The Most Extreme Sport

This is crazy; I can’t believe nearly everyone’s mother did this. This thought scrolled across my mind as I waited for the next contraction to come so I could push again.

All my co-workers were babies once. All CEOs and business people and corporate big shots who think they’re hot stuff. They were tiny babies who all mostly entered the world the same way. Crazy…

“Tuck your chin and pull your knees towards your chest when you push.” The nurse said.

I stared at the pattern on the light-green hospital gown which covered my huge pregnant belly and followed her instructions as best I could manage. Ohh, is it supposed to feel like that? This is insane. People do this?

“I don’t think I can,” came out of my mouth, though I hadn’t made a conscious decision to say that.

“You can do it,” coached the nurse. I wonder how many times she’s said that to how many mothers.

I looked at the bright red digits of the large rectangular clock, mounted so that it stuck out from the wall on my left. Maybe this was almost the time my baby would be born. The time we’d write in baby books and sew on quilts.

Puuuush.

Or, maybe not that time.

I was so thirsty. I grabbed the Styrofoam cup from the tray next to me and tried to take a tiny sip of water through the straw. Just enough to wet my dry mouth.

Then I leaned over the dull pink, hospital-supplied plastic basin and thew up again.

I hadn’t been able to keep down even a drop of water since labor had started in earnest early this morning.

(“You brought your own bucket?” The hospital staff in triage had asked when I arrived.

“Yeah,” I had said, clutching my blue three-gallon pail, “why, what do other people do?”

“Just puke on the floor, mostly.”)

At this point, I didn’t know what made me want to finish labor more, getting to see my baby or finally getting to quench my thirst.

Puuush.

Sheesh, this was an extreme sport. And there was a time when women weren’t allowed in the Olympics?

The doctor, whose name I hadn’t caught, poked his bald, brown head in the room and then left again. I could hear sounds from the room next to mine. Apparently that mom and I were racing and he didn’t know whose baby he’d have to catch first.

“I think I peed on him.” I said to my nurse apologetically. “When they broke my water.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, “happens all the time. He always has a change of clothes.”

I held my palm-sized wooden cross against the bed and waited.

This was it. This was the hour that all the excitement and exhaustion of pregnancy had led up to. And even if my baby wasn’t born in the next push, she would be soon.

As long as I had stayed in the hospital bed -with every contraction, clutching the little wooden cross that my mom had brought me from Jerusalem- labor had progressed very calmly, I had nearly slept between some of the contractions. But now, the calm period was over.

The nurse showed Miguel how to put counter pressure on my left leg, while she held my right leg.

The doctor came back and stayed.

Somewhere in the background my phone’s playlist started a fight song. Had it been playing music all this time? I couldn’t remember.

I felt the contraction building. I wanted this to be the last one. I wanted to be done and to hold my baby.

I pushed.

“Keep going!” Said the nurse.

I strained and then petered out.

“We saw her head that time!”

The waiting between contractions felt interminable. I’m ready to be done! I thought.

The pressure of a contraction started cresting again. I pushed and held it.

“Remember to breathe!” Said the nurse.

I pressed my chin to my chest and kept pushing.

Suddenly, there were several medical people near my feet.

I kept pushing.

This is impossible.

“Keep going! Almost there, almost there!”

I kept pushing.

A tiny slimy bundle was thrown onto my chest. She cried loudly. I breathed heavily into her dark, wet hair. “I love you. I love you. I love you.” I whispered. Tears slid down my cheeks.

My feet rested on the bed. I watched my knees move as my legs shook uncontrollably. I had done it.

“Do you want to cut the cord?” someone asked Miguel.

“Not really.” He looked very pale. He hadn’t had any coffee today.

“I’ll clamp on either side, you can just make the cut.”

“I love you. I love you. I love you.” I breathed at this tiny person. My daughter.

The doctor by my feet made quiet conversation with the doctor next to him as he started with stitches. Ow, this hurt worse than labor.

“I must be getting old,” he said, “my back is sore from deliveries.” The man looked like Gandhi, there was no telling how old he was.

“No, you aren’t old, my back hurts too,” the young, pretty doctor replied, with a twitch of her neck that rustled her long, dark ponytail.

“Well,” I said, raising my voice over the wet-sounding cries and looking up from my baby’s head for the first time, “you both have a very labor-intensive job.”

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