Tuesday, March 4, 2014
TEETHING (Revised Version)
Bonnie Wheeler had stopped at Sunrise Mall that afternoon, looking to satisfy her latest craving for a churro. She really wanted a waffle cone of frozen yogurt, but the swirly treat had become too much for her ultra-sensitive teeth to handle.
She was also there to do some last-minute shopping for additional baby clothes. It had been a lonely, agonizing eight and half months of gravidity, and Bonnie wasn’t going to miss it for a second.
As Bonnie entered through the glass automatic doors, the sound of children’s screams and laughter filled the food court. It was a public spectacle she used to dread, but she was starting to accept it. These were sounds she had to be accustomed to if she was ever going to raise this baby on her own.
Halfway through the food court, Bonnie’s water broke. One of the mall patrons summoned security, and a tall guard escorted Bonnie outside and helped her get seated on an adjacent bench.
Bonnie didn’t want to take the risk of driving herself to the hospital, so the tall guard stayed with her while one of the other guards phoned for an ambulance.
Her primary doctor, Ken Dodge, was alerted as Bonnie was en route to Saint Anthony’s. He was there ten minutes after Bonnie arrived.
She had obvious concerns about premature labor, but Doctor Dodge assured her that babies are often born two weeks before the delivery date. He made her believe everything was going to be okay.
Eight and half months ago, Bonnie had met a tall, lean, handsome stranger. She spotted him sitting alone in the darkest corner of the grimiest watering hole in all of Greenville.
His name was Max. An out-of-towner, Max had claimed to be from Tampa. He was just in town on business and happened to wander in late for a drink. He never specified what he did or who exactly he worked for. But that didn’t matter to Bonnie at the time.
After a few rounds of drinks and some exquisite conversation, she was already hearing the chime of wedding bells in her head. She had tried her luck with all the available men of Greenville, and she had yet to discover Mr. Right. Instantly, she sensed something was different about Max.
He was cool, witty, and charming. His responses seemed genuine and sincere and he had a solid answer for every question she could throw at him. In the midst of their conversation, she subtly inspected his fingers for a wedding ring, or a tan line that would indicate one. Through this sneaky tactic, she was able to confirm Max was still on the market.
Bonnie knows every bar fly that frequents the Greenville Pub. And this guy stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb amongst the other drunken slobs that serve as the bars clientele.
By last call, they were back at Bonnie’s place. What ensued was a steamy night of lust and burning passion that Bonnie fooled herself into thinking was real love.
The next morning, Bonnie awoke and rolled over to an empty bed. The other side was vacant, but still warm as she ran her hand across the mattress.
Max was gone. No number, no note, no nothing. She had never felt so used in all her life.
A few months later, Bonnie was carrying Max’s child. Her belly had swelled like crude wood exposed to constant moisture. Her back ached relentlessly and the irregular cramps made her not want to leave the bed every morning.
She tried on several occasions to track Max down and give him the big news. But every attempt was unsuccessful. Max wasn’t in Tampa. Wherever he was, he didn’t want to be found.
And so Bonnie left it that way, determined to raise this child on her own. Her friends and family were all there to support her, and she had come to the realization that the love of a child was all the love she really needed.
The prospect of motherhood had given her a new zest on life. This baby was going to give her life the purpose it desperately required.
She didn’t want to know if it was a boy or a girl. She wanted to be surprised. If it was a girl, she decided she would name it Frances after her grandmother. If it was a boy, she would name him Max after his father.
Bonnie spent hours in the delivery room, panting, moaning, occasionally screaming from her contractions, which were now twenty minutes apart. In between, she read magazines to help pass the time and she sucked on ice chips, the only thing Doctor Dodge would allow her.
As she sat there, she couldn’t help thinking about Max. Thinking about how it felt to wake up alone that next morning. About how used and abused she had felt. About that embarrassing hickey Max had left as a parting gift. The hickey she had to cover with makeup to conceal from her coworkers. Hickeys are cool when you’re in high school, Bonnie thought. Not when you’re single and thirty-three.
And she thought about the changes her body had gone through after being with Max physically. Her body had undergone a radical transformation that seemed occur within the first week she discovered she was pregnant.
Her once enthusiastic taste buds were now indifferent to every flavor they came in contact with. She only ate what her body craved for the sake of the body. Her teeth had become unusually sensitive, as did her eyes. She wore dark sunglasses everywhere she went after that night as sunlight was now blinding to her. But she chalked these strange changes up to the pregnancy.
It helped to think about Max. Thinking about Max was the only thing that distracted her from the pain.
There was a dull ache that started in her lower back. In a wavelike fashion, this ache spread around her body and reached her abdomen, causing tremendous strain and discomfort.
As the hours passed, the pain grew more intolerable. Her contractions had decreased in duration, but increased in frequency.
By the twentieth hour, her contractions were thirty to forty seconds apart.
By the twenty-first hour, she was begging Doctor Dodge to perform a C-Section.
Towards the end, she was ready to perform the operation herself. She just wanted the pain to cease.
Twenty-four hours later, her cervix had finally dilated ten centimeters. The baby was ready to be delivered. Doctor Dodge was summoned immediately and the hard part began.
“You’re doing great,” Dodge encouraged her. “Keep pushing Bonnie.”
Bonnie wailed as she pushed with all her might. The pain was more intense, more extreme than her friends led her to believe. It felt like squeezing a wide couch through a narrow doorway.
“That’s it, Bonnie,” Dodge continued to drone on. “Keep pushing. Just a little more. You’re doing fine.”
Bonnie dug her nails into the mattress and pushed harder, the pain growing more unbearable with each passing second.
“Almost there, Bonnie,” Dodge shouted. “I can see the head now. It’s a boy! I can see… fangs?”
Ken Dodge swallowed the air and all Bonnie could see was the white of his eyes as they rolled in the back of his head. A nurse tried to catch him as he tumbled to the floor and a soft pink lump slid from his mouth. Dodge had bit down on his tongue when he fainted… and severed the tip in the process.
One of the nurses winced as she snipped the umbilical cord and wrapped the baby in a crisp blue blanket. The nurse passed the baby along to Bonnie as if she was passing uranium off to a terrorist, then tended to a fallen Dodge. A second panicked nurse was already phoning for help.
Bonnie marveled at her beautiful new baby. All her friends were going to be so jealous. She was pleased to see the boy had Max’s dark eyes, and his sharp teeth.
Now, the toughest part was figuring out how she was going to breastfeed.