My baby is 15 today.
15 years ago, practically to the minute, I braved the cold to meet my faithful walking partner and her dog for our daily walk up the Arboretum hill near our home.
I sat waiting for Kathy at the edge of the clearing in the woods, snow falling, dusk threatening. I wasn’t cold, my belly so big it blanketed me in warmth. Night was collecting around like an envelope. No, I wasn’t cold, but I was a little crazy. I started to think, what was I thinking, woman, alone, 9 months pregnant, in the dark.
But just then I caught sight of Kathy and heard the intrepid Angel barking excitedly in greeting.
After all, this walk had a purpose aside from the usual. What better way to get labor started than a brisk walk up a steep hill. My beloved and calm OB had told me she was on call all night at the hospital. I wanted to deliver this baby tonight.
And I did, but I am getting ahead of myself.
My friend panicked when one third the way through our walk, I stooped over with the sensation of a serious contraction. (Pain is for the later part.)
Kathy and I made our way slowly to my house. After a quick hug for my mom, Gerry, and my two little sons, I announced I was going to take a hot bath and time my contractions.
I sighed with relief when my taut skin felt the heat of the bath. I relaxed my vigilance for a moment, closed my eyes, and sank deep into my thoughts and the water.
My eyes popped open when I heard a familiar little squeal. There was 2 year old Shane, naked as a Jaybird, coming to join me. Before I could fully protest, he jumped on top of me in the tub. I thought ok , that’s it, I am going to the hospital. Got to be easier than this. (My mom and Gerry were chatting in the kitchen and had overlooked the wee Houdini’s escape.)
I will never forget four-year-old Evan’s crestfallen face when we told him he could not go with us to the hospital. “Please,” he cried, tears staining his sweet face, standing sentry at the door to the garage. “I’ll be so good. I’ll wait in the car. I won’t make a sound.”
I was confident of my confidence until the nurse midwife told me after some minutes of very intense pain that no, I was not ready to push. And no, I had not gone through transition. But, I protested, I’ve had two natural childbirths. She kindly looked at me and said. “Well this one just turned.”
I shut my eyes tightly against the mental image of a brining turkey.
Then the midwife got fierce with me. “OPEN your eyes, she commanded.” When you close your eyes, she explained, you focus and intensify your pain.
So that was to be one of the lasting gifts of this experience. I have learned to keep my eyes open when pain or sadness threaten to overwhelm me.
But the real gift was Alec, all 9 ½ lbs of him. Born on December 9, 1998, 10 days early, because God is good. How could I have carried my precious load any longer?
After we returned home, my mom departed to give our little family some alone time, I overheard Gerry say quietly into the phone: “But I can’t just leave her, she just got home.” He had a work emergency and didn’t want to tell me.
He dutifully recruited his mom, Grandma Mumsy, to stand in for him for a few hours. She loves to tell the story about how when she arrived she found newborn Alec wedged into the arm of the living room sofa, while I wrestled the other two boys. She compares it to her visit to first-born Evan at home, who was installed like a prince in his white robes while I played a Mozart CD for him.
Note to Alec: Sorry Alec. Reality has a funny way of altering behavior. But I am glad to finally set this story on paper for you, since I have been plagued forever by the fact that I wrote a 10 page nuanced story of Evan’s birth, and your dad wrote about Shane’s entry onto the scene. Just think of how much less you will be embarrassed in years to come by your abbreviated nativity tale. Besides I had diapering and nursing down pat by the time you arrived.
Today, the tall trees in front of our home in the woods are alight, just in time to celebrate you, and the light you brought into our world. I know. I am a December baby too, just like my mom. And when I was little, my parents used to take me for a ride and show me the tall star atop Toledo hospital and tell me it was to mark my birth. I have never stopped believing in the magic of December.
Happy birthday son.