They only allowed two other people in the room. They were pretty strict about that. And, I wasn't allowed to bypass the body count restriction by rotating the chosen two. This was going to cause some issues.
I had my doula, you see. And I was married to the idea of her being there. She'd started out as my massage therapist, un-knotting the taught tissue that had become my 25 year old back. I was very worried at that time.
With my doula making the cut, it was between the father and my own mom. Mommy was in Houston, but the plan was for her to fly up as soon as I’d lost my mucus plug or something like that. Once that happened,the barrier between the baby and the world became penetrable.
If I chose Mommy, then that left no room for the father. He left Brooklyn during my first trimester. He suffered delusions. To him, I was the adulterer and the bringer of a baby girl he never asked for. I also suffered a delusion that he would be there when she was born. He would be my #2.
“Nope That’s my baby.” Mommy replied, after I broached the topic.
Four days past D-Day, I scheduled my first acupuncture appointment for the purpose of inducing labor.
“Imagine a flower opening up.” The acupuncturist whispered as she left me in a dark room that smelled of eucalyptus. I was tired and relaxed. I breathed nothing.
I left, got a bikini wax down the street, and grabbed dinner from the salad bar at Whole Foods because I was hungry.
It was somewhere around chewing on the second dosa back in my apartment, that I felt a tremble in my stomach. A quite drum roll.
I sank into a bath. My navel poked out and the crescent moon bobbed in the soapy water. I soaked. I pondered switching everything and having a water birth. I cried for a good while.
My brother rode with me in a black car to Lennox Hill. Mommy spoke to me from Houston “Try to keep her in until I get there.” I tried — I clenched my pelvic muscles as the car crept in morning rush hour on the FDR. The driver asked me something, but the contractions ripped the sound away and all I saw was the river on my right and it was closer than anything to me.
When we got to the room, Terrance planted himself in a chair in the corner and was very still. I thought of all the times I bossed him around as kids. “You can do this.” he said. But I knew he meant it.
My doula reminded me to breathe, and most importantly snuck me candy out of the nurses’ view. She massaged lavender oil into my feet. Julia walked in. I thought about all the times that we got wasted in her Brooklyn apartment on reasonably-priced Malbec. I wondered if she would still love me now that that was done.
When she hollered, pissed off and cold, Mommy’s plane landed at LGA.
I looked at Terrance. Is he here? My face spoke. Terrance looked at me, “I called and left him messages, but he didn’t answer, Thea. He’s not here.”
I turned my head.
The nurses cleaned off my child, her flesh the color of cotton. Her lips pursed. Her eyes were a stone marble. I wanted to protect her.
Mommy arrived and held the baby to her. "My baby," she whispered. "My baby."
“I’m sorry. I tried to keep her in.”
Everyone left the room. A staff doctor looked at me and then at the shiny sharp objects on a sterile tray. “Now, I’m going to sew you up. You had a few tears. Nothing major though, this will be easy.” And he numbed the area, but I felt the prick of the needle and the pull of the stitches and I wondered if I would ever be the same.