by Kendrea Rhodes
Lying here, I feel love washing over me, covering me head to toe, the inevitable inbound wave. I can’t avoid it. I feel the gift of life, just now, just in this moment.
I am in hospital with my baby in my arms. My beautiful baby boy. I relish the joy of him … his perfect mouth and fat little fingers, his immaculate fingernails, his hearty cry. I smile.
But my joy dies as quickly as it came, and of course the wave ebbs; all waves do. In the pit of my stomach is a clenching sickness. I have nowhere, no-one, nothing. How will I keep this perfect child alive?
My name is Som.
It’s as if there is only me and my baby. But of course his father must exist, too—even though I have scrubbed him from my mind, disinfected every nook in my brain that his memory stained. He lied. He already had a wife and children. How could I have been so stupid?
I can hear the woman—no, the mother—next to me. She screams in agony. She has no money for medicine. As the nurse moves around her, the flimsy curtain separating us flutters. In a fleeting instant I glimpse what might have been my own fate: sickly sweat, blood and pain. Her baby died, and I feel guilty.
My baby lives and I can’t look after him. But, oh, look how beautiful he is!
I think about my own mother. I want her to comfort me, I want it so badly. But I have invited the monster of shame into our household.
‘Your sick father needs looking after’, she said. ‘We need money for food’, she said. ‘We can’t feed another mouth’, she said.
‘You must give that child away’, she said. The memory kills me inside.
I relish the joy of him … his perfect mouth and fat little fingers, his immaculate fingernails, his hearty cry. I smile.
A lady from the hospital comes to me. She has a different aura. She carries hope. She wears it openly, so that even I can see. O, what a garment … hope. I long to wear it. I close my eyes, but the lady doesn’t go away. She is still there, waiting for me to be ready. She touches me gently. She tells me she has good news for me.
I don’t believe her. I open my eyes, but only because it’s not polite to feign sleep. She tells me there is a place for me, somewhere to go. There are people who will help me, protect me and care for me.
She says it’s called the Home of Grace and I can live there with my baby for two months, while I find my feet again. There are other mothers-to-be and new mothers and babies there too. I could make decisions about what’s right for