I’m in a wheelchair flying down the corridor of the hospital and I think, this is something we’d laugh at if I wasn’t in total agony. This is just the kind of shit we usually find funny. I’d be getting him to try and race me as fast as I could. But it doesn’t seem so funny and he looks white as a sheet behind the chair, so I don’t say anything.
We get to the delivery suite and the midwife is waiting for us. I don’t know what the hurry is, dear, you’ll probably be hours yet, she says. I’m pushed through to a room and stagger out of the chair as another contraction hits. My stomach’s in a vice. It’s like torture. Punishment. I sit on the edge of the bed. It feels like the baby’s head is already coming down my legs, I say to the midwife, who laughs. I curl my hand into a fist, but he stops me, grabbing my hand and holding it. He looks at me, like, don’t do something you’ll regret. So I say, teeth clenched, Could you maybe just take a quick look?
I pull down my trousers and she bends down to look. She shoots her head straight back up. Jesus, the baby’s halfway out! she says, pulling me onto the bed. I want to say I fucking told you, but I don’t want to risk it. I need her on my side right now.
Another midwife appears from nowhere and passes me a tube of gas and air. I put the pipe into my mouth, suck hard as the pain starts creeping over my stomach, crunching it tighter, tighter…then the flood of relief from the pipe. I flop back onto the pillow like a junkie, temporarily sated. I smile at him. He looks shit-scared. He ought to have a suck on the pipe.
Get ready to push, the midwife says, and I try to push while I’m sucking the pipe, but he takes it off me. Give me that back, mother-fucker, I shout. He looks embarrassed, passes it back. The midwife laughs. I push like I’m pushing a god-damn beach ball out.
And I go to call out for my own mother, I want my god-damn fucking mother, right now. And then I remember – she’s dead. And now I’m going to be the mother. Me. And the thought of all that responsibility winds me. They’re going to let me out of this hospital with a life – a tiny human being and I’m not sure I even know how to take care of myself yet.
A slithering sensation and a body shoots out. It’s a girl! The midwife shouts, jubilant. She’s just managed to catch her in a rugby-style tackle. I look at him and he looks like he’s going to faint. I lift my head to try and see. There’s a white maggoty-looking shape covered in blood and a shock of black hair. The midwife walks over to the corner with her. There’s muttered voices.
And it all goes quiet.
And that baby’s not making a sound. Not a fucking sound.
And I look into his eyes standing there beside the bed, still holding the tube of gas and air. And I’m looking for some kind of reassurance – anything. But he just looks back, terrified. And he looks over to the corner and I want him to ask the midwives what’s going on, but he doesn’t, he just stands there, holding that damn tube in his hand, limp and ineffective.
And I try to get up off the plastic mattress and it sticks to my thighs like peeling off a plaster, and the pool of blood is forming bigger, between my legs, and siding across the mattress and I look away and feel ashamed that I’m making a mess, and I want to ask if I can get a cloth or something and I fall back onto the plastic pillows and I wonder, fleetingly, how many women’s lives have been shaped in this room, on this bed.
And then I hear it.
Soft and slow, beautiful and clear as birdsong and it’s my daughter’s first cry and she’s pushed into my arms and folds into my breast and takes life from me, drinking deep, knowing what to do even if I don’t, and I’ve never felt so alive.
***Kate is a freelance writer based in the UK who writes articles, including regular contributions to online women’s magazine Skirt Collective, as well as publishing life writing and poetry both in print and online. She has a passion for flash fiction and short stories, and is usually found lurking around coffee shops, writing and listening to other people’s conversations.
She blogs at www.writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.
Find Kate on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/katejonespp ***