"Please, Mom, I'm just so hot." I feel like the walls of the tiny bathroom are closing in and the small black and white tiles are lifting towards me. There does not seem to be enough air for me to breathe.
She stands still in the doorway. Calmly, she reminds me, "Xiomara, I need to time the contractions so we know when to go to the hospital."
"THEY NEVER END!" I cry out. My mom stalks away to call Bellevue again, and the midwife tells her, for the second time, to just bring me in. Reluctantly, I make my way out of the apartment and into the elevator. Once inside the car, however, I forbid my dad to move because I feel like I have to poop again. I go back upstairs as quickly as my belly will allow me to; yet, I find no relief in the bathroom. The pains in my sides and back simply worsen. (I now know that's because the "need to poop" feeling was really a "need to deliver a baby" feeling.)
This time, after climbing into the car, I break my rule and refuse to fasten my seatbelt. "Please don't let us get into an accident," I pray as I place myself on all fours in the back seat, arching my back and groaning unintelligibly for mercy. On Delancey Street, my best friend calls, having seen my text about my water breaking. "Mom, please," I whisper, as I hand the phone to her. I have only enough strength to focus on getting through the tormenting moments of constriction. Every red light angers me. Every car that takes too long to turn before us makes me want to tear my hair out.
We finally pull up in front of the hospital, and my mom and I begin the long walk through its wide hallways towards the Labor & Delivery Ward. Clutching at my belly, I moan with every step forward; and it isn't until we've walked the equivalent of five city blocks that a staff member says, "She needs a wheelchair. Somebody should really get her a wheelchair!"
I manage a weak smile and an, "It's okay," before continuing on my way. In my head, I'm saying, "What's the point? I've walked all this way already. I can't stand around, in pain, waiting for someone to bring me a wheelchair now. I've only got another block to walk before getting to the next security guard."
It seems to take years for the elevator to come, and I gratefully step into it when it does. Unfortunately, it's seven in the morning, and person after person dressed in scrubs or a white coat gets into the elevator behind me. I want to scream at them, "HURRY UP! HURRY UP! Can't you see I'm about to have a baby? Stop pressing every damn button before the 9th floor!" Instead, I watch a woman's eyes widen in surprise as I slump against the wall and slide, knees bent, to the floor. Sweating, I hold the bottom of my belly. I try to take deep breaths. It does not matter how hurriedly the other passengers exit the elevator; I feel suffocated in the crowd of people, and I groan under the weight of the oppressive air. The door finally opens on my floor.
Another block to walk. A third security guard to nod at. Locked double doors to pass through. A row of staff members to hand my purple and white Pregnancy Passport over to. I want my mom with me, but they make her go back through the double doors and into the waiting room. I'm on my own. In the examination room, a nurse commands me to take off my clothes. With difficulty, I peel off the maternity tank top and shorts and ask if I can just stay naked. "No, no, Miss." the nurse shakes her head.
"Please, I'm so hot," I beg.
"You need to wear the gown," she insists. "It's probably going to be a while before you deliver. You can't be naked all that time." She then makes me put a striped band around my belly to hold the baby's heart monitor in place. The tightness of the itchy, not-so-stretchy band only worsens the dolores, and the open-backed gown feels coarse against my skin. While I lay on the bed, waiting for the doctor, I pull my wet hair up into a messy bun and try to enclose it in my hair clip. I hear the clip crack before I feel it. Angry, I throw the broken clip towards the garbage can and miss, almost hitting the doctor as she comes in.
"Okay, let's check you," she says as she snaps on blue gloves. I spread my knees apart as far as they will go and hold my breath as her fingers press into me. "You're 9 centimeters," I hear her say before her head reappears between my legs. "You're going to have this baby now!" she exclaims, with a look of clear astonishment shooting across her face. "It's too late for medicine. Are you ready?"
I nod my head and smile, too tired to say, "I didn't want meds anyway," and "NOW can I get this horrendous gown off of me?"