I am giving birth at the underpass by 21st and Rockwell. My left foot is gripped to a stain on this couch; my left arm is using all its strength to keep me stable. My head bucks back and I am in pain. I hate this. I hate this—but I count my blessings and one) at least my bare ass is not on the concrete and two) at least I am not writhing on top of shattered Seagram’s and McDonald’s cups.
I know that some women are supposed to live through labor but I know in my bones now I am not one of those women. I am too weak. I am entirely too weak. This baby is separating from me and it will be the only thing that makes it out of this. How does a life pass through another life and they both live? This is impossible. I am on fire. I feel something rip. I feel blood. I resign myself to the fact that I will give my life for this.
Something leaves me. My husband grabs the something and carries it away. Where is he going? God, where is he going? Is something wrong? Why is everything so quiet? Why am I cold now?
I am halfway through a prayer. I ask that everything will turn out okay but I stop myself. I do not know what “okay” is. Is this okay? Is this world okay for a child? These days this world doesn’t seem okay for me. What a cruel story. An unokay world and the millions that march into it, unasked and unprepared. But is my baby okay?
I tell my husband to go get help. “Where?” he says. He smacks the child and it sounds like applause. Go get help. “Where?” Just go. “Where? Where?”
Let me see.
He cries. He cries so much. He cries and I know he is cold, somehow. And now there are so many other things I know. I know that he is the most beautiful thing to have ever existed. And I know that he is one tiny thing and there are so many big bad things but he seems so much bigger, somehow. I take him to my breast and he quiets. Suddenly I know how to do this, too.
I watch water trickle over the graffiti on the pillars. A plastic bag blows into the street. My body still protests from the last push. I rock him, and in my mind’s eye I see places I have been: cold nights, dead ends and dark stops.
But here is this little boy. And his smile saves me.
About the artist...
Hannah Verdon is a playwright based in Chicago. A native of Illinois, her work has been presented in collaboration with theaters such as Victory Gardens Theater, The Greenhouse Theater Center and Writers Theatre. She has been an Agnes Nixon Playwrighting Award recipient, a Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference semifinalist, and a member of the Trellis Residency Initiative. B.A. Northwestern University, summa cum laude