It’s been so long since I’ve posted but I felt compelled to sit down write on this auspicious day. Today is 8th birthday of my middle son Lincoln. And this blog is after all, first and foremost, a dialogue between my twin sister who lives across the county and myself. So this is the letter I wanted to write to her about what I remember of this day eight years ago. So much has happened and changed in our lives since then. But one wonderful thing about a birth day is a chance to reflect on all the growth that has come from that once tiny seed and precious beginning.
It is an incredible fall day here today. The sky is clear and blue as it’s been for weeks, the prolific trees of Sacramento are in full brilliant color, wearing their gowns of red and gold. The black silhouetted crows in my neighborhood are so dramatic. In many places you can see flocks of birds of prey overhead, carrion-feeders circling the rivers where the salmon are running upstream. It is just such a totally beautiful time of year, the golden season. I remember how much beauty there was out in Fair Oaks the day that Lincoln was born, eight years ago.
I remember I had gone for a walk the day before at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery (a place we are re-visiting today by the birthday boy’s request). Back then I had gone there to meditate on the force of nature that is the salmon in spawning season, battling against all odds to swim upstream and lay their eggs to continue their species. The power and determination of these fish is amazing to watch, they fly up out of the churning water and rocks by the sheer will of their bodies. I had gone there to meditate on childbirth.
The morning of November 17th, I woke up stood at the kitchen sink and water dribbled between my legs. Was this IT? I don’t remember who I called first, maybe my midwife, or maybe you I know I told you “I think it might be today, you should come”. And you packed up your bags and did just that.
I took Maceo to kindergarten that morning, just as usual. He was almost six and about to become a big brother for the first time. I can recall how it felt to be in the classroom, heavy with child and the feeling that all of *this* was about to change and never be the same again. I noticed the colors of the curtains and the light streaming through was almost angelic. My senses were most likely heightened by the surging hormones readying me for labor, and a Waldorf kindergarten is a glowing refuge of loveliness on any given day of course, but this was different, I felt like it was the most tender, precious place in the world and when those children began singing their morning circle song, I burst into tears. The teachers looked at me bemused. This baby is coming I said and then they understood, and hugged me for luck.
I know you came up early that day, and I remember the part where we went to the video store and I rented about six movies with the misguided notion that I might get to sit around and watch them during early labor. Nothing more had happened since that first questionable leak in the morning and despite my regular checkup with the midwife that day I was starting to doubt myself. But as you know, the events of that evening transpired with such rapid fire pace that I needn’t have worried about keeping you waiting. At 5:30 at night, another gush of water (this time swabbed with the handy-dandy test sticks left by the midwife and confirmed to be yes, amniotic fluid, the water breaking). Keith got home just as it started, Maceo was packed off to friends for the night, the midwives (all the way out in Davis) were called to come back and I got readying for the long haul of laboring. I thought.
Right away things were real heavy and painful and the contractions were fast and furious. No gentle build up or “waves” of manageable pain. I remember, besides being overwhelmed, feeling very confused like ‘how is it possible to have a baby this fast’? Barely a hour after my water broke I was ready to push, fighting the urge and moaning in between contractions for the midwives who hadn’t yet arrived. I look at the photos of this moment in time (thanks to Dad, our photographer quietly documenting the drama from the sidelines) and I see my own face contorted in pain, and you my dear sister leaning over the birth tub with an expression of concern, pity and helplessness. I’ve never seen a baby be born, though I’ve birthed three of them myself, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to watch a woman labor and suffer in that way. You were there with me, to witness it all and comfort me the whole way.
Moments after the midwives finally arrived, I lurched into the darkened bedroom on to the birthing stool and with a last few pushes of monumental effort, birthed that baby, You were right there beside. I look at the pictures that dad took, I see your smiles, my exhaustion and relief, Keith’s awe. And I see this fierce, passionate, wailing little boy who took a mere hour and half to burst into our family and into our hearts.
The rest is a blur of postpartum care, sleeplessness and the dazed realization of having two kids to care for. I know you stayed and cooked for me because I’ve see the pictures of you, frying pan and dish towel in hand. I know you spent a few days juggling the caring for us with the work on your blossoming design business – ironing samples in our kitchen in between cooking chicken livers for me (for the Iron!). I know I was sad when you eventually had to leave and that I teared up when you hugged me and told me “good job”. I remember you asked me if I was done having babies, and just hours off of the intensity of that ride, I said “No!”. Somewhere inside me I knew another soul was coming to us, and you ended up helping me deliver that baby too.
So much has changed in the last eight years. I no longer live on that charming country property in the funky rented house with horses out back where my son was born. And you no longer live here in California. Our distance from one another still feels unnatural sometimes and I realized if I were to have another baby tomorrow, you wouldn’t be able to come be with me. Its a good thing that now I am well and truly done with that labor/birthing phase of life because it just wouldn’t be the same without you.
As for baby Lincoln. Well, those who know him can see the same fireball of a spirit, joyously leaping head first into whatever takes his fancy; doing everything with the full-tilt energy that he brought to his birth. Some people say you can know a lot about your child simply from their birth story. Yes, he’s fast. Yes, he cried for the first three months of his life, poor colicky kid. He came to us a huge soul squeezed into a tiny, helpless body and he seemed pretty pissed about that. But as he has grown into himself and as these last eight years have spun by, we’ve also come to see the tender heart and sweet disposition of this loving and brilliant boy. I’m so glad to honor his birthday today and so glad that you, my sister are woven into the very fabric of his story.