what my mother never told me

After an hour of watching my hands twist while searching for my own painkilling sound, my water broke and I discovered just how slowly I could form the thought, What in the hell was that? Let me illustrate: First, something shuddered inside me and I heard the far-off sound of, say, a potato exploding in a microwave oven, and I thought, What in—. Then I felt my underwear bulge and I got as far as the hell—. Then the baby’s no-longer-pillowed head came crashing down on the bundle of nerve endings in my tailbone and I thought was that? just as the amniotic fluid turned into a small lake around Craig’s feet and he said, “What in the hell was that?

—from “What My Mother Never Told Me,” published in Mothers Who Think, Villard Books, 1999