One Year, Two Births

Amy Brill


By 5:00 a.m., I was sure it was time to go. We lumbered into the light of the living room. But in the few breathless minutes between the first phone call to our babysitter and putting on my second sock, my contractions sped up significantly. They rolled in one after the other, like weather systems colliding. And at the end of each came a deep muscle spasm, like a sudden, insistent drumbeat from inside my womb.

Our sitter wasn’t there; our daughter slept on. In a panic, I dialed my upstairs neighbor, who appeared in our doorway seconds later in her pajamas. I crawled outside. My husband pulled the car up and I hurled myself into the back, between the car seats, a space the size of a Frisbee.

Ten or fifteen contraction-free seconds unfurled. Like true New Yorkers, we talked traffic. We were in Brooklyn; our OB was at New York University Hospital, fifteen or twenty minutes away, on the other side of the East River, in Manhattan. But my water hadn’t broken. I figured I was in the final stage of labor—which I hadn’t experienced the first time around, thanks to the epidural at hour thirty-five. I was excited, even proud, that I’d gotten myself this far. But I was ready to see my doctor—as soon as possible.

“What are you thinking?” I panted, my heart racing. “Battery Tunnel and up the West Side?”

“I was thinking Flatbush Avenue to the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said. “It’s five-thirty in the morning. There won’t be any traffic.”

“Okay, just go, go,” I said, my next contraction looming. He peeled out and turned the corner.

By the time he’d gone around the block, the contraction was rolling through me. But at the end, as it crested, I felt something different: an immense rush of warm pressure, accompanied by an unmistakable sensation. There was no bearing down, no pushing, but I knew what was about to happen. There was no time to be afraid. I put my hands down just in time to feel the head of my baby pop out like a cork.

“The head is out,” I cried, stunned but steady. “Go to Methodist!”


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