Here's the theme for this week’s PROMPTuesday. Here it is:
Write a story about when you last were humbled, felt humbled by the presence of something/someone in your life, or lay prostrate at the feet of the universe and said “I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I will now relinquish control and let you take over.”
It was a warm summer evening, the insects singing in the high grass. The two-lane highway was mostly quiet, the occasional car going by, sometimes a truck bound for the next town, its gears grinding. Our cottage was set back from the road, behind our landlord's house, at the end of a gravel drive.
I had tried to sleep since coming home from the doctor that afternoon, but the heat in the little house was oppressive and I couldn't drop off. The stirrings inside me were insistent, they demanded attention but I tried to ignore them.
Connie had told me to expect little change until early in the morning. As she washed her hands after the exam, she said, "Many new mothers experience a long slow labor. You're better off staying comfortable at home - don't come to the hospital until you're ready," she said.
I had read all the books. I had talked to other women. I'd taken the classes, along with my husband. I was not a young girl, but an experienced woman, a strong one. I was physically active - the work I did was physical too, with climbing and lifting and carrying. The pregnancy had been easy and I had glowed with health. I could handle this, I thought. I had bookmarked the pages about going into labor - I re-read them just to verify what I was feeling.
How do you pass an evening, waiting for the inevitable? While I tried to sleep, my husband studied at the kitchen table in the still afternoon. Did we eat? I don't remember. The news came on television.
I got out of bed. We slept on a futon on the floor, and heaving myself up had become more difficult as the weeks had passed. My hamstrings felt tense, I couldn't lie down.
This cottage was temporary, a summer vacancy at the end of the academic year. After a year of his fellowship, we would return to our own university. But the baby was due at the end of June, and our midwife was here, so we stayed. I had quit my job in May, so my days were shapeless. Across the road was an ecological test field run by the university's forestry school, where native weeds grew unchecked. I walked it every day - the books said keep exercising, walking was good.
"It's hot," I said. "I can't sleep."
"How do you feel?"
My husband had been with me every step of this, but he had always let me lead. We would do this as naturally as we could. A nurse-midwife; healthy eating. Exercise. LaMaze classes. We had put in our names to reserve the much-praised Birthing Room the local county hospital maintained. It featured pleasing decor in gentle colors, specialized furniture like a Birth Chair so the mother could remain upright.
We would resist drugs, epidurals, episiotomies, in-utero monitors. We had our bag packed, with the Walkman with the cassette tapes - baby would be born to an eclectic mix of World Music - the rolling devices to massage a cramping back, soothing scented oils for aromatherapy. We would do this our way, my way.
"I don't know," I said, "I wonder how long it will be." A wave of sensation washed through me, gentle but unmistakable, seizing my joints, my upper thighs.
"Connie said it would probably be around three in the morning," he said. "Remember? You were supposed to take a nap, she said you'd need your sleep - did you? This is supposed to take a while."
"A little," I said, "but now I'm restless. Can we go take a walk?"
Dusk was falling and the field across the road was dim. Our feet crunched the dry weeds in the path. He threw a stick for the dog to chase, and I watched it wheel through the lavender sky. I gripped his arm and he looked at me.
"Just a little push, there," I said. "I think it's getting stronger now."
The dog returned, dancing before us, teasing us to take the stick from his mouth. My husband bent away from me a moment, and as I stood alone I faltered.
The sensation moved through me again. It wasn't pain, it was force. It was something I couldn't shape or channel. It was as if I didn't own this body anymore. "Can we go back, now?" I asked. The dog bounded after the stick again.
My husband called him back, and hooked him to the leash. I started toward the road, compelled to walk, my muscles needing the motion, the shift of weight from one hip to the other. On the road, as we waited to cross, a truck boomed past, and I could feel the rush and suction of air in my womb as it passed.
"I think it's time," I said as we reached our driveway where our car sat waiting.
"Let's call," he said, "We're not sure. Remember when they said it would be? It's too early. Can you hold on a while?"
I sat , but my bones shifted and roiled with the current. I stood up, my hands on the back of the chair, upright not by my own will but because my body had to. It rolled through again, like a wave, like the percussive boom of the truck, scattering chaff as it passed.
"I can't," I said. "I can't. We have to go now."