What Grows Within Her

growsI sit in the counselor’s office and try to think of light conversation gambits to fill the silence before the other ladies arrive.

“Would you like some tea?” I ask.

“No, it’s sorta hot in here already.”

“You’re right,” I agree, “but there’s some lavender tea and I’ve never tried that before.”

Conversation sags like an old sofa. The water starts to boil and I busy myself preparing tea. Awkwardness creeps into the corner of the room and stares me down.

“Would you like some chocolate?” I ask as I nod to the tray of snacks across the room.

“Sure.” I jump up and unwrap the giant bar of dark chocolate. I wish I could unwrap my feelings as easily. We both know why we are here, but the conversation cannot grow unless she starts it. I don’t know her well, she has only been in my class for a few months. She studies hard, keeps to herself and rarely smiles.

Now I know why. Inside her grows new life and it terrifies her. I don’t know the details. I only know that we will gather this night to tell our birth stories to alleviate some of her fear of the unknown.

By the time the other ladies arrive, I am eager to share the burden of conversation. We talk, we laugh about the embarrassing things that happen (but we don’t care because we want to see the baby) in labor and delivery.

The other ladies, decades younger than me, decide that I gave birth in the dark ages (no pain meds but strong doses of Pitocin, and an episiotomy with no pain meds or numbing).

I turn to her and ask, “So, do you feel better now, or are you a little freaked out?”

“A little freaked out,” she says with a weak grimace.

The conversation flows down different channels—maybe she didn’t need birth stories, she needed stories of strength. The other ladies talk about birth plans and making decisions beforehand so that the medical personnel respect her.

“You don’t want them to give you the cafeteria experience,” I explain. “You need to look over the menu and order what you want.” Life may have happened to her, rocketing out of control from the time of her birth to the point where she sits in this office, a scared 15-year-old growing a new life within her. But she can choose to stop the cycle.

“You are never alone,” one lady tells her. “Never. God knows your story and loves your baby. He will take away your fear and give you the strength that you need.”

We end our session with prayer, and as we walk out together, she gives me a hug and says, “Thank you.”

I assure her that she can talk to me about anything at any time (all embarrassment has disappeared—that happens quickly when one shares the intimate details of labor and delivery). “I’ll pray for you every day,” I tell her.

And I will. I try not to let anger at the situation grow within me. After all, God controls her future and he has put me in her life for a reason.

I wonder if I can adopt her.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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