It’s hard to believe I’m still posting this story on here. Honestly, I feel a bit like a dork, but, hey, whatever – I’m used to feeling like a dork. So, here we are at Chapter 15 of ‘A Story to Tell’ or the saga of Blanche and Hank. Some have commented they would like to smack Hank around a bit and I don’t think after this chapter you’ll feel much different.
Need to catch up on the story? Find the links to the other parts HERE or at the link at the top of the page.
“I really hate to do this, Blanche, but Mr. Roberts found out that I wasn’t charging you for the class and he says I can’t keep letting you come without paying.”
Mrs. Pace, the teacher of the secretary class I had been taking was frowning and shaking her head. She looked like she might cry. I knew I wanted to. She laid her hand on mine and looked me in the eye.
“I’m so sorry, but I want you to keep the books and I want you to keep studying,” she said. “Maybe something will change and you can come back next semester. Don’t give up, okay?”
I stopped by Miss Mazie’s on the way home. I hated to always run to her when I needed to cry, but I didn’t want to call Mama and hear disappointment in her voice again. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was never going to be anybody worth knowing.
“I won’t ever be a writer or a secretary or anything I ever thought I’d be,” I cried as I sat on Miss Mazie’s couch with the brown flower patterns all over it. “I’m … I’m nothing anymore than damaged goods.”
“Honey, you’re not damaged goods,” Miss Mazie said softly. “That’s not how our God sees us. “
“If there is a God why didn’t he stop me from being so stupid?” I was crying now, sad and angry at the same time. “I should have never dropped out of school and left home and moved here with Hank. I never should have – I shouldn’t be – “ I looked at my stomach, shaking my head as the tears fell.
“God loves us so much he gave us free will to make up our own minds and to lead our own lives,” Miss Mazie said. “He hopes we will listen to Him but he’s there for us no matter our decisions. God has a plan for each part of your life. He wasn’t surprised when you took up with Hank. All things come together for his purpose.”
She reached across the space between her chair and the couch where I was sitting and took my hand in hers.
“Without Hank you wouldn’t have this sweet baby growing inside you. I know it’s scary, but that baby is a gift from God. Every life is. God loves you and that baby and believe it or not he loves Hank too. Do you understand?”
I nodded as I cried.
“I do. I know God loves us all, but – sometimes I don’t love Hank.”
“I know it’s hard, Blanche, but try to pray for Hank and try to trust that God has a plan for your life,” she said. “Maybe this change is something God needs to happen to help prepare you for the next step in your life.”
“Yes, ma’m,” I said, but I didn’t really believe her. Not at all.
I didn’t feel like I’d ever do anything except be the woman who washed Hank’s clothes and cooked his dinners, while he went out to bars without me.
“I’m scared, Miss Mazie,” I told her, hand against my stomach. “I’m scared I’m not going to be a good mama. My mama was a good mama and I still messed up. What if I can’t be as good as my mama? And what if I don’t even know what to do with a baby? I don’t know what to do with a baby! I never even babysat! Babies just blow snot and drool out of their heads all day long.”
I was crying hard now and it wasn’t lost on me I wasn’t making any sense.
Miss Mazie smiled.
“Blanche, honey, motherhood is scary, but we take it one day at a time,” she said. “That’s all you can do. You just do the best you can. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. We are all individuals. That’s the way God made us.”
I wiped the tears off my cheeks with my hand and blew my nose on a tissue.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Mazie,” I said. “You must think I’m so silly, always crying and having a break down.”
Miss Mazie’s deep laugh made my heart feel less dark.
“Honey, you’re a woman. We’re always crying and having break downs. It’s how God made us. All those hormones, but also all that tenderness. Women are a beautiful mix of emotion and strength. That’s the beauty of our sex. We can be hard and soft at the same time.”
“It’s exhausting to be two things at the same time,” I said. “I just want to be one thing and maybe even be good at that one thing.”
“Only God can give us the strength to be what he’s called us to be,” Miss Mazie said. “And He’s going to give it to you and show you how to navigate all of this. All you need to do is pray and ask him”
I didn’t know what Miss Mazie meant by God calling us and I certainly didn’t feel like muttering a bunch of words to a God I couldn’t see. I didn’t understand how this unseen God was going to help me out of the mess I’d gotten myself into, even though I’d heard Pastor Frank speak about Him often.
I didn’t want to disrespect the only person I had to lean on in this town, though, so I nodded and thanked Miss Mazie through the tears.
“Now, why don’t we get you some tea and a couple cookies before you head on home?” Miss Mazie said, shuffling toward the kitchen. “A little bit of chocolate always makes me feel better.”
I managed a smile as I twisted the tissues in my hand into a tight ball. I wish I knew God the way Miss Mazie did. If I did, maybe my world wouldn’t have been so upside down.
The night water started pouring down my legs and pooling on the carpet, Hank had fallen asleep on his face on the couch, an empty bottle of whiskey gripped tightly in his hand. Miss Mazie had told me the rush of water was how I’d know when it was time to go to the hospital, but I was still terrified something was horribly wrong.
I touched Hank’s shoulder, trembling, terrified that I or the baby was dying.
“I need to go to the hospital,” I told Hank, terror rushing through me.
Hank mumbled in his sleep, but didn’t move.
“Hank!” I shouted at him. “I need to go to the hospital!”
I doubled over, lowering to my knees, praying as I put my head against the floor and tried to breathe through a sharp pain in my stomach.
I shook his shoulder hard.
Hank groaned and started to lift his head, his eyes slowly opening, glazed. He passed out again, his head falling into the couch as I looked up at him, sobbing.
I crawled to the phone as the pain faded.
“Miss Mazie. It’s happening. There was a lot of water like you said and I’m scared!”
“Now, honey, you calm down. It’s going to be okay. Where is that husband of yours?”
“He’s asleep on the couch – he’s – he’s been drinking, and I can’t wake him.”
“Lord Jesus, help us. Okay, sweetie. I need you to try to get a taxi to come and pick you up and take you to the hospital. Are you having any pain?”
“It happened just once so far,” I told her.
“How long ago?”
“Two minutes or so.”
“Okay. You get your things together and you get to that hospital as soon as you can. It’s going to be okay. They’ll take care of you there.”
I started to cry into the phone.
“Blanche, honey, I’m already praying.”
“Thank you, ma’m I appreciate it.”
I called the taxi company as my hands trembled and another sharp pain rolled through me. I dialed Mama after I called the taxi.
“Mama, the baby is coming and I’m so scared.”
“Oh, Blanche, I wish I could be there but there’s no time,” Mama said and I could hear the worry in her voice. “It’s going to be okay, honey. I know you can do this. Is Hank taking you to the hospital?. I’ll be praying for you and I’ll be up as soon as I can.”
I didn’t tell her about Hank.
“I’ll call you when I can.” I gasped the words out as more pain seared through me and hung up the phone.
“Where to, little lady?” The taxi driver smiled as he turned to look at me. His eyes fell to my stomach then back to my pale face, now speckled with beads of sweat. His smile faded into an alarmed expression.
“The hospital,” I said softly, trying to stay calm.
“I’ll get there as fast as I can,” he said. He pulled onto the street and looked through the rearview mirror at me. “Just don’t mess up my cab, okay? I don’t want to have to clean that out.”
He laughed and I knew he was trying to lighten the mood. I smiled weakly at him.
“I’ll do my best,” I told him, wincing as a twinge of pain stabbed through me.
The driver winked and smiled.
“Good girl. You just keep those legs crossed.”
The delivery room table was cold and hard and I wished my Mama was there.
When the pains started coming closer together, I panicked and could barely slow my breathing. I didn’t know how long I’d been there or how long I’d been writhing on the table as waves of pain rushed through me. It seemed only moments and hours at the same time. I heard a nurse speaking to the doctor as I gasped through another contraction.
“She’s been like this for seven hours already. She’s not progressing at all, sir. Should we give her some medicine to help her along?”
“I think that would be best,” the doctor said and left the room.
“What medicine?” I cried as I gasped from the pain. “What are you doing?”
“Honey, don’t you worry,” the nurse said calmly, but not comforting. “We’re going to get that baby out of you.”
I closed my eyes against another wave of pain and screamed.
When opened my eyes the nurse was standing next to me. Tears were streaming down my face as pain seared through me again.
“It hurts!” I screamed.
“I know,” the nurse said. “It won’t be much longer, dear.”
I saw the bag next to the bed, liquid dripping down through a tube that was attached to a needle in my arm.
“This will help the pain,” the nurse was saying.
Her face was starting to blur as she spoke and I wondered why she was talking down a tunnel. For a few moments, or maybe it was hours, I forgot about the pain and focused on the feeling of floating on a cloud while simultaneously feeling as if I was repeatedly falling through the floor.
Sweat was slick across my forehead and my hair was soaked.
The next hour was a blur until I bore down and screamed again through the pain.
“It’s a boy,” the doctor said, but I could barely hear him; blackness was spreading across my vision. I closed my eyes tight, fighting against the heaviness in my limbs. I fell back against the hospital bed, breathing hard, the hospital sheet sticky and wet against me as I heard a baby wail.
“Here he is,” the nurse said and it was the first time I’d seen a smile on her face.
I could barely lift my arms as she laid a small form against my chest. I immediately felt helpless and overjoyed as the nurse helped me slide my arm under his tiny head. She pulled back the blanket back to reveal a small, red-faced creature whose mouth was open in a scream. His crying faded as his eyes opened, locking with mine.
Staring into his eyes felt other-worldly, as if he knew more in these early moments of his life than I ever had or ever would. I wondered if we were all like that in the beginning – fresh from the hand of God, pure in thought, so close to God we were almost one with Him – and then slowly forgetting what heaven was like until we returned there again one day.
“Here, let me hold him,” the nurse said. “You need to rest.”
The blackness consumed me and I felt like I was spinning down into a hole in the ground.
When I woke up, Hank was standing at the end of the bed, the baby in his arms. Mama was standing next to him smiling at Jackson. I wondered how long I’d been asleep.
“His name is Jackson,” Hank was telling Mama. “Jackson Alexander Hakes. After my granddaddy.”
He was beaming with pride.
“That sounds like a fine name,” Mama said, smiling.
I drifted back to sleep as they talked. Hank told Mama about his granddaddy who had been a farmer and Mama said she enjoyed hearing about him. I was glad to hear them talking and thought about how it might mean things were going to change and get better now that Hank had a son to act better for.
On the day I should have been graduating high school I had become a mother for the first time.
Jackson cried often and I never knew how to comfort him. He refused to nurse the way the nurse and Mama had shown me. He rejected being cuddled and refused to sleep, no matter how long I stood and rocked him. I looked at his small, screaming face and terror mixed with an overwhelming desire to love and comfort him rushed through me.
I tried holding him against my shoulder like Mama had done before she left, patting his back as I paced the floor. Sometimes it worked and he’d drift into a deep sleep, other times the screaming continued, tears streaming down both our faces.
A knock on the apartment door one afternoon after Mama had gone home, sent fear coursing through me. What if it was one of the neighbors who were always yelling at each other? What if it was someone who wanted money or to hurt me or Jackson? I laid Jackson in the crib and slowly unlocked the door, my body trembling
Hannah was looking at me through the crack in the door, clearly concerned. Her dirty blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her skin was smooth and beautiful, her make up highlighting full lips and large eyes. Looking at her was like looking at the front of a glamour magazine.
“Miss Mazie told me on Sunday that you’d had a baby and I just wondered if I could help at all,” Hannah said.
I looked down and saw a basket in her hands. I closed the door and unbolted it and let her come inside, hoping she could help me figure out how to get Jackson to stop crying.
“Uh-oh, someone doesn’t sound happy,” she said, placing the basket on the kitchen table.
“I don’t know how to help – how to get him to stop –“ I sniffed at her, bleary eyed and swaying with exhaustion.
“Oh honey, you poor thing. You must be so exhausted. Let me see if I can help.”
She followed the sounds of Jackson’s cries and returned from the bedroom with him in her arms.
“It’s okay, sweet boy,” she cooed, kissing his forehead. “Have you got some extra gas in there?”
She looked at me and smiled.
“I bet you he’s just got some extra gas,” she said. “And I think I have just the thing to help him in the supplies I brought you.”
I watched as she reached into the basket and pulled out cloth diapers, bottles, a tube of diaper rash cream, clothes and blankets and then a small blue bottle.
“The ladies at church thought you might need some of these things, being a first time mother,” she said, her bright smile equally comforting and aggravating in my exhausted state.
Hannah carried Jackson to the couch and sat with him across her lap. He looked up at her, red-faced, fists clenched and screaming. I wondered, not for the first time since I’d brought him home, why anyone ever had more than one child. Didn’t they learn their lesson the first time the baby wouldn’t stop crying?
Hannah slid the dropper from the bottle and squeezed a few drops into Jackson’s mouth. She handed me the bottle.
“Keep that for later,” she said. “You may need it.”
She smiled down at Jackson, who looked at her, startled with the liquid on his tongue and at her fingers gently massaging his tiny belly up one side of his belly, across it under his sternum and down again, in the shape of an L.
I watched in amazement as Jackson stopped squirming and crying, his arms slowly falling to his side, his expression calming and relaxing.
“There we go, little boy, you feelin’ better?” Hannah asked as his eyes began to flutter closed.
“You’re like a baby whisperer,” I said. “How did you even do that?”
Hannah smiled and slid Jackson into my arms as I sat next to her.
“After you have three babies you learn a few tricks,” she said.
I cradled Jackson in my arms as he rooted for the breast, latching on and drifting off to sleep as I sat on the couch. He was warm and heavy against me. I watched his small mouth working, his tiny fingers clutched around my finger.
“He probably couldn’t get his gas out,” Hannah said. “My Henry was the same way. Gripe water worked for him like some kind of crazy magic potion.”
I felt my lower lip trembling. I didn’t want Hannah to see me cry, but I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and I seemed unable to control my emotions.
“I don’t have a clue what I’m doing,” I blurted. “I’m a horrible mother. I never even babysat before this. He cries all the time and some days – “
I couldn’t even say it.
“Some days you’re not even sure you love him?” Hannah asked, watching my face for a reaction.
I looked at her, stunned.
“How did you know?”
“Because it happens to all new mamas from time to time,” she said. “Mamas get tired and overwhelmed and then we can’t figure out how to feel. It doesn’t mean you don’t really love your baby. You’re just struggling to figure it all out. It’s going to be okay and you’re going to realize soon how much you really do love him, how happy you are he’s here.”
I looked at Jackson’s chubby cheeks and hands, his tiny arms and the dimple in the elbows. My fingertips brushed his soft brown hair. The same feelings I had felt when I first held him rushed through me. I knew I loved him. I knew he was more than I ever imagined he’d be. I knew I’d do anything to protect him, give him the same kind of childhood my parents had given me, one filled with security, comfort, and joy.
“It’s going to get better, Blanche,” Hannah said. “Don’t you give up. You just keep loving this baby and it’s going to be alright. God doesn’t make mistakes and he didn’t make a mistake when he gave this baby to you.”
She stood up from the couch and smoothed her blue slacks as she walked toward the basket.
“Now, let’s see what other goodies we have here that can help make these first few months a little easier,” she said cheerfully.