November 1998. When Granny turned into the hospital parking lot, her 1986 Cadillac backfired from its rusty muffler. Ka-boom! My Aunt Dee tightened her grip on me. The late November air was dry and hot. As I adjusted my position, the torn leather seats scratched against my skin. With a sharp turn, Granny whipped the car into the parking spot.We followed on the nurse’s heels as she led us through the hospital. Her beeper chirped. Our brisk walk quickened to a near sprint. My stubby legs pumped away but they couldn’t keep up with the women’s strides. Quickly Dee turned around and squatted; I climbed onto her back, stuck my fist forward and yelled, “Charge!” We reached the elevator by a hair before the automatic doors closed.
With a flick of her wrist, the nurse checks her watch.“It should be any minute now,” the nurse said. The elevator doors opened. The nurse, Granny, Dee and I scurry down the crowded corridor. The doctors and nurses scramble to clear our path as we charge down the aisle.
The tiny room was crowded with people. Behind a curtain, I could hear someone panting heavily. Pointing her finger at me. “Getcha ass down and listen,” said Grandma. “Y’all move a muscle and yuh gettin’ an ass whoopin’. Jus’ pay attention to the TV and behave ya selves.” Nodding our heads in agreement, Aunt Dee and I separated ourselves and watched Granny slip behind the curtain. A moment later, a familiar loud cry filled the room. “We are starting to crown,” an unfamiliar voice says.
“Crown? Dee, what does that mean?” With a shrug of her shoulder, Dee looks at me and spurts, “I don’t know — but we ain’t gonna find out by sitting here.” In an instant, Dee is at the corner of the curtain. With a quick swipe, she snaps her head in. At once, her knees buckle. Her face scrunches up and she stumbles back to the chair next to mine. I am now too scared to ask what “crowning” is.
The voices from the other side now chant, in chorus: “Push!” The sudden mood shift is exactly what Dee needed, together we join the chant: “PUSH! PUSH! PUSH!”
A shrill, high-pitched shriek from the other side sent chills down my spine. My mother’s cry seemed to echo throughout the hospital. With a quick whip of the curtain, by my step-dad, the divided room became one. I can see now that those strange voices belong to familiar faces as my aunt and I are greeted by the rest of the family.
Mother lies upon the hospital bed, panting and covered in sweat. Her long hair is frizzled and partly stuck to the side of her face. Noticing me, she smiles.
Without warning, my step-dad picks me up and carries me towards the nurses. Perched on his hip, we squeeze in between the gathered nurses. They are gently wiping and cleaning a little baby boy. Startled by what I was looking at, I couldn’t help but laugh at the funky looking infant. His large hazel eyes seemed too big for his balloon-shaped head. His skin was blotched, pink and caramel. He also had a long extension cord where his belly button was supposed to be.
Snapping a fastener on the cord, the nurse handed me a pair of funny-looking scissors and asked if I wanted to cut the cord.“Will it hurt him?” I asked. The nurse assured me the baby wouldn’t feel a thing, I smiled. My step-dad steadied me and the nurse assisted me in cutting the cord. The nurse then bundled up my little brother like a burrito and carried him to Mother. Wiggling free from my step-dad, I hurried over to Mother as she held my little brother for the first time.
In time, several years from now, Nate and I would grow to become best friends. But at that precise moment, I wanted nothing more than the Nurses to accidentally lose the baby as they wheeled him away.