She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.
And she was from me, of me...just hours before she'd been inside of me; I'd been blind to her for so long, only knowing her by the tiny hints she offered: the daily hiccups in the afternoon, pulsing in my abdomen like a tiny heartbeat; the way certain parts of her baby body presented themselves: the balls of her feet, the point of an elbow or knee straining against my stomach.
My stomach. Oh, god. It never stopped growing. Just when I thought I'd gained all the weight I could possibly gain, the skin of my belly stretched more, making room for her as she uncurled herself inside of me, taking up residence for what I had begun to believe was going to be the rest of my life. I had almost resigned myself to this: I would exist this way for the rest of my days, full with her. She would simply never leave.
I had become merely the host to something that had grown greater than me, greater than anything I had ever known or could have imagined. All day, every day, was about her. I couldn't take a deep breath. I could barely eat, which was such a fucking tease, since all I wanted to do was destroy whole chocolate cakes and ravage gigantic plates of pasta and meatless balls with my bare paws. There simply wasn't any more room inside of me.
When my labor began, a week past her scheduled arrival, I foolishly thought that giving birth to her would somehow be like having a really huge, uncomfortable bowel movement.
I was mistaken.
There was some pain at first, but mostly I felt pressure and discomfort as she descended, and I felt a growing urge to expel her. I bounced on my yoga ball and sucked jolly ranchers and laughed and had to stop talking every 15 minutes or so to experience a contraction.
Then things shifted unexpectedly and I was experiencing gigantic, rolling, terrifying pain. Wall-sized waves pulled me under and spit me back out. I was run over by a train again and again and again.
Her birth was the most lucid moment of my life: Dorothy stepping into technicolor Oz. The determination I found surprised and pleased me; I drew upon hidden reserves of strength that opened me up and let her pour forth from me.
And there. There. There.
There was the relief. I moved in seconds from one to two.
I would never again be the same.
But almost immediately the serenity and joy was gone. Breath to a tiny candle. There was confusion, cold. I sat, a gaping hole, as she was pulled from me. No sound came. The room was sour with panic and frustration. I was suddenly aware of the lights, so bright, glaring down on me. I was laid flat, open, but empty of her. Needing to touch her, but unable to find her. I felt my nakedness. I wore a pair of men's wool socks but my feet were so cold. Nobody would talk to us, nobody would look at us. They held her up for me to see, a tiny dream doll version of myself with black eyes and black hair.
And then she was gone.
To be continued...
21 hours ago