My feet pulled at the shackles that bound me to the hospital bed, as I writhed in pain. An overwhelming pressure, that started through my back before spreading through my entire body, held all of my focus. The clanking from my hand cuffs against the metal railing echoed through the room, as I tried to shift into a more comfortable position.
"Please?" I begged to no one in particular, as the pain subsided briefly. I saw the doctor's stoic expression above the standard issue surgical mask. He shook his head almost imperceptibly, as my body wracked with another contraction. The room was sterile and empty save for the bed I lay on, the monitoring equipment and the two policemen standing guard by the door. I saw them shift uncomfortably out of the corner of my eye.
"Okay, time to push," the doctors words sent a wave of relief despite the unrelenting agony. I squinted my eyes against the pain, clenched my teeth and pushed. My heart beat pounded loudly in my ears, as I grunted audibly competing with the rattle of the shackles beside me. I existed outside of time. I wouldn't have known if minutes or days had passed before the pressure finally released, and I fell back against the bed exhausted and shaking. A ringing silence filled the room in the stillness until the cry of my baby broke through every other thought.
Tears spilled from my eyes. She was the most beautiful little thing I had ever seen, all pink and chubby. The police move forward to unlock my hands allowing me to hold her momentarily. Feeling her tiny hand in my own and the weight of her body against my chest shifted something deep in my soul. Suddenly, I had meaning and purpose outside of myself.
After the allotted recovery time, the guards made a motion that I had to go. I shook my head back and forth frantically.
"No, please! Just a little longer," I begged through sobs.
"Its time," the guard said without any inflection.
I handed my baby off to my dad, trying to sear into my memory the feel of her in my arms, the perfect contour of her nose, and the smell of her breath. As soon as she was out of my hands, the handcuffs snapped tightly around my wrists, and I was led shuffling away, back to my cell. The concrete walls of my cell seemed to close in more tightly around me than ever before. For the first time, I felt the incredible weight of guilt for what I had done. Lying in the bunk bed, staring at the metal slab of the bed above me, I stared into the abyss of regret. I could have stopped this. I could have said something. But I didn't.
I had been swept away by the opportunity for attention from a boy I thought had loved me. I let my need to be loved outweigh my judgement. I sought sleep as a savior from conscious thoughts, but it was both elusive and taunting. Every two hours, the pain in my breast, full of milk, woke me as a reminder to feed the baby that had been ripped from my arms. It went against every instinct I had to lie back down, ignoring the desperate need to be with my daughter.
During my waking hours, I wanted to climb out of my own skin to avoid the full body sobs that consumed me and the dark spiraling thoughts that ate through my mind, leaving me unrecognizable from the person I had been only a year ago.