sporklet 16
Samina Chaudhry Hitch
The Pink Light



We wait for the pink light—soft swaths across the sky-view window between our backyard mango and starfruit trees, the undertones reflected from the real sunrise that begins behind the mountains. Each boy whispers in our ears: I’m ready to wake up.




It’s autumn in Hawaii: rains come and go while the sun burns gold, plumeria trees start to drop their blooms and leaves. I pick enough violet Tulsi blooms to fill up a plate and arrange them in layers like sunrays. All morning I have contractions, but they move horizontally this time, in swells and side-to-side waves that don’t quite let up or end. I bake muffins, slowly, eat them with my sons, husband, daughter, excuse myself to take a bath, and then it begins unmistakably: the tightening and loosening of muscles that I can’t discern on my own, parts of myself that are seated far too deep inside me to understand.




My husband tells me a story just told to him, of how before we could track storms on the vast ocean, ships at sea would get pummeled by storm after storm and eventually be forced to simply wait them out. They’d batten down the hatches, seal up and stay in, surrendered, until the sun would break, because, it had to, at some point.




The milk tastes different, our younger son says, it’s sweeter. Beezing is what they’ve called nursing since our older son coined the term when he was just beginning to talk—he’d say bzzzzz for honey, because it was made by buzzing bees. And, naturally, the honey-like sweetness of breastmilk became beez. I’d have to prop myself with pillows semi-sideways so as to not be flat on my back so late in my third trimester, and the boys would beez and it would hurt almost unbearably with the sensitivity of my pregnant body, like bee stings, but I would tolerate it because I knew it was the quiet end to their era with me. 




In my eighth month of pregnancy, my youngest finally lets me swim in the ocean. He stays ashore with his brother and father, their shovels, their tunneling, his teenage sister and our terrier atop the beach blanket in the shade of tall ironwoods. I’ve never been in the water for long without a child crying for me to come back. Sometimes my older son swims out to be with me, and I pick him up and we swim weightless together. I use the time to think about the competing blues between sky and ocean, the competing waters between ocean and womb. I say what I think we will name our daughter over and over as if she can hear me more intimately in the saltwater.




On the evening our daughter is born, my husband goes home to relieve our teenage daughter and take care of our boys on their first nights without me. I spend the next two nights with our baby, each of us leaning into one another, learning one another: endless-seeming and unnumbered hours and minutes with her in the hospital room interrupted only by nurses and doctors coming in and out with their masks and face shields—my face on her soft head, her comforted and quieted by the smallest utterances of my voice in that room of only us, her little coos, her hungry mouth silent and open and the rare, forced, strong-belly cries, all of it happening only between us. It’s an accidental perfection of the pandemic: we told our mothers on the mainland to stay home and stay healthy, and the hospital restricted children, and so my time alone in the room comes to feel like an echo of the birthing hut ritual: I nurse and sleep and nuzzle skin-to-skin in isolation while my husband sends me videos of honeybees collecting pollen from our Tulsi flowers, our sons roasting marshmallows and sleeping on a pile of blankets in a backyard tent, sunrise in Lanikai. It’s an alone-ness without loneliness: our newest child brings with her a peace that takes root in me for the first time as a fourth-time mother. It’s what I keep.




There is no way to capture the electric charge running through my sons. Trying to grasp that buzz of love and sweet confusion for this little warm girl that is theirs, her perfect hands that hold their fingers tightly, fused with their instantaneous desire to grow big, become her protectors: let her have all the milk, sing to her, tell me to tend to her with every tiny sound she makes. In our bed, my youngest son gives over his spot on the edge, where his little sister now fits, and in the space between my husband and me both boys pattern out wide like seastars.




The moment after our daughter is born she doesn’t make a sound, she rests on my chest, eyes open, hand feeling the air, palm open, palm closed, fingers looping through the waterless space, she is looking at me, looking at her father, raking gently across the divide between my breasts. We breathe together: air together.




I don’t put on a mask again until the nurses come back in. It becomes a habit to keep it on the lower shelf of the clear plastic baby bassinet cart, and to put it on every time there is a knock on the door. My first mask was so thick and dense that I felt like I was going to pass out at the end of every contraction. My husband trades masks with me, loops a lighter-weight one over my ears, and as my daughter pushes downward and I vocalize my way through the pain of natural birth I can still remember the instant my husband tore my mask off and how solid the air felt coming back into my body, and as I inhaled before the final pushes: how deep deep is.




A beat after my water breaks I can feel a low-set pull, an anchor toss and fleeting moment of apprehension between buoyancy and gravity, this girl who decides where we center, she centers us both, and guides herself down, if it’s her doing any of this, and I listen to the midwife: grab my own knee and pull it up and out, our girl burrows downward, and I tilt my hips, it becomes a kind of call and response: she tightens, I loosen, we are two together, becoming completely apart. For this birth, I open my eyes sometimes, and see my husband to my left, the midwife with her warm compresses to my center. Our daughter moves so quickly, with such certainty—they put my hand on her head and I feel her warmth and roundness fill up my palm and I stay there until they move me out of her way—a reminder for me to let go and let her tear through—they tell me to stop, to breathe deep, to wait, and it’s quiet, I’m quiet—batten down the hatches—I wait, I breathe until I feel the slow build to her final swell, and this time I surrender myself to her irrepressible upsurge as she overtakes me and breaks through, her safe passage, that telltale drop in pressure, my release of her or maybe her release of me, her violet and cream body belly-down in the hand of the midwife, her little chirp of a sound as she’s untangled and massaged, takes her first few breaths before being laid on me: I am her shore. I am her shore.

Samina Chaudhry Hitch holds an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. She lives in Hawaii with her family.