Thursday, June 26, 2014

fifth draft

This week in my Teacher As Writer workshop, which has been a million fucking times more difficult and emotional and exhausting and interesting and valuable than I expected, we wrote [and rewrote and rewrote] a Personal Narrative. I am posting here what I will take to professional writers for feedback tomorrow, which when I think about it (like I just did there, typing that sentence) makes me feel like throwing up. But it'll be cool, I'm sure. It's only my guts on a page.

Feel free to give me your thoughts, too. Gently, though, please.


I spend the day pretending not to feel contractions. One cinches my stomach, a yanked seatbelt feeling, as I navigate Portland’s noon traffic. I grimace and turn up the radio, smile dumbly at passing drivers. At home I reread the chapter in my pregnancy manual about false labor, eat a sandwich, rub my belly.

Later, I watch Monday Night Football and compare the slamming linebackers to this tiny human tackling my internal organs. I groan, poke a heel from under my ribs. I wander to the computer room, move a stack of papers from one shelf to another, return to the game. When my husband comes in, I mention the contractions. His eyes narrow, he counts the days to our due date, but I repeat facts from the manual. He nods, convinced, and we go to bed.

I cannot sleep. The baby gyroscopes whenever I adjust my body, creating a brisk countermovement. I try to lie still, stare at the ceiling, but even my breathing inspires him to reorient with each exhalation. My husband asks if everything is okay. Yes, I growl, I’m fine.

I sit up, click on the light and lean for a book on my nightstand. The baby rolls like a child’s bowling ball bumpering down its lane. My eyes skim over words mechanically until a stab across my abdomen snatches my breath. I hiss through my teeth expertly, a skill learned in childbirth class. When the pain passes, I wait with teeth bared for the next. I turn pages until it attacks, slashing harder than the others. My husband opens an eye. What is going on? he mumbles. I've got this, I say, hissing.

I slouch out of bed, the baby a giant roiling marble under my skin, and shuffle toward the stairs. I consider them but decide instead to move papers in the computer room again until another mean squeeze stops me. I lean against the wall, stare at the clock. Eight minutes tick away before the next contraction. Like my husband earlier, I recount the number of days left.

I run a bath and heave into steaming water. My husband opens the door, peers into the bright bathroom. What, he pauses, staring, are you doing? One leg contorts over the edge of the tub, I hold a razor in my left hand. He blinks. Should I call? I glance at the clock - almost 4 a.m. - press my lips to a white line. Another contraction. Hissssss. Okay. I twist back to my stubble, concentrating. Razor steady, I shave both legs.

We negotiate construction zones and tighter, faster contractions. At the hospital, a crowd of medical students surrounds us, fixes me with a paper gown, monitors, probes, punctures. Carefully packed suitcase abandoned. A beeping heartbeat quickens then slows. I sink to hands and knees, slide a clipboard placed on my right across the bed so I can sign the release. Husband? I can see only unfamiliar eyes alert and tense under so many masks. I lie down, wait, breathe, one last hiss. Then there is my husband, changed into sterile clothes, eyes wide and ready under his mask. He holds my hand as we roll to the operating room.