Peggy said, "Are you totally sure it's real? Let's talk for a while."
I went into the kitchen while we were talking, rummaged around in the kitchen drawers and pulled out a funnel.
"No, really," I said, "I feel like a funnel. Like, I can feel that my body is a funnel."
No. I wasn't stoned. I was in labor.
Peggy had done this labor thing twice, and was wise. "Let's try and get some sleep. Call me back if it keeps up."
I remember hanging up with her about 11:30 pm. Which is what time it is right now, as I write this.
I went to lay down, but The Kid was coming. There was to be no laying down. I called Peggy back, probably about 3 minutes after she'd fallen asleep, and told her I'd be needing her. Soon. I went back to Hugh Grant, my focal point, until Peggy showed up.
The labor went all night, I just remember not being able to do one thing for very long because whatever worked during the last group of contractions wasn't going to work during the next, and I also remember repeating, "I didn't expect my hips to hurt this much!" Because labor hurts in your hips, yo. Your hips are growing, right there. If I could have kept still and hadn't had a full layer of pregnant blubber over them, we could have watched them expand, like bamboo. So, you know those jeans you liked before you got pregnant? The skinny ones that hugged your hips in that perfect way that probably helped you get pregnant in the first place? You've got two choices of what to do with them now:
2. Learn how to quilt.
We got to the hospital about 5am, and after an uncomfortable period where the nurses had to check to see if I was "really" in labor (um, yo.) we got down to business.
I don't want to get too bogged down in the whole labor part of this story, but I must write about transition. For non-labor-minded folks, transition is the rapid-fire period of labor, usually after the cervix has dilated to 7cm (it generally needs to go to 10), where contractions last longer, and you get pretty much no break whatsoever in between them. I chose to go through labor without the aid of drugs. At the time I was full of hippie zeal for "natural childbirth," but now I know that I was just psyching myself up for single motherhood. Kind of a little test of endurance, I guess. That said, I will strongly suggest non-drug childbirth to anyone. It is truly ecstacy. In the few moments I had to think (as opposed to tend or react to the pain), I thought of Saint Theresa of Avila, the Spanish nun who believed that Christ had entered her body and she reached a mystical orgasmic state of pain and pleasure from God's power. The pain of labor just takes over your body, it is NOT unbareable, your body knows how to deal, but you can only lay and let it happen. I really loved this. [Keep in mind, last week, I got a paper cut on my thumb and complained about it for 3 days, I'm not some kind of freaky pain-lover, generally.] It was such an extraordinary challenge in self control. I think I got only about 3 "good" meditative contractions during the two hours that was transition (this is all more hippie stuff, and I promise, I'll be done soon). But it was ME in my most primal. There were and are no words. Just a strong recommendation to try it, if you are into having babies and all that stuff.
[Okay, and as another total aside, I just had another totally different kind of mystical experience. I went through a couple of sites to find the best photo of Bernini's St. Theresa, and settled on that one because it included some of St. Theresa's own text (she wrote a book, kind of). Then as I was editing, I went back to the site, and I notice my friend Chelsea's name in the upper corner. Chelsea is a dear friend of mine, we lived together in Ireland, although there is much more to how we knew each other than that, she is my true 6-degrees-of-separation friend. It is from her final project as a performance artist/dancer (and I honestly thought that she went to UT to study math) at the U. of Texas. Chelsea also just had a baby, named Oscar. What a crazy world wide web coincidence.]
After about just about 12 hours of labor, The Kid entered the world, perfect and pink and wide-eyed. And The Kid is meant to be the main subject of this post.
I remember very little after he was first born, just exhileration, exhaustion, and I remember naming him.
I remember touching his perfect tummy, trying to keep his baby hat on him, and his wrinkled fingers and toes.
But mostly I remember his eyes. I looked in his eyes tonight before he went to bed. I think he's lost some of that infant-wisdom that is just there for the few days after a baby is born, but he's still wide-eyed, he's still so present.
Happy Birthday Kid. I love you so much. There are no words. Really, I tried. I can only hug you, and kiss you and live for you and breathe for you. I do everything for you, ultimately.
There's so much crap around right now about mothers "losing themselves" in parenthood, as if the kids ask for that. I lose myself in The Kid all day, every day, with no damage done to my identity. He and I aren't the same person. I have a lot going on that isn't really for or with The Kid. So I do have stuff that makes me feel like me. But I've also recognized that being The Kid's mom is being me. So these moms on Oprah, who don't know what they've done with their lives, filling their lives and their kids lives with soccer games and ballet lessons and whatever else they do with themselves that gets them lost, I just have to say sorry. Sorry you've compromised your love for life. Look in their eyes, you'll see it. Why else are you here on earth?
Ah Kid, I keep rambling trying to find better words or better ways to describe this, but I'm unable. I can't believe I'm about to quote Faulkner, but Addie had it right in As I Lay Dying:
And when I knew that I had Cash . . . That was when I learned that words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at. When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn't care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride, who never had the pride...
Kid, I'll leave it at that. I just love you. Happy Birthday.