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The Quaking Aspen

“Jason, I don’t think I can do this. I’ve never been so scared.” Through water-pooled eyes, I observe how Jason works hard to keep his own fear secured away deep within.

“I’ll be here with you, Babe. Just try to relax.” A slow inhalation swallows a contending lump in his throat. “We’ll get through this together.”

The trembling within my legs is reminiscent of the quaking aspen. As the warm summer breeze blows through the branches, the leaves shake like a thousand tiny waving hands. They shimmer and twist in the wind, looking as though they can barely hang on. With the same twisting, shimmering, waving, my legs uncontrollably dance upon the hospital bed. The vibrating of each muscles creates a constant twitching, generated by a wind of my own fear.

My panicky angst cannot–will not–succumb to extermination. Sitting next to the picked over (and discarded) lasagna, Jason rubs my hand, trailing up to my arm, creating tiny circles on the inside of my elbow. The soft tickling, almost unbearable yet soothing, does not have the fortitude needed to divert my attention. The bed sheet rustles steadily at the will of my uncontrollably jittery legs. Breaking from the invisible figure eights, Jason’s hand lightly rests on my shaking leg. His worried eyes declare his desperation to provide the most comfort he can; his look of defeat confesses his awareness of the enormity of this feat.

Releasing my arm from Jason’s secured fingers, I carefully swing my legs to the side of the bed. Preparation for a short trip to the bathroom has become arduous, navigating my pain, the twisted cotton of the hospital gown, and the needle-tipped plastic tubes that cling like leeches. Sitting alone in the bathroom, I relish the few solitary minutes I have away from the shrill beeping of machines, the rustling of staff in the hall, and even from Jason’s everlasting presence. Passing the vanity mirror, the disheveled, gaunt-faced, baggy-eyed reflection looks upon me with pity. Leaving the saddened reflection, I breathe a sigh of relief when my trek to the commode ends. Feeling the cold seat under my burning, trembling thighs, the solace of my isolation ends abruptly; A slow, full, descending feeling arises from my pelvis. Horrified, I fold my torso as far as it allows. My throbbing back screams to be straightened, my hardly protruding, firm tummy crunches, making creases that dig deep into my flesh. Pushing aside my hospital gown, holding the tube from my wrist with my left hand, I delicately try and feel around with my right hand. I feel the alien formation: round, smooth, long. Is this my baby? Fighting the paralysis that engulfs my legs, I haltingly erect my shoulders, pushing the entirety of my body to a hunched stance. Stretching my gown snugly around my body, my slow, shuffling, sliding feet–right then left, and repeat–replace the impossibility of actual footsteps.

Like small fruit flies circling a helplessly overripe pear, my thoughts circle outside my head. Formed from my vocal chords, but sounding like the harried reflection-girl of the bathroom, the panicky words, “Call the nurse…” escape into the slit of the open door, hoping to land in a sympathetic ear.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Jason’s questions mimic my panic. Grappling around the pillows and sheets, he digs out the call button. Once the red circle is depressed, Jason skirts quickly around the bed, reaching out to grab my arm.

Slowly lowering myself onto the bed, my squeezing thighs push together hard enough to meld into one. More despondent words resound from the hospital bed. “Something feels wrong. Something feels like it starting to come out, and I’m not sure what it is. Is this it? What do I do? What do I do?

Nurse Joleen promptly returns, partially returning a calmness I lost several minutes ago. Crippled with fear, my inability to tell her what I think is happening spikes my panic. Smiling sweetly she says, “I’ll take a look. We’ll figure it out.”

Within seconds, nurse Joleen confidently states, “Looks like the amniotic sac is starting to descend. Usually it breaks before it comes down this far, but sometimes it can stay intact longer. I will call Dr. Gordon, the delivery doctor who is on call tonight. She may want to check you out and and see how far you have progressed. Just try to rest here in bed for now.” Pulling the roughly woven blanket back over my legs, nurse Joleen works hard to maintain her smile. Her betraying eyes reveal her concern.

Keeping my knees locked together, an involuntary knocking creates a quiet, hollow beat further muffled by the sheets. Jason stations himself next to me, reviving the soft massaging on my arm. Looking up to his hovering face, the frustration splays through his eyes, his tensed mouth. His light caressing is the only way he knows to help, and the sadness that swells my heart for him momentarily overtakes my own discomfort. Jason averts his gaze from mine, watching his hand provide its mournful consolation. Watching his fingertip carefully trace my blue, windy veins, my thoughts return to a panic-filled instability. The tight state of my legs is met with increased shaking. Fear whips through my body, giving new life to the forgotten leaves of the quaking aspen. Beneath the layers of sheets and blankets, the trembling is renewed, and undisciplined.

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