I kept hearing them. Blip. Beep. Blip. I couldn’t be roused enough to question exactly what the noises were all about.
Finally I rolled over, pushed the hair from my eyes, and pulled the phone to my face. A gang of missed calls and text messages from a client and her midwife. “Baby is here”, the final text message said. A slur of curse words leave my lips.
My heart sinks, lower, lower, lower. My belly grumbles, from hunger and anxiety.
It was as if I was watching it unfold behind a gauze curtain, with speckles of light filtering between the threads of fabric.
The room was covered in the early morning rays of dawn. She reclined on her bed, her husband behind her to support her, and eased out her baby unto the white sheets. The midwife didn’t make it in time and no one seemed worried. Suddenly, the energy shifted and the midwife appeared. The mama groaned and pushed and a tiny foot poked from between her legs. While one baby was being held in a relative’s arms, another prepared to leave the slippery world of the womb; one shared with a sibling for nine months, hidden, unknown.
With two babies in her arms, she smiled as he kissed her sweaty brow. “A blessing”, she said.
I awoke from the dream within a dream, aware that it was her due date. That morning, I sent off a text message to her and told her “Happy due date! I had a dream you had twins. One was born before the midwife could arrive. LOL!” I left out the part about the footling breech baby, not wanting to cause her any undue worry (she already had an ultrasound and knew she wasn’t having twins).
The following morning around 9:30, I received the REAL phone call that she was in labor. Contractions 3 minute apart. Third time mama. Midwife in route across town, coming from her second birth of the morning. She had missed the first one (super fast birth in which a student midwife caught baby) and had arrived at the second when baby’s head emerged. No shower for me. I race out of the door, saying to my husband “Wish me good luck in case I have to catch my first baby!”.
Through some freak of nature (or a careful and trained lead foot), the midwife arrived shortly before me. The mama was breathing steadily through surges while she leaned on a changing table. The little, tidy bungalow seemed to hum with anticipation. It’s modern, retro decor a mix of Antropologie and Haus, with bohemian fabric patterns worn just enough to be loved. I sat my bag and shoes in a corner, rifled through my stuff to find a clean pair of pants and a t-shirt for the pregnant midwife, and helped the Dad fill the birth tub.
While the mama sat on a birth stool, steadied by me atop the bed, baby arrived healthy and screaming just before 4:00 that afternoon. He was not breech nor a twin. The midwife’s third birth in thirteen hours.
As she nursed her son in the crook of her arm, a towel pulled up around the rest of her upper body, her brother sat beside her on the bed for a peek at his nephew and a photo op. Her brother shared her bronze freckles and blond hair tinged with strawberry. He looked over at me, standing at the foot of the bed, and said out of the blue “You know we are twins, right?”.
A moment of breathlessness.
“I had no idea!”. I turned to the mama and said “Did you get my text yesterday?”
She chuckled and declared “Yeah, that’s why I thought you dreamed that!”.
Her mother, standing proudly beside them, began the story of the twins’ birth. She had thought perhaps she was pregnant with two but the doctor told her he didn’t think so. She went into labor at 41 weeks and packed an extra outfit just in case. After her baby boy was born, the nurse shouted “She’s still pregnant!”. Before long, a tiny foot poked from between her legs. The doctor, stunned, grabbed and pulled and out came a little girl. Both babies were just over 8 lbs.
Another moment of breathlessness. I grabbed her arm, leaned into her and said “In my dream, one of the babies was a footling breech, I kid you not. A surprise twin”.
It could mean nothing, or something, or a combination of both.
Like words that are spewed or spoken.
Like the heat in his hand as he holds yours.
Like when you write “to you…” in that post it really means me. And her. And him.
Like the misty rainbow splayed across the sky on the day you need a sliver of hope.
Like the times your grandmother comes to you in dreams and always dances a jig.
Like yesterday when you were sitting at the computer and had a momentary thought of “I wonder if I should take those underwear off Kaia in case she poops. Better to clean off the wood floor rather than cotton underwear”. And then, 2 seconds later, Kaia comes into the office and says “I pooped in my underwear”.
I wish you could have been there (ahem – the birth, not the pooping). I always wish this at births; part to have another witness, part to confirm I’m not dreaming, part to let the cat out of the bag that birth can be beautiful in it’s raw state, in the questions it brings to us in the midst of pain. In the answers that are birthed with our baby.
This couple didn’t want photos during labor. I had to practically sit on my hands to keep from snatching up the camera and pressing the button. I kid you not, the scene and the setting and the light were the photographer’s dream. And so instead, I framed the scenes with my hands, two right triangles forming an imaginary lens.
CLICK! That was her leaning forward in the birthing pool, resting her head on his chest. It was him, smothering his forehead to the crown of her curls, right near the one faded violet strand. It was their hands intertwined. It was a pile of his large white canvases propped on the wall behind them, hand written in thick black strokes with words like “Goddess, True, Broadening, Mystery”.
CLICK! That was the top of a Danish modern dresser, holding up stacks of still life. A black bible with gold foil-edged pages. A chunky slice of watermelon she’d chomped, it’s rind striped like stretch marks, it’s center juicy and pink like the center of birth. A midwife’s flashlight. A handful of empty water bottles. A clear glass of Emergen-C with a bendy straw perched on it’s rim. An iPhone playing music that filled the four walls of the cozy bedroom, it’s deep, bluesy notes sounding like they were emitted from an old time record player – crackles and all. I hear the lyrics to “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” being crooned with a tinge of hope. Fresh white washcloths folded neatly. Two framed black and white photographs above the dresser, one of the site where they were engaged in Barcelona.
“We honeymooned in Prescott”, he laughed.
CLICK! Oh, yes, that was her moaning through a contraction in the birth tub, once again leaning forward into her husband. Her 5 year old daughter, with rosy lips and tanned shoulders, folding into her mother like a prayer, her tiny hands resting like a graceful ballerina on her mother’s arms. It was her daughter’s long strands of curls flowing down the sides of the tub and the way she had no fear of this process. It was the three of them, meshing silently into the spiral of birth.
CLICK! This was is the large paper star lantern, swaying softly in the breeze of the fan. Hanging over the crib, it casts shadows on the walls through it’s cutouts.
CLICK! That snapshot is one of her standing and bending into her husband, a midwife applying firm pressure on her sacrum, and me touching her shoulder. It is all of us swaying in time to her, the wooden planks of the floor squeaking as our feet shift weight from one side to the other. It is him, exhaling loudly with her and whispering “All of this, it’s a beautiful thing…”
CLICK! Here at the bottom of the stack is her, sitting alone in a mod, rocking club chair in the corner, her palms resting on her knees as she focuses on one more contraction. Her eyes close. The teal of her tank top contrast against the crisp white wall. The panes of the bay window allows in drapes of desert sunlight shaded by a large tree. On the floor in front of her is a wooden train track, with the engine set in motion by her husband, chugging along the tracks with a “Buzzzzzzzzz”.
I don’t take mental photos of me and the midwife munching on pizza and veggie sandwiches at the kitchen table, as I sat beside a Louis Ghost chair. Or of the small crowd of family and friends that had gathered to wait, to entertain the couple’s two children as their mama worked so very hard. I didn’t snap a photo of the mama, hand out in a firm “stop” motion as her daughter peeked in through the small space in the open door. “Not yet!”, she managed to mumble out. I know this feeling, this conflicting moment of “I want her here, but I cannot imagine it RIGHT NOW”, the moment when a force beyond your own is permeating every empty space in your body and brain. It was her daughter’s hand on the vintage, crystal glass door knob as she slinked away. And I didn’t have time or ability to capture enough detail of the rush of fluids onto her sheets, and in two contractions later, her son’s head fully emerged and waiting.
CLICK! That’s her cradling her son into her chest. I rarely remember what is being said at that moment. I think it’s supposed to be that way, left to the ancients and the freshest of the fresh. Secrets. Babble. Code. A flooding of the heart. It’s the midwife rubbing the baby gently through the towel. The image includes their daughter and two year old son, legs folded behind them on the blood stained mattress, drinking in their baby brother and grinning with wide eyes. It’s her husband saying to me “You have blood. Blood on your arm”, and me knowing and laughing and being used to blood and the way it smears onto a body like paint; blood indicative of either life or death.
A friend’s text message to me last week, out of nowhere, and the words appeared: “You know, your real talent is in mind reading”.
I had no idea what she meant except that I have been graced with the advance knowledge of pooping?
When I pressed her, all I got was this “Just start to notice how you anticipate people.”
I am taking notice.
After all, it could me nothing, or something. Or a combination of both.
(Thank you for the link to this song, Mama)