Like Most Mornings . . .
I was in the process of pressing the snooze alarm every nine minutes and fading in and out of dreams of trout filled creeks and popcorn. After completing this cycle a number of times, I felt Tammy’s hand grab my arm.
Unhh, I’m awake, just nine more minutezzz.
“I’m having a contraction.”
That’s nice babe..zzzzz, if I just cast the fly under that..
6:17 am: “Clint, my water broke!”
What? Did she say her water broke? What do I do?
“Go get me a towel.”
Even on my worst morning I’ve never made it to the bathroom that quick, like a cat on steroids, two steps there, one and a half back, a new record.
Here you go.
With a large green towel we carefully soaked up the water, which didn’t seem too significant, no more than a couple of wet spots. I have vivid memories of Tammy’s water breaking at the hospital and flowing everywhere. I heard a pop and saw frantic nurses failing in their procedural attempts at stopping the water of life from washing away small towns of hospital gowns, paper shoes, and ultra-sheen tiles.
Tammy phoned her mother to receive both irreplaceable motherly love and prayer. They share a wonderful relationship that can not be severed by 1,200 miles of lonely Cadillacs, heifers, and pecan-ridden-Stuckey’s. From the fertile tierra of chile and soul, Tammy’s mother prays for a safe, fast, and easy delivery and lovingly conveys to her daughter a peaceful heart in the presence of God’s love.
Tammy decided to get up and walk around so I joined her. We quickly found ourselves downstairs, I with a vacuum in my hand and Tammy with a broom. We are a pair of finches, meticulously placing the last strips of white twine and swollen-elbow-twigs on the perfect nest for our new hatchling. While sweeping, small droplets of amniotic fluid rain down on the kitchen tile, providing a comforting sign of the monsoon clouds that would herald in our new prince.
This Is The Thing . . .
And it never ceases to amaze me about my precious Tammy: She is in labor, only hours away from holding our new child, and she is calm. She is a peaceful desert sky brimming with stars, she is the last bit of tea after a long conversation, she is grandma’s house on a summer day, she is Tammy, minutes from baby and cool.
“Clint, don’t forget to fill the crockpot with water.”
At some point, Tammy phoned her friend Amanda and informed her of the situation, water has broken and contractions started. We had always planned on Amanda assisting with the birth; yet at this point, we had no idea how important this plan was. Like a true friend and altruistic apprentice, Amanda dropped everything and immediately headed over.
Tammy’s contractions were growing slightly more intense as she phoned the midwife.
7:00am – Amanda arrives and carries with her the confidence, knowledge, compassion, experience, and presence that both Tammy and I so needed.
Amanda honestly amazed me with her ability to simultaneously comfort us and prepare the delivery area. In the time it took me to brew coffee, Amanda had placed plastic-lined-paper grocery bags in various locals, took heart tones, unfolded blue pads, and bounced Tammy on a birthing ball. Life provides few opportunities in which one can witness the perfect balance of an artist doing what she truly loves-we had this opportunity on May 19th and were extremely honored and blessed with having Amanda assist Tammy and catch Crispin.
I went downstairs to prepare breakfast for Tammy, a bagel with cream cheese, tomatoes, and bacon. While I was downstairs, she and Amanda shared a heartfelt conversation. With poignancy, Amanda told Tammy of their friend Shelly’s comments as her labor began, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride that I hate and the bars have just locked into place. Expecting 6 hours of excruciating pain, for the 1st time that morning, tears flowed from my wife’s beautiful black pearl eyes. Amanda embraced Tammy, kissed her cheek, and told her that everything would be ok.
Minutes later, Tammy opted to take a shower. I found her in a cloud of swirling steam with water droplets beading off her trembling stomach. Her muscles tightened as she let a low groan escape her throat.
“Unnhhhhhh unnhhhhhooo I’m havinggg a contraction.”
I immediately knew that her labor had escalated to another level. Rubbing her back I asked, What can I do to help? Perhaps a better husband or man would automatically know what to do in this situation, I didn’t. I had rehearsed in my mind what I would do; however, like misplacing one’s journal, I was unable to access those thoughts. Things were different this time, we weren’t following a hospital script, I found no X on the floor marking where I should stand, no directors, just me, my wife, and her assistant, I needed a director. The contraction ended and Tammy said she would like to continue her shower. I left the bathroom and Amanda went in.
When I returned, I found Tammy on her side in a shallow bath of warm water. Amanda was talking to her and gently pouring warm water from a child’s cup on Tammy’s labor ridden stomach. Amanda asked if I could take over and I gladly did. Sitting next to Tammy on the bathroom floor I knew that everything would be fine, I was comforted in watching my beautiful wife prepare both emotionally and physically to bring our new child into this world. Tammy has a poster hanging in our hallway that quotes Judy Grahn, The act of opening yourself up so that another being can pass down the channel and out of you takes a woman all the way down to the very deep of living. This poster takes on an entirely new meaning as I realize that I have a front row seat to the greatest experience life has to offer.
“Here comes another one Clint, pour the water right there Ooohnnnhh.”
With distress blanketing her face, Tammy fought her way through the contraction.
“There, I made it through, it’s over.”
While in the other room and knowing things were progressing very fast, so fast that our midwife wouldn’t make it in time, Amanda called a local midwife Amanda S. and asked that she bring an oxygen tank and come over for backup. Amanda S. graciously obliged.
Amanda returned to the bathroom so she could attempt to take the baby’s heart tones. Seeing that this would be impossible with Tammy in the tub, they decided that Tammy should step out of the tub and lean on the bathroom counter. In a voice stained with worry and pain Tammy expressed her concerns,
“I don’t know where I should be, I’m so uncomfortable.”
Tammy made it out of the tub and leaned like an injured sports star next to the sink. As she leaned, I placed my hand in just the wrong spot, on her lower back.
“No Clint, not there, no pressure.”
With a midwife’s compassion, reading Tammy and realizing that she must be thirsty, Amanda asked me to run downstairs and get her something to drink.
I had just made it downstairs when I heard two glass shattering voices screaming my name.
Racing Back Into The Bathroom . . .
I discovered Tammy standing with Amanda on her knees, facing Tammy from her right side. With sweat and tears gracefully rolling down her cheeks, Tammy exuded pain.
The baby’s moving down.
“Tammy, I can see the baby’s head.”
Another contraction began.
“Your baby’s head is out.”
I knelt down and witnessed my new child’s face, blue like a child’s lips on a January day. Jimmy Santiago Baca best described this picture in his poem, Child of the Sun-Gabriel’s Birth:
She gives a half-choked sob
and upside down
suspended between her legs
surfacing from sunlight,
leaves and flowers,
a thousand-year-old face appears,
Flying dark shape in sunlight,
God descending from sky
upside down between woman’s legs,
arms and face glisten with uterine juice,
shimmery, it wriggles free of mother skin,
fierce glum godhead stone face
I stare at through vine hair,
Its dark eyes squinch-lidded
unwrinkle wide in haunting ferocity
Tammy’s body eased as the contraction subsided, a pounding wave leaving behind a treasured shell.
Relieved at not finding the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, Amanda ever so gently suctioned the blue nose of our new baby.
“I want to push.”
“Ease up Tammy.”
8:24am – After what seemed like only seconds, the next contraction began and every ounce of Tammy’s being focused on gently delivering our new child. She was a rebel saving her village from capitalists, a farmer placing the last sandbag on his makeshift dam, a child one letter away from the spelling bee state final, she was a mother delivering her baby into a pair of loving hands. In mere moments, I witnessed my rainbow-trout-slippery-baby glide into Amanda’s care giving arms.
Tammy did it. She carried our child for nine months and delivered him in our very own home. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. Our son was beautiful. A euphoric moment, we had scaled Everest without sherpa or oxygen.
My new baby took his first breath. His tiny frog-limb-body gained comforting colors of pink and red. Everything was alright.