[Written about two weeks after L was born. Warning: this post is kinda graphic. Like mucus-plug graphic. Read at your own discretion]
I’m sitting here with a snoring baby on my chest. He is warm and soft and heavy—the sort of soft, warm, heavy that is meant to be snuggled close. It’s one of the most soul-satisfying sensations I’ve ever experienced.
So far parenthood is one million times better than I’d expected. I’m not sure what I did expect—but it’s not this. I can’t get enough of this little human. Of gazing into his eyes and having him gaze back at me. Of feeling his fingers curl around mine. Of looking and looking and looking at him.
People say having a baby is like falling in love. And it is. But it’s not just falling in love with someone else—it’s falling in love with yourself. Because he has your lips. And your eyes. And how could you love them on him but not on yourself? And it’s emotion welling inside of you like a glass of wine poured too quickly and splashing over the rim at the most inane moments.
When your partner kisses the baby and he grimace-smiles. When a song comes on and you’re all dancing together and the lyrics mention having a son. When your husband tells everyone he talks to how proud he is of you.
I went into labor on November 14th, at 4:00 in the morning. I opened my eyes in the dark as my uterus cramped for the first time. For a long time I just laid there, feeling the cramps come and go, dozing. I was curious about how often they were coming, but too heavy with exhaustion to pick up my phone.
When I finally did muster the energy, I was surprised: every eight minutes. Not like clockwork—some shorter, more like five minutes, others longer, stretching out until fifteen minutes had elapsed. I cheered them on silently. Go, go, go. Open, open, open. I was scared that they would stop, that I’d be left waiting still for this baby to come.
Eventually, Jordan woke up and rolled over. Mutely, I showed him my phone, with the long list of times marching back to five a.m.
“Oh!” He said, surprised. “How do you feel?”
I felt good. The cramping was noticeable, but not painful. More of a burning sensation than anything. Like someone was holding a lit match near my uterus, but it wasn’t close enough to catch fire.
We stayed in bed for awhile, watching the glowing numbers on my phone, resting our eyes and our bodies. Just in case this was it. Neither of us really believed that it was—I’d had so many false starts. It’s funny, but even sitting here now with a baby on my chest, it doesn’t feel like it was really the time. It feels like I was just making it up, all along. How’s that for imposter syndrome?
Jordan got up and packed the car, grabbing phone chargers and camera bags willy nilly. We’d only just gotten our “go bag” packed the weekend before.
When he came back, the list had grown longer. “Maybe we should just call the doctor to let him know,” he said. It was just after 8 am, so the office was finally open. I’d texted my boss to let her know that I may not be in.
We got the nurse instead. Jordan read the list off to her and after listening to it, she paused. “Hm. Those sound pretty consistent. You should probably head into the hospital to get checked.”
Jordan and I were skeptical that I should do any such thing. It still seemed so early, and we’d been warned that arriving at the hospital too soon could lead to unnecessary intervention. We finished packing up slowly, dawdled over saying goodbye to the animals. We even stopped at a local bakery to get donuts for the nurses.
I was smiley and relaxed as we headed into the hospital. After several visits, the trip up the elevator was familiar, even reassuring. We got ourselves checked in, and then the receptionist brought us back to a room.
At first I was dismayed—it seemed so dark and cold. And much smaller than either of the rooms we’d seen before. But then we stepped into the bathroom, and saw that there was a large jacuzzi tub and the light was warm and reassuring. I had the thought that maybe I’d just spend the entire time in the bathroom.
Jordan set our stuff in the corner, and I crawled into the bed. “We’ll have to monitor you and baby for about an hour,” the nurse said apologetically. “If that’s okay. Then you can move around as much as you want to. I’ll try and get some wireless monitors in here for you.”
They strapped me up, and soon the quick gallop of our baby’s heart filled the room. We all listened to it with satisfaction, and then the nurse turned the volume down. “He’s perfect,” she said. Jordan and I grinned. We’d been hearing that my entire pregnancy, and it didn’t get old.
“I’d also like to give you a cervical check,” she said, “Just to see how far along you are.”
I consented, and leaned back as she reached up to check. “You’re 2-3 cm dilated, and about 80% effaced. We’d consider that early labor. Let me go talk to your doctor to see what he’d like us to do.”
Jordan and I glanced at each other, peeved. We’d both known it was too early to come in. But here we were anyway. While we waited to hear, Jordan read the Hobbit to me, and I urged my contractions on. I’d close my eyes and picture my cervix opening, thinning, getting ready for our son to be born. An hour passed before she came back.
“He says that you can stay, or leave. Up to you. I’d recommend waiting another hour or two and getting a second cervical check, just to see if you’ve made progress.”
That sounded reasonable to us, so we settled in for a wait. My contractions were still coming regularly, but had spaced out to every eight minutes. I felt fear creep in—I didn’t want to wait to have this baby. I was ready. Every fiber of my body was rooting for him to come out.
After another long two hours, the nurse checked me again. “Still only 3 cm,” she said, looking discouraged. “It’s up to you. You can stay here longer, or head home. It may or may not be the day.”
Jordan and I drove home feeling kind of foolish, like we’d embarrassed ourselves by coming in too early, not withstanding that the doctor had told us to go. The dogs were delighted to see us–they seemed to sense that something was afoot, and their nails skittered along the floor as we settled back in for a long haul. For awhile I labored on a ball, rolling my hips backward and forward while Jordan worked.
And then I stood. “Let’s go for a walk. I feel like I’m not progressing.”
So we loaded up the dogs and drove over to Ben Burton park. On the way there my contractions were almost non-existent. I willed them on again–feeling like I had to pour all of my energy into imagining my cervix opening. Feeling like it was 90% sheer will power causing me to go into labor.
It felt good to be out in the misty November air. Because it was the middle of a work day—and rainy to boot—we had the park to ourselves. Chara and Wren buzzed with energy. As soon as we unclipped their leashes, they exploded over the moist ground, paws flinging gravel and grass.
We watched them, marveling at Wren’s speed, Chara’s grace. And then we walked. I walked like a cowboy, swaggering my hips, trying to grind the baby’s head downward. When I had contractions, Jordan wrapped his arms around my belly and lifted as I tucked my pelvis—which was supposed to shift the baby into the proper position for birth.
Soon my contractions were more regular than they’d ever been—rushing inward and then receding like waves over sand. Halfway back to the car, we did the lift and tuck again. Suddenly the baby squirmed in my belly. “He rolled over!” Jordan trumpeted.
After that, the contractions came on hard and strong. Somehow they were less painful though—the bunching muscles focused themselves on my abdomen, instead of my back. The times I jotted into my phone became more frequent—every 2-3 minutes.
Jordan shifted nervously. “I think we should probably get home.”
I limped back to the car, pausing to lean against Jordan as new waves swept over me. On the way back I leaned forward, trying to encourage the baby to stay flipped. He didn’t listen—by the time we got out of the car he had flipped back over.
At this point my contractions weren’t letting up for anything, regardless of his position. At home, I had Jordan press his hands into my back to relieve the pressure, and I closed my eyes through the pain. Another hour passed, and I started to feel shaky—almost flu like. I went into the bathroom, and felt something slip into my vagina.
I stuck my hand under just in time to catch a gloopy mass of mucus plug. “Jordan!” I yelled, gleeful. “My mucus plug!”
He bounded in and leaned over to inspect it, the phone pressed to his ear as he dialed the doctor again. “Cool!”
After a brief conversation with Sholes, we were on our way to the hospital again. This time, we were not smiling and relaxed. There were no donut stops, no casual dawdling at red lights: we were focused. On the way up in the elevator, I half sunk to the floor with each contraction, unable to keep my spine straight through the pain.
The only other occupant in the elevator–an older, kindly looking woman–caught Jordan’s eye and grinned.
We got checked in again, and brought back to the same room we’d been in earlier. This time, the darkness didn’t bother me. I was glad for the familiarity, relieved to sink into the crisp white sheets.
A new nurse came in once I’d changed into my robe–thin cotton, so that I wouldn’t get too hot–and checked my cervix. “Three centimeters,” she said confidently. “Try to stay relaxed, and we’ll check you again in a few hours.”
I felt very disappointed–all that pain and only a maybe-gain of a centimeter?! Surely I was further along by now! And we had another few hours to wait before we’d get any more information. I hadn’t realized how much waiting was involved with having a baby. The word labor implied work, and I felt like I didn’t have nearly enough to do.
They brought in an exercise ball and dug out their fancy, wireless monitors, so that I could move while I labored, and a nurse affixed them to me. L’s heartbeat was still galloping along, and again, the nurse smiled with satisfaction.
“He sounds great,” she said, before she turned down the volume.
We passed the hours by rotating between different positions, just like we’d been taught in our birthing class. I was sitting in bed, listening to an audio track to try and dim some of the pain, when a scream pierced the wall behind me.
Jordan and I both tensed. There was a beat, and then another scream–drawn out, wickedly sharp. Like someone was peeling her skin back. Jordan turned up the volume on my audio recording, but nothing could block out that piercing sound.
The nurse popped in. “Sorry about that,” she said, the skin gathered between her eyebrows with worry. “She wasn’t planning to go natural. You’re going to do great though. You can do this.”
While listening to the screaming, I wasn’t so sure. Once the nurse had left, I turned to Jordan. “I don’t want to feel like her,” I whispered.
Over the next thirty minutes, the screaming intensified, and then there was sudden, weighty silence. Jordan and I held our breaths, wrapped up in the invisible drama unfolding next door.
One beat of silence. Then another. And then, finally, the glorious sound of an infant’s first cry, paired with the sound of an adult sobbing for joy. Jordan caught my eye, and we both smiled.
He squeezed my hand.
It felt beyond belief that that’d soon be us. That soon we might get to hold our own little screamer.
My own contractions had spaced out a little. “I should move,” I told Jordan.
I restarted my waddle around the room. Occasionally, we’d pause and do more lift and tuck maneuvers to try to get L into a better position, but he refused to budge. Each contraction rippled through my stomach and lodged in my back.
I’d been chugging water–the hospital had provided me with a gloriously huge cup with a lid and straw, perfect for Jordan to hold to my lips in between contractions–and I frequently felt the urge to sit on the toilet.
“Do you want to try the bath?” Jordan asked as I closed my eyes through yet another contraction. The nurse had shown us how to work it when we first arrived, and explained how you could set it to hold one temperature.
“Maybe,” I said, pressing the palms of my hands into the mattress. Jordan disappeared to start filling it, and a nurse came in.
“Ready to try the bathtub?” she asked over the rush of the water. “There are a couple of rules–you can’t be in there alone and if you feel like you need to push, you’ve gotta get out. Your monitors can go underwater.”
I closed my eyes as another contraction came on. “Is it ready?” I was ready for it, even if it wasn’t ready for me.
“Not yet,” Jordan said.
“I’d like to check your cervix again before you get in,” the nurse said.
I forced myself to lay down on the bed–at that point my body was urging me to do anything except for lay still–and tried to breathe deeply as she checked. “Four centimeters,” she said cheerily. “You’re making progress! You definitely aren’t leaving this place pregnant.”
“Great.” I felt anything but cheery.
She pulled her gloves off. “If you’re going to get in the bathtub, you’re welcome to go naked or keep your clothes on. Just keep in mind that we might need to come in to assist you.”
I smiled grimly. “Somehow, I’m not super worried about you seeing my boobs.”
She laughed. “Whatever makes you most comfortable.”
The tub took a wickedly long time to fill. When it was finally ready, my contractions were coming quick and strong.
Initially I’d planned to just go in naked, but when the time came, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon the familiar security of my sports bra. I just felt too vulnerable to strip all the way down.
Jordan held my hand as I lowered myself into the steaming water. “Is it too hot?”
“Yes,” I said, but sank into it regardless. The weightlessness of the water felt glorious on my swollen body, and for the first time, the awful ache in my back subsided. “Your mom was right, this is incredible.”
A contraction came through and I marveled at how very manageable it was while in the pool. So manageable that I worried they were stopping.
I let a few pass–weak, measly contractions–and then asked Jordan to help me out. I was determined to get this baby out, and I’d give up the comfort of the tub if it meant making it happen.
The return to gravity was terrible. That first contraction out of the tub was the strongest yet. I leaned against Jordan, and then continued my waddle to the bed, where I braced myself against the mattress.
We did more rotations–horribly painful lift and tucks, downward dog on the hospital bed, hip circles on the birthing ball. The contractions were strong enough now that I needed Jordan to count me through each one. I’d breathe as he counted to ten, and usually by that point it’d subside into my back, and I’d be able to function again.
Every so often, I’d climb back into the tub, glory in the sweet weightlessness of it, and then clamber out again–my wet sports bra streaming water down my back.
We did this over and over again. I was growing tired, my muscles shaky after a day of labor and a lack of food.
“Do you think you can rest at all, love?” Jordan asked tentatively after we’d counted through another contraction.
“Try closing your eyes.”
I closed my eyes, but the pain was louder without any distractions. “Read to me?”
“Sure.” He picked up the Hobbit and restarted where he’d left off. We’d made it through a chapter when the nurse came in.
“Time for another check!” she said.
I knew the drill by now, and slid my blankets off, scooted my butt closer to my knees. My body was so heavy with L that it took some real muscle.
“You’re about 6 centimeters!” She sounded absolutely delighted. “Which is amazing progress. Let me know if your water breaks–when it does, things are going to move a lot more quickly, and get a lot more intense.”
I nodded, but internally shrunk from the idea of the pain worsening. The sound of that woman screaming flashed back into my mind. I wasn’t sure if I could handle more intense.
“Are you hungry or thirsty? And dad, have you eaten anything? You might want to eat now, just in case things pick up the pace.”
In the hospital, everyone referred to us as “mom” and “dad,” something that I likely would’ve objected to pre-baby, but which now sounded exciting and a little scary.
“I probably should eat,” Jordan said. “And she should probably get something in her system too.”
“I’ll bring you a popsicle,” she said to me, and then turned to Jordan. “The cafeteria is closed, but I have a list of places that are open.”
“Will you be okay if I leave?” Jordan asked. He looked so tired and worried under the harsh hospital lights.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, even though I was actually terrified at the idea of him leaving. “Just be quick.”
I ate my popsicle while he was gone, breathed my way through contraction after contraction, rolling occasionally onto my side in an attempt to get L to shift. The popsicle tasted like heaven. I could feel the sugar rushing through my veins, bolstering my energy.
“I think I need another popsicle,” I said as soon as Jordan came back. He popped his head out to request one.
It was nearing one in the morning now–I’d been in labor for about 19 hours, and I was exhausted. I leaned my head back into the pillow, taking a break from our near-constant struggle to get L to shift into a better position.
The nurse popped in with my second popsicle, and I slurped it down contentedly. I had my eyes closed, focused on the pain in my back, when I felt a sudden pop. My eyes flew open, and I turned to Jordan, eyes wide. (Jordan has since told me that he’s never seen such a comical expression of surprise on anyone’s face).
“My water broke!” I said, glee and terror swirling together into a bizarre cocktail of emotion.
Jordan sprang to his feet and ran out into the hallway. “Her water broke!” he called to the nurses, gleeful.
They all cheered, sharing in Jordan’s excitement.
I finished munching my popsicle and then a contraction rolled in like thunder on the horizon. I curled into myself, barely able to hold the amount of pain I was experiencing within my skin. “I need the bath,” I whispered.
As Jordan helped me out of bed, the nurse came in. “We’ll get your sheets all taken care of. Getting in the tub?”
“Okay, just promise me that if you feel like pushing, you’ll get out right away.”
I nodded at her as another contraction wracked my body. The pain in my back was so intense that I thought my spine might shatter.
Jordan hurried me into the bathroom, and as I pulled my robe off, I eyed the cold, damp sports bra that hung on the bathtub handle. I could feel another contraction eking in. Forget the bra.
I practically flung myself in the water and that wonderful, familiar weightlessness returned to me. It didn’t last long though–another contraction tore through my body like wildfire, so strong that I twisted and moaned to try and escape from it.
Jordan held my hands on the cold, wet tile of the tub, stroked my hair–which was matted from sweat and bathwater. I couldn’t get comfortable in the tub. I wanted to press my forehead into something. Wanted to be held up with my arms still in the water.
At this point, the contractions were no longer separate–they’d rolled into one, alternating between my abdomen and lower back. Counting to ten no longer covered them. I counted to ten over and over again, waiting for the pain to subside, but it just kept marching on.
I squirmed away from it, couldn’t find relief. Low groans began to escape from my mouth. I felt like I was being burned alive, from the inside out.
I couldn’t handle it. When the pain had been finite, when the pain could be gathered up and held within ten or twenty second intervals, I’d done just fine. But this–this was too much.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I cried. “I don’t think I can.”
Jordan gripped my hands. “You can, love. I know you can.”
“No,” I shook my head, tears leaking out of my eyes. “I don’t want to do it. I want an epidural.”
“Just think about why we’re doing this–” Jordan began. He’d said it a few times through the night, and initially it’d been motivating. Not this time.
“I don’t care,” I gasped.
The nurse knocked on the bathroom door–I think she could tell we were getting close–and stuck her head in. “I think we should do another check.”
“She wants an epidural,” Jordan said.
She eyed me. “It might be too late for that.”
“No,” I gasped. “I need an epidural. Please.” The words came out pleading.
“I’ll see if the anesthesiologist is available, but we need to check you first.”
Climbing out of the bathtub was hellish. The inside of my body felt like sandpaper, grating against the melon-sized human I was trying to expel through my vagina.
Jordan half carried me to the bed, and I groan-screamed as the nurse checked my cervix. “You’re just about at 8 centimeters,” she told me. “We may not have time for an epidural, but even if we do–are you sure you want one? You’re so close!”
“I do, I want one,” I said, and then recommenced counting aloud to infinity.
“Okay,” she said, and then grinned cheekily. “It’ll make things go a lot faster, anyway, cause all your muscles will relax. I bet you’ll be ready to push as we get it in.” She ran out of the room to call for the anesthesiologist.
The wait for the anesthesiologist was unbearable. Over and over again, I asked Jordan if it was time–even though very clearly it wasn’t. When the anesthesiologist arrived, I could barely sit up through the pain.
“I’m going to need you to sit still,” the nurse told me. “Can you do that?”
I honestly wasn’t sure. My spine seemed to buckle with the peak of each contraction. When I leaned forward so they could slide the needle in, my belly rested against my thighs.
A giant needle to the back has never felt so good. I was allowed to collapse on the bed again once they had the epidural placed, and then I waited anxiously for the pain to fade.
When five minute had passed and I could still barely exist in my own skin, I looked up at Jordan. “It should be working now, shouldn’t it?”
“In the next ten minutes, the nurse said,” he replied, squeezing my hand.
And then, with the slow, slow passage of time, a tiny bit of the pain ebbed away. It wasn’t even necessarily a noticeable difference–just that gradually, I could feel my senses returning. I could think through the pain again. And then the pain was gone.
“Oh my god,” I gasped. “That is the best invention known to man. This is incredible. Modern medicine is amazing.”
The nurse smiled. “That’s what they all say. And it’ll help pick up the pace. The couple in room 11 is right on the same track as you, but I’m betting you’ll give birth first.” And she patted my back, like I was a winning racehorse that she’d placed money on.
I didn’t mind. I was ecstatically happy to be free of the pain. “We’re having a baby!” I said, turning to Jordan. “A baby! We’re going to be holding our baby soon!”
Jordan smiled, relieved that I was no longer a groaning, screaming, hellcat of a human being.
By now it was almost three in the morning. “We should check your cervix again,” the nurse said, and slapped on a fresh pair of gloves. “Ten cm!” she said, totally delighted–which I finally knew was because she was winning the bet. “You’re just about ready to push! I’m going to call your OB.”
When Dr. Sholes finally arrived, it was odd to see his face in the dim hospital room lighting. I was so used to seeing him under the brightly fluorescent lights of his practice.
With two kids under the age of two of his own, and a burgeoning practice, he usually looked exhausted during our visits, with burst capillaries in his eyes and that ashen look of someone on the verge of falling down. But now, at 3:30 a.m., he looked wide awake. Invigorated.
“Are we ready?” he asked, slapping on his gloves. He reached up to check my cervix. “Feels like we are–his head is engaged. I can feel his hair.”
More nurses had followed him in, and now they sprung into action–broke down the bed, pulled a massive light down from the ceiling and shone it on my vagina. I felt wholly unselfconscious.
I placed my hands on my belly, felt the answering flutter of my baby. It was so strange to think that tomorrow, I’d no longer have it. That my baby would no longer be cocooned safely in my womb. For the first time, I felt a pang of sadness over the thought of this chapter of our lives coming to a close.
“No catheter?” Sholes asked as he bustled back in a few minutes later. He slipped a face shield on, and immediately looked a bit like Darth Vader in white.
“Do you have to pee?” My nurse asked.
“Nope,” I said very confidently–for someone who couldn’t feel her bladder.
“Okay, we’re going to pull your legs back, and we’ll let you know when a contraction comes on the monitor. When it does, you’ll take a huge breath, and push as hard as you can,” Sholes explained.
We all watched the monitor, waiting for a peak. The line rose, rose, rose, I marveled at the wonder of not feeling it, and then Sholes said, “Go!”
Jordan and one of the nurses pulled my legs back and I took a huge breath, pushed, pushed, pushed.
“I thought you said she didn’t need to pee!” Sholes sounded legitimately peeved.
Jordan chuckled. “You just peed all over him,” he whispered.
“Just wait until I poop on the table,” I whispered back.
“You already did poop on the table,” he said. “And they’re the weirdest poops I’ve ever seen. Like fish food.”
I beamed, delighted with myself.
We waited for another contraction, and then repeated the exercise–the nurse and Jordan holding my legs, me pushing until I felt veins bulging in my forehead. I’d read all about different pushing styles before giving birth, and knew that this was called “purple pushing” (because your face turns purple with the effort), and that it’s highly ineffectual. But at the moment, I just didn’t care enough to protest.
As the contractions came and went, we tried different positions–me bracing against the stirrups and playing tug o’ war with a rope, me pulling my own legs back–and L slid closer and closer toward life on the outside.
Throughout, they monitored his heartbeat. The nurses were infatuated with its steady insistence. “He’s beautiful,” they kept saying. “He’s a beautiful baby.”
At first I didn’t get what they were saying–I mean, they hadn’t even seen him. How could they know if he was beautiful?
“It’s the worst when they drop,” one nurse said to our nurse.
“I know. But this kid is perfect. He’s beautiful.” (At this point, I realized they were talking about his heart rate–not his looks).
She shook her head. “He really is. He’s having absolutely zero issue with all this. He doesn’t look stressed at all!”
I felt so very, very glad that he was so healthy and hearty. And I was getting the hang of pushing. With the next contraction, I bore down even harder.
“His head is right here!” the nurse exclaimed. “He’s so close–a few more good pushes and he’ll be out… that’s quite the hairdo you’re giving him.” She laughed, and then met my eyes. “Sholes is over here just playing with his hair.”
“He’s got a lot of it,” said Sholes, slightly defensively.
I laughed, delighted. Our baby was almost here! Our baby had hair!
“Are you sure you can’t just pull him out?” I asked.
“Not if you don’t want to tear,” answered Sholes.
I shrugged. In the moment, tearing seemed like a small price to pay for getting to hold my baby sooner.
Another contraction spiked, and I bunched up my legs, strained as hard as I could. “Go, go, go!” shouted the nurse. “You’re so close!”
I pushed until I couldn’t push any more.
“Reach down and feel him,” she said. “He’s almost here.”
I reached down and felt something hard and hairy protruding from between my legs. My vagina, stretched around his head, was so swollen and distorted that it was almost unrecognizable. I felt even more infinitely grateful for my epidural. Thank goodness I didn’t have to feel it.
“You sure you can’t just pull him out?” I asked the doctor. “It feels like he’s halfway here already.”
Sholes just smiled and shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that.”
Another contraction peaked on the machine, and we all jumped into action. I bunched my entire body, pushed with all my strength, strained and strained–and then, finally, our gorgeous baby boy was born.
One of the nurses had taken my phone to snap photos, and she captured the moment of L’s delivery, him being placed on my chest, Jordan cutting his umbilical cord. For my part, I remember the out-of-body experience of feeling his wet, fragile body on my chest. I remember how warm he was. How utterly good it felt to finally, finally touch him.
When he cried, my whole body ached with joy.
I was so exhausted that I couldn’t open my eyes, but I was desperate to look at him. “He’s too close to my face,” I mumbled to Jordan (eyes still closed). “I can’t see him. What does he look like?”
“He’s beautiful,” Jordan said. “Absolutely beautiful.”
The nurses toweled him down while he was still on my chest, and everyone marveled aloud at how strong he was, how beautiful.
“Did I win?” I asked the nurse sleepily as she cleaned up around the bed.
She sighed. “No, but you did absolutely wonderfully.”