Just before a contraction began, our doula Kathy arrived. She sat with me through the crest and then asked me what time I noticed the beginning of labor pains.
“Around 10 pm I felt something but I went to bed,” I began. “I didn’t want to get excited over nothing. But then around 2…”
Another contraction cinched my hips and clamped over my body. Then another. And another. From the time I arrived at the midwife’s to delivery was less than two hours. As soon as I held my new sweet baby in my arms, I looked at Kathy and resumed the story.
She laughed. All the women gathered laughed. I had just given birth, quickly and “naturally,” and I was intent on finishing the story. In answering Kathy’s question. A lifetime had passed in the interval, words and activity and emotions flooded the room, and I still wanted to give Kathy a complete answer.
This running group I’m in meets at a stupid early time. It’s quiet in the city at that time of day. I meet my friend for workouts. She’s faster, so she runs her intervals ahead of me and then waits. We chat during our rest intervals.
I started telling her a story just before we were about to begin our next mile repeat. She took off. I took off. It ran a solid 10 minutes to finish my mile. During that time, I looked at the dark but waking city. I listened to the cars driving by, wondering where they were headed at that ridiculous hour. I saw her headlamp slow down, turn around, and I pushed to the mile marker. We huffed and puffed and circled back, catching our breath. As soon as my lungs settled, I said, “So then…” and finished my story.
A mile and a day’s worth of personal thoughts passed, for both of us. She in her world and I in mine. But Bastille we are wandered back to the starting spot.
I’m thinking about circling back, to catch my breath, to find the mile marker, the middle of the thread of a story. I’m thinking about returning to the important things, the women at the center of my stories, of my memories. I’m thinking about the interruptions, and what fills their space.
I could be tempted to think of interruptions as dropped stitches in a knitting project,a mistake that needs fixing, a problem to solve because I wasn’t paying attention. But maybe what fills the interrupted space is good and rich and important. Maybe it’s not a dropped stitch but a chance to learn, or experiment, or listen, or experience. Maybe in the space between the first and last contraction, I became the mother of two. And in the span between the beginning and the end of that story, I experienced the power of my body and the exploding joy of unmedicated birth. And maybe, in that one meager mile, in the time it takes a city to wipe the sleep from its eyes, I found a new pace, a different stride that felt like warmth and truth. Maybe I saw that the pace my coach sets out is attainable, because she knows things and because I am capable. Maybe, in that mile, I did not set aside the important thing, but rather lived it.
We are always stopping and starting. We are always deciding between the distractions, so called. We are always divided, interrupted, circling back. Maybe that’s ok.