At some point I guess I have to grade and make a reply to this "critique", but still "processing."
Hey Jay! Here to crit you, though I'll be nice since this is your first time under my scrutiny.
Disclaimer: Everything said in this crit is my opinion. If you don't like it, ignore it. If you have questions, feel free to ask me.
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The warmth and support of the water eased the pain, the weariness, the soreness in her feet, her back.
"Oh," she sighed, "I should have gotten in here sooner."
Smiling weakly, Masae looked back and forth between Louise and Tokuro, in the water on either side of her, both holding her hands.
She winced as each contraction came.
Her mouth worked wordlessly, opening and closing, and she gasped as her contractions seemed to blend into one another, becoming one long clench, "Euuuuuuhhhh," she groaned.
"Respire, respire, doucement," Louise urged, "Breathe, just try to breathe. Think of your body, feel your body, not anything else. You are a little animal. Be in your animal self. It will all take care of itself. It doesn't help to think about it."
Masae could feel her body, some new part of her body, begin to push as if it wasn't really under her control. She felt things move, she felt she couldn't stop it, it hurt, it ached, but she didn't want it to stop, pause, take a break, it hurt, it HURT, it was urgent, it had to keep going, she had to keep going, keep going. She was in her animal self. Everything was now. The pain was now. She knew it would end yet she didn't know it would end, but everything was fine. Everything was now. No mind. No fear.
"Euuuuuuh-AAAAAAAHH!" she half-moaned, half-screamed, squeezing Louise's and Tokuro's hands, pushing down on their arms, almost lifting herself up in the water.
Her eyes and mouth clenched shut and then relaxed and she sagged into their arms, panting.
"Vas-y, pick up your baby," Louise ordered.
Masae opened her eyes to the swirling trails of blood in the water, reached down between her own legs, fumbling, grasping, impossible lightness supported by the water turning into weight as Louise helped her bring the tiny, mottled package up to her chest, the purply-pinkish lumpy cord snaking over her belly off into the water and back up into her. A sense of relief and a tidal wave of emotions and hormones rushing over her, she stared uncomprehendingly at this newly-opened gift, wanting this moment to last forever yet yearning to know what would happen next. Tokuro eagerly leaned in, his face also one of someone beholding a Leprechaun or other such marvel. The child was waxy, streaked with blood and slime, distended like some familiar object extruded into a can for storage or shipment. Before he and Masae could take it all in, the mouth opened like a wire tugging at a hinge and a bizarre yet deeply satisfying and reässuring little cry escaped.
"We did it," she said softly to Tokuro, her eyes welling with tears.
Louise responded by gently nudging this tiny new life, just liberated from its mother's body, toward Masae's breast.
Applause erupted from the other room. Louise and Jean-Luc hugged and kissed one another warmly.
Masae lolled in the tub, exhausted, half-floating in the warm water, Tokuro still by her side. Baby Michiko squirmed but a little, exhausted as well, lazily sucking on her mother. Masae smiled weakly, closed her eyes, dozing, mouth slightly open.
Tokuro looked brightly at Louise, "No problem?"
Louise smiled a tired smile and nodded, "Pas de problème."
Masae roused with a look of discomfort on her face, "Something..."
"It's okay. Here," Louise fished around in the water, gently pulling on the cord and drawing up a shapeless, red, spongy blob, "You two are now completely separated," she smiled.
"Yes, I think so. I should take a shower."
Louise and the two men helped Masae up and out of the pool, and rinsed her and Michiko off, patted them both dry, and wrapped Michiko in fresh towels. They eased the two of them onto a nearby mat covered with blankets and pillows where they quickly fell asleep. The two tiny families curled up together around the sleeping Masae, Louise's tiny newborn daughter Gisèle gratefully attached to her own mother's breast. She, too, seemed tired after the fraught and drawn-out wait for her new playmate, Michiko.
The rest of the last generation of their group to be born on the planet Earth already grew in their mothers' bellies. Will watched the three other women chatter in hushed tones after the two new mothers had gone to sleep in the other room. His own wife, Keiko, would give birth to George, fully expected that her new baby would connect her to the other women in a way she had never quite been able to manage before now. Otherwise, she didn't expect it to interfere much with her life or her work.
Mary was more apprehensive. She had always thought of motherhood an inevitable, but sincerely hoped that her baby would bring a closeness with her husband, Joe, that had been lacking. She regretted not having chosen to be her own person before having to prove here and now that she could be a mother to the generations that would follow her on their long voyage to colonize another star. She worried that this child would not give her the soul-healing she craved for herself and Joe, that perhaps it would be another burden on top of all the others, and she saw stormclouds of depression gathering on the horizon. The experience of watching Masae give birth just now, and Louise before her, filled her with doubt, confronted her with the idea that she could not control it by willpower. Louise and Masae both seemed to withdraw into an animal place where it was just them and the pain and joy of birth, hanging suspended in the eternity of that moment which lasted for hours, holding onto the faith that they would make it through to the other side, even though they didn't know what that other side looked like.
Mary did not have that faith that it was all right. She did not want to be alone with herself in that center of now, even for a brief moment. It made her very uncomfortable. It terrified her, in fact. She had tried to talk to Masae, asked her if she needed anything, hoping for some clue how to hang onto the web of control Mary had built around herself. Masae refused to come out of that animal center she had slipped into in the process of bringing her little daughter into the world. Louise sent Mary away. Why couldn't they take even one minute to talk to her? She just wanted to help them, after all. Why weren't they grateful? Mary would have welcomed help in their place, and have been polite enough to respond.
It's... interesting. Not really what I want out of an opening, but it's okay, I suppose. I suggest starting closer to the birth and cutting out the last few paragraphs. You chose one specific birth to show. Why that one? Should I care? If so, you should focus on the baby, not other people.
Who is this band? Where are they from? Nothing is explained that needs to be explained. I have far more questions than answers at this point, and it's not exactly helping me want to read more.
Questions that should be answered in a chapter 1:
Where are they?
Who is the main character?
What does the main character want (grand scheme)?
Who is important in their life and why?
Things like that.
Good luck with edits. Hope this was at all helpful and that you get many more crits after this.