It happened quite gently. N stood up from our bed in the middle of the night and said something. I trailed her to the bathroom, the floor slick under my feet. She was already calling her sister. It was time.
There was a series of hallways. A big room we waited in, her with the monitor strapped around her. Everything was shared in hushed fragments, words dropped, faces nodding. A nurse turned the main lights off and I watched her in the bed, just one light behind her like she was in an opera. I held her hand, sat in an awkward wobbly chair and closed my eyes for a few minutes.
The sun had come up, and I listened to the sounds of women wailing, shouting, swearing unspeakable things. Their voices echoed down the corridors to us. And then there was a silence. Just as the light of morning inched across a door, our child was coming into this world.
There were clusters of doctors and nurses, white tile walls. I stood out of the way but as close as I could. N was not scared, I think concentrating on some imaginary dot on the ceiling. I studied her face, upside-down, luminous under the fluorescents. This was the day we had imagined so long ago, a day we prayed for, wished for, planned for. I watched her, as if pushing a mountain a few feet might be effortless today.
And then V was crying out, arms flailing. I imagined every kick she had made inside, me feeling the skin on N's belly late at night. This is our tiny dancer, I always said. Her voice was strong. Wrapped tight in blankets, I was holding her already, her eyes rolling around, red cheeks like plums, a soft blanket of hair on her head like the most delicate moss.
We were lead to another room. V felt so light in my hands and at the same time, the same as E ten years ago. That identical feeling of relief, the smell of mucus and blood and the throaty cry all twisted down a hall of mirrors, ricocheting back to me. That sense of E hearing my voice, me singing to her in those first minutes and now doing the same with V singing the very same song, but me such a different person, me halfway across the world, somehow with N, somehow living by trees and grass, somehow breathing in this air, all of it feeling impossible, all feeling so precarious as every note wobbled out of my mouth, with those big blue grey eyes looking at me, the fear fading from them, the cry winding down, the lips pursed, and the understanding that you are mine and I am yours.