One sunny summer afternoon, my mom looked away from the dishes in the sink and out the window towards the playground, and was startled to see that my sister Chanel, then age 4, was beating the crap out of a boy twice her size and age. Also age 8, I stood idly by, watching tiny Chanel pummel the poor kid into submission. Mom ran outside and pulled Chanel off of the bruised boy, who had been cowering under his arms and had tears and snot dripping from his face. She shouted at Chanel, "What are you doing!?!" Chanel's simple, flat reply was, "He was picking on Moxie and she told me to beat him up so I did." Enraged, Mom whirled around to me and shouted, "You fight your own battles or you fight together. You don't send your little sister in to fight your battles for you. What were you thinking?"
That is one of my top five Moxie's in Big Trouble moments, but it is also one of the moments in which I am most proud of Chanel. That's how things were back then; I was the timid, meek one and Chanel was the ballsy one who didn't seem to be afraid of anything. I was proud of her, not for fighting, but for being a fighter. She always seemed to have a courage that I did not, and though she was my little sister, I looked up to her for that.
Curled in blankets with my chin propped on a pillow, I buried myself in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Chanel labored through the night. The youngest of us three and age 13 at the time, Danielle was the makeshift doula that I could not be, trading shifts of back rubbing and whispered soothing with my mother. I wanted to be there, needed to be there, but I also needed to keep somewhat of an emotional wall between myself and the delivery for which I had felt both excitement and dread.
The next morning, exhausted from overstimulation from the contraction-inducing Cervidil and pitocin, Chanel had barely dilated to a 3 despite having a regular, back-to-back contraction pattern. The doctor dialed back the pitocin and gave Chanel an epidural to space out the contractions and allow Chanel the chance to rest. When he said it would likely be another 7 or 8 hours before she delivered, Mom and Dani went out to pick up a few things for our longer hospital stay since Chanel was having a longer labor than expected.
The removal of her pain seemed to remove some of mine, and as I sat next to her on the bed, it was almost easy to forget that she was in labor. I joked around with her and made her laugh to lighten the mood and help her relax. She doesn't know it, but that time is one of my most cherished moments with her.
After an hour or so a nurse came in to check her progression. She asked Chanel if she felt like she had to push, to which Chanel responded that she didn't. The nurse tilted her head and gave a curt, "Hmm," then hustled out of the room. The urgency of her steps indicated to us that delivery must have been a lot closer than forecasted. The nurse returned a few minutes later pushing a cart of sterile medical instruments before her and as she turned up the brightness of the lights and began adjusting the bed into delivery mode, she explained that Chanel had gone from 3 cm to 9.5 cm in just over an hour and that it was almost time for her to start pushing. She also turned down the epidural so that Chanel could feel the contractions and know when to push, and almost immediately Chanel was again in pain.
Mom didn't yet have a cell phone, so I had no way to contact her. Worried that our mother wouldn't make it back in time for her delivery, Chanel's panic seemed to rise with each increasingly difficult contraction. Finally, the OB arrived and took his place on the stool at the foot of the bed. I was instructed to stand at Chanel's left side and pull back on her leg. In calm tones, the doctor and nurses encouraged her to push with each contraction. She arched her back against the contractions instead of curling into them; it was apparent that Chanel wasn't putting forth enough effort, as she was fearful the impending change, and fearful of making that change into a mother without hers at her side. She turned her sweat-dampened face to me and whimpered, "I can't." I locked eyes with her and with a deep, forceful voice urged, "You can, and you will. Now, push!" Finally, she took a deep breath, tucked her chin, and bore down, and I could see the baby's head inching further out than before.
Within the next five minutes Mom and Dani arrived, both saying that they had been standing in the aisle of the store when they were suddenly overcome with the need to get back to the hospital. They had rushed out, not knowing, but sensing that they were needed. Their arrival further bolstered Chanel's confidence, and within minutes of them getting back TJ was born. It was an overwhelming moment. However, as the weeks and months after his birth passed, it soon became apparent that the moment he left her body, so did the fighter in her.