Cathy Eats Her Words

December 9, 2007

Day Seventeen

Filed under: NaNoWriMo,Novel — jeanne @ 5:34 pm

Cathy was awake during the night. Sounds of mayhem and horror were coming from Star’s room, and this disturbed Cathy. She pictured Star, asleep, the violence entering her ears and making its way to her brain, causing her deep anxieties and bad dreams. Not to mention what the baby was going thru. The little tyke woke and slept thru the night, and maybe by now his little ears were developed enough to hear ambient sounds.

She tiptoed into Star’s room and shut the TV off. Then she spent the rest of her waking time wondering about the baby. How big was he now? How developed? What would develop next? What could go wrong with Star’s pregnancy? What could go wrong with the birth?

By morning Cathy was a mess. Visions of women in pain floated in front of her eyes. The cries of dying babies echoed in her ears. There was blood everywhere in her imagination. She went and searched her bookshelves after the morning dog walk, looking for her midwife texts. But it had been over twenty years since she’d had anything to do with birthing babies, and those books had long since been packed in the attic. At least she knew about where to look, she thought wryly as she clumped up the steps, hoping not to wake Star with her movements.

There were three books. Two were straight textbooks for nurses, one was a lay book from the hippie days when home births were all the rage. Cathy had almost become a midwife. She’d studied for several years, and apprenticed briefly to a lay midwife with a thriving practice. One thing she’d learned in that time – all babies are born at 4 AM. At least, all the ones she had to get out of bed and drive twenty miles to attend were born then.

She would have continued her apprenticeship, because she loved the process of childbirth, but for two things. Richard. He hated the midwife she was apprenticing with. He called her a man-hating lesbian, which was true, and never had anything nice to say about her. He was rude to her face, and growled at her whenever she would come over to Cathy’s house. And he was certain that Cathy would get sued the first time she delivered a baby, and they’d wind up penniless simply because Cathy wouldn’t get a normal job, but had to save the world hugging trees and eating granola. So he put up a stink, and didn’t back down until Cathy stopped getting up to go to 4 AM births.

She wiped the dust off the covers, and brought the books down to the living room chair, where she sat with a second cup of coffee to look them over. She remembered much of what she’d studied, and knew that she only lacked the practical experience. But that was the most important aspect of it, because the books were always there for reference, but if something went wrong, she wouldn’t know until she was right in the middle of it, her options narrowed down to panic, and call the hospital.

She was filled with doubts. She obviously didn’t have enough experience to deliver Star’s baby. She could do all the prenatal things without any fear, unless Star developed problems, but when it came time for the birth, there were just too many things that could go wrong, and she was filled with fear, months ahead of time.

She thumbed thru the pages. Pre-eclampsia, diabetes, stroke, cord compression and prolapse, abnormal presentation, placenta previa, polyhydramnios, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal death………..

Her stomach twisted up in knots as she perused all the things she would be responsible for ensuring didn’t happen to either her baby or her baby’s baby. It was too much to bear.

Then the thought occurred to her that she could find a real midwife to come and deliver Star. She scrambled for the internet to find the community. In the twenty years since Cathy had practiced, things had changed drastically. Lay midwifery was less practiced, because of local legalities and things like malpractice insurance, which wasn’t readily available.

But nurse midwives working with doctors in birthing centers – they were all over the place. There were midwives at Star’s birth center. Surely there would be one who might consider doing a home birth and not reporting it. But the more she thought about it, the less likely it seemed. Midwives working with a doctor were very much attached to the medical system, and they wouldn’t have been trained to be independent. She needed a traditional lay midwife. And those were hard to find.

She looked up the national midwife organization, and sent off a few emails asking the availability of women in her area. This caused a bit of a flurry, because whoever was womaning the computer knew Cathy’s old midwife teacher very well, and recognized her name. So Cathy had to think before writing back. Yes, she had given up her training years ago because of her asshole ex husband. It was going to be a long email. Yes, she was thinking of getting into it again. No, she didn’t want to begin her apprenticeship again after all these years. She really wanted to find the services of a lay midwife who wanted to do a home birth. Who wanted to come in at the last minute and do a home birth that Cathy would do all the preparation for. Who wanted to do a home birth and not report it. Who wanted to do a home birth with a fugitive from the law.

In the end, she didn’t send the email. She would have to talk to someone, and be very persuasive. The right kind of midwife might consider it, but it was very risky to them, legally, as well as Cathy and Star. It seemed that she was going to have to go as far as possible with this herself, and pray that nothing went wrong.

The problem with going to the hospital at the last minute was that the minute the authorities figured out who Star was, they would whisk her off to jail, and the baby would go into state custody. If they could avoid calling official notice to her until after she’d had the baby, then Cathy could keep watch on the poor thing and Star could go turn herself in, and everything would turn out okay. Maybe after a couple of months, so she could breast feed.

Or maybe she could just move to Canada or Mexico and live the life of the expatriate. Cathy was fantasizing at this point. When she was a girl, making the kinds of mistakes that might lead one to think about leaving the country and living somewhere else, under the radar, that kind of thing was easy to do. Just go, and don’t draw attention to yourself, and don’t ask for help of any kind from the authorities. These days, with electronics everywhere, it was highly unlikely that Star would stay hidden in another country for more than a few weeks; less, if they were looking for her. Cathy suspected this, but it didn’t stop her fantasies.

Then Mom called.

“How’s Star?”

“Um, I don’t know. I haven’t seen her for awhile.”

“What do you mean? She answered the phone when I called yesterday, and we had a nice chat. She’s living with you now. The baby’s the size of a grape.”

Cathy made a note to kill Star when she got off the phone. “Um, yeah.” She wanted to explain the whole mess, and to say it in such a way as to keep her mom from getting excited. But how do you tell your mom that your daughter is running from the law and hiding out at your place?

You don’t. She realized that she couldn’t tell her mom anything. She hadn’t told her about Star’s legal trouble, and so she couldn’t tell her she was hiding out to avoid having her baby taken away. The only answer was to get off the phone fast.

But Mom wanted to talk. “I haven’t heard from you in a while. Is everything okay?”

Cathy felt like she was strangling. “Yes,” she croaked. “It’s fine. She’s brought her dog with her.” Stumbles was at that moment up on her hind legs, scrabbling with her front paws on Cathy’s leg, wanting to be picked up or fed or something. It was wearing holes in Cathy’s sweatpants.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. I can’t wait to see the little thing. I love dogs.”

“Um.” No, Mom, you can’t come, she wanted to cry out. But her voice wasn’t working. She didn’t dare say it. Telling Mom not to come was like issuing an open invitation.

“I thought I could fly down at the end of this week. I could stay for a week or two, if that’s alright.

Cathy wondered if that wouldn’t be better than having her come later. But the complications overwhelmed her immediately. “Where would we put you?” she protested.

Mom was prepared. “Oh, I could stay on a mattress in the living room, if you didn’t have anywhere else to put me.”

“That wouldn’t do at all, Mom. The dogs would be all over you, and we wouldn’t be able to move. You could sleep on the futon in the basement.”

“My knees, Cathy. I can’t go up and down those steps like I used to. Why, most nights here at home, I sleep on the couch.”

Cathy could just see it. Mom, on the couch, half covered by a blanket, the TV blaring Christian messages. Then she saw her doing the same here, in her living room. She shuddered.

“Well, Mom, it’s a little crazy here, and I don’t have room for you right now. Let me have a couple of weeks to fix things up, and I’ll try to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve you sleeping on the floor in the living room.”

“But I don’t mind,” she protested.

“Hmm, well, Gray would,” she insisted, feeling a little guilty for pulling bad cop-good cop on her mother.

“Oh, he won’t mind. Don’t you want me down there?”

“I just want to make sure Star is settled and the house is back to normal before you come. The dogs…”

“I can’t wait to see Star’s little Stumbles. She’s told me so much about her. I’m going to want to take her home with me, you know.”

Cathy saw Mom asleep on the couch, the white mop of Star’s dog covering her face, looking just like Gray with his flowing beard.

She got off the phone and stalked into Star’s room. “I thought I warned you about answering the phone,” shse started.

Star was watching America’s Next Top Model, and was all wrapped up in the latest girl to be thrown out of the program. “Shhh,” she said, and went on staring at the TV.

Cathy walked over and turned it off, and stood in front of it so Star wouldn’t be able to turn it back on with the remote. I learned that trick, she thought. “I told you not to answer the phone.”

“Who was that, Grandma? What’s wrong with talking to her?”

“Nothing. Well, not nothing, but never mind. The problem is in picking the phone up at all. I told you not to do that. It’s dangerous.”

“It is not. Grandma isn’t going to turn me in.”

“That’s not the point, Star. You can’t answer the phone at all, any time, to anyone.”

Star sneered. “Well, if you had caller ID like normal people, then I’d know who was on the other end. Can I pleases have my TV back on now?”

“No.” Cathy sighed. “We don’t have caller ID because we’re on a fixed income which is barely adequate to feed you and keep the heat up as far as you want it.”

Star snorted and snuggled deeper beneath the covers. “It’s nowhere near as warm as I need it. Normal people turn the heat on in the winter.”

Cathy looked at the portable heater blaring away on both burners, not three feet from Star’s bed. “You have enough heat,” she said flatly. “You’re pregnant. We could attach leads from your body and you could heat the house yourself at this point.”

“Well, I feel cold,” she stated resentfully.

Cathy shook her head. “That’s snot the point. We don’t have caller ID because we don’t need it. You are not allowed to answer the phone because it might be someone who is looking for you. If you want to ignore this rule, you might as well go turn yourself in down at the courthouse, and take your chances with having the baby in jail. You will not answer the phone while you’re living here, is that clear?”

Cathy hated sounding authoritarian. She’d hated it when her mother laid down the law. She hated hearing herself say it. But it was the reality. Star couldn’t answer the phone, it was a ticking time bomb. But she couldn’t get thru to her. “I’m going to have to discontinue phone service if you won’t stop. Do you want that?” Star muttered something. Cathy was immediately suspicious. “Have you been calling people?”

Star looked away. “Can I have the TV back on now?”

“Who have you called? Who knows you’re here?”

“Nobody. I didn’t tell anyone where I was.”

“I’ll bet they all have caller ID on their cellphones, don’t they?”

Star looked triumphant. “I’m not that stupid. I pressed star 67 first to block the number.”

“What did that cost us?”

Star snorted. “I don’t care.”

Cathy started to protest, but where money was concerned – where Cathy and Gray’s money was concerned – Star didn’t give a shit what things cost. Not a good avenue for discussion.

“What did you tell them? What did they want to know?”

Star was offended. “None of your business what I said and what they said. Now can I please have my TV back on and will you go away and leave me alone? I’m tired.”

“I need to get something straight with you. You’re hiding out from the law. I’m responsible for you. If you get yourself caught, I could go to jail for hiding you. I’m at risk here, and so I have a right to know what you’ve been telling people.”

Star looked at her like You do not, but answered vaguely. “I just told them that I was staying at a friend’s house for awhile.”

Cathy still felt dread. She couldn’t be sure Star hadn’t come out with a series of complaints against her mother the hide-bound authoritarian. She would have if she hadn’t known she shouldn’t, and perhaps she said something about her anyway.

“Did you complain about me?”

“What do you care? No. I didn’t say a word about you.”

“How many people have you talked to?”

Star looked away. “I talked to Greane. She’s had her baby…”

“That’s nice. Who else?”

“Don’t you care about her baby?”

“Not at the moment. Who else?”

“I talked to Spike.”

“You can’t talk to either of them. Who else?”

“Well, I talked to Grandma.”

Cathy slumped down onto the bed. Grandma. “I don’t know what to say to Grandma. She doesn’t know anything about your being arrested or hiding from the cops here.” Star looked away. “Does she?”

“Well, I said something about not wanting Dad to know where I was, but I don’t think she likes him very much. She sounded glad.”

“Yeah, she hates him. She’d take that at face value. She doesn’t know about rehab, either. If you talk to her again, please be very careful not to mention any of these things. I’d never hear the end of it.”

“Yeah. Okay. Now can I have my TV back on?”

Cathy sighed and got up. Whatever precautions needed taking, it was clear that she couldn’t trust Star to take them. She had the sensibility of a child, which, Cathy reflected, she still was. Whatever was she going to do to protect her, despite Star’s unthinking ways?

go to tomorrow’s writing

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1 Comment »

  1. […] go to tomorrow’s writing Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Day Sixteen « Cathy Eats Her Words — October 12, 2009 @ 2:59 pm | Reply


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