pages In This Together

by Leah Givens

Published in Issue No. 183 ~ August, 2012

Photo by: Shannon Smith


“There’s not much time left. And a lot you should know. This isn’t ideal, but we did the best we could.” A warm hand cupped over me. The familiar voice paused.

“Your Uncle Richard skipped his spray tan to be here today. That means he really loves you. And he’ll love you more once he sees you and your untouched skin. Don’t change, for him or anyone else.”

I stretched and sighed. I ached to escape. The walls were tense.

“But wait,” she said, rubbing where she knew my head lay. “There’s more. I’m going to try to teach you, but I’m scared, and I don’t know everything.” The muscles around me grew even tighter.

“You’re coming early to this world. You might be special. But we’ll learn, and you’ll learn.” Arms circled around me from outside, and I was rocked forward. “Of course you’ll be special. No matter what. The world is just…shaky sometimes, like when we’re riding in a car and Uncle Richard goes too fast over a speed bump. But if you can laugh at it, there’s always a smooth road again.”

This was enough. What happens when the story ends? I knew the time had come. I rolled, uncomfortable, and heard a muted moan. Dizziness filled me as I flipped from one side to the other inside the small space. She thinks this is pain? The whines and screams increased as I was squeezed, body, legs, head. She didn’t tell me I would be dead by the end! Or feel like it, at least.

A deep voice spoke from far away. “Cindy, it’s almost there. The doctor says you’re close.”

“Don’t tell me about close!” my mother yelled. “When this baby comes, he should know I went through hell!”

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Leah's writing has been published in Sleet Magazine, Marco Polo, and The Yale Journal for the Humanities in Medicine, among other journals. She received her M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008, and has focused on medical research since. She wrote this piece the night before the birth of her niece, although no Uncle Richard or spray tans were involved.