“The patient is female. 39 weeks and 3 days gestation, blood pressure slightly elevated, but not out of normal range.” The nurse informs the doctor of these stats as if discussing the weather. “Baby’s made no progress and is now in distress.”

The woman is wheeled down the hospital corridor. She doesn’t remember where they are taking her, even though she’s sure they told her. Her mind holds only two thoughts:

My baby.

What if we die?

She hears the clicking of the plastic wheels on the linoleum tile floor as she’s shuttled down the empty hall. She notices the alternating squares patterning the floor, but nothing she sees or hears distracts her from those two thoughts, as if a dialogue bubble — like in a cartoon — protects them.

My baby.

What if we die?

Within seconds she is in a freezing cold room. She’s aware of the cold, and of shivering, but she doesn’t actually feel it.

Lifted by six medical personnel, in one fluid motion, her body is shifted to an operating table. Like an assembly line, multiple hands attach various things to her body, stick things into her skin, and pull at her hospital gown. The hands are in sync, as though performing a dance. Her arms are strapped to the table, straight out to the sides, like Jesus on the cross. One attaches a breathing tube, one inserts an IV, and another gives her a shot of something or other.

Tubes snake across her body, alien tentacles grabbing her, threatening to strangle…to pull her into darkness. Drugs drip into her veins. She can feel them entering, and then winding their way through her system.

A strange sensation comes over her, as though a cement truck has just dropped its heavy load on her chest. She can’t breathe. She tells this to the nurse, but it’s like her voice is coming from inside a tunnel, like all that’s left is the echo, a distant imitation. Who said that? She wonders. The nurse makes reassuring noises and then suddenly, the woman doesn’t care anymore about anything.

Her husband stands beside her wearing scrubs and a medical face-mask. Where did he come from? She thinks. He squeezes her hand and tells her, “Everything is going to be okay.” She doesn’t believe him but she nods anyway.

The nurse hands a camera to the woman’s husband. He starts taking pictures of something beyond a blue curtain. The curtain has been erected over her chest so she can’t see what’s going on down there, beyond it. It doesn’t matter, she doesn’t want to see.

She can hear the doctors now, their voices drift over like smoke from a chimney, mingling with strange smells the woman doesn’t recognize, “How ‘bout that ball game yesterday?”Another doctor answers, a female. “I think they’re gonna make the playoffs this year. Oh! This baby really is stuck in here.”

The woman feels a sharp tug, and then another. A scene from the movie Braveheart flashes in her mind – Mel Gibson being disemboweled, splayed out for everyone to see – and the woman feels like her guts are being ripped out. Because, of course, they are.

One final tough yank, then a slurping, gurgling sound followed by a loud POP! And then, finally, “It’s a girl!” The baby is brought around the blue curtain to the woman – bloody, gooey, and gorgeous. She turns her head to see. They lock eyes, mother and child. 

All the fears and worries, all the doctors and machines, the noises and smells, all of it disappears in that instant, frozen in time, burned into memory.

“Hurry up and sew me back together,” the woman says, “I want to hold my baby girl.”