In through the nose. Out through the mouth. In. Out. Breathe, eyes closed. Just breathe. It will all be over soon. A lull in the pain, a break in the retching. In. Out. Nose, mouth. For the moment, you don’t hate him. Five minutes ago he was the devil, he was evil incarnate, he was that thing that did this to you.

In, out, in… building pressure.

The pain is starting to rise again, concentrate, all your will on breathing.

Ignore the tightening of your abdomen. Ignore everything but your breathing. You venture a peek at him to your left, his hand on yours. You feel ridiculous, starting to hate him again. His eyes bagged with fatigue, his hair mussed from running his fingers through it while you screamed.

In, out, pressure, pain. You do hate him again. He did this to you. He put this thing inside of you. You know you will love her later, you know you will love him again later, but now, right now, he and she are diseases. Abscesses that your body must expel.

The machines to your right start to beep faster, your heart rate is rising. There’s a steady thud thud thud, a tiny flutter, and you know that the baby’s heart rate is rising too. The nurses told you to keep calm before they left to presumably check on other patients,

“You’ll be fine, women have been doing this since there’s been women.”

The world is shattering inside you. There can’t possibly be anything left when this is over. Your body will be nothing like it was before your hips stretched, before you ballooned up to twice your regular size. Before he put this inside you.

Then the retching. Everything in your stomach is being squeezed through every hole it could possibly exit. Why, oh dear god why, had you not opted for the stupid shot? Why had this seemed like such a good idea? Why does he look so haggard and worried? Why have the nurses not come back?

He is gone and the baby is gone and the machines are gone. Just black pressure and searing sunshine bright pain. You hear yourself screaming. You are suddenly outside of the pain, standing to your own right, disengaging from your body. You step aside, scared that you may have to endure what you see. You watch yourself writhing, feet in the stirrups of the birthing bed. Your hospital gown is a ridiculous shade of green blue, medical green blue, sick green blue. You see yourself, back arched to rise the bulge that used to be a flat stomach. Head and neck pushed so hard into the pillows that they almost disappear. He is saying something to your physical body, leaning forward, and wraps his arm across its heaving chest. You watch all of this, see it, but feel none of the pain.

The body relaxes in the bed. His face that you hated a moment ago, his tired disheveled face, is open wide. He’s screaming. Lights are flashing on the machines next to you. Red blood puddles on the floor. The blood spreads, a wine stain. He’s still screaming, but you can’t hear him anymore. Your body stops moving completely. He grabs its shoulders and shakes them, up and down, up and down. He’s pushing the body with a bruising force, screaming into the face that used to be yours.

Nurses and a male doctor rush in passed you. They don’t even glance at you. They run to the body. A thick armed woman in scrubs pulls your husband off the body. A petite, stern faced woman squats between the body’s legs, not bothering to cover her face with a mask, or even pull on sterile gloves. The doctor leans over your used to be body, pushing, prodding listening. Then he pushes on the chest. Once, twice, a third time.

In, Out.

You feel a tug, something asking you to move nearer the scene. A rope, an invisible tie, something needs you to be closer. You lean over next to the doctor, watching as a third nurse puts a respirator over what was your mouth on the shallow looking, exhausted body. The doctors pushes on the chest again. Once, Twice, Three.

In through the nose.

You lean closer, looking passed the doctor, passed the medical devices, passed the man that you neither love nor hate, into the face of the body.

A spark, a plea, enormous, plaintive, there, in the eyes.

In thought the nose. Out through the mouth.

Then everything is blocked out by a pain that wraps your entire lower body and back. Your sight flickers from black to gray to a bright blinding white. A man, a doctor, is leaning over you, his face concerned. You’re husband, you hear his voices, he’s pleading, somewhere beside you,

“Please god, please, let her be okay, please bring her back, doctor please save my wife!”

Then a whimper, and the pain is gone. The doctor looks to his right, towards your feet, and smiles. A sound, small at first, gains strength over the din in the room, over the voices, over the machines. Your husband stops screaming, stops praying, and all is silent,

Except the sound of your daughter crying as the petit nurse that you can’t see from you vantage point, back in your body, rubs and wipes her with a towel.

She’s crying, your daughter, your Leah, a wiggling worm in a tiny blanket. The nurse moves, leaning back into your vision. Your husband reaches across to take the baby and you turn your head, eyes following as he cuddles her to his chest. He gazes down at her for a heartbeat,

In, out.

Then his eyes rise to you and he smiles.

His eyes say thank you, with no more pressure or strain, with great accomplishment, total clarity.

You rest, lid flickering, fluttering shut, muscles finally relaxed, you breathe.

In through the nose, out through the…

The machines rush back to life. The doctor and nurses start trying to revive your completely depleted body. You stand behind your husband, looking over his should at you daughter, your Leah, and she focuses, for just a moment, on you.

And then there is peace, a knowledge that she will live, she has survived, and silence without pain.

— Sarah Ockershausen Delp

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