I knew I was going into labor the day before, mildly in the morning, then real contractions as the day wore on. I had only had babies at home up until that point, and wanted nothing to do with a hospital this time either. "You're not having my baby at our house, you're doing it the right way." is what her father contended, and I knew enough of labor and arguing with him that I couldn't do both at the same time. I caved, I agreed to have a baby in a hospital.
All that day of the fourth I did errands, paid the rent, went to the store, went out to dinner at Rio Poco when it was still there. It's not like it is on television, where the wife wakes the husband and says "it's time!" and he runs goofily around in his pajamas looking for that suitcase they already have packed. On TV she's calm, and he's a nervous wreck bumbling around ineffectually. They also show (at least in the olden days of black and white) all the fathers nervously pacing a waiting room while the wives go off and do the magic that produces another human, wrapped in either a pink or a blue blanket.
It wasn't like that, any of the three times when I was the spaceship that delivered an alien to this planet. By late evening I could tell that these contractions meant business, and that at some point soon (but not yet, God, not yet) we were going to have to leave to go to the hospital so that I could do this thing I know so well how to do. Without the ocean's boom to sync with, without all of my women friends in attendance. At the mercy of "personnel" who might take it upon themselves to make choices for my own good; people who might tell me how to have a baby when I already know just how I do it.
Her Father's reaction to "I think it's going to be soon now" was to call his work and talk for about an hour, then say "I better go take a nap, I'm going to need all the energy I can get for this." I spent approximately four hours on the couch, on my hands and knees, in the bathtub deciding if I would even wake him or go ahead and push and catch my baby as I always do. I was too afraid to break the rules, I woke him and we drove to the maternity ward.
It was a full moon, and that dark part of the night that comes right before the subtle lightening of the sky that lets you know that it's going to be another day. I had already called Holly, the boys' birth coach and told her to meet us there, I felt it was important that they be by my side to greet their new sibling. Ward one was full, they opened the over-flow ward for me and actually ran me down the hall to get me to a bed. I kept my ankles crossed, I was not having this baby until the whole family was there. There was a woman screaming her lungs out somewhere that I could hear, and I remember thinking "If you used all that energy to have your baby you'd be done already."
"No, I will not be having an IV, thank you." "No, there won't be any internal monitors or epidurals." "If you give me an episiotomy I will sue the shit out of you, I have never had one and there will be no need for one here. Be patient with me, I know how to push out a baby." My agitation was growing, because I felt like these people were trying to take over my birth experience, and I wasn't having it. "Patient uncooperative" is being written on my chart. He's glowering at me telling me that these people know what they're doing and I need to listen to them. I've reached the final click, click, click of the roller coaster car reaching the top of the first arch and know that I'm going over the edge soon. These people can all fuck off, I am primordial.
Holly and the boys come skidding around the corner and I look at them and say "Hey, can you see?" They're in position and I go to that place where life moves from within me to without me. "Get your hands away from there!" they're trying to tell me and I slap them away. Here is my baby's head in my hands, here are her shoulders, I am catching her as I always do and bringing her up to lay on my heart. There are only two people in the room, she and I. Damn, she is LOUD! "Why is she covered in hand lotion?" is what Andrew wants to know, and "Are they going to unplug that extension cord?"
They take her across the room to do the APGAR tests, when I would prefer that they do it on the end of the bed so I am a part of this. They wheel her, screaming all the way, down the hall and out of my presence to do something to her that makes her scream even louder, then wheel her back. This is the only way I know I have had the same baby returned to me, the audio tether that was never broken. People are talking and doing and other things around me, but I'm looking into the eyes of this divine being and showing her just how grand a breast is. This is what I do. I was made to do this.
After fifteen minutes or so I tell the staff that I'm going to take a shower now. They try to say that I am not allowed to do that, and I ask her dad or someone to hold her while I go do it anyway. I'm ready to get dressed and go home and they tell me I must stay there, in that environment for eight whole hours before I will be allowed to return home, where birth and babies belong in the first place. They provide me with a plastic bucket on wheels to put my treasure in and say that I should "try to get some rest." "I won't be needing that, my baby will be right here with me while I sleep if you're making me stay." They see the fires of hell and the claws of a mother predator and wheel the little box out of the room.
We slept, belly to belly, her in the crook of my arm for some time. It is tiring business to convert an internal organ to a separate person after all. Her father wheels us out to look at the sun, shining its exploratory rays through parting clouds, the rain has stopped. I hold her, and look at her, and know that this is the wish I have been waiting for my whole life.
"It's been eight hours, let's go!" is met with "But we do a complimentary steak and champagne dinner for the new parents, you don't want to miss that, do you?" Yes, in fact I do. The woman is still screaming with as much gusto down the hall as she was when we arrived.
That's what happened at 5:13, June 5, 1993.
We've been each other's best friends for so many of the intervening years, but somehow she's outgrown her need for me now, and moved on. We've been doing a special Mother/Daughter trip away overnight (with presents and surprises) for a few years, but apparently she's outgrown that as well. That place in the crook of my arm where she fit so perfectly aches in its emptiness, and I have to adjust to the idea that I'm only a mother in name now. I asked her if we were going to spend any time together for this birthday, and she said people were making plans for her, she wasn't sure if she could fit me in. The word exsanguination haunts me, but it's the blood in my soul, not the coppery red fluid that flows through my systems and keeps me upright that is leaking out in a steady stream and leaving me white and lifeless. Sticks from my empty nest gouge me and I feel as though I've swallowed broken glass.
Happy Birthday Baby, I miss you so much.