My baby (yes, we still call him “baby” to the point where that’s how he refers to himself) turns two tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that a year ago I wrote a post called “Asher Turns One.” Time does, indeed, fly by, especially with kids around. My baby is no longer a baby; he’s a toddler well on his way to becoming a little boy as he yells, “Hi, Izzy” to his girlfriend (the four year old girl across the street) and runs off to play with the big kids. Time just keeps on moving forward…
Several years ago, I started a tradition for myself of taking the day before my birthday to reflect on the previous year and allow for any feelings of sadness to emerge. The tradition arose on the heels of several birthdays where I would find myself depressed on the actual day. It’s a real downer to feel depressed on one’s birthday, and it occurred to me that I needed to follow my own advice around transitions: deal with the difficult feelings ahead of time to clear the way for joy and celebration to enter on the pivotal day (wedding, labor, birthdays). Since adopting this ritual, I have had a series of joyous birthdays.
In the life of a mother, our kids’ birthdays are also our own: I was born as a mother the day Everest was born, a mother of two the day of Asher’s birth. And the same principle applies: in order to celebrate my sons’ birthdays without grief or introspection clouding the joy, I need to carve out time the day before their birthday to attend to my own inner world.
So here I am, on this blog which sometimes becomes a keepsake journal that documents my family’s transitions. I’m breathing into the memory of Asher’s birth time, and on the waves of this breath come the “what was happening on this day two years ago” sensations that rise up through the layers of psyche. Sometimes these sensation appear as feelings; other times as a need to reflect on what transpired last his year. Today it appears as Asher’s birth story:
I’m having Passover dinner with our dear friends, our last time out as a family of three. As a result of the deep sense of community I feel with my friends, I realize that yes, I do want my mother at the birth. I fall asleep, and at 4 am I awake to a puddle of broken water. I’m flooded first with excitement, then with terror. I wake up Daev but tell him not to wake up Everest; I know from the first birth that we’ll all need as much energy as possible for the journey that lies ahead. I walk downstairs and, shaking from fear, I call my midwife. I can hardly speak because my teeth are chattering so vigorously. I wait as long as possible, then call my mom and say, “Get on a plane. Your grandson is coming.”
Oh, I cry now not from grief, but from utter joy and gratitude. I cry from the miracle of birthing a baby, the intensity of these birth days that begin and mark our lives, the gratitude that we made it, that we’re here on this earth, all of us together experiencing this wondrous life.
My labor progresses slowly throughout the morning. My mom arrives at 10:30 am with a rush of happiness. How healing it is to have her here, especially after the searingly painful estranged period we were in when Everest was born. We walk through our yard together. We build Legos with Everest. We’re happy just to be in each other’s company, sharing this sacred time.
Contractions… contractions… contractions. My midwife suggests castor oil to move things along. I’m reluctant, but I acquiesce. As I’m starting this birth on negative reserve, I know I don’t have it in me to labor through the night. I’m already exhausted. I’ve been tired for four and a half years; I need this baby to come more quickly than Everest did (42 hours). Midwife arrives around 5pm to check on me. We sit on my bed. She says, “You don’t look happy,” and I burst into tears with the baseline fear of every second time mother, “How will I love this baby as much as I love Everest? Will Everest be okay? How will we manage this transition?” I cry with total abandon, letting the grief and fear move through from bone to muscle to tissue to heart to throat and out of me. My midwife holds me in every sense of the word. As a mother of two herself, she knows exactly what I’m feeling. As mother, as midwife, as sister, as woman, she holds me until there are no more tears. She leaves and says to call if my labor changes.
An hour later, my labor changes. The contractions start coming five minutes apart. I call my midwife. Our neighbor comes over to be with Everest. On my mother’s arm, we walk upstairs to the room where my baby will be born. I listen to music in my iPod and allow my body to follow the rhythms. This is still the romantic part of labor where the pain is strong but manageable enough to listen to music and dance, where you think, “This isn’t so bad. Look at me – dancing through labor.” And then it gets bad. And then I want to die. I ask to go the hospital. Midwife arrives and checks me to see if I can get into the birthing tub. I’m longing for the relief of the warm water, but there’s no relief, only pain.
I scream. The midwife says, “Bring that sound down, down, down.” I bring it down and I’m a woman in Africa, bearing my young on the savanna. I look up to see the faces that peer down from the rim of the tub: my handsome husband, my beautiful mother, my priestess midwife, the assistant in the background. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You can do this, they all seem to say. The fire. I’m being split apart. I’m dying. I’m being born. I’m birthing. I push like I’ve never pushed… and my baby, my baby Asher, is born.
And now he’s two. And now he says, “I wuv you, Baba” to his big brother, who is his best friend. And now Everest thinks of Asher when he wants to erase his nighttime fears and imagine the person he loves most in the world. And now we’re an integrated family of four and we simply cannot imagine life without him.
Asher Osian Phoenix Finn: Joyous warrior flying from the ashes to the white mountain. We named him well. He is, indeed, a joyous soul, full of fun and silliness. He lives to make people laugh, especially his big brother. Spring baby, birthed during the season of hope and renewal, passionately alive and passionate about life. A lover of language, animals, dinosaurs, books, music, and the creek that runs behind our house. He has a big, generous, loving spirit inside an adorable little body. He’s grounded, warm, delicious. “Like a donut,” my friend, Lisa, observes, as he wraps his arms around her like he’s her boyfriend. “Or a dumpling,” I reply.
And with the prayer I whispered to him on his first birthday, I say, ““Happy Birthday, my little angel. May you walk through life guided by your Daddy, protected by your big brother, taught by your grandmother, and nourished by your Mommy. May you allow the warm waters of life to support you as you pass through the transitions that will grow you into the man you are meant to be. And thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing the gift of your life with us.”