The First Day
So if you can't help, at least don't harm.
”Come on,” he said. “You’re not even trying.”
She looked up at him, held back the tears, the exhaustion, the fear.
She looked away again.
“I am trying,” she said softly. “I really just don’t think it’s working.”
“You don’t think it’s working?” he replied. “Gimme a break. This kind of thing doesn’t not work.”
She looked up again and there it was. There was the face she knew well, the one he reserved for ridicule, for shame.
Even now. Even here. Even after all of this. He could still do that.
“How can it not be working?” he insisted.
“I don’t know, but it’s just not.” She paused then, unsure and embarrassed, too sorry to say the rest.
“I’ll get a nurse,” he told her. “She can teach you. I don’t know what’s so hard about it though.”
She thought she would choke then. She thought she would choke on the lump in her throat made of so much heartache, made from years of it, and made from this day, from this very first beautiful day that was turning ugly and painful and full of regret.
A tear slipped down her face and she called out to him.
“Get a nurse, but tell her I can’t do this and that I don't want to either. I don't even want to.”
The tear fell then, fell onto the blanket wrapped around her new baby boy, this new baby boy that she had to feed.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he said quietly. “You’ve got to be kidding me. We said we were gonna do this.”
We, she thought. We can’t do this. Only I can do this. Only I can, but I can’t and I don’t want to. I don’t want to do this and that should be okay.
She didn’t reply to him though. Instead she looked down at her baby and removed him from her breast and tried to soothe his crying and she promised him food, promised him food and a lot of things, and then she pushed the button, the one that would bring her some help.
“What kind of mother doesn’t want to do this?” he said. “What kind of mother are you?”
Suddenly then, she could feel everything. She could feel all of it, every single bit of the pain.
She was that kind of mother, one who could feel all of the pain.
The nurse appeared at her bedside.
“What do you need sweetie?”
Without looking at him she replied in a voice lined with fatigue and sorrow and with knowing, with knowing what she needed, what she had to do. She knew what she had to do and she knew that it was okay.
“I need a bottle for my baby,” she told her. “I would like to feed him with a bottle."
"That's fine sweetheart," the nurse replied. "I will be right back."
But Sara couldn't let her leave yet. She couldn't let her leave yet.
"I'm sorry, but first, can you take him for me? Can you hold him just for a moment?”
"Oh yes," the nurse said, reaching out.
Gently she put her baby into the nurse's arms, then struggled up from the bed. Her husband was standing quietly now that someone else was in the room and she let him just stand there looking at her and she did not look back.
She did not look back.
She just took hold of the IV pole attached to her and shuffled toward the bathroom, pushing along the bag of antibiotics that hung from the stand.
Slowly she moved inside and shut the door and didn’t turn on the light.
Gingerly, she found her way to the sink and touched the faucet and as the water gushed out so did her heartache. Her heartache fell. It fell all over. It fell hard and fast. It fell with complete abandon as she reached for a towel and held it to her face, quieting the hurt that ravaged her already torn body with grief and anger.
She was like this for a minute, maybe two, when suddenly she heard new sounds in the room outside the bathroom door and she quieted for a moment before realizing what it was.
It was a baseball game. She was hearing a baseball game turned up too loudly.
He had turned on the television to watch a baseball game on the day that their son was born and in the moments when he was hungry and struggling. In those very moments, he had turned on a baseball game.
He was already forgetting, already forgetting everything that mattered and all of the harm he'd done. He was forgetting all of it.
But she was not forgetting. Not this time.
And still, she felt an odd sort of relief. She felt relief that he could so easily turn his attention away from her, from both of them now, and go back to what mattered most to him. He could so easily go back to his own life.
And as she stood there making decisions and letting go and being tired and scared and certain, she heard another sound. She heard her hungry baby begin to cry and she put down the towel full of grief and anger and turned toward him.
She turned toward her son and away from a life she would no longer be living.
She turned toward her first day.