Birth Day

I awake into memory of another dark morning, a large growth in my belly rising and falling as if with its own life, the room quietly active, a doctor swooshing in and out, a nurse, a husband somewhere, my friend Cindy on her way, my mother with my firstborn, Kenney, back at the ranch, me with this growth like the cat positioned on my abdomen now, warm and weighty, the computer light like the machines monitoring blood pressure and heart rate on a screen, vitals, the weight in my belly moving, shifting, though I’m only at three, still, and I’ve been here all night; at my left a young man named Jason, an EMT in training—they asked me if he could witness, said he needed to witness a birth—and until Cindy arrives he is the closest one to me, near my left shoulder, near the rhythms of lives beeping as the dark leans toward day behind a curtain and my doctor on vacation somewhere, was Ayesha her name? She was East Indian and beautiful, her dark hair short, her brown eyes full of spark and compassion as I met with her more and more toward the due date and why is it we lose people like this who are so important at pivotal times? Of those in the room in its quiet light I have lost all but the life I gave that morning, Jason a memory of conversation as we spoke of overpopulation in low voices saying that what the world needed was large tragedies, this with my stomach rising and tightening in visible contractions as it worked to add new life to the planet and did we talk of the irony of this, this birth, this addition to the numbers as we spoke of tidal waves wiping out Los Angeles before Cindy arrived to sit at my other shoulder—she was backup birth coach in case my husband didn’t make it, him working on a job with a bulldozer somewhere up the coast and hard to track but he did make it to the ranch in time to sleep and then be awakened at midnight and he’s impatient with me as I’m still only at three and he’s tired of waiting, of doing nothing, and I call Cindy and whisper into the phone that he’s here but I want her to come anyway and she does so I have Jason and Cindy at my shoulders when the tiny doctor who is not my doctor breaks my water and a tidal wave gushes from me and then in the dawn light and monitor light and low lights of the room the shape of the growth in my belly is no longer cushioned by water but a round fetal body draped with my skin and I move toward ten, still too slowly for some, and my body cries with effort separate from my mind but part of my heart as an old tidal rhythm takes over.

They told me not to push with Kenney but he was coming anyway and I did push, three times, and he dove out into the world. But this one is stubborn, or I am, as together we resist emergence into this day that has brightened behind curtains and the father paces and I don’t care because Cindy and Jason are there with hands and words and eyes and the small doctor at the foot of the birthing bed and a nurse saying push, push! and I do but it’s too big, this life that needs out, and unlike Kenney’s bare minutes of pushing and great dive this one takes forty-five before a head breaks through the crown into the doctor’s hands but I’m not done, they all tell me I’m not, push! push! but I am done don’t they understand I am tired and the baby too but you can’t leave a baby that way, a third out and two thirds in, and my body knows this and heaves and again, and once those shoulders pass through, the rest slides out and he’s a he (we didn’t know) and so big the doctor who is not my doctor almost drops him—I see this, her movement as she catches him before the floor—and then he’s on the outside of my belly, on top of my skin, my chest, and this is the purest moment of love. A moment I will not ever lose.

“Baby Lausten, 22” long, 9 lbs. 14 ½ ounces, 9:49 a.m., November 16, 1987”

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