She’s not in her bedroom next to mine, but neither is my daddy. I hear another scream, from the family room in the basement. As I work my way down both sets of stairs, proud of my courage, I notice it’s very warm in the house. My toes aren’t even cold under my yellow nightgown, the one I like with the flowers on the trim.
I open the basement door and am surprised to find a bunch of grown-ups standing around, with glasses and plates of food. It’s unusual for my parents to have a party in the middle of the night, but they are always doing grown-up stuff I don’t understand so maybe this is normal. My favorite of my parents’ friends, Sidney, comes and picks me up. I’m so happy to see her, but then I hear my mother scream again. I struggle free of Sidney’s arms and find my mother on a bed just big enough for her in the middle of the room. She’s covered by sheets but her legs are pulled toward her and her long, dark hair streams down the side of the bed. I stand by her head and she turns to me and smiles but I can tell she’s not focusing on me. I’m used to her full attention so I’m confused and scared.
My father comes to me now and asks if I want to help her and of course I do. He tells me to take the small towel he hands me, wet it in the bathroom and then put it on my mom’s forehead. I race back and forth to the bathroom, sure her continuing, increasing screams are due to my failure to wet the washcloth properly. Maybe I’m making it too wet, or not wet enough, or too hot, or too cold. I’m not sure how to do it right and no one can help me.
I soon feel very, very warm. A fire is burning in the big fireplace and heat is filling the room. The fire is the only light and eerie flames are dancing on the walls. The shadows of the assembled grown-ups jump and dart.
After forever, my dad pulls me away from my mom’s forehead and tells me to look between her legs. I see a hard, bloody dome appear, and I know that is not normal. I now see I was focusing my washcloth energy on the absolute wrong problem. As I start to panic that my mom is being turned inside out, the dome bulges further out and a tiny face appears, followed by a tiny body. A tiny, tiny human has just come out of my mother. All the rules I have understood to make the world work have been uprooted, turned upside down, tossed out. I’m dizzy, and hot, and angry.
The adults crowd around to see and hold it, and ask me how much I love it. They must be insane. Adults are definitely insane. This tiny person tried to kill my mother. Everyone seems surprised when I am found two days later beating my baby doll with a hairbrush, yelling “bad baby.”
If heaven is whatever we want it to be, and mine smells like coconut sun tan lotion, then my own special hell will be living in that hot, dark, scary basement, with my mother screaming, till the end of time.
PS. I know you have a lot of questions after reading this piece. Let me help you. Why did my parents have my brother at home and not in a hospital? Hippies. Why did they think it was a good idea that I be present? It was 1976 and in vogue, apparently. Why were other people present? I have no idea. Should you allow your children to be present at the birth of their siblings? Hell no.