Friday, March 30, 2012


Lately I have been sleeping on my stomach, one arm tucked under my chest, the other nested against my naval. My belly feels foreign and flat yet soft. It still remembers the shape it held just a few short weeks ago. My dreams are empty and interrupted. When I wake, my arms are fast asleep.


It's dusk. The sky shades into a color that's not quite night and the trees look black against it. Buds and baby leaves can't fill in a canopy yet, so each branch points like a crooked finger at the moon and pierces holes in the heavens for the first stars to shine through.

Squirrel nests hang ragged and exposed high above my head. Blood clots in the branches, too large to slip like sand through outstretched fingers. Once he told me that these are temporary shelters and hiding places -- not nests to raise young. I wonder where they birth their babies, then, and how long it takes the wind to loosen each leaf and finally blow these not-nests apart.


The tree outside our front window leafs out before all the others and turns golden when it's nowhere near autumn. He thinks it might be dying. I'm not sure.

Last summer, I watched little, dark-capped birds tunnel into the trunk. I'd never witnessed this kind of nest building before and it held my attention. On the way to the mailbox one day I stopped and peered inside. Two glittering eyes looked back at me. She must have been guarding something precious or surely my bold approach would have sent her into flight.

All the seasons of a single year have passed and they're back this spring. I'm not sure if it's the same pair or two different birds, but I see them dart in and out, busy with instinct-driven preparations. I watch one fly away, its trajectory level with my line of sight. Even though it flies from this tree to the next without deviating left or right, its path is not straight. It undulates up and down gently, wings catching on a breeze I can't feel.

Though this tree's sap might be flowing more slowly this year, it plays host to new life anyway. I think about going out there with a flashlight so I can see the eggs or even just the bits of straw they're weaving into a nest. But I don't. Maybe miracles need some mystery.


I hold the baby up on my shoulder, her warm, downy head whispering against my cheek. Even from my peripheral view, she looks like a picture: full and drowsy, hands folded under her chin, lips pursed, cheeks drooping down. The house is quiet. He took the other three and their chaos out to do some shopping.

I sit. I rock. I breathe.

I don't think about how loud it will be when they get back or what we'll have for dinner or the mess in the living room or the circle of my arms that used to be home but now feels fractured under this new weight. I don't think about him going back to work or me driving to preschool or how rude this one sometimes acts or the fits that one throws or that she's too heavy for me to carry anymore and my arms are too full to tread in such thick water.

I don't.

Instead I just watch the sun stream through the windows and ingest the scent of her new skin and sit and sit and sit and let that fill me all the way up as she turns her head in her sleep and nests deeper into my neck.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


It happens overnight.

The grass wakes up and one thousand tiny leaves are all born at once, dusting the landscape with a nascent green. Mother Earth groans through every crack in the soil as tiny shoots press out of the darkness and into the light. The air is damp and the dew that settles by morning blesses every single surface with drops of water made holy by the creeping rays of dawn.

An owl asks the moon to stay. It won't.


It happens overnight.

I convince myself that if I lie perfectly still, it will go away. This is not how I hoped it would happen.

I get up, walk around, sit down, lie back in bed. I can't will this away. It moves toward me like the change of seasons -- not a date marked on the calendar but as an unknowable, untimable transition set in motion by something secret -- the sap flowing under the bark.

I tap his shoulder. Once. He doesn't respond. I don't really want him to. But I wait a moment and tap again. He rolls toward me.

"So," I say.

I pause. The silence is the full moon -- round and complete with two eyes watching from above our heads.

It takes him a few minutes to convince me out of bed again. I know I'm surrendering to gravity once my feet hit the floor. This is a hill I have to roll down.

There's the bustle and the hurry, the phone calls and the neighbor arriving. The night air rushes through the door behind her, circling around my ankles and tugging on me like the tide until I'm outside. In the car.

What was just mild tightens a few notches and I sigh after it loosens again.

"Goodness, it's nice to not have a contraction," I say. We're halfway there.

The next pain holds my head under the water and I gasp for air. He notices the change. I hear him call the hospital and ask that the midwife meet us in the ER. I'm someplace else already. I don't feel the speed he's driving.

We get there. I sense that the lights are too bright and there are more people around me than I would care to share this experience with. I hear his voice on my periphery and its almost too far away but it matters more than anything.  I don't care where I am anymore just find me a safe nest so that what's going to happen can happen and I can breathe again.

It does. I do.

They place her on my chest.

She's whole.
She's here.

I see her sisters written all over her face. But her own name is etched there, too.

Rose Geraldine.

First to speak for the color of life. Second to root into family and the strength of one great woman and all the great women I've ever known and the sight to find the good in every breathing thing.

When we get home from the hospital I see green outside the front window. Spring came.

It happened overnight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Just like any other unborn baby, she takes up all my space. She shoves my innards aside.

Here is my bladder, flat as a pancake. I have to get up every two hours to pee. Here is my stomach, compressed to nothing, yet somehow I have to fill it enough for the both of us. I wonder about the location of my liver and and how it's surviving but it must be there. My intestines, too. I have a lot to digest.

My ribs form an upper limit. A boundary of bone. Yet she reaches up out of my torso, feet stretching, searching. She pedals against my brain, blow after blow, driving the revolutions of a wheel that empties my mind of anything. Everything. But her. And the laundry that must get done before she arrives.

My belly is a balloon that will deflate very soon. My mind will contract with it. I know. I've done this before.

But I trust. trust. trust that mine is a well that keeps on filling. A flood of living water saturates the cracks of a space that seems so full

of everything
of nothing

cold and keeping me alive so when the stars line up and the season changes again, I'll still be able to



enough to call a rose a rose
and find my own face in the mirror.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The fruit in my hand is ripe. Soft. It's flesh yields under my thumb. I slide the knife as shallow as I can and the peel's surface buckles, tiny ripples rolling across solid skin.

The knife moves easily and the peel falls, ringlets shorn into the sink. Now the fruit is slippery, juicy, naked in my palm. I chunk it into fork-sized pieces and separate them equally into bowls. One slice has a blemish, though -- a bruise. From my thumb? Did I drop it earlier or maybe set it down too hard? Was it packed too tightly, under too much pressure?

I don't know.

But I pop it into my mouth -- none of the kids will eat something that looks even slightly irregular. It tastes sweet, just like I expected.



I can't settle on a name until I see what she looks like.

He laughs. Just pull out a newborn picture of any of her sisters if you really want to know.

I look down at the skin pulled tight across my belly. Somehow, even this fourth time around, I've escaped stretchmarks. It doesn't seem possible. Perhaps they'll show up yet.

I imagine the girl folded within my womb. She reveals her position easily -- even though I can't see her, she's not hiding at all. Here are her feet, pushing hard just below my ribs, always on the right. Her spine presses against my whole left side and her weight shifts when I roll over in bed. She sinks like a rock and settles into the other soft shore. She expands her chest up and down up and down -- breathing practice. And -- oh -- she turns her head and I wonder how she doesn't burst this bubble.

She feels whole. Bones and skin, face and limbs, and a mind just waiting to open to the world I see, ready to collect on its pages all the beautiful pain and excruciating joy of a life worth living.

But for now she's breathing under water, submerged beneath a skin I can't see through.

I wonder what she looks like.

I wonder what her name will be.



When she was a newborn, she rarely cried. She stayed awake in the night, though, staring at me with eyes that looked black as midnight and deep as the universe expanding in all directions.

I don't know why I didn't just lay her down and doze off myself -- like I said, she rarely cried. But I couldn't stop holding her. I just kept staring into her eyes and what I saw there was written in another language. But still, I should have taken notes.

The morning light would ignite her eyes blue again, a pale fire draped in front of those windows to the soul that seemed so wide open in the night.

Now she sleeps all night. She doesn't even call for water anymore when she wakes up thirsty at 2 a.m. or request a companion in the dark if she has to go to the bathroom. She just races across the hallway on her own, bare feet pounding ahead of the shadows she sees as tendrils reaching out to snare her.

She's getting so tall.

In the morning, sometimes, her eyes flash with a stubborn fire and with all that smoke I can't see the source of the emotions boiling beneath her surface.

I don't know what to say. It's usually the wrong thing.

She exists outside me completely. I've already counted her fingers and toes -- they've always been all there. I've already plumbed the depths of her eyes and felt the enigma of a soul separate from mine. And her skin is not going to slip off. I wouldn't want it to.

But I know her name. I know what I've given her. What I'm still giving her.

And so I will watch her unfold, doing my best to hold whatever she wants me to.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The wind! It sounds like the wave pool!

She never heard the ocean but she has the comparison right. These gusts are rolling over us like waves of surf. Pushing against our senses again and again, the work of unseen currents.

Her hair sticks out of her hat and her face turns up to the grey sky and I push the swing away and wait for it to come back again and again and again and again.


I'm not really interested in birthing again, I tell my mother with a laugh, partly joking, partly not. I've done this before. I know what it is:

Beautiful. Empowering. Life changing. Surreal. Primal. But also terrifying and terrible, those crescendos of pain that tear a body in two. I haven't forgotten.

Did I ever tell you what my mother said the day I was born? She has, but I let her tell me again. Because I like the story. And hearing her tell of it.

It had been nine years since my sister was born. When my mother was in labor with me and they pulled up to the hospital, she asked my father, "Can we just drive around the block one more time?" She wasn't ready to go in. 

I think I know exactly how she felt.


I'm in the shower. The sound of the steaming water and the air-circulating fan cocoon me in a space of loud silence. I tweak the temperature -- just a little hotter -- and tell myself one more minute. But then I hear a sound. Sharp. Urgent. Loud over the white noise. I turn off the water and stand still, dripping. I towel up, step out, and flick off the fan.


But it's nothing. They're just laughing. Screams of glee that sound just a degree away from cries of pain.

I turn on the hair dryer.


My eyes are closing, pen in hand, blank page still blank. But a crack sends sparks of adrenaline down my spine. Thunder always startles me. And it affects me even more so now, knowing that at least one of three sets of eyes have likely been shocked open. They're all scared of storms in the night.

But it's March. It's snowing. The crack was just the snow plow's blade greeting the pavement. The rumble just metal dragging on rock, up one side of the street and down the other. The sound fades as the truck moves to another street. No one wakes up.


And so, ready or not, my mother was born. Unconscious of the agony her crossing over caused, blinded for a moment by the lights of this new world, already wrapped up in love as warm as the womb.

Years and years went by. My mother grew up. My grandmother grew old.

When she came to the end of things,  I know my mother would have given anything to drive just once more around the block with the woman who carried her, who birthed her. But when my grandmother breathed her last breath, I like to imagine that she rode out of this world on the same waves that washed my mother ashore. Yes, there was agony -- not for her but for the souls she left behind. But then there was the brightness of a new existence. And love swaddling her tight with all the warmth she had ever, ever known. Imprinting it upon her. To take along.