Pain surged through my body. Gripping, crushing until I could no longer bear it. “Take it away.” I begged. “Do something, Katy. Make them stop it.”
Katy whispered softly as the pain peaked, as a final spasm wracked my frame before receding, ebbing, a frothy wave draining through porous sand. “You’re doing well, Sally.” Gentle hands wiped my face with a damp towel. Tucked my hair behind my ears and squeezed my arm. She was dressed in pink that day; a delicate rose in a sterile wilderness of clinical green and white. A wasteland of stainless steel and antiseptic odours.
Medical staff hovered and talked as though I was not here. “It shouldn’t be long now.” They informed Katy. “Maybe another ten minutes. She’s doing well for her age.”
My mind drifted to my sixteenth birthday. The day I told Dad I was pregnant. Instead of the tirade I expected; the angry speeches and condemnation, he held my gaze for a long moment. Then for the first time since Mom’s death, tears trickled down his worn face. He opened his arms and like the child I was, I moved into his embrace of cologne and rough skin. “I’m sorry.” He said as my sobs mingled with his. “I’ve been too busy with church work. I’ve neglected you.”
There was no sermon that Sunday. Instead Dad and I faced the congregation together. Repented for our sins. Apologised to the church and asked for their forgiveness and support.
I felt it coming. Another contraction, waves of agony tearing from deep within. “Breathe.” Katy encouraged, massaging the small of my back. “It won’t be much longer, Sally. You can do this.” I hung onto her, desperate, longing for the end to come.
Dad lost his job that day. “We’re sorry, Jack. It’s just not appropriate to keep you on.” I was crushed. Sixteen, pregnant, alone and I had brought shame to my Father.
Thoughts of abortion and even suicide circled my mind that week. I couldn’t see any happy ending or solution to what I had done. Dad was withdrawn; worried, tense, searching the papers for a job and I was sick to my stomach. It was into this chaos that God brought four wonderful women. Katy, Lynda, Josie and Anne. They clustered round us as Josie explained. “We want to help you through this. We’ve eleven children and five grandchildren between us and we can help you.” I saw relief trickle into Dad’s eyes. “We’ll go with you to the doctor and Lamaze classes. We’ll answer your questions and pray with you when you feel down.”
I felt my belly tightening and suddenly my body was out of control, throbbing, contracting, bearing down without my consent. There was a flurry of action at the foot of the bed and Katy was relaying commands. “They want you to push, Sally. Work with your body.” Fear engulfed me and I screamed, my voice sharp and shrill, then weakening as the urge to push waned.
Katy put cool hands on my cheeks and looked deep into my eyes. “Your baby will be here soon. Try not to panic with the next contraction.” She was comforting, confident that I could do this and I drew strength from her encouragement.
Within a minute, I felt the incredible force again. A primal wave dragging me along with it. I relaxed into it and with Katy coaching, gave myself over to the power. Finally, with a tearing, a burning and a rush of fluid, my little girl exploded into life. Into a jumbled chaos of tears and ecstasy as Katy placed her gently in my arms.
The next morning, Dad sat by my bed, his first grandchild enfolded in his clumsy grasp. I saw a new softness in his eyes. A healing rising up as he embraced this tiny life. Then my attention was diverted to footsteps pattering, to my four wonderful friends as they entered. The ones who were God’s hands and feet to me. The ones who spoke with His voice and supported and encouraged me through turmoil and hormones, fear and doubt. The ones who were at my side as I matured and learned hard lessons in life. They entered with packages in arms and mouths curved with joy. “She’s beautiful.” I said as they hugged me. ”You were right about everything and so I’ve named her Caitlin Joanne. It’s a combination of your names. A tribute to the amazing part you’ve played in her life.”
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