of 20, maybe even younger, probably because he was so short. Jessie, also young but very pregnant, looked to be in immense pain.
“Should you help her first?” said Marina, noting her own relative calmness.
“Nope,” said Shelly. “Someone will be out in a jiff.” She turned the wheelchair and continued toward their destination.
In the hospital bed, clad in a gown and getting prepped, Marina laid back and shut her eyes for a second.
“You in a lot of pain?” said Shelly.
“No,” said Marina. “Would you believe that I feel fantastic? I actually could go for some rhubarb pie right now.”
Shelly laughed. “Don’t get too relaxed. You’ve got a big day ahead of you.”
Eventually, the pain did come, but it wasn’t nearly as intense as Marina had planned for. She didn’t know what all of the women complained about. Hours later, hair slicked back with sweat, she started to realize that maybe they were on to something.
“OK, Marina,” said the doctor. “One more push.”
Marina screamed, feeling as if some sort of spirit were leaving her body. Moments later, there was a baby.
“Congratulations,” said the doctor, as he cleaned the fluids off the infant. The doctor handed Jeremy to Marina in a swaddled hospital cloth.
The new mother felt glazed over with emotion and fatigue, faintly smiling at the doctor and then Shelly, before turning to the alien-like creature in her arms. And she just stared at it.
“Hey, Jeremy,” said Jack, cooing at the baby from her left shoulder.
Marina continued to just stare. The baby looked healthy, all fingers and toes. No defects. Yet, she was overcome by the feeling that something was terribly wrong, mostly by the fact that she felt nothing.
A day later, after Jack had driven her home, a celebratory blue balloon tied to the mailbox when she arrived, she tried to bond with the baby again. She took one look at the baby crying in the bassinet and went into the other room to lie down.
Jack poked his head in the master bedroom doorway.
She groaned and shrouded herself in a blanket.
Marina avoided Jeremy’s room at all costs. She pumped her milk into bottles and let Jack do all the work when it came to feeding. After a few days, he started to get angry.
“You wanted this.”
Weeks later, as she flipped through a travel magazine, eyeing Carmel-by-the-Sea, Jack berated her.
“He’s hungry. Are you going to do anything?” The baby wailed in his arms. Marina blindly flipped pages as if he weren’t even there.
Visitors had come and gone. Awkwardly. It’s hard to congratulate someone who won’t touch what’s worth congratulating.
One early fall day, feeling renewed, she finally got up to do something, opening a window to allow the smell of burning leaves permeate the house. Jack, feeding the baby, watched her move about.
“Yeah. I think it’s time for me to get back in shape.” In her running gear, she threw on a light jacket, bypassed the jogging stroller, and trotted out the door.
Megan McLachlan is a writer and editor who lives in Pittsburgh, and a graduate of Allegheny College, where she studied creative writing. Her work has appeared in Maniac Magazine, Equal Magazine, Primer Magazine, and HumorOutcasts.com. Her pop culture blog is megoblog.com.