My dear friend, Erin, tells a lovely, lovely story. And this one about her new son is no different. You’re going to want to read this poetry a few times, I think. I did. Welcome, Erin.
Every mother’s birth story is different. Mine begins with a toddler in ballet class, with buffalo chicken from the crock pot, with a phone call we never saw coming. In adoption terms, it’s sometimes called Gotcha Day: the joyous date you bring home the baby you’d been dreaming of for weeks, months, years?
But this wasn’t Gotcha. This was something else entirely. Messy and layered, fueled by pain and bliss. There was grief and there was joy. Tears and sweat. Agony and love. Hope upon hope upon hope.
It felt strangely familiar.
Four years ago, I gave birth to my biological daughter at home. I labored in my office, pacing between filing cabinets of tax records, the lines of my Stendig blurring into oblivion. There was grief and there was joy. Tears and sweat. Agony and love.
And so, I don’t call this a Gotcha story. I know a birth story when I see it, and this is that.
The birth of a brave, selfless woman.
The birth of her son.
The birth of us all.
(Hope upon hope upon hope.)
[ Republished with permission from Design for Mankind. For more of Erin Loechner’s writing, pre-order her latest book, Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. ]
The contractions begin.
Bee is dressed for ballet. I’m adjusting her leotard, securing her loose blonde waves into a bun, clip to one side. A kiss on the cheek. The other 4-year-olds are skipping into class, bumbling into each other with excitement, energy. Trying to be graceful, trying to look tall.
See you in a bit, I say. Have fun!
Somewhere else, a woman labors.
Bee’s learned a new move, third position. She shows me after class as we walk toward the car.
Like this, she says, dropping my hand on the sidewalk, raising one arm overhead, the other bent in front. A small little bow.
Lovely, I say. Just lovely.
It is golden hour; the sun pours over us like magic.
Somewhere else, a woman groans.
As we drive home, she asks for snacks. She asks what we’ll be having for dinner, what we’ll be doing this evening, what’s the name of our neighbor’s cat again? Waffle?
I watch the road, I answer questions. I press repeat on the CD, then again, then one more time. Ah, yes. This one is her favorite. Skip counting by 6.
I can’t get it right, she says as her legs dangle the car seat. Is this point or flex?
She points her toes, calves revealing two tiny lumps. Flexes her ankles, bends them back, muscles tensing as they expand, contract, release.
Somewhere else, a woman pushes.
Flex, I say.
Dinner is buffalo chicken and cabbage wraps. Ken is home from a trip, his unpacked luggage still sprawled out in the dining room. I step over it as I set the table, gather napkins, not minding as much as I usually do. His weekender smells like patchouli, never a bad thing.
We eat, we talk. It’s bath night, I remind Bee, but she already knows.
Somewhere else, a baby cries.
The dishes lay in the sink for tomorrow. The toddler splashes, I brush my teeth. It’s late, I’m thinking of deadlines.
But then, the phone.
Do you have a minute to talk? the woman asks Ken. Is your wife there? She’s gonna want to hear this.
And then we were four.
I met him last evening. A boy, yes. Born at home. (Like Bee? Like Bee.) So fast, I know. He is beautiful. He is healthy.
He is yours.
We rush around, make phone calls. Bee is asleep in bed by now, do we wake her? Tell her the news? That she has a brother, that he is beautiful, that he is healthy, that he is ours?
We throw salami, carrots, grapes in a cooler. A change of clothes, deodorant. Phone chargers.
Ken tiptoes into Bee’s room, whispering. It’s late. But your brother is here.
We pile in the car, all of us. We drive. We drive and drive and drive and we meet him far after midnight and he is beautiful and he is healthy and he is ours.
I’ve been calling him Scout.
We didn’t know.
When Bee was twirling, when she itched her leotard, when I washed the cabbage, when I toweled her off in a sudsy puddle of bathwater, we didn’t know something lovely was being born.
How could we have known?
Earlier in the day, when we visited Ken’s brother to drop off a gift, when we stopped at the coffee shop for tea, when Bee made a new friend on the sidewalk and we smiled at our neighbors and filled up the gas tank and stopped at the bank and did everything in the most mundane of ways, how could we have known?
When I ran into a friend that afternoon, when she’d pulled over her car, asked for an update – Any news on a match meeting? – when I’d responded, Oh it could be years before a match; we just finished the paperwork! It’s ok, though, really!
We couldn’t have known. We couldn’t have known there was a woman – a stranger – laboring, pushing, spilling herself out to offer life to another.
Angels are often unseen by mere mortals.
So yes, he is here. He is beautiful and he is healthy and he is ours.
We are so happy. (We are so tired.)
We are still practicing third position. Still leaving luggage on the floor, unpacked, unsorted. Still here, sautéing the cabbage.
But now there are four of us, mere mortals, stumbling into one another. Finding a rhythm, finding grace.
Finding each other.