The Speech

I quietly slipped out of the delivery room, desperate to get away from Sophia and Alexa. I gave way to the depression I’ve been trying to hide, finding somewhere out of the way to sit. An hour passed before nurses took me to see Anna. I feigned being in a good mood until I was left alone in the small room with her. Cleaned up, she lay sleeping and bundled in blankets inside a glass or plastic container atop a rolling cart, an IV in one arm, oxygen pumped into the sealed chamber. She had only just been born and already we were separated.

I stood in silence, alternating between watching her and slowly pacing, a moment of reckoning looming as I faced the unknown possibilities of multiple futures, each clashing with the hopes and dreams that had led to her existence. A destroyer of worlds, she lay blameless. I didn’t love her. I didn’t hate her. She was a blank slate, and would remain so until I could administer a paternity test. And even then, she might result in my son being taken from me, too. But it wasn’t her fault. A slow resignation settled on me as I turned to stand beside her, watching her rest in a peace that her life had robbed me of.

“Hello, Anna,” I quietly began. “Welcome to this world. I truly hope you enjoy your stay, and that you can bend this world to you instead of it bending you to it. It can be tough out there, and you’re already getting your first dose of reality with your infection, and your first dose of help with your medicine. May you have more of the latter than the former. Try to have faith, little one. This world is what you make of it, for better or worse, and all you can really do is try.

“I do not know if you are mine. You may belong to someone else, and if that’s the case, then I wish you well and bear you no ill will. I do not believe in the sins of the father. And your mother may have sins plenty enough for all. If you are not mine, you will need all the strength you have. I know who your mother is, and I may not be there to help you. You have a half-brother at least, and so we will know each other some, if not as much as we could, so you can always come to me, for I will always be here for you, if only for the principle of it, or because you are my son’s sister.

“And in him you are luckier than you know. He is a wonderful boy, and he is very much looking forward to meeting you. If not me, then he will teach you to laugh, to be silly, to be happy, as I have taught him. You should spend your hours with him as much as you can, for he is like a light in the dark of this world, and he can help you find the light in you, as I helped him find the light in him. You will find out early what love is.

“And if you are mine, then I will show you myself. And you will be among the luckiest of children, for I have dreamed of you, fantasized of you, fought for you. I have endured much hell to bring you into this world, and were it not for me, you would not exist. I am the one who wanted you here. I am your reason for being. I am the one whose love you are here for.

“If you are mine.

“And so today, on your birth day, I must give you your first apology. I must ask you to wait a little bit longer for me, as I have waited for you. I must know if you are mine before we can make that dream a reality, because I could not bear to start it now only to learn a truth I have dreaded all year. I don’t have it in me, because I am not sure how much more I can take. And so we must wait. If you are mine, I will make it up to you. In the meantime, I will pretend and give to you everything you need or want. Like a plane that has not been cleared to land, I will fly in circles around you until knowing if I must fly away from you forever, or if it is safe for me to land. Hopefully your waiting for me will end soon, just as my waiting for you does, and we will never wait for each other again.

“Sleep a newborn’s sleep, little one.”

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