She came two days late…a sign, from the start, that she intended to live on her own terms. My little trooper.
The doctor sent me home for the second time with the prescription of rest to deal with the pain. He said it was Braxton Hicks contractions triggered by my coughing, a symptom of a flu I couldn’t treat. Ever obedient, I made a hobbled beeline for the bedroom. I laid on my back with my feet elevated on the pillows which already imprinted the shape of my swollen calves. Another one came. I gritted my teeth. Braxton Hicks my ass!
As it passed I glanced over to the concerned face beside me. His helplessness weighed on his eyebrows and shoulders. He tried to rub my belly as you would do for a stomachache. I barked at him. He pulled away. Left the room. Been barking at him a lot lately. Just three days prior I chose the cold living room floor and chair cushions over the comfort of our bed, as an act of rebellion. I attempted to throw him out of the bed when I discovered, once again, that he was giving money to his ex. He refused to leave the room. So I did. Now I have the flu and Braxton Hicks contractions.
I wish I had the luxury to fill that prescription of rest that night but pain persisted. An educated guess would say, once every half hour. She was on her way.
At sunrise, we made arrangements to make our third trip in the last three days to Port of Spain General Hospital. Despite living in Tunapuna, I kept up appearances in the Port of Spain clinic after our move from Morvant. The lore of high pregnancy related deaths at Mt. Hope General Hospital was at its peak in early 2013. We thought it best not to tempt fate.
Baby bag…check! Mommy bag…check! Panicked father-to-be…check! Driver…? Since we didn’t have a car, we were promised by her father’s best friend that he would take us to the hospital. He took us once before, and our neighbour/my school friend, obliged the second time. As we count down the minutes of our driver’s arrival the minutes between pain and calm drew closer and closer. Her father read in some pregnancy article that walking eases the pain. So I paced. What he neglected to mention was pacing also speeds up the dilation process. The more pain I felt, the faster I paced. Then…splash!
Panic would be an understatement to describe the emotion of two first-time parents in that moment. He went to get my friend, as the driver seemed to be unreachable despite living one town away in Bon Air. I climbed into the back seat with my bag and the bag designated for our newborn. My friend apologized for the mess of the car which betrayed the extent of his bad habits: cigarettes and cleaning up when he felt like it. I was too distracted by what was happening to be bothered by the mess. My initial thought was to get on the bus route and flag down any police officer we see or may stop us in hopes of getting an escort to the hospital. It happens in the movies, right? Why not in Trinidad?
I felt the pressure of what was once contractions shift from my abdomen to my pelvis. It was involuntary. I clenched. She resisted. It was a war between me and the daughter I’d yet to meet. We sped down the bus route, my friend was living his speed racer dreams as he swerved around the maxis. We stopped at a red light. Why? It’s the law, I guess. At the same time, we saw a police car and begged the officers to escort us. Instead they gave us permission to go. Off the bus route now, somewhere on the Lady Young Road, we begged the assistance of another police vehicle we saw. They waved us through, just telling us to go.
During this ride, her father climbed from the front seat to the back with me as my screams grew more terrifying. I barked orders like a demon to her minion demanding he get the towel and blanket from her baby bag. My daughter and I continued our tug of war as I insisted that she wait until we arrived to the hospital. To this day, she has a hard time taking instructions.
Sometime after 11 a.m., as we flew around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Skyler-Marie Coryse Morton was born in the backseat of her Godfather’s AD wagon.
Defying the clench of my kegel exercises, she flew out, down one leg of my boy-short undies, into the hands of her dad. She was slippery. He fumbled the catch and instead landed below the driver’s seat. She was small and easily lost between the mid-term essay drafts and cigarette butts on the floor. I felt under the seat for her, guided by the umbilical cord which was still attached. She was silent. Stunned by her grand entry into world perhaps. I surely was.
I picked her up, pried her lips apart to get the excess fluid out. I read somewhere that may cause choking. As I opened her mouth, she wailed. My little trooper. Welcome. Don’t you like drama?! I covered her in a blanket and picked off the ash and debris she trekked in her dive below the car seat. I held her on my chest as her wails subdued into coos. The ladies were calm. The men were not. As we pulled into the emergency driveway, the car had yet to come to a complete stop before her father leaped out of the vehicle in hopes to get the attention of an attendant. We waited while a nurse from the maternity ward was summoned to the ground floor. Umbilical cord still attached. Calm and cooing.
A stern faced woman with glasses appeared between my legs and took my daughter from me. She cut the umbilical cord and placed her in a plexiglass crib and wheeled her away. Then my friend, her father and an attendant struggled to get me in a wheelchair. My legs were useless. My friend and her father waited downstairs as men are not allowed on the maternity ward. She was taken to be checked for general health and to be cleaned. I was taken to give a second birth but to the sack she called home for the last 9 months and two days. She was cleaned, I was stitched up and we were reunited.
I bared the verbal abuse of a nurse for my carelessness as I reached for my phone. But I had to take a picture of what I just did…