This essay was originally published by the online literary magazine, Mother’s Always Write, on June 30, 2017.
An explosion in my flesh. I writhe in pain, splashing in an inflatable tub in my living room. “Shit!” My husband ducks to avoid flying elbows, arms, my scratching fingers. Midwife eyes — six in all — look over the edge of the tub, cheering, but I cannot hear their words. I do not care what they are saying. Is it over yet? I push with all my might and split in two, and then blood and a cough: my husband holds in his hands a naked, slippery, breathing child.
A moment of silence, otherworldly. Then she wails like she longs for what she left. I understand her pain. We speak consolation to her. “Hello, baby. We’re here. You’re okay. You’re okay, baby,” we say. She stills. Her large eyes find us, and she looks back and forth, back and forth at our two faces. I smile a full grin: my daughter is here. Her chest heaves as my husband and I hold her head above the water. Life in slow-motion; life eternal.
And then the world restarts, a fall-out like none other. I feel I am moving behind the speed of the others. “How do I get out?” I say, my words slurring on my tongue. I see the others rushing, preparing our bed for us, laying a path of towels on the wooden floors, spreading peanut butter on toast, pouring a glass of orange Gatorade cold from the fridge. I can hardly stand. I am shaking. The water has turned cold. I hand the baby to a woman at the edge of the tub — which one? — and she and my husband lift one of my legs over the inflatable edge and onto a chair, and then they lift the other.
While I am sprawled between, an organ, red and round, falls out of my body. I cringe and look away: my insides are so ugly. Someone catches it, and soon, it is double-bagged in plastic sacks like a watermelon at the grocery store. They hook my arm through the handles so that, once I reach the bed, I can hold my baby close — after all, she is still attached to the pulsing organ inside.
They grasp my underarms as I walk precarious to the bed, where I collapse onto pillows. They hand me my child. She is naked against my naked chest, and they drape a fleece blanket over her. Then they wrap us both in a pink fitted sheet just out of the dryer. The elastic clings to my feet. My husband lies beside us. My baby wriggles on my chest and searches. I give her my breast, and my husband and I stare at this creature. He is crying, and so am I.
Then I feel, smell, see blood pour out of me.