I haven’t always been a bottom feeder. Captain of the football team in high school, awards for lead in the drama department and valedictorian of our class. Then after a series of bad decisions and wrong turns down one way streets that only lead you to the wrong side of the tracks, you find yourself not on top but on the bottom.
Sometimes that tiny light you see at the end of the tunnel is not a tunnel after all. Upon further investigation when focusing on that minuscule speck of light you begin to recognize the walls of that tunnel are actually the sides to the well you’ve managed to dig your way into with seemingly no way of escape.
I used to sing to her Stevie’s words, “Sara, when you build your house.” But we both knew she would never build a house, she didn’t even know the right end of a hammer. I liked it that way. She should always remain the princess I fell in love with beginning our first summer of freedom from the institution known as High School.
We worked. We both worked hard to get to where we are today. All through the gauntlet we ran side-by-side and hand-in-hand. We were invincible, and still are, I believe. Though some decisions in life can produce the crack that can never mend. It just grows deeper until one day you look at each other and can’t for the life of you remember why you stayed so long.
We lived in a nice house on a nice street in a very well to do neighborhood. Then the economy tanked and we both lost our jobs the same month of that year. Then her mother died and joined her dad who had gone just the previous year. The stress meter was pegged at a ten plus for both of us. We had to sell and move into a smaller house, but instead of selling one and buying another, we made the decision to rent.
All I got in the way of income was minimum wage which is actually below the poverty line when you use the correct economic indicators. Not the ones the Feds use as they help you try on a pair of rose colored glasses and then charge you for them.
It wasn’t even six months into our yearly lease we had to break it and move from our little rental house into a two bedroom apartment. I wonder if that’s what Paul Simon meant when he sang “Slip-Sliding Away?”
Probably two months before we moved into our two bedroom card board mansion, Sara got pregnant. We weren’t sure because it was a common occurrence for her to miss her monthly hell cycle. The period wasn’t as consistent as the cup of joe at the corner coffee shop. So a month into the new digs and hanging on by our fingernails we started planning for the sweet little bundle of joy to join us in our George Orwellian lifestyle.
We remained fairly positive given the circumstances we were faced with. There was not enough money to cover all the expenses and now another mouth to feed. It is true as they say, “God takes care of children and idiots.” I wasn’t sure if we were in one or both of those categories.
The pregnancy crawled along without a hitch. She grew to what she described as a small whale. Though she was still just as beautiful in my eyes as the day I first saw her standing there. That reminds me of that old Beatles song.
Labor was intense but Sara was always strong in that regard. Her pain threshold has always been very high, as I believe most women possess that quality. We went to the hospital in the early morning and she was admitted around eight o’clock, I believe. After an hour the nurse came out to report she was doing fine and for me not to worry. Sara was very strong with me about being in the delivery room while she went through her ordeal. I didn’t disagree and stayed in the little waiting area for news of the birth of our first baby.
The second hour went by and then the third. I asked a nurses aid if she would check on my wife and she returned after a few minutes to report she was dilating on schedule and that it wouldn’t be long now. I drifted off to sleep around four in the afternoon. It wasn’t a peaceful sleep but one in which I was tossed about dreaming of choosing one of two doors only to find as I opened that chosen door, I had to choose again one of two doors. Upon entering that one there was yet another choice.
I was awakened by the nurse and was informed that Sara was developing a problem in delivering our child. She said the doctor was doing everything he could to maintain a smooth and successful delivery. She then turned and went back through the huge stainless steel doors. I was left speechless searching a blank mind for thoughts on how I would survive the loss of our first born.
Anxiety and panic tried their best to overtake me but I reasoned out the scenario of the past few years when we seemingly lost everything and still clung together. It was us against the world. It was still us against the world and I was determined that we would make it through this one just as we did all the previous challenges.
It was ten minutes later I was summoned to the giant doors leading back to the delivery room. The doctor stood in the doorway as the nurse held the door part way open. He said he’s done everything he could to save the baby but in childbirth the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the neck of the baby but somehow had also done so in a knot and he was unable to free the baby. Added to this scenario Sara had developed a condition that if allowed to continue we could lose her as well.
The question he posed to me on that fateful day of what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives became a burden upon my shoulders that felt like the weight of the world. I had to choose to save our baby and let Sara die or save Sara and let our baby die.
They always said in church that God would not put more on us than we can endure. I’ll never believe that one ever again in my life. I was left there alone to make this decision. I only had minutes if not mere seconds to decide to save my wife or my child, not both. This was not fair. There was nothing in life that could have prepared me for this decision. I felt my entire insides wrenching with the pain of a thousand deaths on my shoulders and wondered if this is what Jesus felt as they nailed him to the cross.
How would I convey the love we shared and what we endured in all the challenges leading up to this child’s birth and the fact that he or she would never know the beautiful mother that could never be replaced.
But how could I ever explain to Sara my decision to let our baby go to save her life when she would fight to keep her head above water from drowning in the pain and guilt of having lost her baby, our baby. How could she ever forgive me of that decision? The question that burned in my mind as the doctor and nurse stood patiently awating my decision was, which one?
After I made that decision I walked out into the parking lot and looked up at the sun and asked it to burn holes in my eyes that I may never see the ugliness of this world ever again.
I didn’t say prayers, I didn’t talk to God. I felt numb and cold and unworthy of any love anyone could have shown at that time. I just slowly walked around the lot as the sun sank into the west and as the darkness over took my surroundings and the lot lights began popping on one by one, I made my way back to the entrance to the hospital. I had to face my fears and with one foot in front of the other I made my way back to the nurses station.
She escorted me down the wide hallway and pushed open the door to the softly lit room. I had tears welling up in my eyes when I looked across the room and saw Sara sitting up smiling at me. I felt my heart was a thousand pounds as I approached her hospital bed.
I muttered an indistinguishable “I’m so sorry Sara.”
Sara just beamed a beautiful smile up at me and gently pulled back the soft yellow blanket to reveal the most beautiful pink baby girl I have ever laid eyes on.
“Here she is,” she said.
I couldn’t speak, I just cried my eyes out when I reached out to touch my wife’s cheek and then the tiny pink cheek.
I never told Sara of my decision. I didn’t have to.