The post is also a response to GBE2 prompt #67 Peace.
Coiled inward, her own breath sharp through her nose, Kate felt the sensation of uterine contraction wash over her. The last uptick in intensity had near defeated her. She could master her resources to deal with the pain, and then the pain would increase. She was lying on her bed now, in a fetal position, with no memory of how she had gotten there. Her huge belly was an earth between her scrunched up face and arms and her muscled legs. She bit down on her own teeth and imagined trying not to fall into a pit. The contraction passed.
In the soft light of her home, she could see the distant movement of her husband Albert in the kitchen, where water was being boiled for instruments. Her midwives sat in living room chairs and smiled like sweet grannies at dressed-up princess toddlers; they were unconcerned and happy with her progress. Beside her in the dark was Maggie.
"It will hurt less if you get on your hands and knees, babe," said her friend, patting smooth her hair.
"How dilated am I?" This seemed critical, this measurement. Are we there yet?
"Probably six or seven. But you don't want them to keep poking you every few minutes to find out, do you?"
Was Maggie chewing gum? She sounded so casual. Her lips smacked happily. Kate found herself resenting anyone who could chew gum.
"No," Kate agreed, hurriedly.
"You're doing great, Kate," Maggie said, her face appearing at bed level, brown eyes soft with compassion. "Just great. Such an good birth. You're a trooper."
Then the sensation began again, as if Kate's whole center had clenched in upon itself, a giant blood pressure cuff that wouldn't stop squeezing. Harder, tighter, harder, and with it that twisting, nausea-producing cervical pain–that being opened up. It was definitely worse this time.
Kate closed her eyes. In the darkness, she could see a torrent of liquid light pouring forth; a tidal wave beating against levees that could not but fail, one by one. One levee stood, like a hand held out in protest. One levee remained to resist the overwhelming pain. Sudenly, she completely understood.
"Now, she won't even talk to me," Albert complained with some alarm in the living room.
"She can't, " Maggie laughed. "She's having a baby, honey. She's way past The Veil, getting that baby out. Talk to her too much and you're just gonna prick her little bubble of magical protection."
Albert stared. Why, he wondered again, was his wife friends with this woman? And how was it that she had so insinuated herself into their lives that she, not he, had taken charge of the birth of their second child. What on earth had made him agree to a home birth in the first place? In frustration, he got up, kicking back his chair leg hurriedly and going to fuss with the crib again. As if Kate would ever put that baby in a crib, he grumbled to himself. Nevertheless, he tightened all the screws. At least this would be safe, if he could help it. Job done, he stood up.
"The baby is about to come," yelled the senior midwife from the other room. "If you all want to see, go ahead and come in here NOW!"
Motion stirred around the edges. People, it seemed, were gathering. Kate lay on the bed and the world trembled around her, layers of reality stacked as if in a torte. What a strange thought to have–a torte. Top-most there were people with which she knew she should converse. Bottom-most, blackness and the sound of a slow droning cant. In the middle, she hovered. Levees had fallen and waters lay still, with nothing to beat up against. Pain was present, but Kate didn't resist. Sensation passed over her and she received it; she reacted as she must. She shifted position, she motioned for wet cloths. Mostly she was bent on maintaining that internal stillness, which would allow her to appreciate the fierce sensation of bringing her child into the world. In what she knew was a rage of pain,she had never felt more totally at peace.
She was aware now that her body was expelling. "Baby" was not part of the thought. Her body merely did what the female body was designed to do–it gave birth. Now, that was the only business that concerned her, purely animal.
With a third hard push, exclamations rose around her and the top-most world came suddenly into stark relief:
"A little girl! A little girl!"
"Oh, good, job, Kate!"
And, just there, she was set back on the top of the strata of existence–awareness of her body fading backwards from her mind.
"Her name is Fiona," she whispered. "I want to see her."