And then I woke. Inked in red on the dark. 11:49 pm. Drenched, I was afraid to move as though I might drown.
Because I tested positive for Strep B, I’d been told to get to the hospital as soon as my water broke so I could be administered IV antibiotics to prevent infection. Within a half-hour Travis and I were on our way from Brooklyn to St. Vincent’s in the Village, quite confused. This was our first. My due date was still twenty-four hours away. I had not had a single contraction.
In our childbirth class, the instructor had talked about a ‘cascade of interventions.’ Pitocin. Epidural. C-section. Episiotomy? The instructor laughed. “Not unless your doctor is over 60.”
But the baby would be born on February 21st! My sister’s birthday.
I wasn’t dilated yet. Not a single centimeter. We wandered down hallways, turned corners. By the elevator bank, the linoleum floor pitched and rose. A crack ran through the little hill, a thin, crooked road.
Beside my bed, tethered to the IV, I bounced. “I feel stupid.”
“Maybe it’ll help get things going,” Travis said.
“Maybe if I fall off,” I answered.
In the evening, a new nurse came in to administer the next dose of antibiotics.
“You’re having a girl, right?” She smiled.
“Uh, we don’t know,” I said slowly.
“Oh, that’s the couple down the hall.” She scurried away.
Norah then, not Liam.
This Ought To Be More Interesting
February 21, 2010 was like standing chest-deep in the ocean beneath a cresting wave.
With few distractions, I fretted about writing. Though I’d published short stories, two novels had not sold. I’d hoped to finish a draft of my third before the baby came; it had not happened. After, I intended to climb in the crawl space between “next to” and “impossible” and write from there. But to write, you need passion far more than time. What if, After, the passion was un-findable?
11:00 pm ish.
11:40. The pain was brief. Soon it was not. Soon, there was no ending or beginning.
Morning light seeped around the blinds. I told Travis that if less than seven, I’d get the epidural. The epidural, because there was only one and it was mine. The on-call doctor grinned. “You’re two centimeters!”
My own doctor arrived. Gray-haired, distinguished, he wandered in and out as I pushed and pushed. I kept drifting off like I was watching a boring miniseries.
At one point Travis cried, “I see the head!”
Well, fucking grab it, I thought.
Two hours in. The doctor was concerned. Did we want to try forceps first?
Travis said, “Wait—”
“Do it,” I snapped. This was not a baby, but a project to complete.
A resident stepped up, hesitantly. “Go on,” the doctor barked. “Cut.”
Apparently forceps means episiotomy.
When she finished, proud, relieved, the doctor picked up the forceps and took her place. A sudden weightlesslessness. An indignant scream.
Later, when the baby and I were alone, I traced the red mark from the forceps that went from forehead to cheek. I said I was sorry. Eyes opened. I saw at once that they were not newborn blue but my blue, exactly.
Seven months after I signed with my agent, she emailed me about a date to send the novel out to editors.
”How’s February 21st?”
Perfect. I’d finished the book, not in spite of parenthood, but because of it. So I could someday say that you don’t quit because something difficult gets exponentially more difficult.
On March 10, 2014, my 4-year-old was the first person I told.
Mommy sold her book, I said, and Liam smiled.
-by Kathleen Donohoe