Do you think it was the belly flop off the back of the boat that did it?” my mom says.
“It could’ve been the swimming,” I respond.
Susanna reasons, “Maybe it was just time for her to come.” And she’s right.
It was time–though I didn’t exactly know it. My hair is still dripping lake water when Stan and I decide to leave the tent, the sleeping bags, the crackling fire, the almost-ready supper, our daughters and the rest of the family, and head to back to town. Just in case. The hospital (an hour and ten minutes away) isn’t our immediate destination; I figure we’ll come home and see if the contractions continue. I can’t exactly remember what labour is supposed to feel like… until we get in the car. As soon as we start driving I know we’d made the right decision. The contractions come strong and steady as we drive out of the provincial park, down the mountain and through the grain fields.
Half-way home Stan sees a fox slip into the ditch. “What about the name Vivian?” he suggests. I think he tells me something about a fox and a short story and the name Vivian, but I’m too busy looking sideways at the world blurring past to make the connection. When I hear Vivian I’m concentrating on breathing, on letting my muscles pull open a pathway inside me, and on the green. The sun shines a six-thirty softness on the canola and the bearded wheat diffuses the light into a field of pistachio pudding. Looking at the poplars and willows helps, too. All of it is easier when I keep my eyes open and stare outside. He says Vivian again. I think verde. I think vida. And then I breathe deep and forget about naming anything.
The stop at home is shorter than I expected. We arrive at the hospital and I suggest taking the stairs but when we pass an open elevator, a ride up to the second floor doesn’t seem like a bad idea. An elderly man presses the third floor button for himself and then the second one for us. When the doors slide open I am hanging off Stan’s shoulder, breathing like a woman half-way to 10 centimeters, but the gentleman doesn’t get it. “We’re here,” he says.
Stan says nothing.
“You want the second floor don’t you?”
No one moves. I’m lowing as the door starts to close.
“This is the second floor. You can get out now.”
Stan, my efficient, deal-with-the-bottleneck, husband says four beautiful words. “We’re not going anywhere.” And then, “Can you hold the door?” The contraction is long enough for another door-holding request (this guy obviously missed his wife’s labour 50 years ago) but we finally make our way out and are on our way.
Not three hours later, after my doctor has come and gone, the nurse tells me to let her know when I have the urge to push so she has time to call the doctor.
“Have you ever delivered a baby before?” I ask the young nurse.
“I have,” she responds.
“Then you’ll do just fine,” I say.
The pressure numbs my toes and finger tips. Partway through this freight-train labour I want my money back for the hypno-birthing book I’d read. Though I stay focused, and siphon confidence and calm from Stan, I haven’t hypnotized myself out of the pain, or “sensations” as proponents term them; it is as overwhelming as I remember it with Belén and Susanna.
Near the end, as my body cracks open to let life out, my voice changes. Breath catches in my throat. Relief floods the bed. Our baby is born.
The doctor doesn’t make it on time, but I don’t care. Our nurse is gentle and capable and slips the cord over Vivian’s neck. When the fluid keeps her from breathing, she and another nurse work quickly with her little blue body ignoring my request to have her on my chest. (I learn why later). After she sputters, chokes, and coughs enough to please the nurses they put Vivian on my skin. Her bright eyes stay open as if trying to figure out which planet she’s landed on; she’s quiet and very alert. It’s part of the reason we name her Vivian, meaning life or alive. She’s fully here, fully with us. Full of life. And now we get to share it with her.
We are so grateful for Vivian Elise Reed, born August 2, weighing 8 lbs, 8 oz. More stories to come…