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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)

TITLE: Holding Nathan
By Karen Deikun


The student nurse knocked, then peeked her head around my door. “This little bundle must be yours. He was all alone and so are you. And I think he’s hungry.”

I was hungry too – hungry for a glimpse of my baby. I’d heard the soft crepe-soled footsteps along the corridor as nurses carried babies into the other rooms in the maternity wing. I was in the last room, furthest from the nursery.

“There was no first name on his tag. Have you picked one yet?”


She smiled. “A good Hebrew name: God has given. That’s beautiful. People don’t always realize what a gift a child is.” She placed Nathan in my arms as I sat up against the pillow. “His chart says formula, so I brought along a bottle. I’m Mary Alice”

“Yes, thank you.” As I took the bottle from her my eyes filled. I couldn’t help it.

“Hey, it’s okay. I know everyone says nursing is best, but my oldest sister bottle fed her son and he grew up to be six feet four.” Apparently she thought I wasn’t able to nurse, and I didn’t correct her. “They look so fragile, don’t they? Well, look, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.”

“Mary Alice.” I swallowed, choking on the lump in my throat. “Thank you for bringing him in.”

“You’re welcome, little mother.” She gave me a smile and a wink as she left. She didn’t know. Little mother. I rolled the words over in my mind. If only…

I settled Nathan in the crook of my arm and held the bottle while he sucked. His eyes stared up at me, never leaving my face, as if he was trying to figure out what he was looking at. I hoped he would remember this moment for the rest of his life, but I knew he wouldn’t. I would never forget it. How precious he was. How small. My eyes took in every part of his face: the contour of his cheek, the tiny mouth, the perfect little ears, the sweep of his nearly transparent lashes. Something welled up in my heart – a love, a longing so deep that it formed an ache in every part of me. If only I could hold onto him forever. My heart wrapped around his heart just as surely as my body had covered his while I waited for his birth. And yet my heart was breaking.

“Oh, God. Oh Father. Let me keep him, let me…” I held the sob inside. I already knew I was asking for what I couldn’t have. As he stopped sucking and started to doze, I placed the bottle on the night table and carefully undid his blanket. I looked at every inch of him. His little feet and legs were perfect, bowed in as if he was still curled within me. I placed my finger on his palm and his tiny fingers clenched around my large one. I savored the moment. “Nathan.” I whispered his name tenderly. “Mommy loves you, Nathan.”

Suddenly the door was thrust open and the head nurse came storming in, stern and angry, followed by Mary Alice.

“She wasn’t supposed to get him. He’s being adopted. It will only make it harder on her.” Her loud voice startled Nathan and he started to cry.

“I’m so sorry” Mary Alice met my eyes, tears flowing freely down her face. Her voice was a whisper.

The older woman plucked Nathan out of my arms, leaving them empty. He was wailing now with little ragged pauses as he caught his breath. He was frightened: my baby needed me. I reached for him as my heart seemed to rise into my throat. “No. Don’t scare him. You’re scaring him.” But I couldn’t take him back. I couldn’t protect him. I felt the tears running down my face as my crying baby was taken out of my arms, out of my room, and out of my life. I would never hold him again. Only my mother’s prayers could follow him into the unknown.

Mary Alice came over to the bed. “I didn’t know.”

“I’m glad you didn’t know. At least I got to hold him. Oh God, I love him so much”

She took my hand and squeezed hard as if to push away the pain as our tears dropped and mingled on our clenched hands.

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This article has been read 915 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach05/02/08
So beautiful. So sad. And so wonderful, all mingled together.
Sara Harricharan 05/02/08
So very sad! I loved the character of Mary Alice the best. I was mad at the older nurse for simply yanking away Nathan...but you did good. Lots of emotion and good atmosphere here. I liked it. ^_^
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/03/08
You told this poignant story with just exactly the right words. Your voice and sense of character are strong. It made me so glad I could keep my babies.
Betty Castleberry05/04/08
Well, the least you could do is post a tissue warning. ;0) I really enjoyed this heart-wrenching story. You had me right there in the room with mother and baby. Well done.
Joanne Sher 05/04/08
Oh, so tender and heartwrenching. Excellent characterization and emotion especially. This definitely needs a tissue warning.
Melanie Kerr 05/06/08
I realised half way through what was happening. You did a good job with a difficult aspect of motherhood. The contrast between the nurses was very effective - one so tender and the other so harsh.
Lynda Schultz 05/06/08
You told me enough, but left me hoping for more—that's good! Well done.
Peter Stone05/06/08
Ouch, this story really cuts deep. I felt so sorry for the mother (and the baby), and wondered what circumstances surrounded this birth that meant she had to adopt out her child.
Martha Davis05/07/08
So bittersweet and touching! This story happens so often, and I was able to feel that mother's pain over a tough decision. Great job!
Mariane Holbrook 05/08/08
Gulp! I had no idea how this was going to end but it was told with such compassion that any way would have been a winner. Of course, it leaves many questions unanswered but we don't need to know. This was a few moments in time and those of us who read it won't forget it. How tender and beautiful. And heartbreaking!
Myrna Noyes05/09/08
Oh, this was heart-wrenching! You did an excellent job with this sad subject, and I congratulate you on your EC! My favorite line was: "My heart wrapped around his heart just as surely as my body had covered his while I waited for his birth."