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Authors: Stephanie Kepke

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A New Life

BOOK: A New Life
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Table of Contents

Excerpt

Kudos for Stephanie Kepke

A New Life

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

When I was a kid I'd travel-

“Look,” they told me. And I did.

A word about the author...

Thank you for purchasing this publication of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

“Can I push longer?” I asked, gasping.

They had already counted to ten, the nurse and my husband, Zach, each holding one knee. I took an extra sip of air at seven—they didn’t know this; I was supposed to hold my breath and bear down all the way through to the count of ten—so I could push a bit longer. I needed to. That wrinkly gray head, slick with wet swirls of hair, needed to come out.

“You can if you need to, Grace, but remember to rest.” The nurse patted my leg. During the thirty seconds before the next contraction hit, she put the oxygen mask over my face. “Breathe,” she whispered in my ear.

An hour earlier the epidural wore off just around the same time the Pit drip kicked in with a force that knocked the air out of me. “We need another cocktail,” the nurse shouted into the intercom.

It seemed like an eternity before the anesthesiologist slid next to me, colorful pendants hanging from his neck almost brushing my cheek. Each contraction still grabbed me in the back first, then the belly and strangled me. Whatever he shot into me didn’t make much of a difference. But, that head kept me going and I bore down with all my might, feeling stronger and weaker than ever before.

“Go, Grace. Go, Grace. Push. Push. Push. Go. Go. Go.”

I was a racecar driver. My pit team was cheering me on. I was about to finish the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the Iron Man Triathlon. I was Woman hear me roar.

Kudos for Stephanie Kepke

Ms. Kepke won the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America Cleveland Rocks Romance contest in the Mainstream with Romantic Elements category.

She was a finalist in the Charter Oak Romance Writers Golden Acorn Contest in the Mainstream with Romantic Elements category.

She was a finalist in the Connecticut Romance Writers of America Write Stuff contest in the Women’s Fiction category.

She was a finalist in the Golden Acorn *Quick Look Hook* contest.

A New Life

by

Stephanie Kepke

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

A New Life

COPYRIGHT © 2015 by Stephanie Kepke

“My Life With You” lyrics

Copyright RSTAR LTD 2014

Used with permission of artist

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: [email protected]

Cover Art by
Diana Carlile

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708

Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com

Publishing History

First Mainstream Women’s Fiction Edition, 2015

Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-819-8

Published in the United States of America

Dedication

Dedicated to my husband, Jeff,

and my sons, Drew, Joshua, and Aidan.

Thank you for your patience while I pursue my dreams.

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Jill McCorkle, the best writing teacher, with whom this story was first workshopped many years ago.

Thank you to my mother and late father for always believing in me, and to my siblings, Jodi, David and Shari.

Thank you to Debra Penney for being a fabulous critique partner and to John Giannone for your journalist’s eagle eye. To Cindy Davis for being a wonderful editor and a pleasure to work with.

Thank you to Ryan Star for allowing me to use your lyrics in my book. Your music always inspires me. To Scott Syat for your sound legal advice.

And to all of my friends who have read my work and offered encouragement or just listened to me—I wish I could name you all, but you know who you are, thank you!

When I was a kid I'd travel-

To all the different places inside my head.

But nothing compares to my life with you.

And I could build a million castles-

I could wish upon all the lucky stars.

Nothing compares to my life with you.

~ My Life With You

By Ryan Star

“Look,” they told me. And I did.

The head was gray and wrinkly, like some sort of alien, reflected in the large mirror positioned at the foot of the bed. Seeing that head kept me going as the pain ripped through me and a ring of fire circled between my legs.

“Can I push longer?” I asked, gasping.

They had already counted to ten, the nurse and my husband, Zach, each holding one knee. I took an extra sip of air at seven—they didn’t know this; I was supposed to hold my breath and bear down all the way through to the count of ten—so I could push a bit longer. I needed to. That wrinkly gray head, slick with wet swirls of hair, needed to come out.

“You can if you need to, Grace, but remember to rest.” The nurse patted my leg. During the thirty seconds before the next contraction hit, she put the oxygen mask over my face. “Breathe,” she whispered in my ear.

An hour earlier the epidural wore off just around the same time the Pit drip kicked in with a force that knocked the air out of me. “We need another cocktail,” the nurse shouted into the intercom.

It seemed like an eternity before the anesthesiologist slid next to me, colorful pendants hanging from his neck almost brushing my cheek. Each contraction still grabbed me in the back first, then the belly and strangled me. Whatever he shot into me didn’t make much of a difference. But, that head kept me going and I bore down with all my might, feeling stronger and weaker than ever before.

“Go, Grace. Go, Grace. Push. Push. Push. Go. Go. Go.”

I was a racecar driver. My pit team was cheering me on. I was about to finish the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the Iron Man Triathlon. I was Woman hear me roar.

Suddenly there was a knifing pain and a release. “Oh my God,” I gasped.

“The head’s out,” Dr. Spellman said.

Moments later they shouted, “It’s a boy!” and suddenly the warm, slippery baby—my baby—was placed on a blanket on my chest. I hadn’t cried once, but now it flowed. I gazed at the tiny boy. Bits of blood clung to his face.

“He’s so cute,” I said.

The moment seemed anticlimactic, but I was shocked by how cute he really was and how instantly I fell in love. In childbirth class they prepared us for a squished head and beat-up face—but he was perfect.

Even the nurses said he looked like a C-section baby. “You’re so lucky,” they said.

“Hello, Henry,” I whispered. “Hello, my baby.”

Zach leaned over us, stroking my hair. I barely even noticed the contractions urging me to deliver the placenta.

After the cleaning up, weighing and Apgars, counting fingers and counting toes, everyone cleared out of the room so Henry and I could try nursing. The late afternoon sun slanted through the windows illuminating not just the room, but the Boston skyline as well. Henry was surprisingly hungry and latched on right away. It hurt more than I expected; but it would get easier. I wanted to pinch myself. Was I dreaming? My son suckled at my breast. He was less than an hour old, but I’d known him forever.

We decided to have a baby because of a pregnant tree. Rather, we decided
when
to have a baby because of a pregnant tree—a skinny tree with a big round belly of a bump. Zach and I were hiking around Walden Pond, when the question just slid out between my lips. “Should we start trying?”

Zach sucked in his breath before answering, “I don’t know. Isn’t it a little soon? We’ve only been married a year.”

I was already been thinking about it for months at that point, from the moment my sister, Paula, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer not long after Zach and I said our vows. A fear that I faced the same fate had wrapped its fingers around me then and wouldn’t let go. I was scared for her, of course, but I was also scared that if I didn’t get pregnant just then—who knew what might happen?

My mother had called me with the news. She barely whispered Paula’s biopsy results, before breaking down into sobs. After hanging up the phone I sat curled on the couch, watching dusk fall and the streetlights come on. I didn’t bother closing the shades and shadows from the bare tree branches were crisscrossing the walls. When Zach came home from work I carefully explained to him that we should start trying for a baby, even though it was barely two months since our wedding night. I pulled the fleece blanket under my chin. The heat was all the way up in our small apartment, but I was still cold. Waiting until we were married for at least a year made sense, but the terror I felt muddled my thoughts. “We need some happiness. My family needs some hope,” I whispered.

Zach pulled me to him. He kissed me for a long time—long enough for something to finally break down and let the tears flow. I sank into him and sobbed knowing I was no more ready to have a baby than I was to scale Mount Everest.

Ten months later, after surgery and months of chemotherapy, my sister was cancer free. Somehow, against all bets, those mutant cells were gone, and the terror of the ordeal fell away. Even the endless hours I spent consoling my six-year-old niece during my sister’s hospital stay faded in memory. By the time Paula’s hair grew back into a chic pixie cut, and the color and smile returned to her face, I felt ready to get on with my life.

Even that day at Walden Pond though, the rational part of my mind still said
Wait a little longer, have a little money, a house, a future, your career on track.
But, my heart said
Now, now, now
. “I’m going to be thirty in less than six months. If we want to have more than one kid, we better get started,” I reasoned. I also knew that a pregnancy before thirty was the best defense against the type of cancer that invaded my sister.

Zach couldn’t argue with my logic. He was thirty-one. Even if he wouldn’t admit it, his biological clock was ticking too. I knew it was. “What if we’re not ready when the baby comes?” he said, softly.

“Well, you get ready.” At the very moment I answered him, I saw the tree. Now, I wasn’t usually one to believe in signs, but there right before my eyes was that pregnant tree. I had never seen anything like it. “Look at that.” I pointed.

We walked around it, studying that bump from all sides. We even took pictures of it—me next to it, hand on my tummy, laughing. There was no doubt, this tree looked pregnant. It was small, besides the belly, and bare, in a little clearing carpeted with blazing red and gold leaves. Only a few stubborn ruby leaves clung to it. I could touch the top branch, and I plucked one leaf. A thick log sat beside it. We lowered ourselves on to it. I fingered the leaf, an almost translucent jewel.

“Well?” I asked.

Zach smiled. “We’ll get ready.”

****

When we brought Henry home, he was nursing every hour. I’d slept maybe five hours in seventy-two, and yet I was trying to clean up the steadily mounting mess. Gift wrap and shopping bags littered the floor; my discharge papers were still strewn across the bed, along with
What To Expect the First Year
,
Attachment Parenting
and three baby magazines. My laundry from the hospital was piled in the doorway.

I had just refilled my hamster, Hamlet’s, food dish with his favorite sunflower seed, corn kernel, raisin and banana chip mix. I felt terrible—he usually got fresh food by 7:00 p.m. and it was already 10:00. I’d emptied the old food, so I knew he wasn’t hungry, but I still felt guilty for ignoring him. While I was pregnant I had a dream that I put my baby, a girl, in the hamster cage and fed her granola and sunflower seeds, while I nursed the hamster. Hamlet was my first baby, strange though that may sound. He was more like a cat than a hamster. “I’m sorry,” I whispered into his cage as I passed carrying Henry.

“Lie down,” my mother commanded. “Have some soup. You’re gonna collapse.”

“I feel fine,” I answered, as I lay Henry on his changing table.

“Let me do that,” my mother said. “I’m here to help you. Why am I even here if you’re not going to let me help you?”

“I’m only going to have my first night home with my son once. He’s only three days old once. I need to learn by doing. You can give me pointers. Okay? Just watch. Really, I need to do this.” I smoothed my nightgown and began.

BOOK: A New Life
8.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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