First, I suppose, we should write about your birth – what with it being the beginning and all. Only, it wasn’t the beginning really, and the labor experience itself was rather simple and short and easy – just like I’d prayed it would be. It doesn’t beg pages to be properly told; and yet, your story is vast. And beautiful. I just don’t know quite how to tell it. Or even what to tell of the bits and pieces I know. And while it is true that four days ago, at this very time, I was fretting and grumping – certain you would never come at all (at least not on my hoped-for timetable) – when all along you were only hours from earth (and have long since been measured and weighed and announced and named), I am thinking just now not of how you got here, but of a tiny moment . . . near the start, or . . . in the middle? or . . . ? Oh I’m not really sure at all. Just a tiny moment of no real consequence perhaps -- plucked out of the enormousness of everything else.
It was the start of your second night here on earth. I sat on my little hospital bed holding you in my arms. It was quiet – all your little hearing tests and heart tests and heal pricks having been finished hours ago (and the nurses having finally decided to quit checking both of our temperatures and blood pressures now that they knew we were just about to leave them). On the wall in front of me was a clock – ticking itself close to the time dad had said he’d be coming to get us. On a little counter down from the clock sat my hospital bag and camera bag all packed up and ready to head back home – my hospital bag now full of additions like baby wipes, a paper with your foot prints, the results of bilirubin tests and the like.
I was feeling overwhelmed by all the regular anxiety that hits me each time I prepare to take one of my new ones back home with me. While I don’t love the hospital stay – and am always eager to leave, leaving does feel like the real plunge into life, and it scares me. Sitting there, waiting to go, I always fight frantically to reason my way back from a tidal wave of worries over all the upcoming . . . “how?”s. (How will I ever clean the house or make dinner? How will I get kids ready for school in the morning? How will I teach this baby to sleep through the night? How will I handle a crying baby and a crying toddler [or, in this case, two crying toddlers]?)
I was feeling all those same feelings, but, simultaneously, I was suddenly feeling a frantic need to hold to the moment I was in – to remember it perfectly. Forever. “Remember the flowers sitting on the counter – always from my mother-in-law. Remember the little clear bassinet with the nametag taped to it and the metal cart that they wheel him off in when he needs a test done. Remember the heavy door to my room. And the stiff couch covered in siblings passing around their new baby. Remember my hospital bed and getting the height of the top just right for sleeping with a baby in my arms. And remember toddlers always wanting to push the arrows to raise and lower the head and foot of the bed. And, good heavens! They didn’t use the white receiving blankets with the pink and blue stripe this time? Remember those! (And why why didn’t Hans have those for his little hospital pictures?)
And suddenly, mixed with all the fear and “this is hard” was a desperate desire not to have it end. None of it. A tiny new baby lifted right out from me and set on my chest. New red impossibly soft skin. Whispering softly as I stare into wide-open new eyes during the quiet of our first night together. Eyes with their characteristically newborn puffy upper and under eyelids. Even the newness and uncertainty. The weeks ahead of juggling with a life that one tiny, slumpy, new being has somehow managed to make enormously unfamiliar and unknown and unpredictable.
I could hardly understand myself at all as I sat there all bound up in a thousand desperate emotions. This having babies business has been hard and scary for me, but a hard and scary that I’ve always known was bound tightly with beauty and eternity and feelings of love that are so big they’ve threatened to crush me. And could it be that I’d finally done it? Finished all the hugeness and hardness and beauty of bringing my babies here? I wanted to cry out, “Wait! I know I’ve been a wimp and not always properly appreciated it all, but I can do better! I can flip back through it all and do it all with perfectness. I’ll cherish all of it and bravely hold to hope when I feel panic. And remember every bit that I’ve forgotten – each rise of their tiny chests as they’ve slept on mine, each smell, each minute of nursing them.” And then I was crying and wanted to plead, strangely enough -- concerning all of the bigness and hardness of having this family, and, mostly of having these newborns -- “Just please don’t take it away! Not any of it. Don’t let it just be gone and over. Ever.” And I didn’t even know what I meant really. Only I’m crying again and can’t type anymore.