Saturday, September 19, 2009

Birth of a Fatherless Child

My body is as still as a corpse while my obstetrician shaves the rest of my pubic hair, so that she can neatly slice my womb open.

I stare at my right hand, into the dark eyes of the black and white photograph I am holding of my husband, Erik. I study his black hair, his defined jaw, his young 29-year-old skin, probing his face for answers, but the picture has no reply.

He should be here. How can he not be here for Keira's birth?

Instead, my mom positions herself to the right of the steel operating table, a piece of her curly black hair straying from her cap.

Mom speaks in a whisper. “I am going to be next to you the whole time.” She lightly intertwines her fingers with mine, leaving enough space for Erik's photograph.

I strain my neck backwards, peeking at the door to the operating room.

Please be here, Erik. I need you.

I imagine Erik walking through the door, perspiration on his brow from running late. We kiss as if it is our first kiss, slow, with exploring connection. I feel relief, forgiveness, elation, immense gratitude that he is back in my arms.

But Erik is not in my arms. Erik is no where to be seen, and the thought of my life as a 29-year-old single mom with two babies makes me want to throw up all over the cold cement floor.

“I don't . . . feel so good.”

My insides twist around and around, filling with dusty angst. The agitation pounds at my abdomen, scrapping at the deep layers of my skin. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Hopelessness. I have no idea how I will raise these girls without him.

The tall, male anesthesiologist leans in to comfort me, his green eyes peering over his surgical mask. “Let me know what you need.”

Every one of the hospital staff knows Erik is gone and no one can believe it. Just 19 months before, the same doctors and nurses had witnessed Erik's tears of joy at our first daughter's birth.

Now the room is somber, filled by the presence of educated individuals who have no explanations.

I nod to the anesthesiologist. “I need, uh, something else. Feeling . . . very upset.”

Lizellen, my obstetrician, says, “Give her the works. She has had to go without medication for far too long, but you did good, kid. You’re going to have another healthy baby girl here in just a few minutes.”

Mom squeezes my hand. “I can’t wait to see her.”

“I just hope . . . Keira is OK.” I'm worried that my new daughter will be born feeling the same sense of abandonment, or, even worse, wrought with illness or deformity from being housed in her mother's grief.

Please let her be alright.

I am entirely numb from the chest down—the epidural takes care of that, but the real relief comes when the extra IV drugs start to work.

My consciousness enters an altered state. Eyelids fall. Breathing releases. Everything and everyone in the room seems out of focus. Disoriented. Floating.

Feels incredible not to feel . . . anything.

Stay here forever.

“Hyla, you still with me?”

Dry mouth. Lick lips.

Where am I?

Muffled sounds. Shuffling feet. Clanking metal.


Erik’s face. Penetrating. Eyes connected.

I’m here.

Tears. So many tears.

Tissue on my cheek. Mom wiping my face. “I’m right here, honey. It's OK.”

How could you leave us?

Mom stroking my hair.

I didn't want to go, Hyla. You know I didn't want to go.

Soothing voice. My Erik.

“Hang in there now.”

I can't see you.

“Almost there.”

Feel me. Let yourself feel me.

“I see a hand.”

But, I'm so sad. We didn't get to say goodbye.

“Here she comes.”

My love is around you . . . and the girls.

“Erik, our baby, she's coming.”

The photograph. Blurry.

“Oh, honey.” Mom cries. “I know this is so hard.” Speckled water stains on her surgical mask.

Our baby.

“I see that little cutie in there.”

I am always here.

“There she is. She’s out, Hyla.”

No sounds.

No first breath.

She should be crying by now.

“Mom? Mom, is she alright?”

I can't lose her, too.

“Just give her a second.”

Words between the doctors.

She has to be alright.

And then, finally, a scream.

“That's a good set of lungs there.”

A powerful wail.

The proclamation of life from our new baby girl.


  1. Hyla,
    In some strange yet soothing way I enjoy reading what you write. You have such a way of telling your story that it pulls every reader into your life experience. Again, I could not not imagine what you went through, but your writing tells all. Your children are beautiful and that is because of you!!!!!!! Love Stephanie

  2. I always read your words and am so moved! I never quite know what to write. Your writing is raw, real and powerful. I hate that this had to happen to you and am amazed at how happy you are now. I can't imagine how sad and wonderful the birth of Keira must have been. Where did you find the strength?I think this would be an excellent first chapter to the book.
    Again thanks for putting yourself out there and sharing all of these memories with me!

  3. hey Hyla.. i get all shook up inside reading these... but thats a very good sign of what i am reading is real! and this is what makes an awesome book>>> u cant stop reading but ur nervous.. n u know what i mean! love ya

  4. Awesome as usual. Your words are so real. It's like i can picture the whole thing in the operating room. You are such a talented writer and a strong and courageous woman to go through what you did and be able to relive it by writing in down. God bless you and your family!

  5. Hyla,
    I'm still sitting here letting that one sink in. Having birthed 4 children of my own, and knowing how important it was to me that Rick be there by my side, I can only imagine how your heart ached to do it without him.
    As usual, you are able to transport the reader back in time to your exact moment and make them feel as if they lived it somehow too.
    I couldn't hold back the tears on this one...
    Thank you for having the courage to share this. XOXO ~Michelle

  6. This "episode" could be 100 pages long and I'm sure could still not possibly be enough. We want to read more. Keep them coming.

  7. I remember that bittersweet...

  8. I agree with Jackie - left wanting much more after this post! Keep up the writing Hyla - its beautiful!!


Your comments and ideas for my blog are very much appreciated.