Your Birth Story, Part 3

(Part one is here)

It was hell. I know this part of your birth took about two hours but it seemed like maybe 5 minutes, like a night of blackout drinking, compressed or nonexistent with a few highlights that would make good stories later.

In the middle of the screaming, the pain, I was positive that I’d be ripped apart. My comfort was a confidence, the kind that you summon at the darkest moments, that millions of women survived this every year. Sure, I’d split in two, even through the bone (I tried to remember the top view of a pelvis. How big was it? I could only picture dinosaurs). But this happens all the time so medical science must be able to repair most, if not all, of the damage, right?

In my madness and confusion I may have asked again about the possibility of a C-section, only to be rebuffed, again, possibly even affirmed: “You’re doing great.” It’s a damn good thing I wasn’t in charge, I probably would have ordered the child killed half way through.

I had to push. Nothing from childbirth class had been useful thus far, my insanely irregular contractions left my good breath training crying in the dust. But this part would work the way we'd been taught, mostly.

“I want you to breathe, and when I tell you, push out for a count of four,” said Dr. K, who’d put on scrubs at last. It hurt like hell and I visualized the tear through bone and muscle and skin, and whatever else kinds of tissue exist. My goal was a healthy child, pure and simple, though I also hoped to be around to meet her.

We did the four count a bunch of times, I have no idea if it was two sets or a hundred.

But I know the last one I was getting pretty exhausted. I felt I was at the end, that I couldn't go on; that I was inadequate, that maybe I could try a little harder. Or perhaps, I lost the ability to count. All I know is I exhaled for FIVE and whoosh!!!! My daughter zoomed out like a torpedo. The doctor barely caught her. I saw the baby flopping like a fish in the doctor’s tense hands above the “medical waste”-red-marked trash barrel that had been rolled to the butt end of the birthing bed.

Our girl was fine, despite her inelegant exit (entrance?). Gavin got a peek as she was whisked away for a bath and various grooming exercises. I imagined the baby being shown to me, ten minutes later, after my serious stitches were finished (note the absence of any anesthesia), covered in mascara and rouge with a nicely curled wig. Later of course we'd find, as we grew into her, that those eyes, those cheeks, that nose, those lips, she was Greta Garbo, only smaller.

"Perfect" means past, finished, complete. Cooked.

A little rosy burrito, packaged in the hospital’s neutral, striped blanket, tighter than I’d ever seen anything, pink and raw. She looked around with a bright right eye, left one loosely closed. Mine? Ours? They say no, you don't own your child. Out. She was out, eight years of struggle, delay, our medical odyssey ended with one squirt.

Gavin cried and held her while my nethers were sewn. He said over and over, “She’s so beautiful.” Then he’d glance at the frankenwork in progress on my body and look back at the charming burrito. It was no contest.

Our baby girl was safe. We were sound. Everyone had a job to do and they were busy. Something had happened and the surprises, we expected, were all over.

Thank God.

When they did hand her to me, whenever it was, I passed out.

A bit later, they tried again, to take a picture, but my arm fell and I blacked out again. I had dangerously low blood pressure.

Gavin held her tight in his arms. I rested in a hangover from psychosis and a broken body. No one expected me to do anything. Yeah, sure, I was happy, but it’s not like we didn’t believe we’d end up with a baby. I was relieved the ordeal was over. We could figure out what the hell had happened later. Or not.

Eventually we got a picture, our fresh child in the cradle of my arms, satisfied. My hair somehow looks less crazy than it does today, and Gavin is leaning in to me with his hugest smile. The girl he called “Popeye” is small, a bundle of newness. It’s a lovely archetypal souvenir of that day and everything that has happened since.

And, then, I slept.


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