I DID IT!” She screams, “I DID IT WITH MY OWN
BODY!” Her voice is ungodly deep. The veins in her
neck thick with blood. And it’s true. Her body, once more,
did it. What’s left of it. Bleeding, bloated, bruised inside
and out. Ripped and torn, the yellowish, green umbilical
cord resembling some sort of proof that aliens do indeed
exist, they exist inside of our very bodies. The slimy, luminescent
cord is proof of universal mystery, this strange
device that attached her to her daughter—it’s from inside
of her body, just like her daughter, too, the red-faced infant
screaming in the doctor’s arms. Her insides came out. It’s
the end of the world.
Because each time it happens, she swears, never again,
never again, even as she holds the tiny infant that, unbelievably,
unfuckingbelievably, grew inside of her. She’s in
awe of her daughter, in awe and also, not so oddly, rather
unmoved by her. She feels no love, just wonder. No love
surges forth, like it did with Mike her youngest (but not
with Tom, it’s like it was with Tom, the confusion, the
mystery). Funny, bluish, screamy wormlike thing. She
puts her on her left breast and prods at the little baby’s
mouth to take the nipple. The baby’s mouth roots around
like a baby bird, unable to grasp on. So Sonia squeezes
her nipple and colostrum comes out and the infant’s lips
touch the pre-milk milk and then, it works—the baby
tries to suck. First slowly, and then, as if something in her
wired-for-survival brain clicks, she ferociously latches on
to Sonia’s nipple and sucks on her like that’s what she’s
been put on this earth to do. Which is, in fact, true. Her
daughter is here to suck the life out of her, and leave
her for the spent, middle-aged woman she soon will be.
Nothing will be remotely the same again. No one has
ever threatened Sonia as much as this unnamed infant.
No one has ever made it clear how useless and spent she
She grew her, like she grew Tom and Mike. Like a plant,
but inside of her, and with a brain, too. Sonia stares at the
doctor for a minute. How can someone do this for a living?
How can they do this for a living, watch women turn
themselves inside out, and not have nervous breakdowns?
It’s not that different than being a gravedigger. It’s just not.
And then, Sonia, still deflating like a balloon, as a large
liver-like placenta hurtles out of her, starts shaking with
pain. Her teeth chatter. Her vision blurs. Is this the part
where she dies? That was supposed to be earlier, thinks
Sonia. The nurse, Beatrice, who is once again a normal,
nice nurse—this, after Sonia saw her with that hallucinatory
vision, with rainbows surrounding her and light glowing
around her head, she had a fucking halo, she did
was sure of it—now this nurse is just a nice, normal nurse
and gives Sonia a shot of Demoral in her thigh to stop the
“Sometimes people shake real badly with the postbirth
contractions,” Beatrice says. “The fluid leaving them so
quickly sets the body off into convulsions. You’ll be fine.
It’s nothing abnormal. Nothing to be worried about.”
Sonia was in love with this woman only a few hours
ago. And she still likes her, but now she just
likes her. The
magic is gone. Nothing abnormal? Everything is abnormal.
There is nothing normal about what Sonia just went
through. There is no normal.
But that was later. First, there was more driving to be
done. Sitting with her pregnant self in the black leather
bucket seat of her Volkswagen Passat station wagon.
It just crept up on her. She was never so lucky, with any
of her kids, as to have the drama of her water breaking. No,
for about two weeks really, her lower body ached, and then
hurt, really hurt, increasingly so. For two weeks, she felt
so tired, so exhausted, with intermittent sharp headaches,
that whenever she walked, even the littlest bit—from the
hotel room to the car, from the front seat of the car to the
McDonald’s, from the parking lot to the mall—she felt as
if she couldn’t go on. Just physically moving her big body
drained her utterly. She wanted to lie down. But then, as
soon as she lay down, she wanted to move again. She was
Exhausted restlessness. Bothness. It was time. It was
going to happen soon.
She’s been driving east for some time. She missed
Christmas, which was the guiltiest pleasure of all, but the
guilt almost ruined the pleasure. No wrapping presents.
No buying presents for anyone. No in-laws. No decorating
a tree. No goddamn cards to mail out. No having to
do a million things at preschool. No singing. No special
meals to prepare for her ungrateful family. No pretending
that she lives for trying to make everyone happy, when
no one noticed that she wasn’t happy herself, that she
really didn’t give a fuck. She didn’t believe in Jesus Christ
anyway. She didn’t believe that the son of God came and
saved everyone’s souls, or just those who prayed to Him.
Although, she did pray, just in case, because even though
she didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, she didn’t believe there
wasn’t anything out there. She prayed desperately to the
random molecules to be kind to her. But Jesus? No. And
yet, they were Christians in some vague, historical way,
Dick and she, and they played the whole game. Told themselves
it was about the kids. Every Christmas, they gave
five hundred dollars to City Meals on Wheels and bought
a ton of cheap plastic toys that made the boys freak out for
about two days. It depressed her. It made her feel oddly
guilty, an empty sort of false joy and yet the boys were
genuinely happy, wasn’t that enough?
This Christmas she spent laying her fat butt down at a
Ramada Inn in Nebraska, watching TV and eating bags of
chips and boxes of créme-filled oatmeal cookies. She fell
asleep with the TV on. For some reason, she didn’t feel
depressed and guilty about that. She felt guilty because she
did nothing that she was supposed to do anymore. Missing
Christmas was like having her very own Christmas for the
first time since Tom was born five years ago. But the guilt
was a wicked tongue telling her that she really was the devil.
Jesus held no sway with Sonia, but evil was a scary force one
saw on a regular basis. And who’s to say it wasn’t inside of
her? For weeks and weeks now, the guilt ate at her as she ate
her way around America. Her conscience spoke to her, and
it told her horrible stuff about herself. She’d listen, and then
move on. She wasn’t a monster as long as her conscience
spoke, she reasoned. As long as she had a conscience, she
wasn’t actually the worst person on earth, she was just rebelling.
Or so she told herself. But everyone knows a mother
who leaves her children is the worst thing on earth; a sinner,
a loser, a person whose life isn’t worth living.
She missed New Years. Happy New Year! On New
Year’s Eve, she fell asleep at 10 p.m. in a Motel 6 in Illinois.
But now, in the gloom of February, now she heads back.
Because the baby is coming. And, guilt or no guilt, she has
no control over what she has to do now. It was a relief,
actually, the lack of responsibility. She has no choice in the
matter. She has to push this baby out.
When she walks around the malls that she haunts, she
walks so slowly, like the baby’s head is right there, right
above her vagina, like there is a bowling ball between her
legs. She positively waddles. And it feels like a bowling ball
is leaning on her crotch. It fucking hurts. How much does
a bowling ball weigh? How much does this baby, the placenta,
the extra pints and pints of blood and fluid weigh?
The same as a bowling ball? Probably more. Sometimes,
a sharp stabbing pain. Other times, just a dull throbbing
that becomes like some horrible white noise; at first she
ignores the pain and then it’s the only thing she can think
of. So she sits down on a bench across from the indoor
fountains at the mall—throb, throb, throb.
She’s due. And, like the other two times, she’s in denial.
Because, who after all wants to deal with that pain? Who
wants to welcome the horror that is birth? Who joyfully
embraces the thought of their body cleaving in two?
Vague, nightmarish memories of the other births startle
her, flash at her, as she does her thing, the driving, the
walking around malls, the walking from her car to a gas
station and then back again, the lying around hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, she pretends this isn’t her labor very slowly
starting. But it is. At a mall in Michigan, after eating an
enormous steak and a baked potato for dinner—she never
eats the potato, why now?—she waddles out to her station
wagon and gets in the car and heads toward New York.
Not vaguely east. No, now she drives straight for New
York City, straight for Brooklyn. She drives eighty miles
an hour most of the time. She’s anxious. She wants to get
there. She’s heading back to her boys. To her man. The
father of this baby.
But she doesn’t quite make it. She’s not a confident
driver to begin with. When her stomach hardens up, it
becomes hard to focus on the road. She can still see the
road. In fact, morning’s pushing through, hazy and dark, a
dark February morning, and she knows she’s been sitting
in this car for that long now—and she’s been in Pennsylvania
for a long time. God, she’s close, but the hardening
of her stomach, the contraction
—the word actually presents
itself to her—is telling her to pull over and ask where the
nearest hospital is.
“Twenty minutes to downtown Philadelphia,” the man
at the gas station tells her. Twenty minutes. She can do
it. They are coming faster now, the contractions, regularly,
too. Her first labor was eleven hours, not bad. Her
second was eight hours long. How long would this one
be? She has more than twenty minutes before the baby
forces herself out, she must. She says to herself, “I’ve got
at least a few hours. I’ve got time. Drive slow, breathe,”
and she talks to herself like this until she enters Philly, a
city she’s only been to once or twice with her family, long
ago. Once, they stayed in a hotel and went swimming in
the indoor pool and then walked around, sightseeing.
What was the second time? She can’t remember now,
the pain during her contractions distracting her memory
for the most part. She does remember where the man
told her to go and she makes the turns and there’s the
She is the only white person in the waiting area. After
talking to the triage nurse, she’s sent out to give her insurance
card to the person at the desk and then she’s ushered
out of the emergency waiting room into another room
right away. Ahead of all the dark-skinned people. She
wishes this was because she’s about to have a baby, but she
knows it’s because she has a good insurance card. Once,
when Mike had a horrible ear infection, she took him to
the emergency room in a downtown Brooklyn hospital
and the look on their faces when she produced her insurance
card! It was as if she were holding out a bar of gold
They have a room in their maternity ward. The nurse
Beatrice comes in, a West Indian woman by her accent. She
checks her pulse. She listens to the baby’s heartbeat with a
long corded thing. She times her contractions. “They’re
three minutes apart, but they’re not lasting very long. They
don’t feel that powerful, do they?”
“No, not really.”
“The doctor will be here soon to see how dilated you
A handsome, middle-aged white woman appears. She
looks tired, but she smiles. She introduces herself as Dr.
Lumiere and then says, “Let’s take a look at you then.”
She puts her hand deep inside of Sonia’s crotch. This
hurts. She moves her hand around and Sonia can feel the
hand twisting inside of her and she can see the doctor’s
arm from the elbow up, moving this way and that. The
doctor’s face held in concentration. Seeing with her fingers.
“Where are you from?”
“Your husband’s not here?”
“He’s in Brooklyn.”
“You’ve had two other deliveries, I noticed from your
“I have two kids, yes.”
“And where are they?”
“They’re in Brooklyn. With their father.”
Suddenly, the hospital gown held loosely over her breasts
and enormous stomach feels incredibly inadequate. Sonia
feels ashamed. “I was heading back to Brooklyn from a
business trip and didn’t quite make it.” She smiles. She’s a
horrible liar. She fruitlessly tries to pull the crinkly gown
over her body to hide her shame, but it doesn’t work.
“Have you called them? They could make it here on
time.” The doctor finally pulls her hand out of Sonia.
“How dilated am I?”
“You’re only three centimeters dilated, but you’re completely
effaced. This being your third birth, it shouldn’t be
that long. I’ll get the anesthesiologist on call.”
“I don’t want an epidural. I didn’t get one with my other
The doctor looks at her critically.
“If the nurse can give me a shot of Demoral, I’ll be fine.
Really. I prefer Demoral. I like drugs that mess with my
head better than the ones that just numb you.”
“Would you get a tooth pulled without the numbing
“No. But I’m not getting a tooth pulled. I’m having a
baby.” And if I were getting my tooth pulled, thinks Sonia,
I’d ask for the gas, too. It’s like doing whippets.
“But getting a tooth pulled isn’t nearly as painful as giving
birth. And it doesn’t make sense that you’d get numbing
pain reliever for pulling a tooth but not for having a
baby. There’s no reason to feel all that pain.”
“I’m one of those weird people who kind of gets off on
“You really should have someone here with you. A sister
or your mother, if you’re not going to call your husband.
We can’t really let you leave unless you have someone here
to take you home.”
“Well, I just got here so let’s not think about me leaving
yet. I just got here.”
Dr. Lumiere frowns at her. Sonia feels high. The endorphins,
in reaction to the contractions, must have just kicked
in. She gets a rush to her head. She says, “You’re beautiful
when you frown.”
“Are you on any medication? Lithium? Prozac?”
“No,” she says.
“No high blood pressure, no diabetes . . .”
“Oh, no, nothing like that. I’m healthy.”
“When was your last prenatal checkup?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Were you having weekly checkups?”
“It was a while ago, my last checkup. It was a couple
Dr. Lumiere frowns again. “Well, everything looks
The room is smaller than the one she had both her boys
in. Both of her boys were delivered in the same room at
the same beautiful maternity ward in Manhattan. But
although the room is small, it has a nice view and it’s clean.
Sonia is happy. The nurse comes and checks her contractions
again. They’ve slowed down, they’re now five minutes
apart, but they’re getting deeper. She can really feel
them, they pull at her, and she stops thinking about other
things—about her boys, about her husband, about Phil
Rush, the man, her old professor, she’s just come from
visting—and just feels the pain.
The nurse says, “Your contractions have slowed down.
Probably because you’re more relaxed now. You’ve been
lying down for a while. It’s OK. Don’t worry. This baby’s
God, she’s going to have a baby, she’s
going to give birth, a fucking baby is going to come out
of her, a person. Another goddamn person. She shudders.
The nice nurse may know the baby is coming, and may
tell this to Sonia, but Sonia doesn’t believe it, exactly. She
is suddenly struck with the enormity of it all. The panic it
causes her to think of it! So she just stops thinking about
it. That pain that she’s feeling? She’d rather be in her pain,
right now—live for the moment!
—than think about what’s
Sonia gets up from her bed. She puts on a robe from
a bag of mall clothing she’s acquired on this trip. A huge,
gray maternity robe. She shoves her feet into the hospital
slippers, flimsy, paper things, and decides to walk around
the building a bit, to fend off her thoughts. In the hallway,
at the nurse’s station, she asks Beatrice if they sell good
slippers, fluffy slippers, at the gift shop.
“I’m not sure. You could take a look, though.”
Sonia walks toward the elevator. A contraction comes
and she stops for a moment, puts her hand on her belly.
Her stomach gets hard as a rock, it’s like a smooth, rounded
stone, and Sonia stands there and feels it. It hurts nicely,
purposefully, rightly. And then it’s gone. And she’s in the
The gift shop isn’t so bad. Really. Some T-shirts, some
cheap jewelry. Coffee mugs. No slippers though. Sonia
thinks of talking to the woman behind the desk about how
slippers would be a good thing to carry in the hospital seeing
as how the slippers the hospital gives you aren’t very
nice. They barely stay on your feet. But as she smilingly
walks toward the saleswoman the woman glares at her and
Sonia decides against giving her any advice. She decides
against striking up a conversation with this woman. This
woman doesn’t want to talk to her.
And who does, really? Is that why she keeps having kids,
so someone will want to talk to her? Someone had said to
her once, people have kids so they don’t have to deal with
making friends. You have kids and they have to be your
friends, or, at the very least, your company, your human
interaction, as they live with you and off of you for years
and years. God, how she misses her boys. And Dick. Yes,
Excerpted from Nine Months by Paula Bomer. Copyright © 2012 by Paula Bomer. Excerpted by permission of Soho Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.