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Extensions of Life

Blurred white blobs emerge into nurses who occasionally venture near and grasp my wrist to check for vital signs. My ears ring with the constant, dripping beep coming for a machine behind my head. The frequent injections have left my body non-existent, and my head weighing thirty pounds.

I would believe I were dead except for the shrill screams of agony echoing form the labor room adjacent to mine.

The warm darkness expelled Johann and his wife, Becky. Her gnarled hand smoothed my hair while he patiently waited. Racing stripes of pain sped through my lower body, and yet I felt control. Every extension of life requires an effort, a sacrifice.

These bed straps bind my legs like ancient instruments of torture while foreign figures mask and glove themselves. A hairy, green-clothed arm positions a tremendous light directly over my prone body.

I turn my blinded eyes downward and try to smother in the paper linen which shrouds the metal slab. My nostrils sting from the antiseptics which emanate from everything in this room.

My life seems suspended as the medical team glides in routine, never halting or pausing to contemplate the awesome responsibility before it. And, as if on cue, a plastic hand drenched in blood whisks a squalling infant away.

I gripped the cold, brass bars of my grandmother's bed as if they were the palms of a confidante. The clean scent of lye soap and the subtle scratch of flannel sheets reminded me of my childhood and helped me forget the pain. Becky crooned and, even in the dim lamplight, I saw Johann's smile grow with each subsiding contraction.

The gentle man sponged my tiny son in a hand basin and enfolded him in a patchwork blanket. As the child slept in my arms, I vowed to remind him someday of the beauty and goodness his birth had brought to me.

I awake to that damn beep, still somewhere behind me. With the anesthesia gone, my body feels as if has been shredded and stapled back together. I hear a faint cry to my right and look down to greet a glass encasement with cords and wheels.

Trapped in the agony of extended life lies my wrinkled, blue-tinted daughter with plastic tubes in her nose and needles jabbing her curled hands. Her sightless eyes and silent ears do not shield her uncomprehending yet feeling mind.

I turn my head and sob at the injustice, and the beauty and goodness of this world that she will never know.
- Mary O. Fumento, 1987

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