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Shift change (short story)

Brigitte Neumann

As she washed her hands, the big clock above the heavy white door next to the sink pointed to half past four. The first light of dawn fell through the half-open window on the other side of the room. It took the hard bright beam from the bright light of the neon tubes in the latticed boxes under the high ceiling. Nothing adorned this room, which was tiled high to the ceiling with bright tiles.

Every angle flashed clean and sterile, no object without a fixed place and rational function.

Tonight Rebekka had once again struggled with the cold functionality and perfection of this room. She was still afraid of nights like this. They had occupied all four beds. Every woman giving birth had problems with this ancient delivery room, which offered no privacy except the privacy of the Spanish walls between the beds. But they knew her for her professionalism. On such nights she also showed herself by devoting full attention to each individual and motivating them to concentrate only on themselves.

One was still waiting. She was there last night and had stayed all night - until the others were ready. Countless labor pains had come and gone. But her cervix didn’t and didn’t want to open.

The midwife dried her hands. The cold water that just ran over her forearms had dispelled her tiredness. Rebekka looked into the mirror and in vain removed an unruly strand of hair from her forehead. In an hour and a half a colleague would come and relieve them. She approached the mother, who was sitting on a thick green ball in front of the bed, supported her back with her hands, circled her pelvis and looked out the window.

The young woman turned around, “Now she is ready,” Rebekka thought. She watched as she took her hands off her back and laid them on her thick, round belly as if to convey this message to the little unborn being. A new contraction shook the woman. She breathed deep into her stomach as she had learned and tried to smile at the midwife through the contractions. It was just a cramped attempt. Now her perfect self-control crumbled, with which she had been in control all night long.

“Relax,” the midwife said in a gentle voice, “relax. Don’t smile. Relax. All facial muscles relax. Drop the lower jaw. Look like a stupid sheep.” The woman had to laugh. The contractions had subsided. But the next one followed - with the same intensity. Rebecca stepped behind the woman and put her hands in her cross. She put the pressure and the heat against the pain. Between the legs of the woman giving birth, a warm gush poured out. Her water broke. The contractions became even wilder and came at ever shorter intervals. The midwife helped her onto the bed, put a thick pillow in her back and pulled a pole into which she could hang herself.

She knew the woman giving birth was in pain and needed explicit instructions. That’s why Rebekka’s voice gave way to all gentleness. She gave the orders with determination and strength. “Panting!” “Just breathe!” “Don’t push, don’t push yet!” “Breathe!” With increasing force came the contractions. The woman wanted to scream, but she squeezed her mouth tight. “Scream, scream as loud as you want,” the midwife shouted to her. As soon as she said that, a long, shrieking “Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” jumped out of the mother’s mouth. This woe seemed to be infinite and threatened to tear it up. No more air, no more breath, only contractions, stinging, pulling, bursting pain everywhere. It died down. Rebecca also breathed. “Great! Well endured! Now your head’s far enough down. I can already see the hair. The next woe, she gave new instructions. And now everything happened. Two more exorcising pressing pains followed, then the first scream soon sounded. A little later, the hand of the clock jumped to the sixth hour. The midwife gave the cheesy newborn to the mother’s breast, watched as she gurgles the warm milk from her firm breasts after a quick search - and said goodbye. We did it!

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