Current Writings

Normal

by Stephanie Parry

The sterile hospital room is too cold. I am shivering from both the frigid air and the fear in my gut. Trapped inside my sick body, my baby needs to come out. I understand this but I am afraid. It is too early and she is so small. The magnesium sulfate leaves my vision so blurry that trying to focus on anything brings a wave of nausea washing over me.

The blinding lights sting my eyes as the nurses prep the sterile room for the cesarean section. Someone I do not know lays a cool cloth gently across my face. The wetness eases the hot flash spreading across my cheeks.

The doctor arrives and asks if I am ready. I reply with a weak, “Yes.”

“We’re going to make sure you’re numb and we’ll let your husband in after we get started,” she explains to me.

Something sharp jabs into my belly and with a searing pain moves to the left side of my body. I scream out in terror, the pain shooting into my stomach and down my thighs. “Stop!” I cry.

“You should feel a pulling sensation,” the doctor responds

“No! I feel something sharp cutting into me!” I scream.

There is silence for a moment and then the doctor yells at the anesthesiologist next to me, “Give her more epidural!”

I can not see with the washcloth over my eyes, but I feel something shoot into my arm through the I.V. Within seconds, a strange sensation buzzes throughout my body and the room begins to spin in circles. I look down at myself lying on the table. I watch as the nurse runs to the right side of my now-empty body, frantic. I hear the loud screeching sounds of the monitor. I know that I am dying, but in that moment, I feel no pain.

I look to the left of me and see a bright light, encircling the ceiling of the hospital room. The light is warm and envelopes me in love.

A large gathering of people are waiting there, watching and witnessing. They are smiling at me. They do not move their lips but I can feel that they love me. Their light fills the entire room and I realize that I am the only one that can see them, the flurry of activity below me fading into the distance. I do not want to leave. I want to stay with them. There is no pain here.

I look down and see the doctor anxiously trying to remove something from the body below. She is working quickly. My baby, I gasp. She needs me!

I return to my body. Something cold shoots into my right arm and I feel my heart thumping wildly beneath my chest. The monitor beside me roars to life.

Suddenly, my husband is next to me, leaning down to kiss my forehead. His excitement shows that he is oblivious to what has happened only moments before. The doctor lifts our tiny three-pound baby into the air and I hear her high-pitched screaming.

She is alive.

When the obstetrical nurse comes to visit me six weeks later, I ask her, “What happened to me in there?”

Without looking at me, she responds, “I am not at liberty to say.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not allowed to talk about it.” She folds and unclasps her hands in her lap.

“Can you at least tell me if my heart stopped?”

She looks at me then, her liquid brown eyes piercing through me. “No, I can’t. But, you have a right to access your medical records.”

Shaken from her words, I hold my tiny baby close to me and kiss her head while she nurses. I put my hand to my belly and feel the numb reminder of her birth.

The next day I arrive back at the hospital, bleary-eyed and sleep deprived. I retrieve the thick report and scour each page for evidence. I am shocked to discover my ordeal is reduced to a few words. “B/P 50/30. 0.5 ml Epinephrine given. 10:06 am. Patient tolerated the procedure well. Normal cesarean section.”

Normal is a relative term.

The Sign of the Coyote

By Stephanie Parry

     It was a beautiful day to die. The warm Phoenix sun beat down on the desert floor at a

steady eighty degrees. A reddish brown coyote made his way toward the window of a large

master bedroom. He gazed inside at an old woman as she lay gasping for breath. Her time

would come soon. His eyes locked with the woman’s granddaughters as they watched him

from the other side of the glass.

     He turned from the window and disappeared back into the brush, looking for

breakfast. He had not eaten that morning and remembered the rabbits scurrying through

the grass. He managed to catch three of them after a game of hide and seek. The meat was

satisfying. He lay down in the hot sun, feeling the orange glow on his coat, while he

napped.

     When he woke, he found Shoshoni, his mate. “The time is soon.”

     Shoshoni bowed in submission. With a slight tremor in her voice, she said, “Alright.

How much longer?”

     “Before the setting sun.”

     She took one last look at her mate and sighed, knowing the changes that were to come.

“I’ll warn the pack.”

     Raja left and prepared a bed of leaves, nestled securely near a large boulder. He

surveyed the area for protection. He marked the outline of the makeshift bed with his

urine and howled at the sky as it turned to dusk.

     Raja returned to the den to bid his pups, his sister, his parents, and his mate farewell.

“The Shoshoni Indians have long discovered that coyotes symbolize a sign of death and

rebirth. However, our presence at the transition of human life is not just one of symbolic

meaning, as we all know. I’ll return within a fortnight.” With those words, Raja left the

pack.

     His journey back toward the bedroom was slow and deliberate. He loved the desert

sunset that cast a glow of orange and purple hues across the sky. As he arrived at the

window, he felt a breeze pass through his thin coat. He came close to the glass, studying

the scene before him. His own heart quickened as he realized the woman’s breathing had

stopped. The women inside surrounded her dead body and grasped her hands in their

own. They were unaware of the new companion that appeared at Raja’s side.

     The woman looked down at her coal black paws.  She licked them and

stepped back in surprise. Splattered with tan marks, her fur coat was a soft, silvery gray.

     “Welcome, Nova. I’ve been waiting for you.”

      Though startled, Nova seemed to recognize Raja’s voice. He led her to the bed that was

prepared for them as the darkness settled across the sky.

The Pull

        She dusted the shelves of the library every day, marveling at the large collection of trophies and movies that glared at her from each ornate, gold-plated shelf. The pictures adorned the entire wall of the lower level of the eight bedroom house. It was one of the smaller homes on Rodeo Drive. She wondered if the owners ever admired their works of art, as the frames never left the same position she carefully arranged them in the week before. They rarely entered the room.

     The taunting grandfather clock was ticking on the wall, much too loudly, signaling that her work was almost complete. The coffee table magazines hadn’t left their spot in weeks and the plush, pristine carpet held the faint smell of newness as it crunched beneath her feet. As she moved toward the side wall to dust the looming window sill, her eyes fell to the freshly manicured grass outside in the uninhabited yard. The sparkling pool, with water so still it looked like a blanket she longed to wrap herself in, was calling to her.

     She dusted the window methodically, her arms swooshing back and forth in a rhythmic motion, as her ears strained to listen for the sounds of her employers above. As usual, there was silence and she carefully tiptoed out of the room, moving quietly across the slick tile of the servant’s kitchen. She entered the servant’s porch, with the sun blinding her in the face as she opened the door and stepped out onto the grass. She peered around the bushes to check for the gardeners. Her eyes took in the enormous sight of paradise laid before her, with rows of trees and a blanket of flowers lining the wall on each side of the massive yard.

     After feeling secure that she was alone, she proceeded toward the pool, her feet pulling her with a will of their own, as she passed under the palm trees that lined the famed brick walkway and fire pit. She stopped to allow a group of ducklings pass by in front of her. They followed their mother toward the duck pond near the grassy knoll. A purple-tinged waterfall cascaded into the marble lined pool, with yellow and orange shades of light bouncing off the high white walls encasing the water.  She looked around her once more, her heart thundering so loudly beneath her chest that it drowned out the late afternoon call of the birds high in the surrounding trees. Licking her chapped lips, she closed her eyes and pulled off the stifling apron from around her waist and let it carefully fall to the ground.

      She took one more glance around her and then slowly, she unzipped the front of the blue denim dress that held her prisoner. A breeze picked up and she closed her eyes, relishing the feeling of the wind against her bare skin.  Ever so slowly, she peeled off her bra and panties and dropped them into a heap on top of her clothes. She took a deep breath, wanting to stay present in the moment, but fearful that someone would see her. In the back of her mind, she wondered if she would truly care? Looking straight ahead, she silently slipped into the water below, savoring her one taste of freedom.

BIRTH

-Stephanie Parry Coleman

There is a silence in my womb for too long. Rolling movements and jabbing kicks stop short. I wonder why. That place inside a mother’s heart where she knows something is not right ignites like a flame and burns stronger.

“No fluid,” the final verdict is delivered like a blow. Very little time is left to save her from her fate.

With fear and trepidation, I am reluctantly released home to prepare for the birth journey that is soon to begin. Bags are meticulously packed, children are hugged and kissed and carefully tucked into bed, and phone calls to loved ones are made.

“Hi Daddy,” I say.

“I hear you’re having a baby!” he quips, his voice joyful on the other end. He loves being a Grandpa.

“Yep. We’re leaving for the hospital in an hour,” I reply. “You going on a bike ride again?”

“Sure am!” He rides his mountain bike every week.

“Please take someone with you, Dad,” I say, sudden concern overwhelming me. He often rides alone.

“Ok, I will. Tom’s going too,” he reassures.

I sigh with relief.

“Well, kiddo. This is an old hat to you now. You know how to do this! Break a leg, sweetheart!” His voice cracks a bit on the line.

“I will, Dad,” I respond.

“Love you, Steph.”

“Love you too, Dad. Bye.”

Although worried for the life inside me, my heart is lighter and I busy myself with final preparations. Trying to increase the baby’s fluid, I drink enormous amounts of water and shove down one last meal.

With the children in bed, one last tender moment is spent as husband and wife, sharing entwined bodies, trying to ignore our worry. In that final moment of loving bliss, somewhere on a mountain bike trail, a good man is dying, his friend trying in vain to revive him.

My heart lighter and feeling more optimistic, we drive to the hospital, holding hands. I call my grandparents to share our news and am startled as Grandpa answers. “Hello,” he answers timidly.

Grandma always answers first. I do not see her flopped down on her bed, prostrate and sobbing as I tell Grandpa about our baby soon to arrive.

There is no reply. There is only silence. Then, “Stephanie, your Daddy’s dead.”

I laugh nervously. “What?” I must not be hearing him correctly.

“He had a heart attack on the trail and died.” Then Grandpa begins sobbing and the line is dead.

Gone.

An anvil hits my chest. “What?! NO!” I manage to scream in my mind as breathing picks up and somewhere inside a sob erupts into my mouth. Volcanic sobs overcome my entire body and my husband is driving, carefully, trying to console me and understand at the same time. Soon, I am crying so hard that every breath I inhale fills my chest with lead. Each breath I exhale stops abruptly with a choking sound. I know I am going to cry myself to death. Can grief kill someone?

How can I have a baby now? This is a joke right? Someone is playing a trick on me!

My baby is moving now. She feels my shock and sorrow. I am almost oblivious to her movements, which had eluded me earlier. Everything hurts.

Tonight was the last time I would ever hear his voice. My mind won’t stop playing his last words as another ultrasound is soon performed. The fluid level has risen. Baby girl is out of immediate danger, but an induction is recommended.

Somehow I manage to logically negotiate my wishes to delay the inevitable until morning. I do not want my daughter’s birthday to be the same day her Grandpa has died. My children will never know him. He will not see them grow up.

Night passes while contracting gently and sharing stories of my Dad’s life with my friend and doula. My husband is sleeping close by. I am too afraid to be alone. Somewhere tonight my mother is sleeping in her bed without my Dad, my brothers comforting and keeping watch.

Labor begins in earnest at dawn and I welcome the rhythmic waves coming one after another. The pain is purposeful, distracts me, and reminds me of the baby that I will soon meet for the first time. I am strong. I catch my breath as each wave comes to shore. I am rocking on hands and knees, swaying, held gently by loving hands, with energy pouring into every part of me.

The baby moves faster. She pushes her feet forcefully against the top of her watery home and catapults out into the doctor’s surprised and unprepared hands! The sweet relief is immediate and I cry from exhaustion, joy, and sorrow as I turn over into a squat to hold my new daughter.

Blood, sweat, and amniotic fluid fills my nostrils and my breasts tingle as she receives her first food. I count every toe and finger and inhale the sweet aroma from the top of her head. I nuzzle her cheeks, her ears, and fingers. Fresh tears flood my eyes and my heart swells like a balloon.  Hearts are made lighter. The difficult road ahead is pushed into the future as introductions are made.

The cycle of life continues.

Creative Commons License
This work by http://www.stephanieannparry.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Responses

  1. WOW

  2. Awesome Steph!

  3. Thanks, Sharon!


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