Yesterday morning, I was concerned enough about dehydration, pain and my vomiting to check into the hospital. Soon after I got a room, I learned I would get a roommate – a woman about to give birth. She and her husband, a man from Switzerland who speaks excellent Bisaya, unlike most other foreigners, myself included, gave me the impression that they’d been waiting for this for a long time. The husband kept repeating “Today I’m going to be a father.”
While I lay in bed working around the splint a nurse had taped onto my left hand and tangled in my IV tubes, alternately rereading The Cider House Rules and watching some of the worst movies ever made on HBO, the couple had their baby in another room. The dad came in to get something and said it was all finished, they did a C-section.
“Boy or girl?” I asked.
“Yes!” he said. “Oh, girl.”
“Good,” I said, “congratulations.”
The rest of the evening came with visitors and well-wishers and calls from German speakers. I had no overnight kasama, though Connie offered, and my counterpart offered her daughter Nor-vith, but I knew there was room for only one kasama: the new mother’s, and rightly so. And I was self-sufficient, able to get me and my fluids to the bathroom and back with one working hand. So, after my counterpart left, I was the new family’s observer, the silence from the other side of the room.
Nicole, 7.5 lbs, possessor of a future long, coveted white person nose like mine, spent the evening being rocked and cooed at and, it seemed to me, generally hassled. She is a calm baby, not given to crying, and I couldn’t help but wonder from my place against the far wall if this harassment was altogether what she would have wanted from her first few hours of life. When I looked at her, I couldn’t fathom how new she was, how small and open. How serene and unafraid. I imagined that at just a few hours old she knew everything; that we all did, once, and by living lost our knowledge, gained ignorance and anxiety. When voices rang in my ears, when noise scraped them raw, I winced for the newness of Nicole’s.
The world is loud. And so sharp and bright, beautiful and painful.