Hot Pepper

Sonja Herbert

© Copyright 2006 by Sonja Herbert


 Twenty years ago, after several miscarriages and one stillborn child, I was determined to keep this one, and this is the story about how I did it.

 “Mom, where’s my blue shirt?” Daniel calls.

 “Bye, Honey,” my husband, Gary, says and kisses me on the cheek on his way out to work.

 I hardly notice. I grab Marit from the counter and place her onto her sturdy two-year-old feet, then hurry to the laundry room, where I had seen Daniel’s shirt in the pile of clean clothes waiting to be folded. I fish it out from under heaps of blue jeans and yell, “It’s right here!”

 “Mom, I’ll be late,” Marja complains.

 “Let’s go then,” I say. “Daniel, take care of Marit until I get back.”

 “Okay Mom,” Daniel says and pours Cheerios into a bowl to keep Marit busy. I wrap my coat around my pregnant belly and leave to start the car.

 When I get back from dropping Marja off at the middle school, Daniel is ready to go.

Bye, Mom,” he says and leaves for the nearby elementary school.

 Marit sits on the kitchen table, surrounded by Cheerios. I put her back into her high chair, and that is when it happens.

A warm gush runs down my legs. Definitely not a normal feeling when you’re five months pregnant. My heart jumps like a startled frog, and my stomach flips. This doesn’t bode well.

 Marit is well ensconced in her chair, stuffing Cheerios into her mouth with her pudgy fists. I hurry to the bathroom. When I inspect my panties, I feel faint. A large red stain announces another impending miscarriage.

I sit on the edge of the bathtub, holding back tears. I don’t want to go through this again. This child is alive and kicking, and we already have a relationship. She, or he, agreeable to my lifestyle, exercises in the early mornings, and at night we both sleep. I love this child already. I can’t give it up, too.

 I pull myself together, put on fresh underwear, and insert a pad. Then I go to the living room and turn on the TV.

Marit bangs on her tray with her bowl, calling, “Mommy, mommy.”

 I gather her from her chair. “Let’s watch Sesame Street,” I suggest.

 “Sesame teet,” she says and toddles into the living room.

I take one look at the messy kitchen table, shake my head, and leave the mess to itself. It can wait. My traitorous body is more important right now.

 I lower myself onto the sofa. Marit hunkers on the floor in front of the TV. I close my eyes. Maybe the bleeding will go away again. In the meantime, though, I need bed rest, and that seems impossible. I sigh. At least for now I’m not going to move, at all. I grab the phone from the side table, consider calling the doctor, but instead decide on Sylvia. Luckily she is home.

 ”Could you do me a really big favor?” I ask. “Could you come and get Marit until Daniel comes home from school?”

 “Sure. What’s the matter?”

 “I’ll tell you when you get here.”

Be right there.”

Ten minutes later she knocks on my door.

Come in,” I yell from the sofa.

Sesame Street is over and Marit, looking for something else to do, pulls herself onto the living room table. I sigh. That child hates to be on the floor. She always has to be up high somewhere. At least she hadn’t chosen the messy kitchen table.

Sylvia comes into the living room, her own two-year-old hoisted on her hip.

 She plops little Mike on the floor, and scoops Marit from the table. “What is the matter, Sonja?”

I’m bleeding again. Seems like I’m not meant to have another baby.”

The unborn child chooses that moment to give me a reassuring kick in the bladder. I gasp.

 “It’s that bad?” Sylvia says, alarm widening her eyes. I manage a weak smile. “That wasn’t a pain. The baby kicked me into the bladder, and I have to pee.”

 “What symptoms do you have?”

 “I started bleeding again. Just like last year. I’m so tired of miscarrying. If I could keep this one, I’d be so happy. Maybe I’d forget last year and the two miscarriages between Daniel and Marit.”

 “You’re a glutton for punishment,” Sylvia says and shakes her head.

 “I like being a mom. I always wanted lots of kids.” I sigh. “I guess it’s just not meant to be.”

 “Stay on the sofa,” Sylvia says. “I’ll clean up your breakfast dishes. If you need anything, yell.” She turns toward the kitchen, hesitates, and turns back. “And, for your baby’s sake, don’t get up. If these two need anything, let me know, hear?”

 “Okay,” I answer meekly. “Can you pull out the toy box from behind the TV? The least I can do is watch them play.”

 By now Mike is chasing Marit around the table. Both kids are squealing with delight.

 “Good idea,” Sylvia says, and pulls it out.

 Mike drops onto his diaper in front of the box, but Marit, trying to climb on top, pulls it over. Toys scatter all over the carpet and a red ball rolls in front of the TV. Mike scrambles after it, and Marit, after a moment’s hesitation, pulls the rest of the toys out of the box, turns it upside down, and finally succeeds in climbing on top.

 Sounds of running water and dishes being collected reach my ears from the kitchen. I still need to pee. There is no getting around it, I have to get up.

I heave myself into a sitting position, feeling like an eighty-year-old. When I stand, I feel another, but smaller, gush. I make it to the bathroom. The pad in my panties sports a bright red stain. At least it isn’t drenched. When I get up from the toilet, the liquid in the bowl is pink, not yellow. I change the pad and return to the sofa.

 Sylvia comes from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a red and white checkered kitchen towel.

 “I told you to stay put,” she says in her best strict nurse voice. “What are you doing, walking around?”

 “I had to go bathroom,” I say. “Sitting on Marit’s potty would just be too humiliating.” I try to smile at my joke, but it didn’t feel right.

Sylvia doesn’t smile. “I don’t know what to tell you,” she said. “Have you called the doctor?”

 “I was thinking about it. But he’d just repeat what he said the last three times. Stay in bed and let nature take its course. I don’t want to let nature take its course. This child is alive and has a personality and I want it!”

 Sylvia sits in the easy chair by the sofa. “I don’t know what help it will be,” she says, “But I read somewhere if you drink a quarter teaspoon of Cayenne pepper in water every time you want a drink, it helps your body constrict the blood vessels. The article said it could stop unexpected bleeding.”

 “Cayenne pepper?” My mouth puckers at the thought. “I guess I can see how it might do that. Maybe I should try it. Anything is better than this helpless waiting for my child to die.”

 “Do you have any?”

 “I do. It’s in the cupboard over the stove.”

 “Do you want to give it a try?”

 “I really do.”

 “I’ll get you a glass with pure water, too, so you can rinse the heat from your mouth.”

 Sylvia disappears into the kitchen and I hear her dig in the cupboard. “I found it,” she yells.

 A moment later she returns with two glasses, one with plain water, the other one half full, with pink flecks swirling in it.

 I sit up.

Drink it quickly,” she says and gives it to me.

 “Duh,” I answer and down the hot stuff with great gulps.

 Instantly my mouth burns. “Water, Water,” I gasp and drink most of the water in the other glass.

I lie down again. At least this time, when I had sat up I felt no blood gush. Maybe that was a good sign already.

Sylvia makes another cayenne concoction, sets it on the table with more fresh water, and puts a sandwich, covered with plastic wrap, next to it.

 “That’s your lunch. I’m gonna take Marit with me,” she declares. “You stay put. When Gary comes home, have him come and get her. That way I can make sure you’re not exerting yourself.”

 “Thanks so much. You’re such a good friend.”

 “You’d do the same for me,” Sylvia says. She grabs Mike under one arm and collects Marit, who is trying to climb the TV. “Let’s go to my house. I have many places for you to climb,” she says.

 “Mamma, mamma,” Marit calls, but there is no heart in it. She doesn’t even turn to look at me. I think she is looking forward to a new climbing experience.

The door clicks shut. I relax. Maybe Marit will be a famous mountain climber one day, I think. And who knows what a great contribution to humankind my new baby will make?

 I doze off.

 When Gary returns that night, he takes over and insists I stay on the sofa. By the time I go to bed, the bleeding is diminished to spotting. The next few days I keep spotting, and faithfully take the hot, unpleasant medicine in hopes it will keep me from losing this child I so want. By the end of the week the bleeding stops. I quit drinking cayenne pepper two weeks later.

 I have no idea if it was the cayenne, or if God had mercy on me. Whatever the reason, little Liesel is born four months later, in perfect health. Besides a very sweet disposition, she also has a talent. She is a smooth talker and won several awards in forensics in high school.

 But I don’t believe the pepper caused that. 

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