Elise pushed and turned red. She pushed more and turned burgundy. I held one of her legs and mopped her brow and tried to give her water out of a bottle whose straw kept popping out and onto the floor. And though I had gone to birthing class and done all the correct things to prepare for this exact moment, I couldn't have felt less competent had I been handed three lively cats and told to juggle them. Elise was muttering and I was saying things like "You're doing great" and "You call that a push?" Well, no, but it crossed my mind. Everything that shouldn't have been crossing my mind was: how the traffic on the highway outside looked bad today, how soft and pillowy the clouds were, how juggling cats would be difficult, how Elise now was the color of a beet.
Maybe I was trying to distract myself from what was happening. Our ageless Chinese midwife was doing the same, bouncing on the big purple birthing ball across the room between pushes in an attempt to distract Elise who wanted to push all the time.
Time got tight, focused. Elise was yelling like a wounded animal. I saw the head and thought about calling Emergency. Elise was yelling louder and I was holding her leg and saying God knows what and nurses were circling and hands were reaching in and out and twisting this being that seemed to want to stay right where it was, not ready to join us yet. Then out it came, a gangly thing covered in blood. The thing was turned to me and it looked into my eyes with the hugest most startled eyes I have ever seen and our eyes locked. I thought I know you.