“No! Don’t you look, stay up here. Right here. Look at my face!”
The words flew out of my mouth, with such intensity and a high-pitched sound, I wasn’t sure it was me.
We were in the homestretch, and we talked about this moment many times before. He was to stay beside my face, keep his eyes on mine, and he would not watch the baby come out. We made a pact, my husband and I, he was not to go downstairs under any circumstances.
Seriously though, he knew I felt ashamed of the bloody excess that would pour from me. And, he knew I worried he wouldn’t look at me the same again. I saw my doctor clench her teeth together—I knew what she was thinking—yes, this was the birth of our second child, and yeah, I should be over this by now.
The birth of our older son was dramatic, so much so that I blocked it out. Except for the cab ride to the hospital and bribing our driver to run the red lights, everything else was wiped clean. Thankfully, our baby was born beautiful and healthy, but I wouldn’t have been back for round two if I remembered more.
And, there I was again lying on my back, legs up, knees bent, feet in stirrups, screaming, and desperately trying to oblige to my obstetrician. She had implored me not to push.
At first, I thought she was kidding. I mean, every piece of my body, from my shoulders to my inner thighs, wanted to push. I could feel my pelvis contracting, and with every painful inward motion, there was an excruciating outward motion telling me to bear down. Yet, this petite woman with porcelain skin and shiny black hair, who exuded brilliance, told me to ignore my innate instincts.
I knew something was up, but I chose to ignore that feeling, and I held my baby inside.
I breathed in and out, deep soothing breaths. I tried to find my life force, my prana, and my chi, all at once. I would use loving-kindness to accept this tidal wave of pain running amuck within my body. But, just as I set my intention, a knife-like pain dug into the base of my spine. I arched myself back, roaring, and gripping at my hospital gown. With my fists clenched and my body drenched in sweat, I threw out one f-bomb after the other.
I told myself I would be kinder tomorrow.
I cried out inside for my mother, hoping she would save me. My mind drifted to her caring for my nephew as a newborn, her first grandchild. I thought of her bathing him gently and then dressing his tiny body in snug pajamas. She taught me how to swaddle him in a fuzzy, baby blue blanket with his name etched on it. Her love was endless. My nephews’ teeny limbs pressed soundly and peacefully into her warm body.
When I watched my mother work her magic ten years earlier, every grievance I had with her melted away. And, there had been plenty of grief between us. Witnessing her then, I just knew she had showered me with that same grace. I couldn’t wait to see her, and even more, I couldn’t wait to give birth.
The pain finally subsided. I looked over to see my doctor’s eyes widen, her eyebrows almost touching her hairline.
“Push!” she commanded.
It was as if the stark, white walls and the stainless steel medical equipment in the birthing room had closed in upon me. The nurse, who I swore at seconds before, pulled me up, her face red and hot from the labor of our work. The doctor sat beneath me, ready to deliver my face directly in her line of sight.
“Please watch the birth,” she said. “Don’t miss this.” Her face beaming with hope.
My husband mirrored her same face back to me, asking for my permission.
I shook my head “no” and tightly squeezed my eyelids together.
Cindy, my doctor, insisted, with the integrity of someone who had carried many women through this threshold and ushered them into their power.
“Please.” I heard her say, one last time.
And then, I did.
I peeked out from my squinting eyes to see this teeny, wiggly, baby boy leaving my body. He was placed into my arms, and from my heart, I shined the purest, most unconditional love, as my mother did for me.
I couldn’t catch my breath, not from the labor I endured, but for the miracle of this new life and for the light that every birth brings into this world.