Her name is Emilia. She was born last Friday, the 25th June 2010, at 4:31 post meridian. Neither Angela or I were allowed to be in the room for her birth, which we initially thought would be hard, since we were present at Mara’s birth. But we joined the young mother’s parents, brother and best friends in taking over the entire lobby of the childbirth center, and so we had a wonderful day of bonding within the very unusual community that we embodied, and we played Hearts and Bananagrams. In the end, the only person the baby’s mother wanted in the room with her besides the nurse and doctor was her boyfriend, the baby’s father. He, I must say — an eighteen-year-old boy not particularly beloved of the birthmother’s family — really stepped up and saw the journey through.
For reasons touched on in my last post, it was a very difficult time for Angela and myself, but it was a difficult time for everyone involved. And the two days after the birth, during which the birthmother stayed in the hospital to recover and the baby stayed with her, felt like very sad days. We watched the birthmother and birthfather holding and weeping over the life they had brought into the world together and were about to entrust to our care forever. We felt mixed, a little like thieves or crows waiting, but we kept telling ourselves, as they also told us, that we were the answer to their prayers as they were to ours, and that they wanted us there, even to witness their grief. It was actually pretty damned awfully hard. But it was beautiful too in a way that we will never be able to forget, nor describe adequately.
We brought Emilia home Sunday afternoon, and after a hard, sleepless first night we spent yesterday doing only what was necessary. Laundry, a grocery run, lots of dishes, quick naps. My parents visited. Mara has been waiting a long time to be a big sister and is a tireless “Holder of the Baby”. I wrote this to some friends and family last night:
Mara held Emilia in her lap for three solid hours today and wants to whenever she can, gets petulent when one of us gets a ‘longer turn’ than she does. Mara’s main problem is that we did almost nothing today and so she didn’t get the physical playtime she needs, so she was a little pent up and ornery by day’s end. Otherwise, she was a peach.”
Today was park day, a day when homeschool families gather at one of the local parks so kids can meet up and run around, climb stuff, and turn the volume up to eleven. Angela and Mara have been going for several months. Mara needed this today. I am off work for two weeks, so I went too, and met a few of the other parents — there were perhaps fifty, mostly the women – for the first time. Angela had Emilia in a Moby Wrap, which is a very very long cloth that you wrap around your torso several times in such a way that it creates a nifty seat and cover for the baby and holds her against your chest.
A number of the moms gathered around to congratulate us and admire Emilia, who is lovely. One of them said to me, “You must be over the moon!”
I thought about it for a second and said, “Yes, that’s a great way to put it. That’s exactly it.”
I know she meant the phrase the way it is classically used — giddy with joy to the point of leaping like the storied cow. And we are. Giddy with the silly, bubbly kind of giggling that comes of being anuzzle with a newborn. But to me the phrase also sounded like a place where the emotional poles and currents are all alien and unintuitive and you retain your bearing only by looking back at a world so tiny and fragile and in need of compassion.
As we said to the birthmother’s mother, a dear woman who understood that we were not able to celebrate this event the way people normally celebrate a child entering their family, “We’ll get there. There will be a lifetime for celebration.”
And we ARE getting there, very quickly. Tonight while I was writing this the birthmother called us, and it was great to hear her asking how Baby Emilia-pants is doing (“pants” is an endearing suffix in our home). It was healing to hear her laughter and know that she is going to be alright, that she can handle being in this bizarre relationship. Her phone call felt like permission to finally start leaping for joy.