NIARA: in one summer a young girl could lose it all...
(a coming of age story set in Philadelphia)
NIARA, is the first book that I have written and self-published. It is young adult fiction. NIARA is a coming of age story set in the city of Philadelphia during the 1980's. It is a part of THE URBAN GIRL SERIES which is available on AMAZON. I hope you enjoy the read. Thanks.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
native american girls
don't let the height of your skirt
the fit of your clothes
the length of your hair
the size of your butt
the cuteness of your face
the complexion of your skin
the color of your eyes
the jewelry you wear
define who you are
let it be the brain you possess
and what you put into it
“I’m not gonna make it.”
I struggled to get into the elevator. My arms were wrapped around my enormous belly. I felt a tightening sensation at the base of it—like someone with big hands was squeezing me there and then suddenly releasing me.
“You gotta try girl. You can’t have it here.”
“I know—but I can’t walk.”
I was panting heavier than before. I had no control over my breathing; it was erratic.
“Come on. You gotta.”
I tried to continue speaking, but I had to stop. I could feel the pain coming. Tears ran down my face as I anticipated it. The pain wasn’t like any I had experienced before—not like cramps, or a toothache, or even a sucker punch. There was nothing I could do to lessen it. It came and went when it wanted to. I was helpless to stop it.
Somehow I managed to get inside the elevator. I forced myself to walk. I had no choice.
“What floor?” asked Lisa.
“Five,” I said not even bothering to look up at her. I was trying to block her and the pain out, but that didn’t work. I felt another contraction beginning.
“I can’t believe you was gonna come here all by yourself. Where is your Mom?”
“I don’t know—” I stopped speaking; I had to. The pain gripped me in the stomach and caused me to double-over and groan. It eventually passed and I was able to continue speaking.
“I guess she’s with one of her men friends. I woke up this morning and she wasn’t there. Some of her stuff was gone too.”
“She’s with some man?” disbelief was all over Lisa’s face.
“It won’t be the first time.”
“That’s not right. Can’t you find her?”
“She should be here. She knew you was gonna have this baby soon.”
“Forget her Lisa. She wasn’t around no other time. Why should now be different—”
Another contraction was coming. I braced myself for it, but the pain was more severe this time. I opened my mouth and groaned loudly, “Ahhooouu!” I did this until it subsided. Lisa could do nothing but watch.
We stepped from the elevator and looked around. There was a sign on the wall directing us to the labor and delivery room.
“Did your water break?”
“I don’t think so.”
I was so glad I ran into Lisa on my way here. She was getting off the thirteen trolley when I spotted her. I was waiting on the other side of the street for the one that would take me into the city. Now I would not have this baby all by myself.
“I wish Nathaniel was here.”
“Cathleen please! Don’t even think about him now. If he doesn’t come, that’s on him. It’s his loss.”
“I called—and left a message with his roommate. Do you think he might change his mind about the baby? I mean after it gets here—”
“I doubt it girl. You might as well start moving on with your life and forget him.”
“He could change his mind.”
“Yeah right, and I’m not really black either,” said Lisa sarcastically.
“I hope I have a boy. You think he might come if it’s a boy? I could name him Nathaniel.”
“Don’t you name that baby after him! He don’t want to be a daddy. So naming your baby Nat ain’t gonna do nothing. It won’t make him come here tonight.”
“He might,” I panted out. My words got caught in my throat as another pain came.
“Give it up Cathleen. He ain’t here and he ain’t coming. Just be glad his mother accepts you and the baby.”
“Mrs. James has—been real nice. She said she’d talk to him about the baby.”
“It’s not gonna do no good,” said Lisa. “She’ll be wastin’ her time.”
We struggled to the closed double doors, or rather Lisa dragged me to them. The doors had no windows. Just a sign telling us to push the silver pad on the side of the wall. We did that. The doors automatically opened. Inside I saw a bunch of nurses sitting together, some were using computers, and others were just talking. As I looked on, one got up and walked toward us.
“Can I help you?” she asked briskly, examining my stomach with her eyes. Did I see disdain in them? Was she judging me because I was young, and pregnant? Or was she simply tired of seeing girls destroying their futures at the ages of eleven, twelve, thirteen… Could that be why this nurse appeared to be callous?
“I think I’m about to have it,” I said pointing to my stomach.
“Who is your doctor?”
“I’m from the clinic across the street. I don’t know who my doctor is,” I mumbled. “I mean I don’t know who’s on call tonight—”
The nurse interrupted me, “How many weeks are you?”
“Are you in labor?”
“I think so.”
“Don’t you know?” she scolded.
“Yeah I am.”
“How fast are the contractions coming?”
“I don’t know.”
“When is your due date?”
“Your name?” she asked.
“I’ll see if I can locate your file,” she said and then walked away.
The nurse stopped in front of the metal cabinet on wheels. She bent down and ran her fingers across the red binders as she read the names quickly.
As she continued looking, she spoke, “I do not see it. If you are due next week, it should be here. Could you be at the wrong hospital?” she asked accusingly.
“No I’m not. I’ve been going to the clinic across the street ever since I got pregnant.”
“Well your file is not here. Are you sure about your due date?”
“Don’t she look like she’s about to have a baby?” jumped in Lisa.
“I have had people get hospitals and dates confused,” the nurse replied. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the past looking for files on people who should have gone to the hospital on Tenth Street instead of here.”
“It’s the right hospital,” I said.
“Well maybe someone forgot to send your file over,” the nurse said in an agitated voice. “Why can’t people ever do things right?” she said giving no indication of who she was talking about.
“I got to sit down—I can’t stand anymore,” I said bending over further. “I feel pressure down there,” I pointed to the bottom of my stomach.
“Can she sit?” asked Lisa.
“As soon as I find out who her doctor is.”
“But she needs a room? She can’t stand here forever.”
“In a minute. Housekeeping is cleaning it,” she said picking up a phone and dialing. She talked into the receiver for several minutes then she hung it up and came back to us.
“One of the clinic doctors is on his way here,” she informed me.
“Thanks,” I said automatically. I didn’t mean it; it was simply a conditioned response.
“Are you a family member?” I heard the nurse ask Lisa.
“I’m her girlfriend—do you have a problem with that?”
“No, I do not. But I am her nurse for tonight, and I do not need any additional problems to complicate my job.”
“I ain’t a problem,” said Lisa.
The nurse walked away again without saying a word. She picked up a clipboard and began writing on it.
“She is rude,” declared Lisa. “What is she doing?”
“I don’t know, but here she comes again.”
“Come on,” the nurse said, leading us into a corner. She walked fast and we followed her as best we could. In the corner, there was a curtained off room. It contained a slanted table with two metal objects attached to the end of it. White paper covered the table and there was a pillow lying on it.
“Can I get something for the pain?”
“No. What number baby will this make?” asked the nurse.
“But it hurts—so bad.”
“Her first,” answered Lisa.
“Thank you but, I need Cathleen to answer these questions.”
I could tell Lisa didn’t like what the nurse said. She was getting upset, but she didn’t say another word.
“Any complications during this pregnancy?”
“What is your date of birth?”
“November 5th 1969.”
“Any problems with medications?”
I watched the nurse check off several other things on her clipboard before she handed it to me, “You must sign this consent form before we can deliver your baby.”
“I already signed one.”
“It’s across the street. That’s not going to help us right now.”
I took the board and signed it.
“Get undressed and put this on,” she said tossing me a gown. “Give me a urine sample. Void some into the toilet then collect the rest in this container,” she said resting it on the bed.
“Pee into the toilet and then put the rest into that container—do you understand?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Why do you want that?” asked Lisa. “Are you checking her for drugs?”
“I want to check for protein—why? Should I be looking for drugs also?”
“I don’t do anything,” I said.
“If that were true, you wouldn’t be here,” she said and walked out of the room.
“No she didn’t say that. I know she didn’t even tell you that,” ranted Lisa. “Who the hell does she think she is? She needs to be doing her job instead of getting all in your business,” she said walking to the edge of the room and announcing it loudly.
“Don’t worry about her,” I said.
“But, I don’t like her Cathleen.”
“Neither do I, but I don’t really care about her right now. This pain is getting worse,” I said removing my clothes. “I’m gonna tell that nurse I need something real bad.”
“She’s not gonna give you nothing. You’ll have to wait for the doctor.”
“How do you know that?”
“ ‘cause that’s how they did my sister.”
“Well he betta hurry up and get here. I can’t take much more of this.”
“I know,” said Lisa walking up behind me. “I’ll tie that for you.”
I felt her cold hands and fingers touching my neck as she knotted the strings on my gown. “Your butt looks damn ashy,” she said laughingly. “The doctor’s gonna see that and tell you to go home and put some lotion on.”
“I don’t look that bad, do I?”
“No,” she teased.
“Even if I did, I ain’t going no place, but to the bathroom,” I said picking up the plastic container.
The nurse didn’t tell me where the bathroom was. Nor did she pull the curtains shut or even tell us her name. I hadn’t realized that before.
“Nurse!” yelled Lisa. “Where is the bathroom?”
“Straight back and to your left,” she answered from the nurse’s station.
“I bet she’s lying about the pee. She’s probably checking you for drugs. I bet they do that to all the black girls that come in here.”
“Well she won’t find anything on me.”
“I know that, but they’re still gonna test you. Do you want me to go with you?”
“I can do it by myself.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Unless you are going to pee in this thing for me,” I teased.
“Nah. I can’t do that. Then it might come up positive for something.”
“Girl you need to stop that. I know you ain’t—doing nothing either,” I said wishing this baby would hurry up and come.
“Try telling them that,” she said pointing to the nurses. “I know they’re talking about us.”
Lisa was sixteen too, but she had no kids. She wasn’t trying to have any either. I know she goes out with a lot of different boys, but that was it. She said she wasn’t giving up the butt, and so far I guess she hadn’t. She wasn’t like me. She had decided way back that she would not be one of them girls in the neighborhood who got pregnant. She wasn’t about having babies; she liked her freedom too much. She was forever saying, ‘I ain’t got time for any babies. Once you have them, you don’t have time for nothing else—look at my mother.’
I do not know how many steps I took before I felt this hot liquid splashing against my inner thighs, ankles and feet. My sneakers absorbed a lot of it, but the liquid kept coming. It formed a puddle around me and then gradually traveled off into different directions.
“I’m bleeding!” I screamed afraid to look down. “It won’t stop!”
I stood rigid; I was afraid to move any part of my body just in case my baby wanted to follow the path the blood took. I heard Lisa yelling for the nurse.
“She needs help!” Lisa called out. She was the first to reach me.
“It’s not blood Cat. Your water broke.”
“It did?” I said looking down at it.
“Come on girl. I’ll get you back to the room.”
“I can’t move. What if the baby is coming?” I asked not budging.
“Then you shouldn’t be standing here. Come on.”
Obeying Lisa, I took slow, unsure steps. Why wasn’t the nurse doing this? Where was she anyway? I thought her job was to help me.
No sooner had I thought those questions than the nurse ran up to my free arm and helped me into another room. It was unfamiliar. It looked extremely sterile and bright. There was a massive light hovering over a crisp white bed. I was instructed by the nurse to lie down.
“I—can’t take this—please give me something—anything,” sweat was suddenly rolling down my face and into my eyes and mouth.
“I cannot do that. The doctor is the only person who can give you meds. Lift up. I need to put this around your waist.”
I did as she asked. She slid a thick belt underneath me. She then squirted a cold gel onto my stomach. I grimaced; it felt like jell-o. The nurse smeared gooey stuff all over my stomach and then fastened the belt around my waist. She pulled it so tight I thought the baby was going to look Chinese. Then, she slid a cold, black device beneath the belt.
“What’s that for?” I barely got the words out. The belt was extremely tight.
“To monitor the baby’s heart rate.”
I listened to the monitor. I wanted to say the baby sounded like it was under water every time I heard the heart beat, but I held the words back. I didn’t want to appear dumb.
I looked away from the belt around my waist, and watched the nurse studying the lined paper coming from a machine. On the continuous sheet of paper, a needle scribbled exaggerated triangles.
“Your contractions are very close— ” her speaking was interrupted by a tall black man walking into the room. He looked African. I don’t mean African-American. I mean African-African. I could tell by Lisa’s face, she thought he was cute.
“Hello Cathleen,” he said with a thin, barely noticeable accent. When he pronounced my name, he stressed the first syllable and allowed the last one to glide past his lips rather quickly. “How are you doing?”
“Can I get something for the pain?”
“After I examine you,” he gave me a slight smile. “I must see how far along you are. I am Dr. Adom.”
I smiled right back at him. I could see the nurse’s whole attitude change up when he walked in. I liked his affect on her.
“Has her blood work been drawn?”
“I was about to do a complete blood count.”
“Draw a type and screen also, but hold it. We might not need it.”
Picking up all the things she needed to draw my blood, the nurse approached me. She dumped her supplies on the bed, beside me. I watched her attach a needle to something yellow. She then tied a long rubbery tube tightly around my arm.
“Pump your fist like this,” she said showing me what to do.
“Okay,” I said pumping.
“You can stop now.”
She punctured my skin and filled two tubes with my blood. I watched her discard the needle when she was finished. She wrote my name on the tubes and put one into a plastic bag with a long green and white slip. The other tube she stuck into a rack.
Dr. Adom stood in the background as the nurse got the blood. Once she was finished, he stepped forward again.
“I want to check your cervix,” he said. “Move down on the bed. I want you to put your feet into the stirrups. Nurse, do we have large gloves in here?”
“Right here,” she said handing him the box.
“Thank you,” he said slipping the latex gloves on.
The nurse threw a sheet over my stomach. I couldn’t see too much of anything now.
“You are going to feel pressure,” he said forcing his hand into my vagina and up the birth canal.
“Arrrhhhh!” I screamed, screwing up my face.
“I know this is not comfortable,” he said forcing his hand even further toward my cervix. “But I must see how many centimeters you have dilated. You are doing well,” he encouraged.
He straightened from his bending position in front of me and removed his soiled gloves. “Eight centimeters. You are going to be there soon.
“Can I please get something? I can't take this anymore."
"You do not need heavy anesthesia now. Your labor is progressing well. And it is better for the baby. I will have the nurse put 7.5 cc of Demerol into your I.V."
"Oh no! Here comes another one!" I screamed closing my eyes.
"Do not close your eyes," Dr. Adom commanded. "Focus on the clock."
I looked at him. Then at the clock."
"Good. You are doing good Cathleen. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now count."
"I can't," I burst out. "Oh god it-- it hurts so bad."
"Yes you can do it. The contraction will be over soon. Take another deep breath. Slowly, come on-- count to ten."
I took the air into my mouth. One-- two-- three-- four-- five. That was as far as I got. The contraction ended.
"Nurse, get that I.V. in her before the next contraction."
"Yes Dr. Adom."
"I feel it coming again," I said hysterically. "I can't do this--"
"The nurse is going to give you something to dull the pain."
All I could think of when he said that was, not another needle. Wasn't I in enough pain?
I was barely aware of the nurse working on me. I was too obsessed with the pain gripping my lower belly.
Dr. Adom turned to Lisa and said, "You hold her hand and make sure she focuses on that clock when the next contraction starts."
"Me? I don't know anything about having a baby!" she exclaimed.
"It does not matter. You can still help. Look at that paper," he said pointing to the paper attached to a machine. "When the line on that paper begins climbing up, she will be starting a contraction-- like this one here," he pointed to a jagged triangle. "When it goes down, the contraction will be ending. Have her take deep breaths when each contraction begins. Tell her to relax when it is over."
"I'll try," said Lisa
"Aurrghh-- it's coming!"
"Stop talking Cathleen. Look at the clock," Dr. Adom directed.
"I can't take this pain!"
He then looked at Lisa. "You are her coach now."
"Cat count-- come on. One, two, three," instructed Lisa.
"Yes you can."
"Okay, okay," I panted. "I'll try."
"Take a big breath. Hold it. Now come on, count."
"I'm counting. I'm counting."
"No you're not."
"One," I was panting heavily. "Two, three, four..."
"That's it. Now you are counting. Good," said Lisa.
"You can relax," said Dr. Adom. "It has ended."
I lay drenched on the bed. Sweat was covering me from head to foot. My hospital gown clung to me. I lay in this state until I saw the nurse approaching me. Apprehension was displayed on my face. She had a clear plastic bag full of some kind of liquid. What was she going to do with that? I watched her hang the bag on a metal pole.
"I am going to hook you up to this I.V. It will make the contractions less severe."
"Okay," I mumbled through dry, white lips.
I winced when I felt the needle being inserted into the top side of my wrist. I immediately felt a coolness flowing through my veins. I was getting cold. I pulled the blankets up to my chin, and tried to relax a little.
The next forty minutes took a long time to pass, but somewhere between all the screaming and hollering, I noticed Dr. Adom pulling on another pair of gloves.
"I am going to check your cervix again," he said. "Move down to the end of the table."
"I must continue to do this until you reach ten centimeters. You're getting there."
He checked me. This time I was nine and a half centimeters. He assured me that I was almost there. Almost was not good enough. When was I going to be ten centimeters? When was he going to tell me to push like they did in all the movies?
I lay on the bed completely quiet except for when the contractions peaked. Then I was a wild person thrashing all over the place and begging them to give me something stronger to stop the pain.
Lisa continued to feed me ice chips when I complained I was thirsty, but that didn't help.
When was he going to tell me to push? When was this going to end?
After examining my cervix two more painful times, Dr. Adom finally said what I wanted to hear, "I do not feel your cervix Cathleen. When the next contraction begins, I want you to push."
Push? Was I finally going to be able to do that? All night long I had been told not to push and now six hours later I was going to be allowed to push. My legs were being held apart and everyone was chanting for me to push.
I tucked my chin deep into my chest, clenched my teeth together and pushed with the concentration of a desperate person. It was a long push that quickly ran out of energy.
"Can I stop?" I asked out of breath. My hair was sticking on my head. Sweat was everywhere.
"The contraction is over. You can stop," the nurse said.
I laid there catching my breath, hoping the next wave of pain would take a break, but that was not going to be. I felt the building of tense sensations and I knew the next one was coming.
As another concentration started, I pushed. My rectum exploded releasing everything it previously held. I could see the nurse wiping me down with disposable paper wipes.
"Push harder," the doctor demanded.
"I-- I'm trying." I said losing my energy again.
"You can relax. The contraction is finished," he said.
He told me to relax, but as soon as I did that the next contraction started mounting. How long was this going to last? I can't keep pushing like this. Especially without any drugs.
"I feel it again," I said warning them.
"Start pushing," he directed me.
"I am! I am!" I yelled.
"Push girl, come one," chanted Lisa along with the nurse and Dr. Adom.
"I can see the head," he said.
"Is it a boy?" I asked prematurely. The baby wasn't even born yet so how could he know the sex of it.
The contractions were coming closer and closer together. The pushing was progressing in the same fashion. I did not have much rest time in between the pains.
"All I need is a few more strong pushes Cathleen and it will be over. The head is almost out," said Dr. Adom.
"I'm trying-- Arrrhhghh!" I screamed. I could feel my vagina being split apart by the pressure of the baby's head. It was like being sliced open by lightening.
"Get it outta me! Please-- get it out! It's killing me!"
In the midst of all the screaming and pain, I heard the doctor ordering me to, "Stop!"
Stop? Stop what? Pushing? Was he crazy? The baby was finally coming out and he wanted me to stop everything? He wanted me to not push anymore? Well, I couldn't just stop like that. I had waited too long for this moment, but what would happen if I didn't stop? Would I harm the baby? Would something happen to me? I was afraid to continue pushing. I felt my body trying to decide what to do next.
"We have to clear the baby's nose and throat," I heard Dr. Adom announce. It took them several seconds before the task was completed.
"Give me another push," he demanded.
"Arrrghh," I shrieked.
"Did you want a boy or a girl?" he asked.
"Yes," I whispered not realizing what I was saying.
"You have a daughter, Cathleen," he announced like a proud father would.
"I do?" was all I could say.
He laid her warm and slippery body on to my chest. The first thing I saw when he placed her there were these two big grayish eyes. They were not blinking. They just stared at me and I stared back into them. She was beautiful. I could see that even through her slimy purple face.
"She's a cutie," said Lisa standing next to me and peering into the little baby's face.
"She certainly is," said Dr. Adom, stroking the top of the baby's head. Then he said in a soft and extremely serious voice, "I do not want to see you in my delivery room again until you are a woman. Do you hear me?"
I was startled by his words, but I said, "Yes."
"Good," he smiled. "And take care of my baby."
I touched her cheek delicately, testing to see if she would allow me. When she did not resist, I slowly began to caress her incredibly soft cheek. I was content to do this until Dr. Adom insisted that I push one final time in order to get the placenta out.
As I obeyed him, the nurse put the baby into a glass crib and began examining her. I saw her put something into the baby's eyes. She was examining my baby's hands and mouth. She then wrote something down onto a chart. She took the baby's temperature. She then put a diaper on her.
"She was born at 5:05 pm," the nurse said for my benefit.
Seeing that she was fine, I closed my eyes and allowed the doctor to massage my uterus into place. I gritted my teeth and thanked God that is was over.
When I opened them again, it was to a quiet labor and delivery room. The baby was gone; Lisa was gone; the doctor was gone and so was the nurse. I checked myself underneath the blankets. My bleeding had stopped a great deal. I felt a little lightheaded though.
I got to get up! I got to call Nathaniel! Tell him about the baby-- that he's a father-- that he has a daughter!
I didn't know how, but somehow I had to get up and into a sitting position.
Struggling a bit, I finally managed to sit up. I rested for a moment. I felt a gush of blood down below. Was that normal? Was I supposed to bleed like that? I stopped and waited to see if it would happen again. It did not. I pulled the metal I.V. pole closer to the bed. I needed it to support my weight as I stood up. I made my way to my jeans hanging on a rack. Pulling out my change purse, I carefully and slowly walked to the pay phone in the waiting room. I dragged the I.V. pole with me.
The nurses were not paying attention to me so I had no problem getting to the phone. It was on the other side of the nurse's station.
Picking up the black receiver, I dialed his number. A recording spoke into my ear telling me to deposit a dollar and forty-five cents. I did exactly as it said. Then I heard a ringing sound. I counted six rings before someone picked up and a male voice spoke:
"Hello-- hello? Who is it?"
"It's me. Cathleen. I'm at the hospital."
He said nothing. There was no noise in his background. He simply waited for me to talk.
"I had it-- the baby. It's a girl."
"Why do you keep calling me?" he said in a chilling voice.
"I thought you'd want to know when I had it. It's your baby too--"
"It is," I insisted.
"Well I don't want to know nothing about no baby or you. If you were stupid enough to get pregnant, then that's your problem. Not mine."
"Why are you talking to me like that? I never did anything to you."
"You haven't? You got my mother all in my business. Now she expects me to be some kind of father to it."
"But you should--"
"Don't you tell me what I should do. Not you. Some little 'ho from nowhere."
"I ain't a whore. You were my first."
"Yeah right and I'm supposed to believe that too?" You knew what you were getting into."
"I thought you liked me--"
"Girl I ain't got time for this. You knew what I was about. You were down with it too. So don't start pretending you weren't"
"I didn't just want sex--"
"I have two more years at this university and I'm blowing it because of some summer thing. I've been going for too long to let some kid ruin everything for me."
"What about the baby?"
"What about it?"
"I can't take care of her by myself."
"Get on Welfare-- I don't care what you do, but don't look for me to help you."
"Are you gonna come see her?"
"Aren't you listening? I don't want to see her. She's not my concern."
"I-- haven't named her yet. You got any ideas?"
"No I don't! And stop calling me!" he said and then hung up the telephone.
I stood leaning against the phone with tears in my eyes. I could feel the blood running down my legs. When did I begin bleeding? I hadn't noticed it until now. I had to get back to my room! I took one step and thought I was going to fall down. I tried to take another step, but I stopped. I felt more blood rushing down my legs. Harsh cramps gripped my stomach. I had to hurry! A puddle had already formed on the floor. I felt dizzy...