For me, the story begins at 5:00 a.m. Sunday. Actually, it begins at 4:55 when Millie scratches at the door. I beg her to go back to sleep. She won’t. She is thirsty.
So we go outside, then we drink some water in the dining room, and I’m just about to crawl back under the covers when the phone rings. It’s 5 a.m. It could mean one of three things. Something is wrong with Lee, who is in Athens. Something happened at work and they need me to come in. Or Nikki is in labor. But it’s her due date. Who actually has her baby on her due date?
“Hey Ginger.” Pause. I know it is Nikki, and I want everything to be okay. All I can say is “hey.”
“I think it’s time.”
Relief. Excitement. Suddenly realizing I need to pack a bag, get some film, and put the dog out.
An hour later, we meet in the Emergency Room for admitting. Then she’s wheeled to the maternity floor, and finally a delivery room.
For the first few hours, we chat. We talk about what a beautiful day it is. The sun is shining, the sky is the most perfect blue. She is in mid-sentence several times when she just stops talking. A look at the monitor shows what I can already see on her face. Another contraction.
They get worse, as one would expect them to. We no longer talk about the blue sky. We don’t talk. We watch the monitor, and wish we could do more. At her side are three of us girls – her mother, her sister, myself. The nurse is a girl. The doctor is a girl. It makes me think of the old, pioneer days when the boys had to stand outside while the women all worked inside, boiling water, mopping the mother’s face with a cloth.
She asks for an epidural. It works like magic. Who was the genius who figured out a way to take away the pain without making you completely unable to move or feel from your waist down? Suddenly, she’s Nikki again. The sky is blue again. We talk about it again.
There’s more waiting. I pick up a book to read, but put it down a thousand times because I keep re-reading the same sentence. I try a different book, and get no further. There’s just too much to think about. Too much about to happen. Who can read in a situation like that?
Finally, they say she’s ready. Someone comes and bangs around in the room for what seems like forever, getting everything ready. All the tools, all the blankets, all the stuff that will be needed. I think again about the pioneers and someone boiling water. If they could see us now.
The pushing part seems to go so fast. They tell us later it was very fast. At 6:39 p.m., Nia makes her way into the world, gives a few cries, then blinks. A lot. I can’t imagine never having seen light before. She is beautiful.
The doctor hugs Nia to her chest, then begins to clamp the cord. I’ve seen this on the TV shows. This is the part where Daddy cuts the cord. I hear the doctor say to Nia, “this is for Daddy,” as she cuts through it herself. I am sad for a moment.
Then I’m happy again. There, under a heat lamp, is Nia. She looks perfect. Very squirmy, but content. She keeps thrusting her arms and legs out in the biggest stretch. I guess she hasn’t been able to stretch in a long time, and barely knows what to do with her new found space. A nurse takes her measurements, inks her feet, sticks a cap on her head and wraps her up. She hands her to Nikki. It’s all very beautiful.
Grandmother holds her. Aunt holds her. Then I hold her. She’s very light, and very alert. She looks at me with her blue eyes, looks around at everyone else. I wonder what she sees, what she hears. She still wiggles under the tight blanket. I think she’s amazing.
Visitors come, and the next eager set of arms belong to my husband. He holds her, talks to her. We remark about her soft skin, her tiny hands.