Last weekend, eight years after my psychiatrist husband and I had decided we'd each follow our creative lives - he by moving tons of Italian marble to our backyard in Texas, me by moving to Chicago to resume my life in the theatre - our fifth grandchild arrived, totally upstaging us all.
It was Sunday morning, the last day of our week together in Chicago, when the phone rang. I had my leg wrapped around Bob, wishing he were going to stay longer, sad he had to leave later that day to go back to Texas.
The call was from Ed, our son, who lives one floor up from my apartment, with his singer-songwriter wife, Lisa, and their almost three-year-old daughter, Kali. When Lisa got pregnant they had decided to have a home birth. Their first child had been born at home in Austin, Texas, and they felt committed to giving the second child an equally natural introduction to the world. The baby was due in two weeks and we were all counting the days.
I looked at the clock beside our bed. It was 5:05 a.m. I heard Ed say, in a pretty calm voice, "Lisa's having the baby." I said, "What do you want us to do?" At that moment the tone of his voice changed. He shouted into the phone, "Get up here!" I woke Bob, threw on my robe, and ran up the stairs and down their hall. The door was propped open so I rushed in, heard Ed and Lisa in the living room, and found them crouched together on the floor on a towel.
Ed said, "Let's get her into the bed." We hugged and then she leaned on Ed and me, and we helped her walk down the short hall to a bed that had been somewhat prepared for the birth. When Lisa knew the contractions had started, sometime after 12:00 a.m., she had told Ed to get the sheets, towels, and infant clothes down to the laundry.
Lisa got on the bed, moaning at a deep sustained level, a sort of song, which helped her relax. At 5:00 a.m. Ed had called the midwives, and they were on their way. As soon as Bob and I were at Lisa's bedside, Ed went down to tell the doorman to let the midwives park in front and to show them how to get to his apartment.
By the time he got back upstairs, the baby was on her way. Ed stood there watching. By now, Bob was making us all feel that he could handle this. Although his 6'6" presence was reassuring, somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that he hadn't delivered a baby since medical school, almost 40 years ago, but when he said, "We all better wash our hands," we all washed our hands. Then Lisa said, "I feel like pushing," and Bob said, "Go ahead." The baby's head crowned and Ed said, " The midwives aren't here yet! What are we going to do?" Bob and I both answered in unison, "We're going to have a baby. That's what we're going to do."
Lisa pushed again. The head came out a little farther. I'm sure Lisa was making sounds but I could hear nothing. The silence was absolute for me as I saw Bob's large, powerful, graceful hands moving toward the baby. I heard him predict, "It's a girl," and then he slipped his fingers under the baby's little shoulder and pulled, as Lisa made the third and final push. He was right. Mia Michelle was covered with a little white paste here and there, but she was incredibly beautiful. Lisa said, "Put her on my chest," which I did. Lisa, earth mother and singer, could have done it all herself, I'm convinced, but she gave us the gift of letting us feel welcome and needed at this miraculous event.
The cord was still connected, and trailed from the tiny body to it's source of life, as the baby lay there on her mother's breast. Mia made a small cry, cleared her nose and throat a bit, and then went to sleep. Lisa said softly, "The light is too bright." We turned it off and lit two candles, which Lisa had placed on the table for the birthing ceremony. One shade was partially open, and the city lights cast a soft spell on the room. When we looked at the clock, it was 5:15 a.m.
Then everyone cried and laughed. I went down to put the washing in the dryer. One of the loads was totally off balance and had shut off halfway through the rinse cycle. Ed woke Kali up, took her in to see Lisa and the baby, and she said, "Oh, my baby sister came out." Her baby sister had been around for quite a while; she had just now come out.
It seemed so effortless. So natural.
The midwives finally arrived at about 5:30. They checked Lisa, weighed the baby, and did the paperwork. Then Ed served them a breakfast of whole-grain waffles and orange juice. After they left, we started calling relatives, time zone by time zone. Everyone wanted to hear all the details. We couldn't get them off the phone. Then Lisa called all her Chicago friends. Flowers started arriving, followed by food.
Bob and I had made other plans for Sunday morning. We were supposed to have breakfast with his best friend from high school, Mike Spock, son of the famous baby doctor and author of the book my mother used as a bible when she raised me, the same one I used for guidance for my four sons. Instead of us going to their house, Mike and his wife Judy brought bagels and lox, cold steamed asparagus, and fresh fruit to Ed and Lisa's apartment. As we sat there eating, Mike said he'd never experienced anything like the joy of this family event. He wished he had been present when his own granddaughter was born.
At 11:00, our friend, Nan, came with champagne, and there were toasts all around. Kali and I took the baby to the sofa so they could get to know each other. Kali touched Mia's tiny arm and said, "The baby's so soft." She kissed her, said she was beautiful, and acted very responsible for a little girl who was about to have company in her special place, the family.
More laundry, more dishes, more things to pick up, more good feelings to share. Then Nan said, "Kali, would you like to go to the zoo with me?" They walked to the zoo and later took a cab home, in time for Kali's nap. In time for both of their naps.
At about 1:30 p.m., Bob reminded me I hadn't made the carrying case for his new CD Walkman. He listens to music as he works on the marble. We raced downstairs, and I frantically cut and sewed while he sat down with his sketch pad and, with those same strong graceful hands, started to draw with his pastel pencils. He was in a state of flow. When he finished the drawing, he said it was a sketch for a sculpture.
He hailed a cab about 2:30 p.m. for a 3:30 flight. As I kissed him good-bye, I'd never felt so close to anyone in all my life, not even him. He threw his bags into the trunk, then handed me a rolled up piece of paper and said, "Oh, here. You keep this for a while." "Thanks," I said. As the cab sped off, I unrolled the drawing. It was a pastel of Lisa, our wonderful daughter-in-law, cradling Kali in one arm and Mia in the other.
Please send any mail to Mia, Marjie, Lisa, Kali, Bob, or Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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