She had just turned 17. She was sent away. Alone. Her mother accusing her of causing shame to the family who worked so hard to make their way, their stature, their worth. Both in the eyes of the town they lived and in the eyes of the Lord.
Her mother more concerned with what the “town” thought over what her daughter experienced or felt. A town that bullied her for her red hair and farm clothes. More concerned with the fear of an eternal damnation over the turmoil her daughter was living.
Being sent away also meant dropping out of high school. Moving away from the only town she had known. Isolated. Alone as she marinated in both the loss and relief of everything she knew. Including her innocence and herself. The relief of finally experiencing the quiet.
Her life forever about to change from this day forward. A human being seeded and growing in her young, unexperienced womb.
The father, who just turned 18, from another religious family himself. “Devout”. “Strict”. As she or her mother would explain.
Both families coming from farm lands. Fighting their way. To prove their stature, their worth. Their place in the hierarchy of society in Barstow, California. A town filled with dirt, churches and mechanics. Futures in farm or military. A single gas station that served both food and liquor. Both a grocery store and a Friday night hang out. A place where you only have what your hands have grown, made or earned with blood, sweat and tears. Where your wealth comes from your hard work and disciplined decisions. Where Jesus and cigarettes are a daily staple.
Ashamed of the poor decisions their children have made and taken. Getting knocked up under age. With no means to take care of the baby, let alone carry the sin of its existence.
When day in, day out they work hard on the farm for food, product and money. Where their lives are dedicated to proving they are more from which they came from to this town and to the their savior they so deeply believe in.
She sits alone in a hospital bed. The only sound is the oversized wall clock ticking forward and the machines beeping next to her with both her heart beat and the baby’s she carries within her.
She sits up in her bed relishing in these last moments alone with her unborn child. The last moments before birth will separate them. The last moments no one can take anything away. The last moments only they exist in, while the two bodies are one.
She finds a solace in the silence with her hand cupping the baby within her belly. Connecting through skin and blood barrier, to a deeper place within. Where the souls connect and the heart beats recognize each other. This moment, bonding, just the two. Emotionally knowing they feel each other past the shaming of others. Beyond the judgements of her choices.
Past the bullying of her appearance or her “mistakes” as they called them. No one telling her the love she carries in both heart and womb is a sin. Something she needs to feel remorse for or repent about. In this moment, nothing felt more untrue. Everything felt so real. So spiritual. So holy and right. With her hands wrapped around her moving belly. A small foot extends from the inside of her stomach. Visible. Toes and all. It stops as it lands against her palm from within.
This baby that has separated her from her life while creating a love and connection so deep in her soul.
In the quietness of ticking seconds and monitors beeping, she picks up a paper and pen.
She writes a letter to her unborn child she would soon get to meet.
In their last moments, together. Before the chaos, the cries, the parents and doctors come barging into the room barking commands and demands of what needs to be done. Before the connection is severed and the world divides between both of their lives. This last moment where it is just she and baby. Knowing the birth also means losing control because she herself is a minor and the child is helpless.
Before the pain and the pushes, the sweat and the blood. Before their lives cross the irreversible threshold of life, future and destiny. Before they are no longer one. Broken apart and tossed into the cruel world that has never witnessed this soulful connection she feels so deeply.
Her stomach begins to cramp. Tighten. Her eyes gently close. She breathes softly and deeply in through her nostrils. She whispers to both herself and fetus, “We’ll be ok… We’ll be ok...”
Her hand recups her belly. Rubbing where the foot that once extended had no vanished back into herself.
The cramps increase. Intensify. The hair on her forehead dampens. The sweat beads on her upper lip form. The cramps become sharper stabs. Her eyes clench tighter. She reminds herself to breathe. Deeper. Inhale and exhale through what feels like slicing from the inside out. The pain taking her breath away. Her pen drops from her hand, as well as the paper floating delicately to the shiny hospital floor. A moan and a cry creep up from deep within her and burn the back of her throat as the sounds lunge out of her into the disinfected air. The screams involuntary. She wants to call out for help but fears the loss of this moment. Of moving forward into the unknown. She wants to relish in the last seconds with her baby as the wall clocks ticks forward. As the beeps on the machine speed up.
The door bursts open. A nurse stares intently at her as she now buckles over in pain. Both hands gripping her belly.
The nurse yells down the hall. More nurses and a doctor rush in.
Her mother surfaces in the doorway from right outside the hall. Staring sternly at her daughter who now is clearly in pain as she grunts and screams out, “Mama!”
“Push!” A nurse calls out over her daughter’s cries.
Her daughter’s face purples, her teeth now clenched. She pushes… and cries. Pushes… and cries.
“Mama!” Her primal scream echoing throughout the sterile room and down the vacant hospital hall.
Her mother stands in the door case. Her face shifting from judgement to both a concern and dread as she looks at her drenched daughter. Covered with sweat and tears. Her mother steps into the room. She walks next to her daughter who continues wincing in pain.
She brushes away her now wet hair from her brow as she continues to push.
Suddenly… an infant wails…
The daughter opens her eyes. The room is back to calm and silence. The repetition of machines beeping and clocks ticking vibrate through the room. The girl is now dry, covered in a thin hospital sheet, resting back in her hospital bed. Her face wears both relief and exhaustion. Yet, her eyes are focused on her mother standing before her, next to the now closed hospital room door. She stares at the swaddled baby wrapped in pink and blue striped hospital blankets in her mother’s arms.
“What is it?” She asks.
Her mother’s gaze remains on the infant in her arms. Her face softer than she ever remembered seeing before.
“A girl.” Her mother whispers.
A tired smile crosses her young face.
“Can I hold her?” She asks.
Her mother slowly turns to face her. Baby wrapped in her arms. Her gaze comes up from the baby held to meet her daughter’s eyes in the hospital bed.
She softly answers, “No.”
The tired smile evaporates from her face. Her mother’s eyes go back to the baby in her arms.
“I want to name her Amy.” She says to her mother. “Amy Lynn.”
Her mother doesn’t respond.
“I wrote her a note.” She says again into the open room of ticking seconds and beeping monitors.
“I’ve already named her.” The mother stoically states.
The room grows quiet again. Ticking and beeping. One by one. Heart beat and seconds passing.
The mother continues in an eerily calm voice, “Her first name is Baby. Her middle name is Girl. She will be easier for someone to rename that way.”
The young girl shrinks back into her hospital bed. Her eyes stinging as they fill with tears. The familiar burn creeping back, stinging the back of her throat.
The pain cracks through her voice as she asks, “Will you give her my letter?”
The mother’s eyes do not leave the baby tucked in her arms. “Rest…” She says softly. “And pray for forgiveness.”
She exits the room with her daughter’s baby swaddled in her arms. As the door closed, the daughter’s face twists in a silent pain. Her mouth drops open and an inaudible heave escapes her chest. As the tear of connection to that child seers through every pore. Singes through every fissure.
This is the picture I imagined when told this story for the first time by my birth mother who I recently met. A story that was never previously explained. A circumstance I never imagined. A letter I never received.
I am that “Baby”. I grew up misbelieving I wasn’t wanted. To now see and hear how deeply I was...
The story continues... from that moment to this day... but for now... I'll pick up where I left off next week...