I’ll never forget that morning.
I watched the sky outside turn from dark to gray to a quiet pink that illuminated every corner of our backyard. I’d never been patient or alert enough to watch heaven make this transition; completing its daily ritual with a wakeful blue that triggers the hustle and bustle of the day.
But this morning wasn’t like other mornings. There would be no hustle and bustle for me today; there would be only counting to twenty a thousand times with a thousand prayers of gratitude and pleas for strength in between. There would be only a strawberry blonde and her dark curly-haired man, working together through each twenty-second count and kissing giddily and nervously when each one was over. It was the beginning of a 24-hour long journey that would prove both exhausting and exhilarating. It would end with us meeting our son.
A thousand more twenty-second counts. A batch of cookies to distract my body. The blue started to fade from the sky when I questioned aloud whether I was capable, burying my head into a future father’s chest and soaking his t-shirt as we swayed back and forth and he whispered words of strength in my ear. We felt heaven encircle us as the sky became gray again and my curly-haired man said a prayer – a blessing – that assured me in the most simple and beautiful way that my body was strong and prepared. His words were close and far away at once – my yoga ball had become a raft in a clear and vast sea, bouncing gently as each crystal wave lapped against its sides.
The pink morning was a distant memory as the future father helped me into the car and drove me swiftly and silently through the black stillness of a sleeping town. More twenty second counts. Four hands helping me out of the car. A brief exam and whoops of joy as someone said the number “8.” Counting faster now, struggling to focus and not flee, stepping into a steaming hot bathtub and letting a synergic team take over: a husband, two midwives, a doula, my body, my baby, and God. My eyes were closed now, almost permanently, but I felt everyone’s indispensible presence with each new ice pack on my forehead, each whispered “I love you,” each soothing pressure point, each beat of a tiny heart, and each strained breath that left my body.
Time was an illusion – it stood still and sped by and my body took over to do the work Mother Nature has trained it to do over a million years of sacred nights like this one. I was a distant onlooker – There was a team of support, surrounding and coaching and holding and whispering to and kissing a frightened-looking strawberry blonde as she pushed and screamed and cried and mentally counted to twenty, merely out of habit now.
And then it was over. A tiny dark-haired person was placed gently into the strawberry blonde’s arms, and she was back inside her body, no longer an onlooker but a mother now, staring into a pair of wide and alert dusky eyes that stared calmly and curiously back. I stroked his curly hair and rubbed my fingers across his rosy round cheeks. His smell was intoxicating and his skin was smooth and his features were tiny and perfect. I could have laid in that now-cold water for hours more, locking eyes with this new person – my son – and telling him in a hoarse whisper a million times that I love him more than life.
And now we’re a family and sometimes it’s as though I’m not in my own body again, but watching myself from the eyes of a little strawberry blonde girl whose dream of this life has always been too far away to see clearly until now: She watches as a strawberry blonde, grown-up mother puts the tiniest little body against hers to feed while she hums a Lithuanian lullaby. She smiles as the woman hands the tiny person to her grown-up, handsome, dark-haired husband, who begins to rock his son and read the same story aloud that he’s been reading to a growing belly for months now: “How to Train Your Dragon.” She wonders, does that strawberry blonde really have all this? Does one life deserve this much love and happiness? Is that person with her two dark-haired boys and dog and backyard really me?
After another late night, the strawberry blonde turns and sees the sky outside unveiling another perfect summer morning. She kisses a smooth, rosy forehead that has finally bobbed to sleep and inhales his fresh baby smell. Deserving or not, it’s another one of those gifts that can only follow a long dark night.
World, meet Clark.