Storyglossia Issue 34, July 2009.

Untimely Yanked

by Simon Barker


Can't sleep, can't read, can't bend, can't eat, can't shit, can't see own feet when standing up. CAN'T GIVE BIRTH. How much longer? Baby late, baby sleeping in like teenage son. Overdue two weeks like video like library book pay fine. For Christ's sake. Home remedies folk remedies disgusting brews no thanks. Take to futon turn out light. Exhausted now so later? Sick of this, sick of it sick. Loud snores.

Then sudden wake. What sound? Like running tub. Christ. Flood over sheet. Sloshing. Dam burst. Get towel, get phone. Hello, Doc. Yes, broken, that's right. Course sure. Like water bomb. Contractions? No, don't think so. Like what? Never felt. Okay. Lets go now. No, don't bother, forget towel. Get keys, start car. Seat belt full out, round circumference like planet. My equator, my ocean all spilling now. No, Doc, no blood. Yes, on our way.

Hello, Good Evening, Welcome, wish to check in, have baby. Like motel late at night in foreign city. Room service. I can walk. No must go in chair. Lawyers. Yes, marm. Tip porter? No, just kidding. This no bridal suite. Hard thing, this gurney. Get on, lie now just wait. Let me take things. Here gown, lovely hospital. Quite the thing. No toiletries. Forgot. Mad panic, big rush. Forgot. Send back him. Let me take pressure, all good. Take pulse, you first then it. Can't find, must be hiding, this way, that way, swims about now, kicking, frog kick. Try later. Broken yet. That good. Insert fingers, dilation check. 1cm, not to write home about. Push at 10. 10 good centimetres. You sleep, sleep now later no sleeping. Strength up. Big job ahead, bla, bla, clichés. Sleep, sleep, try to sleep, too excited. Big day, big night.

You slumber now I alone in car. Home dash again in small hours, thinking must buy capsule, must buy crib, must buy everything. Street empty, silent, excepting puss. All good people. Home fires burning. Forgot must have. Toothbrush, PJs. What else? Can't think. Deodorant? Trance like. Final peek at childless house. Next time all different, forever different, new life. Remember, please, brain, like photograph. Relish aloneness, slipping away. Just me here.

Back at pain ward, all buzz, bright lights, night shift, like Arkwright's mill. Milling day and night, baby powder, old joke. Try nap, 1 hour on gurney. Funny word. Means what? Don't know. Pain. Sudden wake. Back rubs, more backrubs please, with knuckles harder, don't pussyfoot. Doze, burst on light. What the? Deep sleep, groggy. Where I? Have to check you. New nurse. Open legs, fingers up you. No, don't tell, 1 lousy cm. The same, how come. Surely bigger. Maybe other nurse 1cm < 1cm. New nurse. Bigger fingers? All in time.

Up now, groan now, shower now, corridor walkies, walking up, walking down. Corridors dilate you. New nurse, more homely. 7.30. More walk. Nurse's orders. Hello Mrs pregnant woman we don't know. Next room. Baby factory. Down escalator. This a shopping mall, it looks. Here comes the sun, dayshift arrives. Workers roll in, sprogs roll out. Sudden agonies three minutes thirty apart. Retreat.

Now two minutes, two minutes on dot. Time me. And where he? Big he, big soother, man in charge, boss of birth. Demand where. Collecting papers in office. You're kidding? Horizontal no good, vertical no good. Knees, elbows, all fours, doglike, back rubbing, clock watching, seconds counting, downcounting like blastoff, two minutes to ignition, two more minutes, not again, no not again. Enough! I want it. Give me. The epidural. Fuck resolutions. The button. Five times. So many countdowns. Where is she? Finally, nurse, homely nurse. Took so long. Give it to me. Yes, I know. Changed mind. Yes, I said not have it. Yes, I said. No, Give it to me. Nurse very homely. This all for baby. Don't care about baby, fuck baby. Give me. Must.

Hi there! Shit, Dexter, there in doorway. What doing here? My shift, next ward, saw name. Patient name on chalkboard scribbled, like café menu. Drop in, how going? Bare arse, how that for greeting, first seen object. Don't care. Dexter politeness. Screw politeness. Here, your turn. Back rubbing. Tag team. Make yourself useful. Good boy. Then gone. Other ward calls, duty calls. Where doctor? Back in office, collecting papers.

Must push. Can't wait. Need permission. No push without permission. Crush buzzer. Finally, nurse back. Fingers up. Not yet, not 10cm yet. No push. MUST PUSH. Not yet. Time for that gadget. Just let me. Okay, now working. Lets see. Heart beat. Should be 160. Says 60, no 70, no 60. Assistance please. What's up? Don't understand. Assistance please. Why assistance. Must be okay. Assistance please. MUST PUSH. Where boss? Not in the building, like Elvis. For Christ's sake. Assistance please. Still 70. Way low. Who these? This blonde, preppy. Stranger, strange guy. Am Bob. Be your obstetrician. For today, Bob. Hi there. Where he? One we paid for. Big bucks. Big insurance. Not in building yet. Still collecting paper. Don't care. Bob, Rob, Job anyone. MUST PUSH. Now more. More crowding. One more, paediatric dude. Two, three, four more, resuscitation team. Like phone box or Volkswagen. Where heartbeat, Nurse? Nurse losing. Nurse finding. So low. Like reptile. No this not. Can't be. Too soap opera. Too not believable. Must be cord about neck, must be cut off. Hang in there. All this. Nine months. All diet, all giving up, alcohol giving up, caffeine giving up, all calls to home, joy tears, all baby clothes, all name picking, all suffering with heartburn, with retching in bowls with dry retching. No. Not happening. Someone else, not to us. How to break it. The news. What to say. Parents' first grandchild. Sorry, dead. Sorry, fucked up. Sorry start again. All over. Again diet, exercise, days of moon, seasons, supplements, this position, that position old wives tales. All over again. No! How bare it. Maybe barren now. One shot. All done. Old couple. Neighbours whisper. Only child dead. Still born. So sad.

Big decision. On phone to paper collecting office Doc. Baby out fast. Like Caesar. No, too slow. Out now, this instant. What he doing? Whole hand up. Arm up. Wire in head. This right? Jesus. Wire running out you. Machine pock. Come on. Pock faster. Come on. Yes! 120. No! Go higher, not lower. Come on. Mind full, mind teaming. Squashed creature, unborn, ghost up-giver. Pock, pock, pock. Those TV episodes, those movies, countless, untold soundtracks. Supernatural sound, sacred sound. Heavy with meaning. Pock. Must come out. Time to suck. Vacuum thing. Incredible, surely not. Like plumber, like industrial. Not right up her. Good God. Resident clumsily. CHRIST, WHAT YOU DOING? Scream. Agony. Worse than anything, worse than worst. Now suck, now pump. Dexter back, didn't notice, dragooned. Boss's order. Boss on phone. Pump, Dexter. Learn hard way, learn like this. But boss man still absent. Mask on face. Oxygen. Not for you. For it. Through you to it. We know already. Boy already. Ultrasound. Saw tiny thing. Never mind. PUSH! PUSH HARD. PUSH HARD AS HELL. Doctor's orders. Hellish groan. Sound of damned. Pock. Comes and goes. Still low. Sudden high. Back to low. No, come on, hang in. Massive groan. Homely nurse. Cheek pressed on cheek. Nurse's homely orders. No noise—like this, not like this! I obey, marm. Lift up leg, under knee. Nurse take the other. Legs up. PUSH! Face bursting. Face beetroot red. Shower of capillary burst. Fireworks. New Year. Kapow! All down neck down shoulders, bursting tiny red filaments. Heave on vacuum, heave. Sailors inhawling. My god! Between legs, eruption. Volcanic. Oil well. Here it comes. A gusher. Giant sucker on head. Squidlike. His head inside, egglike, balloon art. The brain! Don't worry, softshell, the infant skull. Brainshape negotiable. Boiled egg into a milkbottle, vacuumlike. Faraway voice, is he alright? Needles pricking with painkillers. Scissors snip, snip. You they snip with kitchen shears. PUSH. Snip. Can feel, CAN STILL FEEL, useless needles. Part separates from other part, opens up. Right where piss, right at top. Stinging, ripping. PUSH. Very last time. PUSH and out.

Top of voice, lungful, earful. But wrong lungs. Shouting docs, shouting nurses. No tiny wails. New lungs silent, skin blue. Breathe, baby, sweet baby breath. Little flowers. Breathe you in air now. Up from the ocean dry land. Boy now not fish. Docs shouting, Dexter, you do it. Cut cord. SNIP like bungy, thick hard. Safety line. Cut all ties, cut apron strings. Gone now all gone. Suck molecules from room. Not mother any longer. Nurse homely slaps tiny feet. One slap, two. Stand on own feet. Still not. Must. Pumping baby. Come on, now, breathe. In out. Good bad. Don't want to. But please, please for mother's sake. Can take it maybe, but not mother, carried you for nine, making from nothing every part. More slapping. Still headwired. Now or never. Do it. I'm torn up, don't mind about me. Breathe baby.

Small catlike cry. First voice. Not gone. Still here. Not stillborn. Strange language that. Still headwired. Scar for life. Under thatch until bald. Hope not too soon like shiny grandpa. Small price. More cry. Like mouse. Wrap slimy parcel homely nurse. Give me. Breathing. Yes. Breathing. Cancel sad calls. Cancel tragic letter. Cease shouts.

Now Doc here, unhurried. Finally left office, found car space, special reserved for he. Between legs he sits with needle and thread. Painful. Not watch, thanks. Here hold baby. New skill. Mum first, then dad. That's us. For real? Say words, funny sound. Mum dad. Our Doc one stitch, two stitch. One stitch in time saveth nine others and one extra. Yes, really. Ouch, can feel it. Rather not watch. That finger, where goes it? Extra hole found. Unstitch and stitch again. My mistake. Trust me, I'm a. Many apologies, all parked out. Round and round and up and down ramp. Must fly now, other needlework. All depart. Legions depart. Guests depart. Drama ended.

Homely nurse silver scales. On scales many ounces on tape many inches. Look not blue. Boy but not blue now. All pink. What size lungs now? Earplugs please. Now how I work this thing, this nipple? That shut it up. Strange to look at. Why red hair? Forget. Smile for camera. Cheese!

Copyright©2009 Simon Barker

Simon Barker comes from Sydney but has lived in Melbourne and California. His writing has appeared in Overland, Fieldstone Review, Eclectica, Word Riot, Istanbul Literary Review, Ranfurly Review, Antipodes and Identity Theory.

Interview with Simon Barker