"Deep cleansing breath in... breathe out... breathe in... breathe out and PUSH!"
"Okay... the contraction is coming... ready... deep cleansing breath in..."
For two and a half hours.
With no break.
No food, no water, no time for a phone call.
Just your sneakers brushing linoleum as you check my progress, study the screens. With cotton scrubs pressed, blond hair securely fastened.
It's a Saturday morning, mid-April with spring heat blowing, warming the glass of the dust-streaked hospital windows. You've been here since 3:00 a.m., encouraging, smiling, making small talk. Asking if I'd like some water, showing me pictures of your kids. I imagine you're running on coffee and adrenaline.
You're surrounded by several female nursing students now. They shuffle around my bed taking notes on clip boards. Their eyes shyly meet mine as they observe this scene. I see the flush of their cheeks, the nervousness and excitement in their eyes. They've never witnessed a birth before.
"Hold her leg." "Watch the screen for her contractions." "We're going to lift and turn her on three. One... two... three..." Orders are executed deftly, taken humbly with a quiet seriousness. Micah follows your orders as well, takes them with sincerity.
I notice that we're all about the same age. We're all young, all still figuring it out. We were all so recently children. And I think about how we're just people in this moment. No titles, no degrees, no walls. Just people in this beautiful, uncut moment. This moment that ties us, strips us of self, makes us one as we work together to bring a life into this world.
"Okay, the next contraction is coming..."
I feel it. Feel the surge of pain like a wave building and cresting. I know it means that my baby will be here soon. You are standing in front of me, arms moving like a conductor. "And deep cleansing breath in..." Your arms softly swing upward. "And breathe out..." Your hands swing down. You speak loudly, but with encouragement. You look confident, practiced. You make me feel like I can do anything.
You don't look at the clock. You don't sit down. You don't look tired, or impatient, or frustrated. You act as though there's nowhere else you'd rather be than here, like nothing is more important than this moment. You cheer me on even after the doctor arrives to add his cheers, to instruct us all as he safely delivers Tegan.
And after it's all done, after Tegan has been washed and weighed, after I've been mended and the doctor leaves, after the shock has settled and I realize that I'm a mom, you are still here. You help me to my feet, ask a nursing student to come to my other side. And though I am weak, though my body is drained of energy and my face is devoid of color, you help me to press on. We women walk forward together, and soon you help me in ways that I never thought a person could, or would. If I could, I would do the same for you.
Thank you for showing me selflessness. I will never forget it.
Thank you to nurses everywhere.
(Photo by John Pankratz)