Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
TITLE: Face to Faith
By Ann Grover
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It was time...
The autumn before, we'd been ecstatic when the doctor confirmed what I already knew. A baby! In no time, I'd be holding my own little one, our first child. My days became filled with happy activities: sewing curtains and knitting sweaters and hemming soft flannelette diapers. I craved lemons and buttered rice, while forcibly rejecting green beans and tomatoes. Each symptom was embraced joyously. I was going to have a baby!
Christmas came, with gifts labelled "To Baby" under the tree. I abandoned my fitted skirts and trousers, adopting clothes that accommodated not only turkey and mincemeat pie, but our growing little sweetheart, who'd finally made his presence known with little butterfly wing quiverings. This time next year, there'd be a stocking for "Baby," who'd have a real name and be mesmerized by the shiny baubles and twinkling lights.
The days passed, oh, so slowly. Finally, the snow melted, and lilacs and tulips burst into colour. I woke up, one sunny morning in May, to fingers so swollen I couldn't bend them, feet too big for my shoes. <i>It's the heat,</i> the other mothers said, and they regaled me with their own pregnancy tales, when they'd craved hot pickles and brownies and swelled as big as houses. <i>Keep your feet up.</i>
The doctor had more specific instructions when he saw the numbers on the scale. "No salt," he warned, and he gave me a bottle of pills. Trusting and obedient, I ate wholesome food, rested, and took the tablets every day. I continued to swell and my blood pressure soared. I had odd dreams in which I was holding my swaddled baby, but couldn't see his face. The mothers assured me that my disturbing dreams were normal, brought on by hormones and the natural anxiety of becoming a mother. Everything would be fine. I don't know to ask more questions.
Labour began on a sultry Friday evening in July. By the second day, after poor progress, all three doctors in the tiny hospital had come to look and listen. None of them, for all their poking and prodding and fancy instruments could detect movement or a heartbeat. In spite of comments about shy, uncooperative infants, concern shadowed the doctors' eyes. Between contractions and drug-inspired hallucinations, I prayed. <i>Let my baby live. Please, please, please, God.</i>
Finally, after a day and a half, my beloved child slid from my body, and for the smallest moment, I felt a rush of exaltation. Even yet, I grasped tightly to a gossamer thread of hope. Maybe, after all...
Silence. No cries. No joyous greetings. Only the doctor's sad eyes above his mask.
For nine months, I'd carried my sweet boy beneath my heart, felt his hearty kicks and tumbling somersaults, laughed at his hiccoughs, and delighted in the little personality already expressing itself. Now, I'd never know the colour of his eyes or if he'd have liked bananas or whether he'd have become a farmer or a teacher. No favourite story books, no grubby fingers clasping mine, no worms in pockets, no sloppy kisses.
I folded the christening gown and bonnet, and bundling it with a snowy white blanket and a soft diaper, I gave the package to a kind sister who was going to dress my baby for eternity. That afternoon, we stood on a green hillside and said goodbye. I was oblivious to the milk dampening my blouse, aware only of the small, homemade coffin, the spray of yellow roses wilting in the heat, and the terrible wound in the earth, waiting. My arms and heart were empty.
<i>My son, my son. Where are you?</i>
And though the answer did not come that day or the next, it did come, as clearly as if he were beside me, whispering in my ear. <i>It is well. I am as close to you as your next breath, as certain as your heartbeat, the heartbeat that was your sweet lullaby to me. It is well.</i>
And it is well. One day, I will see and know his face, as he comes to greet me, arms open wide for our first embrace, in his radiant robe of gleaming white.
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