I sat in the bathtub at 5 a.m. listening to the thunder. The contractions were strong enough now to keep me awake. Today is the day, I thought.
And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in a storm.
I went to the doctor for a routine visit that morning and he told me I was five centimeters along. My body had done plenty of work already.
“Call me when they’re five minutes apart,” he said and sent me on my way.
We walked all afternoon in stores and malls, dodging puddles in parking lots, and we watched TV all evening with me drinking gallons of blue Powerade and bouncing on a ball. Dad got antsy timing contractions. Nana rubbed my back and told me to trust myself. And at midnight, we made the call and put the bags in the car.
And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in the night.
Seven hours passed in the darkness as I labored in a chair, on a bed, moving, rocking, sitting, standing, humming, bending, groaning, doubting. I inhaled and I exhaled and I cried dry tears. And your posterior position inside me sent waves of pain up my back, waves that reached my shoulders. And your dad tried to help, but he couldn’t, so he just counted very slowly and I listened through the pain.
“Four centimeters, maybe five,” said the nurse as the sun rose in the sky—pain without progress. And my heart sank. And I cried wet tears. And I told them it was time.
And I liked the idea of becoming a mother in one piece.
I held your Dad by the wrist as they put the needle in my back and I felt little shivers in my feet as my legs went numb and I laid back and cried happy tears, because for the first time in seven hours, my thoughts caught hold of you. For the first time in seven hours, I remembered you were coming. For the first time in seven hours, I felt calm enough to love you.
So I loved you. And the love swallowed up the regret.
And my body relaxed. And my body progressed. And I watched your heartbeat on the monitor in the dewy daylight while Dad and Nana slept. And for six more hours the nurse came and went as I cried fat tears and knew you were getting closer.
And I liked the idea of becoming a mother.
The doctor came when the numbness was waning and the waves of pain were crawling up my back again. And he told me it was time. Dad and Nana held me while I pushed and pushed—pain with progress—and for the first time in 22 hours, I felt powerful.
It happened so fast: the blue baby that appeared in the doctors hands, the quick somethings he did to turn it pink, the little cry—your little cry—the audible sigh of relief.
I watched your dad beam as they bathed you in the corner, oblivious to the nurses kneading my stomach to stop the bleeding. I sobbed as they weighed you and put you in my arms and I whispered, “I’m your mom, little girl.” But I saw that you already knew.