Because He Loved Me

Because He Loved Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Because He Loved Me

If I know what love is, it is because of you.

~Herman Hesse

Jude had been out of my body for two days. He lay in his little clear plastic “case” next to me, sleeping mostly. I’d often slip my finger into his soft, tiny hand and stare at him when I wasn’t entertaining all the visitors we had.

And yet, the crushing bubble was already welling up inside me, the bubble that would burst soon after I came home. I could feel the pressure of emotions filling up my rib cage. It wasn’t just that I felt so fat and so exposed; I felt incapable. I felt more overwhelmed than I’d ever felt about anything — even the cancer I’d dealt with. At least with cancer it was just the disease and me. This time another person was thrown into the mix. A person that I would be responsible for, whose character I would be largely accountable for molding and shaping, who might or might not give me heartfelt Mother’s Day cards at some point in his life.

What if I messed it all up? A million and one scenarios raced through my mind, which was growing ever manic.

And, as if my mind weren’t in enough pain, my body had discovered a whole new level of anguish. I would complain. And then I would feel guilty, because, after all, I did get a baby out of the deal, and women didn’t always have it so “easy.” And then time would pass and I’d repeat that cycle of complaining and guilt.

So it was on day two, around 7:00 p.m., that one of the crabbier nurses on staff came in and announced very flatly that I had to take a shower. That night. I could sense a hint of disgust in her voice, and I, of course, took that very personally to mean that I especially had to hurry up and shower because of my size.

The bubble of panic inside me grew ever larger.

My stepmom, Sara, was staying with me that night so that Chad could go home and get some real rest. Before I could even think about crying, the tears were streaming down my face. I began to choke back sobs. The nurse looked at me, expressionless, and left the room.

I knew I couldn’t shower by myself. I could barely walk. Someone would have to help me, and I didn’t want anyone to see me looking this enormous, swollen, bruised, and disgusting, my lower abdomen stained dark orange from the Betadine covering my C-section incision. I only wanted the help of one person, and he’d just left.

My head was exploding with protests: I’ll just refuse! They can’t make me! They can’t! I can’t let anyone see me like this. I’ll die of shame. I’ll never stop crying. And then I remembered that the walk from my hospital room to the parking garage was quite a long one. Maybe Chad hadn’t made it to the car yet. Maybe he’d come back and help me.

I frantically dialed his cell phone from my hospital line. I could hear the echo of the parking garage in his voice, and he could hear the panic and sorrow in mine. He hadn’t left yet and he’d be right back. I was flooded with relief.

I started crying again the minute I saw his face.

Sara said she’d watch the baby while he helped me take my shower.

Chad helped me to the bathroom. I hobbled more with each step, my breath hissing out of me. He helped get my gown off. I grimaced and apologized, but he only shook his head and told me not to worry about anything.

I didn’t really want him to have to see me like this, but I couldn’t think of anyone else I needed more.

“It’s going to be okay,” he whispered. “I’m going to help you. Don’t worry.”

But I worried in spite of myself. I wondered if he’d ever be able to put the horrific picture of what I looked like at that moment out of his mind. I wondered if this moment would forever taint our love life.

He literally had to lift each of my legs into the shower, one at a time, because I was so weak. The warm water felt surprisingly good, but I was terrified of doing anything with my incision. The nurses had told me that I had to soap up the stapled gash and softly scrub it with a washcloth. I didn’t even want to know how painful that was going to be. I was shaking from weakness and fear.

“Just tell me what to do,” he said softly.

And so I guided him. He gently washed my hair first and for a moment, I felt like a little girl again. Then he slowly lathered the rest of my body, avoiding the incision until I was ready.

He was standing outside of the shower and his shirt was soaked.

“You’re getting all wet,” I said, my voice shaking.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about me.”

“I guess we need to wash my incision,” I said weakly.

Our eyes locked and I began sobbing. I was so afraid and felt so wounded and exhausted. He put his arms around me as I sobbed on his soaking wet shoulder.

“I didn’t want you to have to see me like this. I can’t believe you have to help me like this. I didn’t think that. . .”

“I love you,” he said. “You’re so beautiful to me. I’d do anything for you. No matter what.”

I sobbed even harder. I’d never felt so loved in all my life.

Moments later, he very gently cleaned my incision and surprisingly, the pain was minimal. It was something I didn’t think a husband should ever have to do, but he did it with such love and compassion. He uttered not one complaint.

He helped me ease out of the shower and wrapped me in a towel. We stood there just holding each other for what seemed like a million years.

I knew having the baby would change our lives forever, but this moment changed our love forever. In those moments, we developed a bond so deep it takes my breath away just thinking about it.

~Ginger LeBlanc

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