On the steering wheel, Tony Bear’s knuckles shown white. He glanced over. “Can I speed?”
I nodded. “I reckon this is the only time you can.”
As he zoomed through the streets of Cincinnati, I whispered. “Nothing’s ever going to be the same again, is it?”
He skidded to a stop in front of the emergency entrance of Christ Hospital. “Nope,” he said.
“Today everything changes.”
Upstairs in the maternity ward, a beautiful willowy nurse perched beside me on the hospital bed. As she traced the creases of my palm with a maroon fingernail, she said her name was Nancy. She apologized that I was too dilated for an enema.
From Tony Bear’s corner of the room, there came a gagging noise.
A few hours later, Dr. Lum, our ob-gyn skipped into the room.
“Sorry I’m late. I had to finish recording a Pink Floyd concert.”
He struck an air guitar pose. “We don’t need no ed-u-ca-tion!”
“How you feeling, Missy?” he asked as he tugged on latex gloves. “Did you see my peace sign socks? Aren’t they awesome?”
Thanks to Nancy the Nurse, I felt fine. She made sure I got an epidural as soon as I hit four centimeters dilated.
I hate needles. They’re one of my biggest fears. That’s why I didn’t peek behind me during the numbing procedure. When Tony Bear’s eyes bulged and he gulped, I started doing “sniff-tas” like our Lamaze teacher taught us. “Sniff” in through your nose, “ta” out through your mouth. Over and over.
“Husbands,” the instructor 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 bad.”
I liked my epidural a lot. Too much really. Because of it, I never had the urge to push.
Dr. Lum located stainless steel tongs and brandished them in front of me. “If need be, we can use these to yank Baby out.”
“Fine!” I huffed. “I’ll push.”
Because of my epidural, I couldn’t feel pain, but I could feel pressure. And its absence. For this reason,
I was fully aware of the moment when Baby slicky-slid out of me.
“It’s a…give me a sec…It’s a girl!” Dr. Lum crowed. “Nancy’ll take her over, shine her up, and bring her back in a jif.”
I reached down to touch my belly—empty now—after almost a year. I pressed my fingers in as far as they’d go. My flesh felt like a pouch of Cool-Whip, all wooshy and gooshy.
“Now, Missy, I need you to bear down one more time,” Dr. Lum said. “To deliver the placenta.”
I pushed half-heartedly. Surely the exodus of an empty membrane sack didn’t require as much effort as a seven-pound baby.
The blob Dr. Lum held up resembled a large Man o’ War jellyfish.
“What’s your baby’s name?”
“Josephine Joy,” Tony Bear announced. “Josephine is my mother’s name. Joy is Diane’s mother’s middle name.”
The doctor pounced the placenta from side to side. “This is the house that Josy built, Josy built, Josy built.” He paused to check his watch, then added the month, day, year and time to his song.
Tony and I squinched up our faces and declined when Dr. Lum offered to let us touch the “house.”
“If we were in—I can’t remember which country—we’d cook this puppy and eat it for dinner.”
For the second time that day, Tony Bear gagged.
After a few minutes, Nancy tucked our baby girl, swaddled snuggly in a pink flannel blanket, in to my arms. “Isn’t she gorgeous?”
I focused on Josy’s squished but darling face. Now what? I wondered.
“She kind of looks like a Conehead,” I told Tony. “Like on Saturday Night Live.”
Nancy snapped her fingers and pointed to Josy. On my chest she squirmed and made little grunting almost-cries. Her chin moved like an ocean wave, coming at me then retreating, again and again.
I looked from Nancy to Tony. “What do I do? What does she want?”
Nancy cocked her head. “You really don’t know? Have you never been around a newborn? Did you never babysit?”
“No. I’m the baby of my family. And I hardly ever babysat. I had a paper route instead.”
Nancy paged the lactation consultant then undid the bow on the shoulder of my hospital gown.
“How do I say this, honey? Nothing is ever going to be the same for you again.”
Happy birthday, Josephine Joy. Our family, and the whole world really, is a better place with you in it.
If you’d like to check out the terrific blog Josy writes with her husband, Chris, click here.