Editor’s Note from Sara Siddiqui: Ellen Weeren gives us the story of a woman who’s birthing a baby right after the man, the baby’s father, walks out on her. A story that isn’t new but needs to be told again and again for the emotional and physical trauma women are subject to as a result of relationships—that men can exit and abandon at whim but women can’t because of their anatomy that transforms endings into beginnings. In a few words, Ellen describes the turmoil the woman goes through as she bolsters herself for “An ending bumped up against a beginning.” I thank Ellen for sharing this story with me and welcome everyone to read it.
She wanted the monitors to stop beeping. She cinched the muscles in her pelvis. She ignored the nurse when she told her to release and relax, even though her body wanted to let go. She wanted a break from everyone telling her to “just breathe,” and that, “nature would run its course, no matter what she wanted.” She needed her blood pressure to stabilize. She needed the television above her head to be turned off, so she could stop hearing that there were no traffic delays, a miracle on a Friday afternoon.
She wanted a blanket wrapped around her shaking shoulders, his calming words in her ear, the way they had been early on in their Lamaze classes.
She wanted her mother to call him again.
She wanted to experience an uneventful birth story, like her mother’s had been. Her mother used to joke that she’d fallen asleep and woken up with a baby, someone had even freshened up her lipstick. That her father paced the waiting room, cigars with both pink and blue labels in his pocket, prepared for whatever came.
She wanted the last words he’d spoken to her to have been warm and reassuring—like the way he used to sing her name into her neck when they showered. She wanted the suitcase that he carried to be for her hospital stay.
She wanted the baby to stop pushing on her cervix. She needed to pee. She was afraid she’d poop. She needed her phone to chime with their wedding song.
The nurse needed to cut off her wedding band and engagement ring, “I’m sorry, honey, the swelling.” And, “I’m sure he’ll be here soon. Traffic could just be bad.” Then the nurse pushed her sweaty bangs off her forehead.
She needed to keep her rings on. The diamond had been her grandmother’s. She balled up her fist, tightened her grip.
She had wanted the perfect start for her baby. But here she was with just a start. An ending bumped up against a beginning.
She needed, like he’d said, to figure things out for herself.
But for now, so much could wait.
Her body needed to let go. Her water broke, the thick mucus unplugged. Amniotic fluid drenched the table, her gown, the floor. Her body contracted. Again, and again.
Only one thing couldn’t wait.
The baby wanted to come out.
She needed to push. And keep pushing.
Ellen Weeren’s work has been published by the Kenyon Review (KRonline), Liars’ League NYC, the Hong Kong Review, Crack the Spine, and Stonecoast Review. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University