“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
― Nicole KraussThe History of Love

I woke at 3:44 AM and I thought – I knew, but I also didn’t know – today is the day. My abdomen contracted every few minutes, but there was no pain. Only anticipation.

I got up and let the dogs out and wrote lists. I fell asleep again. I woke up, and the contractions were still there.

We spent the day counting minutes and going on walks and waiting for an increase in intensity. We went to Target in the afternoon, and finally the contractions strengthened. We went home, ordered spicy Chinese food, and the contractions became painful. I went into the bathtub, a small relief. Steven came to check on me. The contractions were too hard to speak through, and I looked up from the water and said, “I think this is it.”

Steven called Krista and told me we were going to the hospital. I didn’t want to, because I feared they would check me and tell me I wasn’t dilated enough. But he insisted. Krista arrived, and we drove to the hospital. I needed a wheel chair, the idea of walking to Birthways was too difficult to consider. It was around 9 PM.

I got checked into my room on a silent floor. They said nobody else was in labor and there was only one other family that was leaving the next day. Susan arrived, and found me 6 centimeters dilated.

We spent the next few hours on the ball, working through contractions that were more and more painful. After a long time, they said they had filled up the whirlpool if I wanted to sit in it. I decided that if it were like the bath I’d taken at home, it would be a little relaxing and worth the move to the bathroom.

It wasn’t worth it. The water did not relax me, and I thought maybe going to the bathroom would help. That didn’t either. I didn’t know it yet, but I was already in transition.

Susan offered to break my bag of waters, which could speed up the process. I agreed. After she did that, I felt the warm water gushing. I sat on the ball again, and cried in pain. The nurse, Emily, told me that I had been doing very well with controlling myself and my body through my contractions, but I was starting to let the contractions control me. I had to take back control to get through the rest of labor.

Susan checked and said I was 9.5 centimeters dilated, but there was still a cervical lip in the way. She suggested that I continue by moving to a hands and knees position. Krista whispered in my ear wth each contraction how to breathe, like I were blowing out a candle. My body was taking over, forceful contractions pushing my baby out even as I tried to control my body. The pain was incredible. I would slump and rest deeply between each contraction.

Finally, Susan said I could turn over and it was time to push. Although pushing was difficult, the pain wasn’t as terrible. I pushed as Krista and Steven held my legs. I don’t know how long I pushed, but finally, I felt her head come out, I felt her turn, and felt the rest of her body slide out.

Then she was set on me, hot and wet and beautiful. They tell me she pooped and peed on me, but all I could see was her dark hair, her dark blue eyes, and her little butterfly lips. She was a little person, waiting to be nurtured into her own life.

I started talking to her. I told her about all the people waiting to meet her. And maybe other things that I can’t remember. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t pregnant anymore, and that I was responsible for this gorgeous, fragile little creature.

“Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted–wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.”
― Nicole KraussThe History of Love