I was sure that the radiating pain would cause my teeth to fall out. I told myself to allow the pain to move through me, the pain is coming through you, not happening to you, but even in my tortured state I knew that was some hippie bullshit. “Don’t yell Kiersen, you yell you are wasting energy.” The doula’s face was pale and close to mine, noses nearly touching, “Ah, fuck you!”
I sat in birthing class watching an informational video which mimicked well the aesthetic of Pulp Fiction gore. The woman lay on the hospital bed screaming, clawing at the thin fibers of the hospital gown. She had planned a birth free of medical intervention. All women of my generation aspire towards this. Truly the only medical procedure in which not being medicated is a point of pride. If you told someone that you were planning a drug free knee replacement, they’d have you committed. I asked for anesthetic to have a cavity filled, yet here I was happily telling the group that I would not be having an epidural or any other sort of pain numbing drug. The big toothy smile was slowly fading as I watched the woman rithe on the birthing table like the fucking Exorcist. Then the blood came. The woman asked for a mirror to see the crowning head. Another mother in the class sighed “Wow”, John leaned over to me and sweetly whispered “This is disgusting.” I nodded. The woman’s breathing became slow, deep, and focused. Head, neck, shoulders, arms, body, feet, a whole entire human came out of another human, it was the most unnatural vision which ever painted my eyes. I leaned forward, reaching my elbows around my belly towards my knees. I rubbed my forehead.
The nurse flipped the lights on as the screen went back to the DVD display mode. “Any questions?” So many. I quickly decided that, while this would be happening to me, I wouldn’t concern myself about all that just yet. I filed the images and sounds away into a special box labeled procrastination and began fantasizing about family photos with the dogs.
Another contraction rose, with absolute panic I screamed, cried. I knew nothing. I had no idea how to do this, and I couldn’t do it. The hour plowed through my stomach, each passing minute scraping my insides like fertile fields. The nurse appeared clipboard in hand and sweetly pleaded with me to take the pitocin. I looked from the nurse to my mother, to my husband to the doula and it landed on me, light as a feather, but with cardamom bite; no one knew the right thing to do. “Kiersen, just remember what Bonita said in the birthing class. Once you start with medical interventions, it is very hard to not have an epidural.” Here face was light with hope. She had never actually seen someone give birth without epidural. I wasn’t that hard core, I just wanted bragging rights. I remembered back to when a former school-parent floated towards me with her face serene as an angel, “May I touch your belly?” She cooed “Yeah, grab on!” I was quite proud to finally be eating whatever I wanted and still have people marveling over my shape. She looked me deep in the eyes and said expectantly “Home birth?” It wasn’t technically a question, but she nodded in agreement with herself. My prideful smile twisted, “No” I stammered, “I’m not that brave.” I conceded. Bless her, she took great pains to hide her disappointment, but her face flushed the shade of crestfall. Who was I actually doing this for? I looked at the nurse, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the doula. “I’ll do the pitocin”.
“Get the blueberries out of my face and turned the goddamn music off!” The pitocin had definitely worked, things were moving much faster and I was in shocking, irritable, unrelenting agony. I wriggled and readjusted like my body was an unsettled game of tetris; my hips were unhinged from my pelvis and my spine was no longer stacked above my coccyx. We ran through every birthing position, “You want the tennis balls again?” “Fuck the tennis balls.” I whined. “Maybe try walking again” my mother said from behind her pink clad phone. I pushed aside the pain for one enraged moment to become stiff-still, my face fell and I raised my eyebrow “Are you serious? Are you seriously telling me to walk right now?” My mom looked up from her screen, unsurprised by my response “If this is about my weight again, I swear to god mother, it is not the time!” My voice raised over my mother’s protest and we crumbled into bickering, my husband ate a few blueberries. “Fine!” she spat, “Fine, I can’t say anything right, I always say the wrong thing.” I moaned and she began filming with her phone again.
Until now, the pain would rise and fall, this gradually stopped and within ten minutes life was a blur of cracking, rotting pain that shook and tossed my body like a ship at sea, wave after wave, all forte, crushing, interrupted only by staccato stabs. The melody had been lost to me but was clear to the nurses and doula; the song had come to the bridge.
After we had run through all the practice birthing positions, nurse Bonita had all the couples take a seat on the padded floor, “We are going to run through some labor breathing.” She informed us. We copied her breath for breath for two or five minutes. It seemed easy enough. We finished and were told to take note of which technique seemed most comfortable. “These are just ideas to use during labor,” she continued “however, labor will eventually reach a point, when all of this goes out the window, your body will take over, and you will just have to follow it. Just keep breathing, however you can, keep breathing.” Everyone was quiet. We looked at our swelled stomachs, far passed the point of changing our minds. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. She gave a few conciliatory comments on different muscles one might utilize during so-called active labor, then thanked us for our time and wished us luck.
Neither luck and life are in our control. I was at ten centimeters, on all fours, screaming like a rabid animal, Kiersen proper had left the building. To the bed, oxygen on, then faith, humility, pain, every human who ever was or would be, life, the past a future, moved through me. I didn’t do a thing, it wasn’t happening to me, it was happening through me. The doctor apperated for the first time, and from darkness and pain: head, neck, shoulders, arms, body, legs feet, a whole person was born. They held her up and gave her to me. Her. My daughter. She cried out, for the first time taking in breath, life, a new song began.