Posted in Seasonal Sunday

A rocky start

It was a rocky start. The baby crowned and then receded, not once but twice. I remember the discomfort as the doctor reached in to relieve her shoulder from the constraint of the umbilical cord. And then she was born.

She was healthy except for a few bruises on her face from her dramatic entrance to the world. There were people pressing on my abdomen and novocain shots in the most excruciating place, and stitching. And the mother thing didn’t kick in right away.

Then the nurses came in and out and the family swarmed and gave her the first bath and the first diaper change and the first swaddling. They put her to my breast and they watched to make sure it all worked the way it was supposed to. The doctor came and left.

When they told me it was time to go home, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know why. I just needed another day or week or month.

Once the home care instructions were given, my bags packed, the papers signed, like a magic spell everyone disappeared. Nurses went off to dote on other patients. Family left for home. Her dad went to get the car and we were alone, she and me.

I turned her to face me on my lap. I looked in her puffy dark blue eyes and I asked her if she was ready to come home. I told her about the alphabet border I painted around the top of her bedroom wall; about the clothes and crib we had readied for her arrival. I explained that we had never done this before, and that I understood it was all new to her too. I promised that I would always be the best mom I could, and that sometimes it might not be good enough, but that I would always love her with all of my heart.

Suddenly and without warning I was ready to go home. Though she’ll never remember it, she gave to me the greatest gift of motherhood, and I’m ever grateful she saved it for just the two of us . . .

she and me.


Posted in Family

The Best Gift Ever

My oldest child, a daughter, turned 28 today.  Before she was born, I had no experience with young children.  I didn’t have younger siblings, I didn’t babysit, I didn’t even talk to the younger kids in the neighborhood.  We didn’t have those What to Expect When You’re Expecting books, or even the internet, so I had to rely on my Lamaze classes and old wives’ tales.  I was entering a foreign land.  I remember our birthing class instructor telling us that not everyone bonds immediately to their baby, so if it doesn’t happen right away, don’t worry — you aren’t a bad mom.  I stored that sentence away for future use — you know — just in case.  As it happened, I needed it.

The delivery itself was pretty typical.  My husband was with me.  My parents were close.  It took all day, with a few hiccups — dehydration, labor induction, hyperventilation, a shoulder caught on the umbilical cord — nothing exceptional.  I still remember the relief when she finally surged into the world.  I felt done.  Spent.  I wanted to be left alone.  But there was a placenta to deliver, and an episiotomy to stitch — complete with novocaine shots in a most sensitive area.  I just wanted to be left alone.  And there was this baby they held next to me as if she were some type of magical pain reliever.  But I was still in pain, and this expectation being placed on me wasn’t helping.

Scan 1Later they fed me the best food I had ever eaten.  I think it was a cheese sandwich.  I fainted in the shower, I was wheeled to another room, and I tried to sleep.  They brought her to me for feeding, and showed me how to swaddle her, how to hold and burp her, and always asked if I had any questions.  If she cried, they came.  If I cried they were there wanting to know why.   After one has a baby, there are tears.  There just are.  And not knowing why made me feel like I had failed another test.  I just wanted to be alone.  There is no way to be alone in a hospital.

A day and a half later they told me I was going home . . . and I was taking this breastfeeding, crying, pooping person with me.  There were things to arrange, papers to submit, a car to bring up, and finally they left me alone.  Me and this . . . person.

Sitting in our hospital room with the sunlight filtering through the blinds, holding my baby exactly as I was instructed, I looked down at her.  I shifted her so that she was lying in front of me along both arms, looking into my face.  I called her by name, and told her about all the things waiting for her; the home, the flowers outside her nursery window, the little outfits folded into a new dresser, and the crib that had been waiting vacant for so many weeks while she grew.  I apologized for not knowing a whole lot about being a mom, but that it would be okay, because we would figure it out together.

Scan 2In those few minutes, a special place grew in my heart that exists to this day.  It is the place where I hold everything that belongs to motherhood — the love, the memories, the heartache, the sacrifice, the ferocity, and the wisdom.

For all the times I’ve wished that I’d had this motherhood thing from the onset, I have this one perfect memory of finding it all at once; like opening a door you never knew existed in a house you had lived in all your life.  The three children who followed had a mother who, before they took their first breath, already held them in that very special place in her heart.  But my first has the honor of planting it there.  Of all the gifts I have received from her . . . or anyone in the world before or since . . . it was this first gift from my newborn that I hold most dear.

Peace and Love on your birthday, sweetheart . . .

Posted in Family

The Birth of a Child

What is it about poetry that makes us feel so vulnerable?  I haven’t written poetry for years, except for a couple pieces, but in my youth I wrote often.  Not long ago, I ran across a poem I wrote in my adulthood.  The thought of sharing it now scares me, though I’m not exactly sure why.  It’s a little like singing in front of a crowd.  Even after you’ve told them you can’t sing, once you get up there you are expected to at least carry a tune.

So here I am telling you that I can’t sing.  This is just something I wrote years ago after my third child was born.  I found, upon reading it again, that it moved me.  It could have been any of my children, but for some reason I was inspired to write it at that time.


The Birth of a Child

All at once the pain subsided.

Relief wrapped its arms around me.

A baby boy was placed upon my breast;

warm, moist, perfect.

In his tiny presence

I felt small.

The debt was mine for the privilege.

I was perfect, the day was perfect,

and I shall never see another child as perfect.

He stared blankly at this world into which he had landed.

As I looked into his eyes,

I was at the same time reverent and frightened.

Not able to go back, not willing to move forward,

the world stopped for he and me.

And just for a moment, there were only the two of us.

Until they appeared again.

His father, the doctor, the nurse,

and pain.

April 25, 1991