First published at Quora.com, in response to the question: “What is the Worst Sound in the World?”
It was just after three in the afternoon, and I had been in labor over 20 hours. My water had broken the night before, and I was exhausted.
You hear about it from other mothers, but it doesn’t register until it’s your turn; until you start to feel the waves draw in from your stomach and your lower back. The waves that start so slightly and you think it’s easily bearable, until they are crashing on top of each other; one peak rising out of the next and building, always building.
And still, you think, “Okay, this is normal; necessary. This is the process of millennia.” And you stop thinking, and then you moan; deep and low and primal. And your moaning is an outlet, and you surrender to it, deciding to become physical. Consciousness sinks lower, subsumed into body. Waves come closer and you lose track of everything.
And then pushing, and pushing, and pushing. And he’s not coming. He’s not moving. The midwife grabs your hand and guides you; talks to you, soothing nothings.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time, it’s time.
“Just a little longer” / “Stay with me.” “Keep pushing. He’s almost here.”
And you had asked for the pain meds, but the pain is still overwhelming, and you feel the ache as the head is crowning and she coaches you: “So close; keep pushing.”
And you push one last time and she tells you his head is free, and then “just one more,” and then follows his body.
And your son is born into the light of a beautiful afternoon, and you want to hold him, and you are also so exhausted.
And you slip into a moment of sheer nothingness and quiet. And that quiet is the worst part of your world. Your world that is now over, instead of just beginning.
You close your eyes, tune out the world, and sleep.
What is the worst sound in the world?
Silence, when there should be a newborn child’s scream.