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Paula Randall's Birth Story

I watch you sleep. Lips a soft "o", just released from my breast. Hands folded sweetly. Tiny chest inhales, exhales. I open my soul, my pores, trying to soak you up, enough to fill this lifetime. My baby, my last

March 5, Wednesday My 40th birthday. Dinner at Tommy's: pecan-crusted snapper, pear pastry with raspberry sauce a la mode. A hot shower; clean sheets and nightgown. House in order. Ready. The baby will come tonight.

March 7, Friday 2:30 pm 41 weeks. I nap. Braxton-Hicks? Faint, every 5 minutes. Emily watches TV in the den.

3:30 pm This is it. I phone Charlie, "Where are you?" "At the mailbox." I spy his car through the bedroom blinds.

3:50 pm Call Pat, our midwife. 1-minute contractions, every 3 minutes.

Charlie and Emily prepare the birth bed, plastic then sheets. "It hurts!" Charlie presses hard my lower back, every contraction, "Think of the new baby." We three wail, "New BA-by, New BA-by!"

Emily pulls her fleece winter hat over her ears, "too loud in here." Pat prepared her with a sibling class, moaned like a woman in labor, but still my sounds disturb her.

5:30 pm Pat calls, heavy traffic, I45 at Beltway 8, not far.

5:35 pm Wearing t-shirt, no panties, leaning against the dresser, legs spread. I sense the head down low, "New Baby COMING," I yell. Emily lies on the floor, peers up between my legs, nods "no" to Charlie.

5:50 pm "I can DO this, I can DO this," I chant. "Yes, you CAN do this," Pat's voice in the bedroom. Pat Jones is an angel posing on earth as a midwife. RN, CNM, 23 years experience, the gentlest and most attuned person I know. She draws the bath.

6:05 pm My uncle calls, "can't talk."

6:10 pm Into the tub. One contraction. "It burns!" Two contractions. "It's right there, Paula." Charlie and Emily, eyes fixed on the water.

6:17 pm The baby is in me, then in a burst, out of me, wet, tiny, vulnerable and beautiful on my chest.

Clearly, a boy: Emily's infant girl clothes, lost; little wooden cars and planes collecting in my Christmas closet; no chosen female name. Mistaking the umbilical cord, "It's a boy," I say. "Look again," says Pat. Emily helps cut the cord. Nameless for a week, I scour 20,001 Names for Baby.

Lauren Elizabeth is 9 months, blonde, blue-eyed, happy-squealing, six-toothed, ba-ba-da-da-ma-ma-ing, patty-caking, bye-bye-waving, wiggling, crawling, riding my hip in a sling carrier, pure joy.

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