When my phone rang that morning it set my heart racing, no different from the last few times she had called me. Although we had made it past the first trimester, I still dreaded receiving a call saying Cynthia was rushed to the hospital.
I thought getting pregnant was the hardest part, but I was learning that each day came with its own fears and drama.
Just the other week she fell down the stairs. Well, she fell down the last two steps but it was still as scary to me as if she fell down the entire flight of stairs. She was leaving for work and there was no power so the stairwell was dark. The way she told it, she thought she was on the last step and stepped off onto the landing except she still had one step to go. She had let go of the handrail so when she stuck out foot hit emptiness it was too late to regain her balance and she fell. She scraped both hands and skinned a knee from trying to protect the baby.
She went to the hospital and was cleared to return to work, and then she called me. That shook me.
I picked the call with some trepidation, “Hey babe,” I tried to keep my voice normal.
“Hey yourself,” Cynthia replied, her tone light. “I think I forgot to lock the door when I left home this morning.”
I exhaled and leaned back in my seat, squeezing my eyes shut. “How did that happen?” I asked.
“I dunno jor. I got to the office and couldn’t find my keys so I went to check the car and they weren’t there. I don’t remember locking the door, so I am thinking I left the door unlocked. I sha hope the house wouldn’t be cleaned out when we get back.” She said.
I guffawed, “Pregnancy brain.”
“I won’t even argue with you on that one,” she said. “I used to think pregnancy brain was something people made up, but I’m beginning to think there may be some truth to it.” I knew she was thinking of the other times she had forgotten stuff.
“It’s not just the forgetfulness,” I thought.
I am an early riser, a morning person. Cynthia is not.
The last time I was home, just like other times before, I was up early doing chores and listening to music. With most of the chores done, I brewed some coffee and took a mug to Cynthia who was curled in a tight ball under the duvet, a pillow over her head – whether to block out the sun, or the music, or both, I couldn’t say.
I offered her the coffee which elicited a smile. We sat there and sipped the hot brew, arguing the benefits or not of coffee to the baby. She finally got out of bed to make breakfast; I went into the living room to catch up on the Green Lantern animated series.
I was just settling down when she called me from the kitchen. I took my time answering because I knew breakfast couldn’t be ready, and when I walked in she was at the sink washing tomatoes and peppers. She asked me to go put the laundry in the washing machine.
I was going to point out that doing the laundry and making breakfast were the only chores left and they were hers, but I thought better of it and didn’t say anything. As I backed away I asked how breakfast was coming along and she rounded on me, the light bouncing off the wet knife in her hand made me think of Snapped (women who kill). Like, in my head I heard the narrator’s voice say “and that’s when she snapped.”
“I have only two hands, two hands!” she held them out in case I didn’t know what she meant, the knife bouncing light everywhere. “I am making preparations for stew, how about you come and help me? Ehn?”
I backed away further till I was in the living room.
“Today is Saturday, stew is for Sunday lunch. How about we eat this morning before we think of tomorrow?” was what I really wanted to say.
“But babe, I just asked a simple question. Besides, you didn’t ask me for help.”
“So I should ask for help before you know I am overwhelmed?” She asked.
“But. I. Have. Done. ALL. Other. Chores.” I wanted to say. “How can making breakfast possibly be overwhelming in the scheme of things?”
“You know what babe, don’t worry. I’ll sort out the laundry and then come fix breakfast.”
“Don’t tell me not to worry. Don’t tell me not to worry.” She repeated.
I didn’t say another word, but went and got the laundry started.
I was seething because I couldn’t understand why she was lashing out, nor did I feel I was a fair target, “After all the things I’ve done just to make sure she got some extra sleep? And I even brought her coffee in bed. But what do I get? What do I get for all that? I don’t think she knows how lucky she is to be married to me because she could be married to someone who wouldn’t do half the things I did. After all, I wasn’t the cause of her problems.” And that made me smile a little because I realized, I was exactly the cause of her problems.
The baby she was carrying was mine. She chose me because of those same traits I was talking myself up over, and she came into the union with amazing qualities of her own. I thought how lucky I was to have her, and how lucky our baby was to have her, have us for parents. We made a good team, plus she wasn’t usually like this.
When I returned to the kitchen she was braced against the sink, her head bowed. I walked up behind her and held her arms. At first, she stiffened them, but she soon relaxed and allowed me turn her to face me.
“It’s okay babe, it’s okay.”
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed into my chest.
“Shhh… I am sorry too. I just didn’t like how you lashed out at me, especially because I didn’t know why – and I still don’t know why.”
“There’s so much happening inside me, and so many changes on the outside too. It’s all so overwhelming. I’m not a horrible person…”
“Of course you’re not,” I kissed the top of her head. “Know what would be fun?” I asked.
“When the baby is out and grown and you can put your feet up and send her to bring the remote control…”
“Him,” she said. “It’s a boy.”
I held her back and searched her eyes, “Did you do anything behind my back?” I asked. “Like, find out the baby’s sex without me?”
“No o,” she shook her head. “Besides, we can’t know for another two weeks or so.
“Cool, so the next time I’m back and we check you’ll see how wrong you are. She’s a girl.”
As I climbed up the steps that evening, my mind was on the ante-natal appointment we had the next day. At the door, I was surprised to find my keys already in the lock without a memory of taking it out of my bag, and then I saw the key holder and realized it was Cynthia’s.