This is an old project, one I re-visit from time to time. It still has a heartbeat within my heart, so maybe I ought to circle back to it again, soon. In the meantime, with all the baby news abounding, I thought I would share this tiny tidbit it in its raw, unedited, form. (In other words, please forgive the typos and other errors that ARE there.)
Birth and death, opposite, the circle of life, inevitable, this you know. When you were pregnant everyone said how drastically things were going to change. How you had no idea how profound the change would be, there is no way to explain it to you they said. You just have to experience it for yourself. The mothers in the group at the office baby shower would huddle together, cluck clucking about how you just had no idea how much your life was about to change, you poor innocent, naive girl. You did not think it was possible, for things to change that much. You had been through change in your life. Moving, breaking up, meeting new lovers, travelling the world. You were well read, watched foreign movies, maybe even had friends who had children before you. You understood that things would change. That your life, as you knew it, would no longer be the same. You understood that idea, you got the picture, you knew your life was going to change in a big way; you were ready, thank you very much. You’d see them all when your maternity leave was up in 6 weeks.
But they were right and you were wrong. You had no idea how your life would change. Not in just the physical, logistical ways, but the cellular, organic ways – those were the things that took you completely by surprise. Who knew? Who knew the world could be any brighter than it was on the day you met your husband? Who knew it would be any more spectacular than the sunrise on the beach in Hawaii that moist morning he decided to surprise you with a walk on the beach and a glistening diamond as the two of you sat on the sand and watched the sun rise over Diamond Head? The world seemed amazingly bright that morning, the bluest sky, the whitest clouds, the most amazing shades of pink in the clouds behind the greenest palm trees and banana plants and the reddest hibiscus flowers you had ever laid eyes on. Who knew life could be more vibrant than it was that day, when your entire future together was before you, stretching on as it did like the Hawaiian horizon. No end in sight, just smooth sailing, or so you thought.
Get brighter it did. After so much pain. Childbirth was the most painful thing you had ever been through. They did not lie about that. They could not have told you enough about the pain. Recommendation after recommendation to get the epidural as soon as you can. Forget natural childbirth they said. It is just not worth it, it hurts so much! Make sure they have the needle ready for you the second you arrive, do not waste time and wait, they told you. They had friends who waited and then it was too late They were too far dilated or the anesthesiologist couldn’t get there in time or had an emergency or wasn’t quick in answering his page because you were interrupting his anniversary dinner or kids swim meet or little league game or dance recital or yoga class or mistresses birthday ort something. And then it was too late, you were too far dilated and then you had to just do it the old-fashioned way, without drugs.
You took their recommendation on that, took the drugs right away. The nurses were happy because you weren’t yelling and screaming the whole night like the “granola” moms down the hall who wanted to show how natural childbirth was and how strong they were with all their pre-natal yoga and Zen breathing techniques only getting them so far until they too, started yelling “Give me an epidural god damn it!!!”
And then there he was, head poking out of you, body still all the way inside you, stretching you open from your very core so that he could come out and you could open up to becoming a mother. There was nothing like it, whether you were drugged, completely knocked out, or un-medicated, the end result, if you were lucky was the same. A baby, warm and wet and wriggling and screaming and purple faced and searching for your nipple. He turned to your voice, before any other, searching for the familiarity you had cultivated over the 9 months he was inside you growing. From the smallest of seedlings he grew into a living, thriving, writhing baby - all 8 pounds of him.
It was at that very moment you began to understand the gravity of the situation, the seriousness with which everyone spoke of childbirth and motherhood. The transformative nature of the entire bizarre experience. Because even though you are sweaty and exhausted and literally torn apart, turned inside out, bleeding and shitting and barfing in front of complete strangers with your ass and breasts hanging out and just not giving a damn, even then the world looks a little bit different. Sure the tears streaming out of your eyes and down your cheeks cloud your vision, and the exhaustion and bad hospital lighting make the room seem slightly out of focus and illuminated in an artificial way but the world seems more saturated with color. It stays that way through the next few exhausted and exhausting weeks when you get no sleep because he gets no sleep and when he does you are so in love you can not help but stare at him, make sure he is breathing, watch his eyes as the move rapidly from side to side, smile as his little red lips pucker and he makes sucking noises. They told you to sleep when he sleeps, to not worry about the dishes or the laundry or the filthy bathroom sinks, and that is easy for you to do. You can let the housekeeping go, but sleeping while he sleeps is difficult because he is just the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. You begin to realize what they were talking about. It’s like someone has taken your heart out of your body, given it little kissable chubby legs and let it go wobbling off into the big bad world. Your heart breaks just thinking about it. Eventually you learn not to think about it for just that reason, it is impossible to imagine your life without him in it now that he is there in the bassinet beside your bed or the crib down the hall or the baby swing next to your sofa or wrapped up in a soft warm blanket next to you in your bed where he was conceived, that will never feel as comfortable, as much like home, as where you are supposed to be, as it does when he is there, sheltered in the crook of your arm, your watchful eyes never leaving him.