...the both of us, together.
One day while I am playing my guitar on a chair by the window I think about the previous promise Amber and I made to each other. We’ve been so preoccupied with the baby that we hadn’t given the promise much thought lately. Amber is growing quickly and now her stomach is rounding out. Even though I am afraid I still find my fiancée to be beautiful. Even though the baby could very well die or kill her I love it and so does Amber.
“Amber?” I ask as I continue to play.
She smiles, “You’re very handsome in the sunlight.”
“Do you remember that promise we made to each other a long time ago?”
“Which one,” Amber asks.
“The one where we said we’d get married before we had a baby.”
“Do you think we should do it?”
Amber breaths in deeply and lets it out, “I don’t know. I don’t want to get married in bed at home. I don’t want to have to deal with the stress of wedding planning. Also I would like to be able to have sex with my husband.”
I laugh softly, “We’ll wait if that’s what you want to do.”
I guess I can see her point. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I don’t care how Amber and I get married, so long as we do it. I don’t need a wedding to tell me I belong to her. To me it already feels like we are married. I just see a wedding as making it official. I guess Amber see’s something much different and she wants to be healthy when it happens. I just don’t want to lose her.
Later that night, after Amber goes to bed, I stay awake, thinking. Amber used to sleep near to the wall but now she sleeps on the other side so she can be closer to the breathing machine. She has the oxygen on and it is noisy. The noise doesn’t bother her but I can hear the hissing. I watch the light on her watch monitor. It blinks to show the baby’s heart rate. It is steady.
Amber is lying on her back so that her stomach is a round silhouette. She was told by the doctor not to lie on her back but Amber can hardly control what she does in her sleep. I usually wake her up so she can move. Tonight I decide not to. Amber has her head facing away from me, her chest rising and falling gently. I reach my hand out to push her shirt up and feel the smooth skin of her stomach.
I remember when Amber’s stomach had been flat. I remember feeling the muscles under her skin. Now she doesn’t have any muscles. Now her stomach is almost solid and round. It is absolutely beautiful. Her stomach twitches and I smile because the baby moved. He likes to play sometimes during the night.
I move my hand and stroke her skin. I feel our baby again, kicking and moving around. Amber keeps sleeping. I rest my head against her shoulder and smile at the feeling of my son moving around in Amber’s body. For a moment I pretend nothing is wrong with her or our baby. I pretend the hissing noise is from the radiator, not her oxygen. I pretend that our son isn’t hurting…that he isn’t hurting Amber. I pretend that in a few months, when he is born, it will be a happy experience and I won’t have to worry anymore.
In that moment I realize I will always worry. Even now I worry about them. Will he be born alright? Will Amber make it through the birth? Will I be a good enough father? Will he grow up to resent me or will we have a good relationship? Can I protect him from danger and teach him how to make the right choices? Will I be able to help him become a strong man and learn to live for himself?
So in a nutshell parenthood is scary. The possibility of losing your life mate just adds to the fear. Even if things were going smoothly I would still worry. Amber would still worry. Even if our baby’s birth turned out completely perfect and nothing out of the ordinary happened, the next eighteen years of my life will be filled with worry. Probably even beyond that, I’d fear his adult life too. I’d worry about him making smart choices. I’d worry about his children, worry about their safety and so on and so forth. In short, parenthood is terrifying.
I decide it’s best to just focus on the situation at hand, the fact that these could be the last moments I have with Amber or my son; that I could lose one or both of them. That fact outweighs the other fears. The other fears and worries have a potential reward. This current fear is just plain frightening. I don’t know how to live without Amber. She’s been part of my life since childhood. She’s been my whole life since adolescence. What will I do if she is taken from me?
For the most part I’ve tried to be strong for her. I don’t cry and I don’t let her see how scared I am. I don’t want her to have to think about it. Yet, it is something that constantly worries me. It is always there to remind me. Amber will smile at dinner and the first thing that pops into my head is “That could be the last smile.” I hate it. It is weighing me down and consuming me. I don’t like the way the heart monitor occasionally beeps as our baby’s heart does something it shouldn’t. I don’t like that occasionally she’ll stop breathing, causing the machines to make odd whizzing sounds. I don’t like that every time it happens my heart stops in fear. I don’t like the idea of having to live my life without her.
I wrap my arm around Amber and hold back the sob that wants to escape. Amber is sleeping so she won’t see me cry. Sometimes you just have to do it. I am overwhelmed by fear. Of course with my luck Amber wakes up. That girl could sleep through a hurricane but for some reason she can’t stay asleep through my tears.
“Frankie?” she asks.
Amber turns her head to look at me but I can’t face her. I don’t want to see the concern on her face. I don’t want to see the stupid oxygen tubes. I can’t speak. All I can think is ‘please don’t take them for me.’ So instead of using words I just pull Amber close to me, causing her to roll onto her side. I bury my face in her neck and let it go. I can’t hold it back now…I’m snowballing.
Amber doesn’t speak. She understands without words. She just wraps her arms around me and plays with my hair.
“I don’t know if I can live without you,” I admit. She holds my face in her hands and forces me away form her neck. Amber’s green eyes are teary too. I hope our son has her eyes.
“You won’t have to,” she promises.
“I don’t like seeing you like this. I’m fucking scared, Amber.”
“I’m scared too, but we’ll be okay. We’re doing everything right. We’ve come this far. We’ve been through so much, Frank. We’ll get through this too.”
“Promise me, Amber.” I run my thumbs over her cheeks. “Please promise me? If we don’t get through this… we’ll go together.”
Amber shakes her head, “Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth and you know it.”
“We’ll be fine, babe. Just have faith, okay? We’ve been through a lot. It’s going to take more than this to bring me down.” I have to smile at her tenacity.
“I love you, Amber.” I kiss her quickly.
“I love you too. Just stay strong, okay? We’ll be okay. Everything will be fine.”
I’m not sure if she is just trying to make me feel better or is she needed to hear it herself but either way her words make me feel better. Amber is just stronger than me…it’s always been that way. I probably would never have survived all the things she’s been through. This is our fight now, the both of us, together.