I can’t sleep. Four years ago at this moment, I got out of bed because I couldn’t get comfortable. My back was in agony, but I was too gigantically pregnant to want to get out of bed for Tylenol. I had been sleeping lightly, restlessly tossing and turning as much as a 39 weeks pregnant woman can, postponing the inevitable. Like when I have to pee, but I’m too exhausted to get up, so I continually fall back to sleep and dream that I go into bathrooms and find the toilet missing.
Odie was snoring. What I experienced as “having a baby” was 40 weeks of “having a designated driver” to Odie. He’d ordered a second beer at the restaurant and had at least one more once we got home, celebrating me not going into labor that night.
And, you know, “It’s Thursday.”
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was impatient with people’s stories, especially the ones I’d heard multiple times. Now that I’m middle-aged, I know that telling our stories is the only way we can cling to the terror and joy and excitement and wonder and thrill of the fleeting moments. Because what I love so much about this story is how it makes me feel when I write or tell it. I’m back in my bedroom again about to have my baby, as much as I ever can be.
I can’t remember the pain, but I know I felt it, because I remember how this story goes. I didn’t know what labor felt like, so it went on for a couple hours before I knew that’s what it was. In fact, my body had to give me an unmistakable sign. I was on my way to the kitchen for Tylenol and cranberry juice, not to Labor and Delivery. In pregnancy, low back pain had become as much a part of me as red hair, green eyes, and asymmetrical nostrils.
This frustrates me about memory. The way the feelings don’t quite come back. They’re almost there. I can close my eyes and focus on the memory and a recollection will come and go like a shudder or a spasm. I got out of bed and my water broke. It was the wildest feeling. I’ve heard some women say they thought they’d peed their pants, but this sensation was singular. I probably said, “I think my water just broke,” but I was certain.
In my marriage, I’m “The Keeper of the Memories.” Odie can’t remember things, big or small. I pity him that. I retell our birth story to him every year, starting sentences with “Remember when…” and I see that regretful look. The look that says, “Probably not, but go on.”
And that’s another thing about memories. Collaborating on the story is nearly as pleasurable as having the memory. To giggle with Odie about how we arrived at our rented wedding house in 2007 and discovered it had a hot tub we didn’t know about which was heated and begging to be enjoyed. We stripped down and hopped in, delighted by the elicitness of a skinny dip when our wedding party was expected any minute.
“Check your messages,” I urged him. He picked up his discarded jeans and PLOP! went his cell phone into the hot tub.
He doesn’t remember those details like I do, just that it happened. It isn’t as much fun as it could be, having that memory all by myself.
That’s why the big ones are special. He’ll never forget “I think my water just broke.”
Five years ago, our first daughter was born at 4:08 p.m.
Or, as Odie remembers it, “The doctor poured enchilada sauce all over my wife, cut her with scissors and Viva’s head popped out.”