Saturday, May 23, 2009

33 years ago

I woke up early in labor on the morning of the 22nd. After a check at the hospital late in the morning we were told to go home and "walk". A soft rain was falling but we walked through our neighborhood, stopping to admire the May flowers and cut grass. The old houses, the cracked sidewalks, the bright green was clean and fragrant in the rain. When a contraction started I would stop and lean against a fence or sit for a moment on a retaining wall. Ray would watch the sky and hold my hand. We walked through a big and rambling store. At one point we saw friends who asked, "how's it going?" "I'm in labor—we're having a baby." Strangers turned and smiled. An old man gave me a thumb's up.

It was just after midnight, on the 23rd, when we knew it was really time, this time, and threw on clothes and drove through empty streets, wet with rain, to the hospital. That was the time before sonograms and knowing months in advance the gender. I had a beautiful 2-year-old son. I hoped fervently for a girl, but steeled myself and prepared myself to love another boy with all my heart. The Dr. had said, at my last visit "I think we have a nice big boy." In the delivery room the nurse listened to the heartbeat and said, "good and strong—it's a boy. I'm never wrong." And then my daughter was here, and I wept with joy. She didn't breathe at first, and the nurses whisked her away, but soon returned with the news that she was fine, just fine. And then I saw how very fine she was. Beautiful, in fact.

I've never accepted that old, oft-repeated pronouncement that you don't remember the pain of giving birth. For me, the memory is strong, even after all these years—of pain, of focus, of determination and intense effort and the knowledge of miraculous power and awesome responsibility. These are things you don't forget.

Today is my lovely daughter's birthday and we celebrate her life and all she has brought to us and to the world. And I have my own little celebration and remember.

And, Happy Birthday today to our nieces, Melissa and Jessica, both also born on May 23. Big day in our family!


  1. Lovely baby! One never forgets the birth of one's children! It's my husband's birthday today. Obviously a very good date.

  2. I love how you write..I can feel the emotion in your words. Thank you.

  3. Aw, Terry; I have tears in my eyes. Happy birthday, Emily!

    I love "Ray would watch the sky and hold my hand." I can just picture it. Of course, I picture the two of you now, not as you would've looked then.

  4. Today is my sons birthday too.
    A memory I too will never forget.

  5. And, lovely she is as she was then.

  6. Beautiful!
    Happy birthday to your daughter, and congratulations to you!
    I too have a very vivid memory of my children's birth.

  7. Finally catching up with your blog -- what a cute picture - h.b. to all those girls!

    Looking at your map below, I didn't know there was a Vancouver in Oregon.
    And the stamped fabric is super; reminds me that I haven't carved in a long time.

  8. I had my BIG boy 12 years ago on the 23rd as well! Happy day to us all!

  9. It's so nice to hear those words that tell you the baby is just fine, yes? I feel so lucky to have given birth to 2 healthy children.

    Especially when I read today's NYT article about the high mother-infant mortality rate in much of Africa, mostly because they lack the technology and the skilled medical staff that we have in this country.