part 2: a birthday story
It was dark outside the hospital windows when the little squeezes began. I hadn't felt them in years, but I knew them immediately.
And with them, you drew me inside of myself.
Inside of you.
Inside of us, together.
I remember saying to your Dad, "I'm going inside now." It was effortless, automatic, as if I were an expert meditater.
I miss those hours of quiet oneness with you. An experience unique in all my years of living, in all my days of motherhood.
On the outside, the adhesive and wires connected to my belly began to set off alarms. Our nurse ran in and out of the room, over and over.
But you and I, we remained steady. Together, wrapped in a focused embrace, almost beyond the reach of the voice that ordered,
"Turn to your other side!"
"Get on your hands and knees!"
We moved to the commands of the caller, but the dance belonged to us. Breathing in, we oxygenated. Breathing out, we released all fear.
At one point, the nurse hit the button and shouted "Tones! Tones!" I remember wondering what that meant as I noted the panic in her voice. In a moment, I was on all fours, and a hand was all the way inside of me, searching for you. When I caught my breath and the hand retreated, I turned to see a room full of grim people in blue scrubs. They did not feel a cord. Your heart rate returned to normal. The tide of blue scrubs retreated through the door. We returned to our den.
The squeezing was slowing down. Then it almost stopped. The dance caller said "Keep doing whatever it is you're doing." We winked at each other and huddled closer.
As the sun rose, a team of doctors arrived to state the obvious. Small contractions were putting too much stress on your body; you would not survive the larger contractions of true labor. They informed me and I consented. I signed the papers. It was a curious feeling, signing papers for a thing that felt like it had already happened. We'd been here before. We'd seen this play out. We weren't surprised. We were almost relieved.
The team assembled, friendly and confident. Your Nana showed up, all the way from Pittsburgh. Your Dad and I dawned scrub caps. Our midwife arrived to accompany us. As they wheeled us down the hallway, she said, "It's a birthday party."
This was the hallway I had seen in my mind's eye, the unexpected scene that flashed up when I tried to imagine your home birth in our playroom. It was always this hallway. I noticed this, unable to comprehend such a thing. Then, I went back inside.
Deep golden. The color of the afternoon sun glinting off the surface of the pond behind my parents' house. The color of terracotta roofs clustering together in the foothills of the Pyrenees. The warm orange of sunrises and sunsets, of clay earth heavy on the shovel. It is all I see.
And now I hear the song of the waterfall as I sit at the pond's edge. Rays shine through tall grasses, shimmer on the wet stones. Just underneath the surface, coy swim lazily in figure eights, in the shape of infinity.
Someone is holding my hand and asking, "What kind of music do you want?" I say, "meditation music."
The preoperative check begins with the names and titles of everyone present. Your Dad says, "Theron, father." I say, "Ashley, mother."
I wonder what your name will be.
I am sitting in a lawn chair in the afternoon sun, listening to the water. I am safe here. I am comfortable. I am loved. Here, where we celebrated a decade of family milestones. Here, where we gathered for summer meals. Here, where I held my Dad's withering hands and listened to his stories, one last time.
I feel the presence of another. A being sitting next to me, in a lawn chair. My Dad smiles, and it is a shining smile. He is perfectly calm and full of joy. His calm and joy radiates through me.
Then, in his arms, I see a baby.
He is holding you with that shining smile.
On my left side, I sense the physical presence of your Dad. On my right, the spirit of my own father.
Nothing can harm us. We are going to be okay.
Now my Dad is handing you to me. He's handing you to me and as I take you in my arms, you come through the portal of my body. You come through into this life, into this world, into the place where we breathe air and we eat food and where we can touch and look, hear and taste and smell. Where, skin to skin, we can feel the exquisite rise and fall of each breath, the thump of each heartbeat.
Someone says, "Dad, do you want to call it?" Your Dad's voice, choking back sobs, "It's a boy."
I open my eyes and I see you. You're flying, arms extended like wings. I hear you try to breathe. Your eyes are open, your little face is red.
You are so brave.
I am so proud of you.
I love you. Forever.