By Susan Phillips
I hear a machine beeping, but mostly I’m lost inside my body; my fear. Pain squeezes my gut like fists twisting a rag.
“Work on your breathing,” a nurse says. “Blow out the birthday candles, just like in childbirth class.”
But I’m not certain how to breathe at all anymore, much less in a special way. Here in the moment of truth, all my training has failed.
“He’s in distress during contractions,” the doctor says quietly from the foot of the bed. “It’s time for this kiddo to come out.” My husband squeezes my hand reassuringly, but panic floods my mind. What if my baby doesn’t make it? What if I’m too unready—too clueless and afraid—to be given the gift of a child? God, after all, knew my secret, late-night YouTube searches: How to Change A Diaper. How to Pass A Baby From One Person to Another. The same way you add In Bed to the end of fortune cookies, I always mentally added Without Killing Him to the end of my searches. How to Bathe A Baby (Without Killing Him).
“Push with everything you’ve got,” the doctor says.
“I can’t,” I whimper.
“You have no choice.”
I push with a pain beyond torture until my baby’s cry breaks into the room. Strangely, only moments after everything inside me had screamed, I Cant Do This!, I discover a secret about courage: courage IS a secret. It nestles inside the belly of every new mother, unrealized until she hears her baby’s cry.
The doctor hands me my son. He opens his dark, hazy eyes and gazes up at me. And then, even though he is the tiniest thing I’ve ever beheld, I hug him tightly into my chest without a single fear of breaking him.
Susan Sides Phillips is a wife, mother of three, and freelance writer. Her stories have been accepted by publications such as Brain, Child, Tribe Magazine, and The Packingtown Review. She lives in Dallas, Texas. You can connect with her by visiting her website, susansidesphillips.wordpress.com.