In order to write your memoir, you must first know how to remember.
If you could have just one memory, what would it be? Here is mine.
I am 29-years-old and six days from 30. I’m on my side in a hospital bed. I white-knuckle the rails and sweat like a pig. The nurse points to the monitor and says I’m not in labor. But, the pain is excruciating. It goes on for hours. Six to be exact.
Periodically, she checks on me. She points to the monitor and tells me again I’m not in labor. She rolls her eyes and exchanges glances with my now ex-husband.
My body is in a vice. I wonder what is in store for me. I’m in so much pain, but I’m not in labor.
Why do I suck so bad? Why do I feel pain that doesn’t exist?
I think to myself this nurse from New Jersey is a total bitch. Why does she hate me? Why does she dote on my now ex-husband? I’m a bad wife. She feels sorry for him — that he’s married to a woman who acts like she’s in so much pain — even before labor starts. She pampers him and tells me I’m high-maintenance. He dips his toe in her sweet condolences. I swallow the poison of duplicity and don’t even know it.
I suck it all in. The waves of shame curl around me. I stay quiet through the pain that doesn’t exist. I don’t want them to think I’m a baby. I wanted to make everyone proud.
I am in so much denial it will be years before I recognize the bite-size betrayals that chip away at the relationship.
I hug the bed rails tighter and tighter. I wish for no one to be near me. I am stronger alone. I count and breathe. The pain is blinding. I do not think about the baby. The slightest whisper makes the waves rise sharper and sharper. My womb pulls away from my body. I am so afraid.
It’s almost midnight and shift change. A new nurse pops her head in the door and says hello. The nurse from New Jersey warns her about me. I wish I did not suck so bad. I hug the rails some more.
The new nurse steps in a little closer. She doesn’t look at the monitor. She looks only at me and my face. She is sage and raises her voice. She says that woman is in labor. She rips back the sheet that is covering me. She yells that the monitor is not connected. She connects it and bam, my contractions are off the chart.
At 3:33 a.m. my child is born.
There are doctors and nurses all around me. NICU is on standby. My parents arrive just in the nick of time. I’m so glad they did. Everyone looks at my new baby, but my new baby looks only at me. She searches for my voice. Looks for me. And, there she is and was. And, I was there born a mother. My baby. My Juliette.
The next day the nurse from New Jersey tells me she’s sorry. I smile and say that’s OK.