Celia was walking back and forth, leaning on Nicolás, never losing her calm, taking short breaths when she doubled over with pain, and resting when the small being in her womb gave her a brief respite. My daughter-in-law carries in her veins secret songs that mark the rhythm of her steps as she walks; during the contractions, she panted and rocked back and forth as if listening to an irresistible, internal Venezuelan drumbeat. Toward the end, I thought that occasionally she made fists of her hands and a flash of terror passed through her eyes, but immediately her husband make her look straight at him, and whispered something in the private code of husband and wife, and her tension eased. . . .
By midafternoon, Celia made a sign; Nicolás helped her climb onto the bed and in less than a minute the apparatus and instruments the midwife carried in her station wagon materialized in the room. That girl in shorts seemed suddenly to mature; her tone of voice changed and millennia of female experience were reflected in her freckled face. "Wash your hands and be ready," she told me with a wink. "Now it's your turn to work." Celia put her arms around her husband, gritted her teeth, and pushed. And then, on a surging wave of blood, emerged a flattened, purplish face and a head covered with dark hair, which I held like a chalice with one hand while with the other I quickly unlooped the bluish cord wrapped around the baby's neck. With another brutal push from the mother, the rest of my granddaughter's body appeared, a blood-washed, fragile package: a most extraordinary gift. With a primeval sob, I felt in the core of my being the sacred experience of birth--the effort, the pain, the panic--and, gratefully, I marveled at my daughter-in-law's heroic courage and the prodigy of her solid body and noble spirit, designed for motherhood. Through a veil, I seemed to see a rapturous Nicolás, who took the baby from my hands and placed her on her mother's belly. Celia rose up from among her pillows, panting, dripping with sweat, transformed by inner light and, completely indifferent to the remainder of her body, which continued contracting and bleeding, she folded her arms about her daughter and welcomed her with a waterfall of words in a newly coined language, kissing and nuzzling her as every mammalian mother does, then offered the baby her breast in the most ancient gesture of humankind. Time congealed in the room, and the sun stopped above the roses on the terrace; the world was holding its breath to celebrate the miracle of that new life.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The Music of the Universe
From Isabel Allende's Paula: