I was allowed to have one person in the room with me for labor and delivery, beyond the mother of the child. My mom never shared this with me, but my aunts have since told me that she was deeply hurt I had not asked her to be present. This was hard for me to understand considering our relationship did not go further than holidays meals (hers) and babysitting needs (mine). There was never a question in my head when given the ability to choose only one important person to be present. It was Lucy.
I met Lucy when I was 16 and pregnant with the first Gwen. She was seven years older than me and my manager at my part time after school job at a local ice cream shop. I’d like to tell you that we hit it off right away, that she put aside the fact that I was a teenager and she was a married adult working towards a successful career and she instantly became my best friend. But that didn’t happen. We didn’t become friends until a few years later. She left her job at the ice cream shop to work for a new company and she persuaded me to join her, still as her insubordinate. We were both the new kids on the block and had no clue what we were doing, but we were doing it together. In our attempt to figure it all out, we found ourselves spending more and more time together. Soon, our conversations shifted from shop talk to just talk. But then something shifted- she was going through a life altering event and had decided to leave her husband and she had no where to go. I offered her help and a couch to sleep on, our roles suddenly being reversed.
The years went by and we were soon at the same position in our company. We felt an ease about our friendship those days, we were finally equals and could lean on each other. She got remarried and quickly created a herd of children. I was the first one in the delivery room after each child was born. Aunt Allie is what she taught her children to call me and my heart grows a little bit bigger every time I hear them say it.
She is an incredibly intelligent human being and she continues to advance in her career. For the past 2 years she has become, again, my subordinate. This time, though, we are both adults with very large egos. It has not been easy, and we have both come to fret the days that we will be spending time together at work. The depth of our personal relationship has caused harsh and shameful complications in our working relationship, and at times it feels impossible to navigate. Recently, I was denied a promotion- a promotion that would allow us to once again be equals. She came over to my house to commiserate with me, to show her support and care for me. It wasn’t long until I was yelling at her. My shortcomings were all her fault, obviously, and if only she had done more to advocate for me I wouldn’t be in this position now! I kicked her out of my home in tears. She texted me not even an hour later, “I want you to know that I’m here for you.”
I had just given birth but I was not the most important person in the room. The baby was plucked out of me and briefly placed on my stomach. The umbilical cord was cut and the baby was scooped up before I had a chance to hold it or even get a good look at it. The nurses’ attentions had shifted from me to this new creature and her legal mother. The doctor stayed with me as the placenta still needed to come out. She was pushing hard on my swollen abdomen and I was dehydrated and crying and empty. Such joy on one side of the room as the new parents were cradling their newborn child for the first time, such despair on the other side as my mind and my heart were in conflict of what emotions should be coming out of me. Lucy held my hand and encouraged me to continue to push. When it was all over she stood by my side and pushed a straw into my mouth and made me drink ginger ale. I was so weak I couldn’t even sit up. My whole body was numb and trembling. She wrapped a blanket around me, tucking it in under my arms. She spread peanut butter onto saltine crackers with a plastic knife and fed them to me one by one until I regained my strength. She helped me walk to the bathroom and placed me on the toilet as I was incapable of bending my own body. She stayed with me into the night as a snowstorm was happening in the city around us and she had small children at home that she needed to get back to. She filled my mind with silly stories about work so it wouldn’t linger on the emptiness that was inside of me now. She went down to the cafeteria and bought me a pack of sour gummy worms. I sucked the sugar off of each one slowly before chewing it, sitting in my hospital bed with my best friend in the chair next to me.