Thirty Hours

Dani Shapiro


10. I should mention that during my pregnancy, my anxiety vanished so completely that I couldn’t recall what it had felt like all the years I had been consumed by it. Perhaps it was the hormones. I was a happy pregnant woman. Peaceful, even. If my anxiety had its origins in a need to control every aspect of my destiny—hell, of the entire universe’s destiny—that control-freak aspect of my nature had subsided. I had always been one of those passengers, on airplanes, who felt they had to spend every single moment of the flight telepathically communicating with the pilot in order to keep the plane aloft. Now I understood myself to be a passenger on the flight of my life, a passenger in the Boeing 767 of my own body.

11. The hospital, the paper gown, the monitors. They were all ready for me, but I, apparently, wasn’t ready for them. According to the nurse on duty, I was dilated zero centimeters. Zero. How could that be?

12. My husband is a filmmaker, and he will often say that the story of how a movie gets made is different every single time. The same is true for childbirth, I think. Oh, the mechanism all looks pretty much the same, and there are only so many variations on the theme. But the inner life of a woman about to give birth is a world textured and complex and all its own. I was far from alone that day. My ancestors surrounded me, an invisible huddle, as I lumbered back into my own bed and waited for my cervix to cooperate. My father, dead thirteen years at the time. My mother, who’d given birth to me by planned cesarean section in the same hospital that had just sent me home with the advice to take a bath and drink a glass of wine. My parents, my parents’ parents, and their parents—the men small and scrawny, the women squat and big-bosomed—rooting for the newest generation, their voices at once foreign and familiar. They were singing a language I have never known, an ode to the survival of the genetic code that had managed to link peasant farmers in a dusty eastern European shtetl to two artists in an air-conditioned two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

13. And now it is midnight. We’ve returned to the hospital of my birth, and this time they’re not sending me home. The contractions have left me weakened. The pretty doctor, her long brown hair tucked into a blue bonnet, gloves covering her long fingers, breaks my water. There’s no going back.

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