Originally published in Demeter Press’s anthology titled Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland, edited by Jane Satterfield and Laurie Kruk.
copyright (c) 2016 by Anjoli Roy
It was a cold night, but not as cold as the rest. The moon a jaunty half-full. We walked in the neighbor’s dye garden as gentle trespassers, and he held your hand, a blanket around your shoulders. When you stopped to lean and breathe-breathe-breathe, your belly opened your sweater like curtains on a blustery night, your head down as you held his hips, his hand on your low back. You knew the baby would come in its own time, in the water (and at home, of course) as had your last two. I watched you breathe and counted seconds (poorly) but scribbled on a little pad each time the pain hit, his hand at your back always-always with all those pretty words, pressing and holding those points that you needed pressed and held. Those waves came slowly at first, then in quick succession, a rising tide not to be messed with. We were home when the baby was low and ready, and you both were in the water. I fumbled with the camera I couldn’t get working, and then I saw in place of a head little legs between yours in the water, which set mine wobbling. It didn’t help that I’d seen this in a dream, and that it was all okay then. I said prayers, quickly, and felt that some place in me, some place primal and deep, I knew how to reach in those waters and help you twist and free and guide that small form coming out of you, those pale legs in dark water, but I was thankful that he would do it, he the papa, that he wouldn’t answer your question on the sex of the baby (though I think he smiled when you asked) but instead said we should focus on getting the head out, then assisted with his big hands, listening to your patient, slow-worded instructions as if wobbly-legged nervousness was for suckers. This was all normal. In that way that birth was all normal and cosmic and every day and world-shattering, just as it is the purple center of the core of every bit of this bright universe. And then you two lifted the baby out of the water and she looked at you with impossibly wise, quiet eyes that told you all those things promised and yet to be had and it wasn’t until she had seen into you that she yowled at last, ringing in her place in the world.