Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chapter 37 - Birth of the Pure One

December 25, 1948

Becky came out of the bathroom to find Solomon leaning against the wall beside the door. His arms were crossed over his chest. “You’re hovering,” she said.

He smiled, “I can’t help it.” He took the IV bottle out of her hand and walked her to the couch.

As she sat down, she said, “I’m afraid to tell you this, and I’m afraid not to tell you.”

Solomon tilted his head and smiled at her.

“These contractions are getting uncomfortable,” she said.

Jerry stood in the kitchen doorway.

“I ache down here,” she put her hand on her lower abdomen, “and my thighs and my back too.”

He sat down beside of her on the couch and put his arms around her.

She put her head on his chest and sobbed.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “It’s going to be okay.”

“No, it’s not,” she said putting her hand to her mouth. She gagged and bent forward.

Solomon held her hair back while she vomited into a bucket. “Jerry, bring a wet wash rag,” he said, “and a cup of snow for her.”

Becky asked, “Is there any way I can get out of this?”

Solomon wiped her face with the wet rag and offered her the cup of snow. “This will help with the nausea,” he said.

She took a bite and held it in her mouth. “Feels good,” she said. “I’m sorry to be such a baby. Why do I feel so awful suddenly?

“You’re in labor,” he said tenderly brushing her hair away from her eyes.

“Oh God, I can’t do this right now.” Her voice trembled. She sucked in her breath and held it, and then she let it out with a high pitched squeal as the pain gradually spread inside her.

Solomon chose a pink flannel nightgown out of Becky’s chest of drawers and went back into the living room. “Jerry, Becky’s room is too cold. Open the sofa bed in here by the fire.”

Solomon helped Becky to a chair. She hadn’t been in it more than thirty seconds when she awkwardly stood up, “I can’t sit here,” she said. Her mouth was pursed as she puffed shallow breaths. Her cheeks went in and out with the puffs.

“We’re hurrying,” Solomon said as they put a white rubber sheet over the sofa bed and spread a flannel blanket on top of it. He placed a white towel where Becky’s hips would go.

He threw her pink nightgown over his shoulder and said, “Let me help you get into your nightgown.”

Jerry left the room when Becky cut her eyes at him.

Solomon unbuttoned her blouse and pulled one arm out. He threaded the IV bottle and tubing through the arm hole. “We should have changed your clothes before the IV, but I was hoping it would stop your labor.”

“But it didn’t,” Becky whimpered.

“No, it didn’t,” he responded. He reached behind her and unhooked her bra. He pulled it over the IV equipment too. He covered her nakedness with the pink nightgown and reversed the process of threading the IV tubing and bottle. He reached up under her gown and put his thumbs under the elastic of her skirt and panties. He squatted down in front of her and pulled them down together. She held on to his shoulders while he maneuvered them over her feet. He felt her fingers dig into him. Her face was contorted with pain. He didn’t move until she relaxed.

He stood up and said, “Becky, lie down with your bottom on this towel.” He fluffed the pillow for her head as she lay back. “I need you to put the bottoms of your feet together and try to relax,” he instructed as he pulled on a sterile glove and squeezed a dollop of gel on his index and middle fingers. He bent over her and lifted the hem of her gown just enough to allow his hand to slip under it. “Deep breath, Becky,” he said as he inserted two fingers inside of her. He felt of her cervix. He knew that normally a cervix felt like the cartilage on the tip of the nose. Becky’s cervix was soft like lips. He sighed with resignation. He stood up and stripped off the glove. “You’re…”

“I don’t want to know,” she said stopping him.

He nodded and said, “Okay.” He had started to tell her that she was six centimeters and fully effaced. He knew that it wouldn’t be long. A preemie’s head could easily pass through eight centimeters.

Jerry sat at the kitchen table with his arms folded across his chest. He stared at the door. He could hear Solomon and Becky talking in hushed tones. He heard Becky’s voice several times whining, “Oh no.”

Solomon came into the kitchen and stood at the sink as he mixed a warm water and soap suds enema. He didn’t speak as he worked.

Jerry took a deep breath and unconsciously tapped his fingernails on the kitchen table. As Solomon left the room, he cut his eyes at Jerry. Jerry jerked his fingers into a fist for a few seconds, and then he began tapping his fingers again. The house was so quiet he could hear himself breathing.

He heard Solomon’s voice several times saying, “Relax.” A few minutes later he heard him say, “Try to hold it a little longer.” And a few minutes later, Jerry heard the sounds of Becky and Solomon walking to the bathroom.

Jerry bit on a hangnail and counted the pops coming from the fireplace as a pine log ignited. He jumped up to make sure the fire screen was keeping the embers contained. It was. He lit the kerosene lanterns as twilight was settling on the cabin.

Becky stepped out of the bathroom with Solomon holding on to her and the IV bottle. Solomon said to Jerry, “There’s a big flash light in the side pocket of my duffle bag, and there are some extra batteries in there too. Could you get it out for later?”

Jerry hustled. He was glad to have something helpful to do. He felt like a bystander in an emergency room. He figured that the only way he could help was to stay out of the way.

Halfway across the room Becky stopped walking. She held on to the back of a chair and pressed her legs together. “I think my water broke,” she said. She looked down at her feet. She began to walk slowly again towards the sofa bed. Solomon had a juggling act with the IV bottle and the tubing. Becky stopped at the bed and watched him. She smiled as he traded equipment back and forth.

Solomon smiled back at her. “I just need one more hand,” he said.

She held onto his arm and slowly began to sit down on the bed. Solomon quickly pulled her gown up so she wouldn’t be sitting on it.

“Did my water break?” she asked looking at the trail she’d left across the hardwood floor.

“Yes,” he said laying out the equipment he’d need to suction the baby and to clamp and cut the cord.

“What’s my baby’s chance of surviving?”

Solomon sat on the edge of the sofa bed and held her hand. He spoke softly to her, “Let me tell you about your baby. He weighs about two and a half pounds, and he’s about fifteen inches long. He has very little fat on his body. His skin is thin and reddish purple. You can see his blood vessels through it particularly on his head. He’s covered with fine hair. He may not be able to open his eyes yet. He won’t cry because his lungs are not mature. He’ll have trouble breathing, and he…”

Becky stiffened and pushed backward. She had a death grip on Solomon’s hand. She let out a high pitched squeal punctuated by grunts.

Jerry stood wide-eyed in the doorway watching and biting the knuckle of his index finger. He paced as Becky retreated further and further into her world of labor. Her raw pain became their world. Dark snow clouds brought night early to the cove.

Jerry leaned over and whispered to Solomon, “Servant is here.”

Becky had all his attention. She was pushing hard.

Jerry said to Solomon, “Servant says the baby’s soul has detached from the physical plane.”

“No! Tell him he can’t do that!” Solomon snapped. His heart pounded at his temples.

He pushed Becky’s gown up around her waist. He sat on the edge of the bed and put her leg across his lap. “Jerry, hold the flashlight over here,” he said urgently. He could tell that Jerry was shaking because the light was moving. “You have to be still, Jerry!” He rotated Becky’s hips upward. “You’re crowning, Becky. I see the baby’s head.”

Becky’s face turned blood red as she strained. She dug her heel into Solomon’s thigh. Her baby’s head pressed against her vaginal opening until a five-inch circle of head showed. Her skin stretched tight around it.

“Don’t push, Becky! Don’t push now!” Solomon said as he hurriedly worked to ease the skin over the baby’s head so she wouldn’t rip open. Running his fingertip around the opening, he massaged a lubricating gel around the baby’s head and pushed down on her perineum. Midwives call this the ring of fire because of the intense burning as the tender skin thins and tightens almost to the point of splitting open.

She threw her head back and panted in shallow breaths.

“That’s good, Becky. You’re doing so good,” Solomon said.

The widest part of the baby’s head slipped through the opening, and Solomon said, “You can push now, Becky. Push, sweetheart!”

She ducked her chin down into her chest and strained again through clinched teeth. Her eyes squeezed tight, and she growled deep in her throat.

Solomon controlled the baby’s head as it popped out in a gush of blood. The opening immediately collapsed snug around the baby’s neck.

“Okay, stop pushing, Becky. Don’t push,” he said. He stood up and worked quickly to release the cord from around the baby’s neck and suction out his mouth and nose.

Jerry dropped to his knees and held on to the edge of the sofa bed. He propped the flashlight on his shoulder and steadied it with two hands. He turned his eyes away and looked into the fire. He felt like he was going to throw up.

The baby’s face was blue and covered with a thick waxy coating.

“Push again for me, more big push.”

Becky put her head down again and strained and pushed.

Solomon stuck his finger inside her and hooked it under the baby’s armpit as it rotated and tumbled out. “That’s great, Becky. You did great,” he said wiping the baby briskly with a towel.
It didn’t make a sound, and it didn’t move. “Come on, baby. Come on.” He rubbed and stimulated the baby. Seconds passed with no response.

Solomon bent over and placed his mouth over the baby’s nose and mouth. He puffed the air in his cheeks at the baby. He put a stethoscope to the infant’s chest. Solomon felt sick in the pit of his stomach. There was no heartbeat. He put two fingers to the infant’s chest and did compressions. He looked up at Becky. Her eyes were wide and filled with tears. Standing over them, Jerry shook his head for Solomon to stop.

Solomon puffed air into the baby again. “Come on, stay with us, please,” he said. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he worked. He felt Becky’s hand tenderly caress his head. He looked up at her.

Her shoulders shook as she sobbed. She ran her fingers through Solomon’s hair. Jerry let the flashlight drop on the bed. The kerosene lanterns flickered casting shadows on the walls. The sudden quiet in the room was excruciating.

Solomon closed his eyes and dropped his head. He encircled the baby with his arms as he bent over him and wept. He wanted the little one to feel the warmth of human contact as his soul released the physical world. Solomon’s tears pooled in the waxy vernix of the stillborn. Becky’s hands held Solomon’s head as she closed her knees around him and her son. An indescribable closeness surrounded them as the infant’s soul released the frail little body and embraced them with the ineffable serenity and joy of the Light World.

The voice of Servant announced, “He is the Pure One. Bless-ed be he among souls and bless-ed be the one he visits.”

Becky mouth dropped open as she looked around the room. It was the first time that she’d experienced the Light World.

Solomon staggered backward as he heard the name of the Pure One. He reeled from the shock of all that had happened and from the idea that the Pure One was Becky’s beloved baby.

With tears streaming down his face, he clamped the lifeless umbilical cord and cut it. Solomon felt sadness and confusion sucking the life out of him. He wrapped the stillborn infant in a towel and held him close to his chest as if the Pure One could stop the pain in his heart.

Becky laid her hand on her son and said, “Let me hold him.”

He placed the precious bundle in her arms and buried his face in her neck as he draped himself over the two of them.

She sobbed, “I’ll miss you, son. I’ll miss you in my belly, and I’ll miss taking care of you.” She looked at Solomon and Jerry with tears glistening on her cheeks, “Does he know that I’m his mother?” she asked.

They both said, “Yes,” at the same time.

Becky said to her son, “Instead of my taking care of you, you will take care of me.”

Jerry kissed the top of her head and said, “That’s right. He’ll always be with you.”

Solomon looped the umbilical cord around his fingers and laid his other hand on Becky’s abdomen. He was waiting for another contraction. He’d lost himself in his work again. “Becky, when you feel another contraction...”

When it was all over, Solomon filled a basin with warm soapy water. He opened the towel covering the infant and began washing the tiny body. He let his mind wander over the dreams that he’d had of days he would spend with Becky’s son. He could not have loved this child more if it had been his own. He thought of all the nights that he’d felt the baby’s little foot kick against his palm. The poignant memories of the three of them lying in bed together flooded his mind. It’s so hard to give up these memories and plans, he thought as he lovingly bathed the cherished infant. He couldn’t even imagine the loss that Becky was feeling right now. He shoved to the back of his mind the fact that this infant’s soul and the Pure One were one in the same. That was too much for him to grasp right now.

He tenderly swaddled the infant in a soft white baby’s blanket and carried him to Becky. She cuddled her son in the curve of her arm almost as if she were planning to suckle him. Solomon lay down beside them. He pushed one arm under Becky’s pillow and draped his other arm over her hip. The death of Becky’s child was too much for him to absorb for now. Solomon felt exhausted. He’d been up for thirty-six hours. He’d delivered Molly Taylor’s baby just before dawn this morning.

Solomon immediately slept. In a dream he walked over Buzzard Mountain with Becky and her son. Toting a picnic basket for a day of swimming in Lake Blarney, Solomon watched the sun glint off the blue waters of the lake. It was a perfect day for a perfect family. As they walked in his dream down the backside of Buzzard Mountain, a narrow ledge offered too much adventure for the toddler.

In an instant the child broke loose and ran for the cliff. “NO!” Solomon screamed, but the little one had been too quick. He careened over the precipice before Solomon could reach him. Solomon hid his eyes as he imagined the awful fate of the child he loved. Terrified he forced his eyes open. The corners of his mouth began to turn up before his mind caught up with the sight he beheld. The child was flying! Where a man could see no wings, wings had appeared on the toddler. The cherubic epitome of innocence soared in the skies above Lake Blarney. Impish giggles rang in Solomon’s ears. Becky laughed as if she were part of the prank.

Solomon woke himself laughing. He opened his eyes upon a sleeping Becky and the treasured bundle between them. He looked at his watch. He’d been asleep for three hours! A lantern flickered from the kitchen. He could hear Jerry shuffling cards.

Solomon rubbed his eyes and got up.

Jerry came to the kitchen door. “Is everything alright?”

“I need to check Becky’s pad,” he said, “I should have done it two hours ago.”

“Do what?” Jerry asked.

“Never mind,” Solomon said.

Solomon picked up his flashlight and touched Becky on the cheek. “Becky,” he said softly, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to startle you. I need to check your pad.”

Becky opened her eyes and raised her head slightly. “Okay,” she said.

He moved the covers and pulled the pad away from her body as he shined the flashlight on it. He tossed it in the trash. “You’re doing good,” he said to her. She opened her legs for him as he cleaned her with rose water and pushed a fresh pad against her. “How are you feeling?”

“Okay, I guess,” she said.

He covered the baby’s face with a corner of its blanket and put it in the cradle. The tiny body was cool.

Solomon lay down in the bed beside Becky.

She hugged her abdomen. “I feel so empty,” she said.

“I know,” Solomon said as he placed his hand on her belly.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

No comments: