duct duct duct
subscribe submissions contributors back issues trumpet fiction contact us legal links
support ducts
art gallery
ducts stage
best of ducts

Reality -- What A Concept

Sunsh Stein

Birth... And a Child is Born

I'm having these sharp pains."

Spindle's head and upper body appeared on the ladder to the loft, on the side of the workshop where I and Ken Dubie and Dr. Mark were sleeping. It was 6:30 a.m., the pains were in her back, and the baby wasn't due for another two weeks.

Mark barely lifted his dark shaggy head to mumble, "It's probably nothing, go back to sleep."

"You think so?" She didn't quite believe him.



She climbed down the ladder and crawled back into the bed below us that she shared with Charas. We all drifted back to sleep. An hour later she reappeared. "They've gotten worse. I think the baby's coming."

"Okay," sighed Mark. "I'll take a look." He roused his big, dark bulk and followed her down the ladder. I slid out of bed and was right behind them, as Ken brought up the rear. Spindle lay down on her bed, put her knees up and spread her legs. Charas, rumpled and sleepy-eyed, his thick blond hair a tangled mass, stood at her side, his morning piss hard-on waiting for relief.

"Oh Jesus. You're dilated all right." Mark was none too happy.

Mark, part of our extended family, was finishing his last year of med school in Syracuse, two hours south of our northern New York commune. In our eyes that made him as good a doctor as any in these rural parts, so Spindle, wanting a home birth, asked him if he would deliver the baby. Man, that would be so cool to have a medical person at the birth but still keep it in the family. Mark thought so too, but when he mentioned it to one of his med school professors, some straight old guy probably, the doc stomped all over the plan and scared the shit out of Mark. If anything went wrong, the guy warned, Mark would be responsible. He was practicing medicine without a license and his future career would be fucked—over before it began. Mark bought the guy's rap, told Spindle he couldn't do the delivery, then came to visit when he thought he'd be safe. Surprise, surprise! He pulled fate's hand by coming. And we all believed that Mark's presence that weekend was written in the stars, part of our collective destinies, and the handiwork of all the gods and goddesses ever invoked by any of us.

While Mark checked out Spindle I opened the door to the small squat wood stove that heated our little home and began cranking it up. Although it was quite mild for the middle of a North Country April, there was a distinct early morning chill. We didn't want our baby to come sliding out into a cold room. Once the fire got going, I clambered back up to the loft to get my jeans and a flannel shirt.

Laurie made her way down from the loft on the other side of the little peaked roof with Jason in tow. "We're going to see the baby come out of Spindle!" she told him. "Isn't that exciting?" Jason had been primed for this so he nodded his two-and-a-half year old head knowingly.

"Spindle's in labor!" Ken Dubie, taking the role of town crier, went to tell the others who were sleeping in the plastic dome that we had built and connected to the workshop after our house burned down last winter. Joy came running in excitedly followed by a blasé Shadow. "Spins, how do you feel? Are you okay? Are you nervous?" She began walking Spindle up and down the 20-foot length of our makeshift home doing Lamaze breathing with her while Laurie and I put clean sheets on the bed.

"Ooww!" Spindle winced and put her hand on her lower back. Her ass poked out slightly from under her long john shirt as she paced. "Let's go in the dome," she said, and covered the few feet between the two structures. Spindle started walking around Nick, sleeping soundly on the floor next to Nellie, the potbellied stove that heated the dome, when she got hit with another contraction. She stopped and leaned forward over Nick, putting her hands against Nellie, gone cold during the night, and let the stove hold her weight. Nick snored, oblivious to the goings on.

"Hey! What the fuck?" Nick sputtered and suddenly sat up as a gush of water hit his chest.

"What's the matter?" Spindle looked down. "Oh-oh, my water must have just broke. Sorry Nicky." She laughed. "Guess I'd better go tell Mark." She turned and headed back to the shop.

One by one everyone crowded into the little room to check on Spindle.

"Wow, Spindle, I'm sure glad the Dead played last month; I'd hate to miss this." John, normally so laid back, now approached Spindle with the kind of reverence and excitement he reserved for the Grateful Dead. His girlfriend Katie hovered behind him. Bonnie, seeing that Spindle was in a holding pattern, went back to the dome to fire up the cook stove and put on the coffee. Charas, never great in emergencies, followed her out. Nick came in with a pipe. "Here Spindle, this should help with those pains," he said, holding it to her lips.

"Now Spindle, you just take it easy. That baby'll be here soon," Ken Dubie reassured her in his Texas drawl, and gave her a hug.

"Someone has to go to town and call Lem and Marjorie; they may want to try and get up here from the City," I said. "And Spindle's mom, she'll want to know she's got a grandchild on the way . . . although, maybe we should wait till after the baby's born to call her."

Laurie's ex-husband Stephen, here for the weekend to see their son Jason, jumped up, glad for the chance to be useful. "I'll take Jason and go. Want to go to town with Daddy?" he asked, reaching for Jason's hand. A town trip meant a treat, so Jason readily agreed. Stephen got their jackets and they hurried out.

Mark, trying not to freak when he saw that Spindle's water broke, had Spindle keep walking.

"What else do we need to do?" I looked at Laurie questioningly. Other than Laurie delivering Jason — in a hospital–none of us had been at a birth before and we weren't quite prepared for this baby. Even though we'd done a lot of reading, had taken turns practicing Lamaze breathing with Spindle, and had all these months to plan, we didn't have our birthing trip too together.

"I'm going to put a pot of water on the stove," Laurie said, and marched with great purpose into the dome.

"Oooww!" Spindle half cried and half whined, then walked back to the bed. "Mark, how far along am I?" She demanded.

He checked her out. "You're getting there," he said nervously.

"Coffee's done," Charas called from the doorway. The day was bright and sunny already, and the light coming through the plastic breezeway connecting the dome and workshop framed our golden boy, giving him a bright white aura. He came into the room holding two mugs and moved toward Spindle and the bed.

"I bet the ride last night brought it on," he said, stroking his beard thoughtfully. Several of us had gone to see Charas's friends, Michael the dope dealer and his girlfriend Anna, with high hopes that they'd have hash they'd want to share. They lived a ways beyond Pierce's Corners and it was a bumpy round trip in the green van from our place to theirs.

"But maybe it was the sex . . ." He considered the possibility.

"You fucked last night?" Joy was incredulous. "Spindle's eight-and-a-half months pregnant and you fucked?"

Spindle, meantime, didn't give a shit what brought it on, just that it was coming on, fast, and she was in pain. Her success with the breathing was minimal despite the hours of practice, although Joy, and Shadow now, were at her side coaching.

"Blow Spindle!" Joy commanded.

"I have to push," Spindle cried suddenly, ignoring her. "I can't hold back anymore!"

"Not yet, Spindle," Mark told her.

"Hut, hut, in and out, quick and fast," Joy and Shadow coached. Spindle had no interest in cooperating.

"I feel like I have to shit!" she yelled.

"Do it!" Charas stood behind her cheering her on. He wasn't about to be pushed aside at this birth by Joy and Shadow.

"No! It's still not time to push, even though that's what you're feeling," Mark admonished.

"It's coming!" Spindle cried out, reaching down between her legs, as if to pull the baby or the shit out, whichever would bring her relief.

"Let me see," Mark said, and he moved between her legs. "Oy. It's happening." He breathed an I'm doomed kind of sigh. Then it hit him how far out this really was. "The head is crowning!" he cried excitedly. "Push Spindle!"

The dome had emptied and everyone was milling around the shop–as much as 10 or 12 people can mill around in a 12' by 20' space that's overloaded with stuff. And now we all moved in closer. The air was charged with our collective excitement, but it was still as well, as we sucked in our collective breaths. Not a few prayers to any and all deities were silently uttered. The smell of dubies filled the air as a joint made its way through the crowd.

And floating in the back of everyone's mind, if not the air, were the unspoken questions. What would the baby look like? Who would it look like?

"Uhhh!" Spindle grew more restive and uncomfortable with each lengthy moment.

"Take it easy Spindle." Mark became the reassuring doctor. "Just keep pushing. It's coming."

Charas clutched the wooden pipe he had carved last fall, occasionally drawing from it, and paced nervously.

Spindle grimaced and grunted. Mark stood at the ready.

"Come on Spindle, it's coming," he encouraged, as she grimaced and grunted again, more forcefully, this time.

"Oh my god, there it is," I barely breathed. As sure enough, a little head followed by an even littler body emerged from between Spindle's legs.

We all moved in closer still as this scrunched-up creature came farther out. Then it was all the way out.

"Holy shit!" Nick muttered behind me.

"It's a girl!" Mark announced excitedly, as he held her up and gently smacked her tiny butt. And sure enough, as if on cue, she gave out a garbled cry, prompting a chain reaction of cries from us, followed by an audible group sigh of relief, and tears trickling down most faces.

"Let me have her," said Spindle. Mark handed the baby, gunky and red, to Spindle, then tied the umbilical cord with a blue and white striped shoelace that Laurie produced from somewhere. Spindle looked at her new daughter with bright eyes and held her to her chest.

Then she felt another contraction, and another, and with a few additional pushes the placenta plopped out. It was just after 8:30 in the morning.

Laurie went into the dome and came back with a bowl of warm water. Mark proceeded to clean and wrap the baby, while Laurie and I cleaned Spindle. "It looks like you tore yourself a little," Laurie said. "How do you feel?"

"Tired, but great!" Spindle's cheeks were red, and she positively glowed. "And I'm a little sore."

Joy took the baby as Laurie helped Spindle up off the bed. "She's so tiny," Joy said.

With some unnatural foresight someone had been to town to do laundry that week so I was able to change the sheets again, something that normally didn't get done for at least a month or more. "What about the placenta?" I asked as I fixed the bed.

"Save it," Spindle reminded me. "I want to put it in the pear tree hole on the hill. Make sure you put it somewhere where Basil can't get it."

She dressed herself in a clean shirt and a long skirt, took the baby back from Joy and sat down in a rocking chair. Bonnie, Katie and Nick went back to the dome to make breakfast, John took out his guitar and played softly, Shadow suggested an early pea planting with this mild weather. The rest of us hovered over Spindle and the baby, this new person, who looked blond and fair. But it was too soon to tell if she really resembled anyone.

The sun was shining brightly, warm air came in through the doorway. We had been given a gift, and all was, at least momentarily, right with the world.