Watch Clio’s performance of her original piece, “I Really Did Love Katie.”
You know, I actually didn’t mind being pregnant.
You hear all these horror stories about morning sickness and mood swings and cravings,
but I think being pregnant was the best part of it for me.
Carl Sandburg once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” Elizabeth Jones, a new mother, takes us on her journey as she discovers the love she feels for her baby girl and realizes the lengths she’ll go to protect her. “I Really Did Love Katie,” by Clio Wohlgenant.
I remember the day I gave birth to Katie like it was yesterday.
I woke up in the middle of the night when my water broke, and it was pouring rain like there was no tomorrow, and it had been so hot and dry that summer, I had almost forgotten what rain smelled like. I called my mother at her house and woke her up to give her the news.
She was at my apartment in, oh, I don’t know, 2 minutes, buzzing about and doting over me like she does.
She drew me a bath and lit candles and opened the window, so I could hear the storm, and we waited to go to the hospital.
On the way, we stopped at a Burger King drive thru, and when the voice came through the speaker asking for our order, she yelled into it, “A BABY! WE WANT A BABY! WE’RE GETTING A BABY!” And it took some serious effort on my part to quiet her down and order the shake I’d been craving. Then, when we reached the window, she exploded again and half yelled, half sang, the story of my pregnancy to the cashier, a teenage Latina girl who exchanged with us the story of her niece’s birth and sent us off with two free shakes and a prayer for Katie!
When we reached the hospital, the nurses hardly knew who to deal with first because my mom was totally manic, and I was periodically moaning and clutching my belly; but, when they did figure it out, I was wheeled straight into a room and given an epidural. All I really remember was how I hated the color of the walls so much that it seemed to make me physically ill, and I pointed out to the nurse that this was really no place for a baby as special as mine to enter the world. But, it all went by smoothly, and once it was over, they weighed and washed her, and Katie was put in my arms.
She already had her eyes open. And they were this gorgeous blue and were already framed by dark lashes that I just couldn’t look away from. And at that moment, when my heart felt like it was exploding and imploding and rebuilding itself all at once, I knew that when moms say they’ll do anything for their baby… they mean it.
After that…it got harder. Being single and young as I was, I don’t know that I was entirely ready to raise a child.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I love Katie, I’ve never felt this kind of connection to a person before. It’s just not easy, loving a person so much that you want to do everything for her, but feeling as though every day your ability to is crumbling away.
I mean, you’re attached to this brand new person that can’t do anything for themselves, and being a mother means doing all those things for them every second of every day, and it started to get to me. Little things like waking up early in the morning to Katie’s crying and not getting the chance to brush my teeth. For the rest of the day all I could focus on would be the heavy taste of plaque in my mouth; and, every time I tried to sneak away, her cries would roar up again and shake the house and my resolve. I began to notice tiny dust bunnies multiplying in the corners of the house, but with Katie on my arm, I could never seem to pick them up fast enough.
I mean, I had plenty of support and all; everyone kept telling me, “Nobody’s ever ready,” and, “You’re a great mom, and you’ll continue to be.”
But I was still figuring this world out for myself, you know, and if…if I could’ve just stuck her back in my tummy and kept her there forever where no one could ever hurt her and I’d never be alone…I would’ve…I would’ve.
After a few months, when Katie was sleeping longer, I stayed up all night scrubbing every inch of the house over a week. The skin on the tips of my fingers was infinitely prune-y, and my knees developed bruises from kneeling on the ground for a couple hours every time I put her down until the next time she pulled me away.
My mother came over every Wednesday, Friday, and Monday afternoon. She noticed my faltering up-keep and started bringing over samples of her favorite skin products from the mall. “For the bags under your eyes, dear,” she said. As if I had any time to even think about personal hygiene these days, nonetheless even feed myself. I told her I was fine handling Katie and that Monday’s didn’t work after all.
She was a good baby, though. A better baby than I was an adult. I think I cried more than she did, and I think…I think she was smarter than me, too. She always had her eyes open. And not just open, but open, like she always knew what was coming next and like she noticed things about the world that I never would.
Even at home, where she and I spent a majority of our time, it was as though every day she noticed new things and fell deeper and deeper in love with this world that would only hurt her.
I set her up in the afternoons next to this big window in my apartment that looks over a boring street and straight into the next building. Sometimes, you could see the man and his girlfriend that lived there watching TV together. Always things like CSI or the NBA. Not much else. And, occasionally, the woman would sit by the window and read for hours, just by the light of the day. Theirs was really the only window that was ever open. But Katie still seemed entranced every afternoon by the red brick and silver glinting glass. It was like she had this deep-rooted appreciation for ours and theirs and everyone else’s window and everyone else’s life, if that doesn’t seem too silly.
I used to be like that. Open-hearted and innocent. But..that only got me into trouble, so.
But, uh, we were driving home. And she was in the back seat, all strapped in. And I was in the front, listening to the radio. And they were talking about how the, um, the drought was still going on. And this year was supposed to be hotter than ever. And that’s when she started crying.
And this cry was um…soulful, like every ounce of emotion she’d ever felt or ever would feel was thundering out of her. And it was loud like it-drowned-out-the-radio-loud, and it was sort of piercing, like it got inside your ears and took over.
My thoughts started to… to race, and, um, I thought about all the times I’d cried like that. And then I think I was crying, too, because I could hardly see the road anymore, and it felt hard to breathe, and I pulled the car over onto the shoulder.
It’s just that a mom is supposed to protect her daughter from ever feeling like that and crying like that, and right now I just couldn’t. I rested my head on the steering wheel, and both our sobs filled up the car, and the sweat on my brow made the wheel kinda slippery. So I, uh, got out of the car and unstrapped Katie from her car seat, and we were walking down the side of the road, and I was trying to shush her in between my own cries.
And, um, I was thinking about all the other times Katie would cry like that in her life. I couldn’t protect her from everything. I couldn’t even protect myself from most things, nonetheless get out bed some days. And how could I keep her from feeing so isolated that everything appears through a silvery film if, even now, every touch felt alien to me. We were 200 yards away from the car then, um, on an overpass actually, and there were cars…everywhere they made me a little dizzy, actually, and I, uh, I crouched down and clutched Katie to me.
I was still crying and she was still crying and I told her that I was sorry because I didn’t know if I could save her or even if anyone could, and I told her I was sorry because she was too good for the world she was living in, and too good for everything it throws at you, and then I…I told her how much I loved her.
And she was crying even louder now. And I realized that maybe I could save her. I could save her from everything and everyone that would ever hurt her or aggravate her or make her cry.
I realized that I could fulfill my promise to keep her safe from it all.
So I, uh, I stood up, and I wiped my cheeks, and I wiped hers and kissed her forehead and whispered that I loved her, and I stepped forward to the edge of the road.
And then I let her go.
And then she was falling, and I was running, and we were both crying, and I reached the car, but I could still hear her. I can still hear her now.
But I kept telling myself that I did it. That I did the right thing. That she doesn’t have to suffer, not like I did. That she’s lucky to have a mom like me. “Lucky.”
But it was then that I realized what a psycho I had evolved into.
And that no amount of jail time or medicine could cure what I had seen, done, and taken away from her.
I wasn’t ready to be a mother. And I know I can’t prove my innocence — there is none anymore.
But with this letter, I hope I can prove hers.
I really did love Katie.
Clio Wohlgenant is a freshman at Denver East High School, and she was assigned a project for her Speech and Debate class to write an original dramatic piece. This was her piece which she hopes to compete statewide in the National Forensics League next season. Mental illness and psychology has always been an interest of hers, and she hopes to play a part in widening people’s knowledge and diluting individual stereotypes and stigmas.