12. [3 months later]
Follow changes to partner’s body with fascination, Stoke-levels, and sexual attraction that you couldn’t have anticipated. Begin noticing pregnant women everywhere and that their bodies are beautiful in a way you’ve never considered before.
Listen to partner explaining her first dream of the baby’s face, a girl. Respond weakly to this (“really?”), which leads to confrontation about your ongoing inability to “show interest or be present for this pregnancy.” Withhold explanations that thinking too much about the baby might lead to more intense suffering later if certain possibilities were to occur, possibilities you don’t want to name for fear of somehow introducing them into the Flow. State something obtuse like how it’s hard for you to understand or appreciate things you can’t see or touch, giving her a facial expression that conveys how you know that she knows there’s additional subtext you’re afraid of, and por favor, to just let you sentir this in your own way.
14. [Doctor’s visit]
Agree beforehand that you don’t want to know baby’s sex (while partner does), although if she can’t keep it secret then that’s In The Flow as well. See images of baby’s face, fingers, toes, arms, legs, and 4-chambered heart via ultrasound. Note the movements of the baby in utero, thinking vaguely of cells, tadpoles, and lightning. Leave the room when doctor explains that she’ll now tell the sex of the baby. Wait by door. Hug partner afterwards, laughing at her words / failure to keep it a secret (“It’s una nena!”) with a sense of happiness that she’s happy while simultaneously being unable to visualize a little girl’s face. Charge ultrasound bill to your credit card.
15. [Last week before leaving US]
Attend concert (Gogol Bordello / Manu Chao) with high concentration of young and beautiful people and percentages of Latinos and other ethnic groups disproportionate to the state’s overall population, which, in some nonspecific way, seems to represent your “tribe.” Spend majority of concert dancing behind partner with your hands encircling her panza, sensing, perhaps for the first time, that the baby is also physically present here in some way, absorbing all of this, kicking sometimes, to this music.
16. [Buenos Aires]
Set up in new apartment on Calle Defensa overlooking Parque Lezama in the San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires. Spend time looking out the 8th floor balcony at kids in park. Accompany partner to meeting along with 6 other pregnant couples at midwife’s apartment. Note almost tangible sense of empathy / lack of judgment among group. Fail to repress excitement at the women’s swollen breasts and panzas while sitting on pillows in close proximity, particularly during discussion of sexual stimulation as helping begin or advance labor. Discuss pain. Visualize it. Give your definition of it. Ask the group to excuse your accent, then use words for waves and journeys.
Talk with partner about names. Choose one easy to pronounce in both languages. Notice increased sexual attraction to her each day. Take “John and Yoko” pictures of yourselves naked, only without thinking “John and Yoko.”
Continue educating yourselves on each step of labor, delivery, breastfeeding. Begin reconstructing “Matrix-like” physical reality you likely experienced at birth / first moments of your life – being separated from your mother, having tubes inserted in your nose to suction out mucus, having your foreskin sliced off without anesthesia, getting injected with vaccinations, weighed, given “formula,” placed in a room full of other newborns in Plexiglas cribs all separated from their mothers and wailing or sucking pacifiers as nurses circulate wearing noise-dampening footwear. Consider the way medical environments make you act / feel. Ask partner, “why don’t we just have the baby here at home?” to which she immediately responds in “why didn’t we think of that all along?” manner.
19. [One month later, start of labor]
Notice partner looks “different” in a way you can’t fully define. Take pictures of her. Decide to go for a walk. Prepare backpack, then hear her say, “Rompi bolsa,” noticing what looks like a liter of water flowing from out of her dress. Note that her words don’t express fear but more just surprise / high Stoke-levels. Call midwife. Put on music (Edith Piaf). Help midwife bring in wooden birthing chair. Wait as midwife confirms that labor has started and that she can either stay with you or come back in a few hours. Tell her to come back.
Sit with your partner. Hold hands, feeling her squeeze each time a contraction comes. Realize that these are the last hours you’ll be alone together, and that she must know this too, but talk about other things, how good the tea tastes, how perfect the temperature is. Look at the white cotton dress she’s wearing, the way she’s smiling after each contraction finishes. Consider how she seems at that moment almost like a little girl, how the two of you sitting there seem almost like two little kids.
Note heavier contractions. Call the midwife back. Call your partner’s best friend. Help her bring in sandwiches, cakes, and drinks for everybody. Wait while the midwife examines partner’s dilation (7cm). Massage partner’s back each time a contraction comes. Follow her around the apartment in search of different sofas, chairs, ways to get comfortable. Follow her into the bathtub. Light candles. Breathe with her in long O sounds. Think about people in the building hearing all of this, and that it seems good, that somehow here it’s fine, that it shouldn’t be contained.
Help partner out of bath. Confirm with midwife that OBGYN / pediatrician are on the way. Set up birthing chair so partner can look out over Rio de La Plata / dusk sky. Keep breathing with partner each time there’s a contraction. Try to stay with her even though she’s going into this place where you can’t follow. Consider how it’s almost deathlike. Greet the doctors. Notice how everyone seems happy, excited, like it’s nothing strange for them to enter this scene, and how it doesn’t feel strange for you either. Listen to your partner say she needs to push. Encourage her. Notice everything that comes out of her body—spit, blood, piss, shit—and how none of it seems strange, or something you weren’t ready for, even though you never really tried to be ready. Keep holding her hand. Look out the window and realize it’s nighttime.
Move to the bedroom. Let partner alone with the midwife for a bit. Walk out to main room, noticing they’ve cut on a space heater and everything is warm and glowing orange. Drink some coffee. Talk to the doctors. Notice that nobody is in a hurry. Go back to the bedroom. Wince when you see your partner’s genitals, everything opened, turned inside out. Think how women have to suffer. Think how it should seem strange for her to suffer there on your bed where you take naps, drink coffee, read magazines, but that it doesn’t feel that way now. Get on the other side of the bed where you can hold your partner’s shoulders. Notice the team entering, the room seeming small. Help partner through the most intense pushes yet. Hear her teeth cracking together. Listen to the midwife say she sees the head. Look down and see it, the dark hair. Look up for a second and see all five faces staring at the head, yelling to keep pushing. Help your partner get to one knee. Notice how all of you seem to rise up together and seem very tall inside a small blue room, and then how it all collapses into a tiny crying form with legs and arms writhing on the bed. Scoop her up together. Take off your shirt so you can be skin to skin. Place her on your partner’s chest. Tell her how you hear her crying, that you understand, that it’s hard, all of this, but that you’re here, we’re here. Recognize her as if you’ve been waiting your whole life for her without knowing it.