Wynter arrived during a lull in the one of the worst snowstorms in Portland, Oregon's long history. Christmas morning lay bright and shiny outside as my husband dragged me from our apartment and into the car, locking himself out and yelling at 5am to reach over and fiddle with the lock. In pain and enormous with the miracle of birth imminent, I was busy trying to not have our baby's first sight that of snowy floor mats while finding a Dora barrette to clip the cord in case I had to deliver the baby myself - he was on his own. Laying the seat down, I counted to ten as the contractions came hard and fast and I promised myself I would never...ever...have sex again. Reaching the emergency room moments later, I leapt out with the grace of a drunken reindeer and staggered bowlegged to the door.
"I'm having a baby!" I yelled to the five people sitting in the cavernous room. The security guards barely looked up, I had interrupted their conversation of whose holiday bonus was less. The admitting nurse had dozed off, drooling against the gray partition, her face partially covered by a festive Santa hat.
Festive, my butt.
"I’m having a baby RIGHT NOW, get me UPSTAIRS!" this time I squatted to give more emphasis to the urgency of the situation. Either the prospect of a healthy lawsuit or the fact that he'd have to clean up placenta pierced the foggy brain of one of the security guards. With lightening speed that would have impressed, well, no one, he swaggered over to me with a wobbly wheelchair and motioned with his coffee cup to jump in. Passing me his cup, he started on the long trek to the Maternity Ward, only getting lost in his own workplace twice.
"The elevators are closed down for the night, think you could walk up to the fourth floor?" he said.
"You're kidding, right? I know you're kidding because otherwise I would have to kill you and bury the body in my backyard and I'm RUNNING OUT OF SPACE!" I answered. I've seen fear in a man's eyes before, usually when I'm buying tampons in bulk and a shotgun. I knew he'd find a way to get me upstairs.
Magically, keys appeared out of a back pocket and opened the elevator and we were swept aloft to the Maternity Ward where I was taken over by a nurse who joked, "We heard you pushing in the elevator." She was hilarious. Really. Reaching my room, I kicked away the wheelchair footplates set up to trip patients in casts and hiked up my nightie while pushing off my boots with my feet. Rolling onto the bed, the nurse laughed as I asked for meds, whatever they had, and lots of it. She thought I was kidding.
My husband burst through the door minutes later, complaining of the toothache that had woken us up twenty minutes before, dodging the boot I threw at him in commiseration.
"You haven't had her, yet? You know, my mom had nine children and never complained once during labor. Why are you so grouchy? It's Christmas!" Vowing to bury his body next to the security guard, I grabbed the sides of the bed and started to howl.
"Where are the drugs? GET ME THE DRUGS!" I pleaded. My guts were being ripped out of my eye sockets and the nurse giggled that they'd never make it in time so I'd better hold onto something. Grabbing my husband by the leg, I punctured his jeans with dagger-like fingers and smiled grimly when I saw tears spring up, so far it had been the only bright spot in my morning.
Finally looking under the sheet, the nurse in her clean pink scrubs had the nerve to look surprised when Wynter's head started its initial push into the world. Coming to stand next to my head to check the monitors she said, "Hey now, you can't push yet. Your doctor isn't here, can you hold it?" Backing away slowly when she saw my hands reaching for her leg, she hurried to the business part of my labor.
"Ok, here she comes. You need to move to your left, your LEFT! Why are you on your side? Get your butt over HERE, woman!" Curling as well as a highly pregnant woman can, I had scooted myself nearly off the bed trying to escape the contractions. Muttering under her breath, I could hear the nurse wondering why some people waited until the last minute to come to the hospital, ruining her breakfast and interrupting the poker game at the nurses' station. Vowing to find more room in the backyard, I moved to the end of the bed and started to yell. Not out of pain but because I couldn't reach anything blunt and heavy to heave at her.
"If you push too soon, you'll damage yourself and the baby. Let's take some cleansing breaths...one...two...how did you get that oxygen tank over your head?" She was looking more concerned. "Er, I think you're ready to push now."
One mighty push later, my husband caught our slippery daughter as she exploded into the world. Whisked away for a quick rubdown by the nurse, we watched as she slowly became aware of her surroundings, blinking in the gray light of dawn outside our window.
Wynter still wakes at sunrise to drink hot chocolate from the coffee cup we snatched from the hospital security guard. Her enthusiasm for each new day reminds me to fully participate in life, becoming aware of the beauty that surrounds us...and to move to a larger backyard with each subsequent pregnancy.
This column first appeared at An Army of Ermas.