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Book extract / My child is born

Early in the morning of September 28, 1972, I was awakened by a slight, pulling pain in my lower abdomen. At first I thought: “What on earth is this? Hopefully, it is going to stop soon”. Initially it seemed like that, so I breathed a sigh of relief and rolled over on the other side to sleep some more. But I was wrong. After a little while the pain returned with a vengeance, no matter how much I wanted it to go away. The terrible fear that had overcome me more and more returned and the perpetual question: Why am I doing so badly? I was trying again to talk to God, to remind him that I had done everything they had asked me to do and that I always had been nice. Why was I in such terrible shape now? The threat I had been sensing over the past weeks was becoming a close reality.

I was going to meet Bernd again after breakfast. Luckily, he was supposed to wait for me right around the corner. Surely, I was not going to be able to walk very far today. Hanna gave me a probing glance when she saw me. “Is everything alright with you?”

“Yeah, I am just fine” I responded and tried to make it all look as normal as possible. The last thing I wanted to do was to admit how terrible I really felt.

Now the pains started hitting me like waves, as though they were pursuing me. Pulling together all my strength, I was trying to pretend that nothing was wrong. With every wave of pain that overcame me I went either to the toilet or into the hallway in order to wait for my pain to subside. Naturally, my strange behavior called the two women’s attention, and they kept asking me: “Anita, is something wrong with you?”

“No, no, everything is just fine” I kept responding.

“That’s good, but you must tell us right away if something is hurting you” the two of them insisted.

“Yes, I will, definitely”. Even as I was giving my answer, I had to step outside again. Under no circumstances did I want to go to the hospital. This would be pure hell for me. All I wanted to do was to run away, not having to see or hear anything, not having to suffer torment and fear anymore. It was high time to get away, however. Otherwise, they would hold me back. I ran down the two floors as fast as I could until the next contraction came. Clinging to the banister, I was doubled over with pain. Dear God, don’t let anyone come right now, I pleaded. Alright, I did it. Now I only had to manage the short distance to the corner where Bernd would be waiting for me. I took a deep breath and walked along the street as fast as I could. When I reached the car, the next contraction set in.

“What’s the matter with you?” Bernd also seemed nervous.

“I am in such pain, it is hurting so badly!” This was no longer my own voice, but rather a cry for help from a drowning victim.

Now Bernd even turned gruff. “Why did you bother coming here? You should have stayed where you were. What am I going to do with you now?” he scolded and, on top of everything else, managed to make me feel guilty. “Where am I going to drive with you, the people are already looking, they may even become suspicious. No way! I am going to take you back!” he kept on with his rant.

“No, please, anything but that, I am so afraid!” I begged. Again, I was doubled over and writhing. The pain was overpowering and tried to find its way from my abdomen to my loins and all the way down into my vagina. The race against time had begun. The child I had been carrying inside me for the past nine months was pushing down with its powerful will to live. A veritable avalanche of fear and painful expectations had begun to tumble.

Bernd accompanied me to the staircase of the rooming house, mumbled “Good luck” and disappeared. Filled with anxiety and sadness I looked after him. I had to stay back, alone and without the protection of a familiar person. I barely managed to climb the stairs.

When I entered the flat, Mrs. Stangl immediately recognized the state I was in.

“Anita, it’s time to go to the hospital”.

“Why? I did not want it to be true, although I knew deep down that there was no way back.

“Your baby wants to be borne! Get your toiletries and slippers, we are going to leave in a minute” came Mrs. Stangl’s determined answer.

Hanna wished me all the best. Her face was filled with compassion and understanding. Now I sat in the car, and my contractions were six minutes apart. Soon we would reach the clinic – the thing I dreaded the most. When I was little, I was often sick, and my mother used to threaten me with the hospital. Whenever I did not want to take my medicine, she would say: “Well, you’ll just have to go to the hospital. They don’t have much patience there, you just wait and see. They’ll give you shots. You’ll see how much that hurts!”

The next few hours passed me by mechanically and as though in a vacuum. At the approach to the university clinic there was a gate. The gatekeeper stepped outside and asked where we were going.

“We are going to the maternity ward” Mrs. Stangl said.

The man looked at her tummy and said incredulously: “You are kidding me, aren’t you?”

“No, of course, it’s not me, but the young girl here who is going to have a baby” she replied with a smile. Surprised, he took note of my condition, opened the gate and let us pass. We stopped directly in front of the Women’s Ward. Together we went to the admissions desk. With the words “Hello, the young girl is here to give birth” Mrs. Stangl left me with the nurse. She shook my hand and said: “Good luck to you and your baby. I’ll come and visit you in the next couple of days”.

There I was, alone, clutching my bag and my health insurance voucher. My counterpart, who was wearing a nurse’s outfit, eyed me dismissively. “Do you have an insurance voucher?” she asked in a brusque tone.

“I do” I said in a low voice and completely unsure of myself.

Amazed, she looked first at me through her spectacles and then at my birth date in the voucher. “Something’s wrong here” she said. “Someone must have made a mistake. This should be 1953”, and she shook her head.

“No, 1958 is correct” I said, without looking up. Her eyes grew wide, and she rushed off as though she had been stung.

Now even the nurse had abandoned me. With my contractions coming at a minute’s interval, I was left standing and waiting. After a while she returned with another nurse. The two of them could not believe their own eyes, re-checking the dates together, and finally her companion rushed off with the words “That’s incredible”. Upset, the nurse finally did her job of admitting me.

“Are you already having contractions?” she asked, looking at me condescendingly. At that very moment, another contraction gripped me. “Yes”, she confirmed to herself. The she asked a couple of insurance-related questions. Meanwhile, a throng of people dressed in white had entered the room to check me out. The news that a thirteen-year-old was about to give birth right here and now must have spread like wildfire through the clinic. Before leaving again, the sensation-seekers hurled a few insults at me. Now I realized that I had landed in a world of adults who blamed me for my parents’ failure. Left to my own devices, I also had to suffer the derisiveness and malice of these people.

One of the formalities I had to go through was the question “Who is the baby’s father?” to which I responded: “I do not know”. They could not know that both my parents and Bernd had repeatedly impressed upon me that I was under no circumstances to reveal the name of “Berndi” – no matter, who would ask. Otherwise, I would become guilty of sending Bernd to jail because of my testimony.

Thus, they were absolutely aware of the child abuse Bernd had subjected me to, which they had aided and abetted.

Faced with this threat, I would have let myself be killed rather than divulged the name. The nurses realized quickly that their efforts were in vain. “Well then, have it your way, but they will make you talk in the end. Let’s go to the delivery room now, they need to examine you”. On our way there, people were constantly gaping at me, whispering behind my back.

By now, the contractions were following each other in rapid succession. Everything in me was pushing downward as though I had to go to the toilet – except much, much worse.

The delivery room was spacious and had many beds that were separated by curtains. I was led into one of these cabins.

An older woman with dark hair, who was the midwife, as I would learn later, told me: “
Take off your clothes, including your underpants, and put them on the chair. I will bring you a gown that closes in the back”.

At least she was not as unfriendly as the other woman.

Meanwhile, I was lying on the bed, and a lot of people were surrounding me. One of them stepped forward and told me to uncover my right arm. Dear God, what was going to happen now? No, not an injection! Suddenly, however, the syringe was in my flesh, and my blood was flowing. Immediately thereafter I had the unpleasant sensation of a finger penetrating my private parts. “She has a narrow pelvis. Maybe we’ll have to do a caesarean” one of the examining doctors said to the colleagues surrounding him. I could sense how all the people at the foot end of my bed suddenly became excited. I could hear somebody shout: “We’ll need to tell the chief physician”. Now another man in white approached with a basin filled with shaving foam. He was carrying a straight razor. Impassively and wordlessly, he pulled back my hospital gown and began to cover my childlike, barely visible pubic hair with the shaving foam in order to shave it.

“Did they find the chief physician yet?” one of the doctors asked. It was late in the afternoon, and the chief physician had already left. It turned out to be difficult to reach the gentleman, although they were trying very hard in their own best interest. No one was interested in me any longer and nobody tried to ease my anxiety. I had no idea how bad this was going to be. Ignorant, without any support or compassion, I was shaking and whimpering and bit the frame of my glasses whenever the next contraction attacked.

At this stage, I was begging for my mom. A heavyset, dark haired woman stepped forward and closed in on me: “Who is the father of your child?” she shouted at me.

“I do not know” I muttered defiantly.

“Don’t be so stupid, do you hear? This is also going to be a matter of child support”. The more I clammed up, the more she pressed me with her questions. I had the feeling of being torn apart, and this person took the opportunity to torment me with more questions that I was not allowed to answer.
Finally, the midwife took pity on me and said: “You’ve already done most of the work. The rest is not going to be all that bad”.

In my despair I was trying to grasp her hand to support me during the next contraction. This made her actually uncomfortable because I was supposed to suffer for my misdeeds. Only for a short moment she showed me compassion and let me hold her hand. Her words had calmed me down a little. The chief physician was nowhere to be seen, and the birthing process had progressed too far to wait any longer. Large, cold forceps punctured my amniotic sac. I could hear it pop, and a moment later I could feel warm water gushing from my vagina down my thighs.

Unmoved, the social worker continued to bombard me with her questions. “Well, are you going to tell me who the father of your child is?”

In my desperation I was suddenly seized by a wave of rage that gave me the courage to respond: “Why don’t you leave me in peace to have my baby?” Angrily she shrieked: “Just wait, I am going to cut you down to size, yet!”

By now, however, all the turmoil around me, the probing questions, my pains, everything was receding into the background to allow me to concentrate on the birthing process. My cervix had become dilated by a few centimeters, and the midwife told me that she could already see the baby’s head.

“Does it have hair?” I wanted to know.

“Yes, lots of black hair”. The midwife’s voice sounded reassuring.

I thought to myself: Great, that’s wonderful. I always wanted to have a baby with lots of hair.

“Now you must push, push, whenever I tell you to. Listen to me, it’s going to be over soon” I heard the midwife’s clear, professional instructions. As my vagina was not expanding sufficiently, the surgeon quickly and wordlessly performed an episiotomy. I felt a brief, burning pain, and then everything went very quickly. I was pushing on command, and after four or five more contractions I felt something large and warm sliding out of my body. It was 4.30 pm on September 28, 1972.

I could hear the midwife’s voice: “It’s a girl”.

From this moment on, my life would be changed for many years to come.A feeling of happiness and peace overcame me. I had achieved something great. Everything that would come after this would be easy. A very special change had happened to me. Leaving behind years of a childhood that I had not been able to live, my primeval mothering instinct had been born.