Word Count 500
“Oh! Uh-oh! No. Uh-oh!”
The dam burst without warning, leaving no time to think, only to react. No time to panic. No time to second-guess. No time to run for help. Only the briefest, “Really? This is not what I had planned for today!” edging into my sluggish mind.
Oh, for a little Dutch boy. Not this almost-two-year-old, abandoned mid-diapering.
Our world reduced to gramma/mommy and daughter/mommy, and a finite space in the vast desert of her bathroom, our focus is so intense we are unaware of him, wide-eyed at the door. So small and insignificant are we, yet oceanic this event in which we participate. So abrupt and unexpected, this appearance of dark, matted fur. By rote I wash hands. Then adrenaline, and the collective instincts of thousands upon thousands of years, of thousands upon thousands of women doing this very thing, take over. I do without hesitation what needs to be done, while my daughter responds with the trust and instinct born of our deep bond.
One push. A little head, the ghastly color of eggplant, appears, the cord, like a bluish-white snake, strangling her—Get it off…I don’t know how…Just do it! It’s all you—the silent argument with myself taking less time than the telling of it. I grasp the stiff, muscular life-line-turned hangman’s noose, slip it over the bump of a chin and off. Ok. Push. And there she is. Quiet. But not still-born. Relief makes my hands shake. Have I been holding my breath? Possibly. Slow-motion events have played out like time-lapse photography, this flower going from bud to unfurled bloom in something under three minutes by our later calculations.
I cannot bring myself to slap the tender bottom; instead tickle a plaintive mew from her. Ten fingers. Ten toes. A thick, white sebum paste mottles her still purplish-puce skin, but she is beautiful. Did we really do this?—we would ask each other days, months, later.
Now what? Nine-one-one? No, we need help right now. “Give her to me,” my daughter calmly says. No time to savor the slippery bundle. I barely glance at her before pelting downstairs. Through sleet I dash, to the house next door: Pound. Yell for Rosie the EMT. Return with our rescuer. Clutch my bewildered grandson. Now 911.
Suddenly, I am all thumbs, my earlier prowess as mid-wife abandoning me in the aftermath; absence of crisis leaving me deflated—almost certainly in mild shock. I tremble for hours, drained of energy. I spend two days working on a new jigsaw puzzle—my retreat in times of stress. For two days, I wait amid snowstorms for my granddaughter to come home. I will not truly believe nothing is wrong with her until I hold her in my arms. Finally, I do. She is healthy and perfect. And my strong, beautiful daughter, who gave birth in her bathroom, then walked regally down the stairs in her royal robe of black-and-white striped chenille, her baby in her arms—she is perfect, too.