You didn’t believe the first contraction. You needed more proof. Yes, it seemed stronger than any previous. You felt this one somewhere in your lower back, and it grew until the branches of nerves sent signals up through your spine that this Really. Might. Be. It.
Still, you didn’t believe the first contraction. You needed more proof.
For most women, it’s a welcomed sight. Regular contractions are a prelude to nature taking its course, freeing the woman from nine months of hard labor. In your case, it was Nurture over Nature. You weren’t yet willing to let go. Instead, every fiber of muscle tightened in your body in an attempt to keep her inside, if only for another minute and a half, if only for another ten and a half hours.
Ahead, full of steam.
You’re ready to fracture.
Apart at the seams.
You’re bent over backwards.
A gymnast in training.
You grimace. Your back hurts.
A minute remaining.
Don’t think of the long haul.
Just seconds. Illusions.
A walk down a long hall.
It left you as quickly as it came. Perhaps, this is why you didn’t believe it. Reinforcement appeared exactly five minutes later. Suddenly it seemed real.
The longest 33 minutes of my life, to that point. The highway was stretched like an elastic and I was scared to blink in case the person holding the other end should let go. Streetlamps flashed by the passenger-side window. Even though it was daytime, somehow, I remember them being yellow. A long-exposure photograph would have turned them into a river of gold. Frozen in time, an observer wouldn’t be able to tell if we were going with or against the current. Our minds were on something else entirely.
The number on the screen jumped. They were monitoring her heart rate. I wondered if there was some mathematical formula that could predict the sequence, race the hands of the clock and breaking just a step ahead, inform us of the future, so we could be certain that she was fine.
Somebody tell me what is what,
In limbo of the holding cell,
The monitor, in Morse Code,
Send out the message “All is well.”
It’s certain. We are in transition.
The gripping pains will not abate.
The baby’s dropped and in position, -
A race horse shaking at the gate.
You shook by the door. “I will tell security not to let them in.” The door shook and all the insecurities came flooding in, smiling. You were staring in the mirror that reflected the image from the future you dreaded, of the person you were scared to become. Your future reflection was the first to break the staring contest. Right then you knew you had gotten the upper hand. Your younger self looked on, still worried, but proud of your resolve, wondering if she would be able to do the same, when it was her time.
Her time had not come yet, - so we were told.
Half in a daze, we stepped back in the world,
Where nothing was ended and nothing begun,
Where we were still two, but fewer by one,
We pondered the numbers of this arithmetic,
Numbed to the bone by the sun’s anesthetic.
You clutched at my arm, as if to keep steady.
We wanted her now, but she wasn’t ready.
I used to wonder if we were ready. To that day, our biggest responsibility was taking care of a dog, and I still wasn’t sure where exactly I stood in the hierarchy of the pack. To raise a child would be something all together different. That day, the child raised me. Faced with the inevitability, all doubts were suddenly pushed to the wayside.
The few hours we spent at home were a blur, divided between the yoga ball, the couch and the walks up and down the driveway.
A tear and a shiver.
The sunset of fuchsia
Still burned through the silver.
The street was deserted,
The pavement was black.
Just then you asserted,
“It’s time to go back.”
Your eyes seemed to issue
A total submission.
It suddenly squeezed you.
A green icon of the heart blinks on a monitor. The roller-coaster of her heart rate is repeatedly dipping, before slowly ascending into the 130s. Nurses come and go, like waiters working hard to earn their tips, except less courteous. Their tired smiles appear to hang in mid-air, occupying the space even after they exit the room. Few words are spoken. Shockingly few, especially compared to how many go unvoiced. The silence is sometimes such that it makes you feel smothered. Just as I’m thinking this, her heart rate plummets.
Contractions get closer,
no time for rest.
hugs the rail
at the peak of the crest,
all hell breaks loose.
Arms start to flail
and there’s no time to lose.
deep into your chest.
Hold it as long as you’re able.
Stable. Stable. Stable.
and stable, at best.
You’re 7 cm. It’s show-time. They wheel you away.
They break your water. It’s funny to think of water breaking. I have an image of a vase, cracking. Veins running up its lateral surface, until it shatters. Fragments of water are left on the floor, with sharp, jagged edges. It did, in fact, shatter. All of the air was suddenly sucked out of the room. When the nurse says “Shit,” you tune in and listen.
“She’s breeched,” she screeched.
As if everything we’ve been through already wasn’t enough. You’ve spent all your strength on fighting off the epidural, hoping for natural birth, you’ve saved nothing for the spinal.
Longest 33 min of my life.
Not just you, - we were both giving birth!
I could feel every twinge, every seizure
And the pain at the end of each nerve,
Barely touched by the slow anesthesia.
We were both laid out on the gurney,
Like two clouds, in garments of white –
And those eyes, in the light, looking sternly,
And our own looking up through the light.
Remember? - You don’t, in the slightest, -
The incision, the blade, and the cold,
When they searched for the child inside us,
As though miners looking for gold.
How we started to pray for atonement,
When it seemed there was nothing else left,
How we both held our breath for a moment,
Till the moment she let out a breath.
How our hands clenched into each other,
Then let go, as we spun in a whirl!
How I went from a son to a father, -
You – from being to having - a girl.
The first time they put her in my hands, it felt like she was pulling me up. If you had twins, I’m certain I would have been lifted out of the chair, with my feet dangling above the floor. As it was, I soared. I saw you whirling next to me.
I won’t forget those eyes, filled to the brim and spilling over. I am branded with them. I wake up to them every morning. Before I even open my own.
The tears on your lashes
blown out of proportions.
Absorbing and swelling
amidst all the noise,
they’re quietly telling
the words left unvoiced.
Their pull will deplete me.
All pain and elation
are captured completely.