Her side "You're doing great!" Keith says, with the gung ho enthusiasm of a football coach. I'm on the delivery table, and he's counting out loud to ten while I push through the contractions, which are coming as fast and furious as freight trains.
"No, I'm not!" I feel like screaming, but I'm too frightened. Not because I'm giving birth for the first time or because of the pain that's searing its way through the epidural. I'm scared because of something that my husband doesn't see -- the sudden look of distress on the doctor's face.
"The baby's heart rate is dropping," the doctor tells the nurse. "We're going to need to use the forceps. Melina, you've got one more chance to really push -- we've got to get this baby out now."
The doctor inserts the large silver forceps and with a shiny pair of scissors snips an episiotomy. She's working quickly and deliberately, but over Keith's shoulder I watch the creases of concern ripple across her forehead above her mask.
I'm sweating. As Keith counts down to push time, I pray to God to help me just this once.
"Okay, sweetheart, push," he says calmly.
Praying, praying, praying, I bear down with all of my might. Please God, please God, please.
"We've got a head!" announces the nurse.
I burst into tears. I've done it.