On the steering wheel, my husband’s knuckles shown white. I leaned forward to watch the pink of dawn illuminate the Cincinnati skyline.
He glanced over at me. “Can I speed?”
I winced and nodded. “I reckon this is the only time you can.”
He snickered as he ran a red light. I stared out the window and murmured. He kept his hands on the steering wheel and his eyes on the road, but leaned his body toward me.
“What’d you say?”
I spoke louder. “Nothing’s ever gonna be the same, is it?”
My husband shook his head as he pulled up to the emergency room entrance of Christ Hospital.
“Nope,” he said. “Today everything changes.”
The beautiful, willowy brunette nurse perched on the side of my hospital bed. She picked up my hand and turned it over. Traced the lines on my palm with a burgundy fingernail as she spoke.
“Did no one give you an enema?”
My eyes bugged out. “No, ma’am,” I said. Kinda glad about that.
She huffed. “I swear. So many nurses think it’s old-fashioned, but I don’t want my ladies pushing out poop with their babies. It’s not sanitary.”
I heard a gagging noise. I peeked in my husband’s direction. He squinted at the ceiling and cleared his throat.
When Dr. Lum arrived, the first thing I noticed was the peace signs on his socks. He'd rolled up his scrub pants so they'd show. He patted my cheek before he sat down at the foot of the bed.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said. “Had to finish recording a Pink Floyd concert.”
He stood up suddenly and struck an air guitar pose.
“We don’t need no ed-u-ca-tion.”
He sat back down and smiled between my knees.
“You feeling okay, missy?
I felt fine. I’d had my epidural. Tall pretty nurse made sure of that as soon as I hit four centimeters dilated. I didn’t look at the needle, but my husband did. I gulped when I saw his eyes bulge. I leaned over the bedside table and did snifftas like our Lamaze teacher had taught us. Sniff in with the nose. Ta out through the mouth.
“Husbands,” she'd said. “You can use this technique too. Like, when you’re in line at the grocery store, and you have to go to the bathroom. Number two.”
I liked my epidural. A lot. Too much really. I never got the urge to push.
Dr. Lum held up stainless steel tongs.
“These are forceps,” he said. “We can use these to get baby out.”
I squeaked. “Fine! I’ll push.”
I couldn’t feel pain, but I could feel pressure. I was fully aware when the baby slicky slid out of me.
“It’s a . . . . girl!” Dr. Lum said. “Nancy’ll take her over and clean her up. Bring her back in a jiffy.”
I reached down to touch my belly—empty now—after almost a year. I pressed my fingers in ‘til it felt like I hit the back of me. My tummy seemed like a pouch of Cool-Whip, all wooshy and gooshy.
“I need you to push one more time,” Dr. Lum said. “To deliver the placenta.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Ew!”
I pushed half-heartedly. Surely an empty membrane sack didn’t require the effort a seven pound baby did.
Dr. Lum held up what looked like a large man ‘o war jellyfish.
“What’s your baby’s name?”
“Josephine Joy,” my husband said.
Dr. Lum pounced the placenta from side to side. First left, then right.
“This is the house that Josy built, Josy built, Josy built. This is the house that Josy built—“
He paused to look at his watch, “On December 7, 1991 at 12:34 p.m. on a Saturday.”
I tilted my head and squinted. Thought him a bit odd but didn’t say so out loud.
He peered at the giant Jell-O jiggler. “If we were in—can’t remember which country—we’d cook this puppy and eat it for dinner.”
My stomach lurched, and I put my hand in front of my mouth, just in case.
The lovely labor and delivery nurse finally brought us our baby girl. Her face, the baby’s, was alarmingly scarlet. Dark, silky hair wisped out from under her white-with-a-pink-pom-pom beanie cap. The nurse cooed as she tucked the warm flannel package into my arms.
“Isn’t she gorgeous?”
I looked down at her. How long had it been since I’d held a baby? Was it my niece? Six years ago? I stroked my daughter’s velvety cheek with my pinky.
“She kinda looks like a Conehead,” I said. “You know. Like on Saturday Night Live?”
Nancy the nurse snapped her fingers. Pointed at the baby. Her tiny, round face was turned to me. She seemed even redder than before. Her chin was like an ocean wave, coming at me, then retreating, over and over.
I looked up at Nancy. “What do I do? What’s she want?”
Nancy cocked her head. “You really don’t know? Did you never babysit?”
I shook my head. “No,” I said. “I had a paper route.”
She grimaced. “Oh, my.”
She put one hand on my shoulder, the other under the baby bundle.
“How do I say this, honey? Nothing’s ever going to be the same for you. Ever again.”
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