As we walked through the parking lot, my enormous belly leading the way, I laughed as I could barely fit through the narrow tunnels of parked cars. The sun, a brilliant ball of rising color, not high enough yet, to be yellow, but no longer low enough to just glow, she was a beauty on this morning, and I felt as though the boldness of her red was signaling to the world that something significant was about to happen.
The hour had finally come to meet our little one, his making having been, quite literally, the shock of my life. Just a few weeks after the most insane, intense and quiet literally, surreal period of my life, my world, once again, tilted on its axis just enough to cause my white knuckled hold on to the wall. Trying half successfully to keep upright, the room around me began to spin as Erik translated the words on a little stick from Swedish to English: Positive. Definite. Pregnant.
Impossible. Unbelievable. Mind Blowing. How COULD this be? I’d spent months in the desert, lost dozens of pounds, my body, so fragile, so sick. How could I be a hospitable host to another living being?
Months of sickness, exhaustion and fear ensued, sprinkled with excitement and visions of maternal bliss- I was worried. So anxious. Confused.
I’m not ready to be a mother. I won’t be a good mother. My own mother is no longer here to show me the way. How will I ever know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, why? These, among other strange nighttime thoughts, would roll around my spirit as I would lie dutifully on my left side, chewing Tums tablets like crack, waiting for dawn to come.
In the beginning, it was only survival, for him, and for me- I thought I was going to get a little break. In an airport somewhere, sick in a public bathroom, we made a pact, this little one and me- we were strong- we knew that already, and despite the doubts that we had used up all the reservoir of strength God had graced us with, we had each other, and I promised him, we would figure this thing out- and although I didn’t know it then, I certainly understand it now-
Together. We have no idea what we’re doing, but somehow, we will figure it out.
That was my first lesson, and he’s barely even here.
So that morning, I wasn’t surprised when the African Sun was declaring to the world that it was going to be a very good day. October 2. I had chosen it because my doctor said it was Gandhi’s birthday. I believed that to be significant, just as I knew this baby was meant to be. His timing was incomprehensible, but I chose to trust.
There was so much laughing that morning. Grampa and Auntie had traveled the oceans and continents to welcome him with warm love. Together, we gathered in a small room, loving so much we were laughing, laughing so hard we were crying, wearing a shroud of fortunate disbelief as less than a year before, no one knew where I was, or if I was even alive, even me. The beautiful absurdity of how different things could be now, on this day, in a Nairobi hospital, because I was not only alive and well, but huge and bursting with life itself could only bring with it bittersweet tears of struggle, heartache and that mountain top feeling when you have won.
Standing outside the operating room, Erik tries to awkwardly put his arms around my enormous body. It’s our last few moments of just being two. We never dared to ask for this- we thought we had already asked for enough. Oh, but our Creator, just showing off, calling out to us, ‘You think that’s all I’ve got? Just close your eyes for a sec, and I’ll show you what I can do!’
Tears run down my face as we are ushered in, going in as two, leaving as three.
I notice a clock on the wall, the ticking is loud. It’s cold in there and the doctors and nurses are wearing garden gum boots. They are white and clean- and I chuckle. This is Africa. I love it here so much.
I am splayed on my back, connected to wires and tubes, it’s weird and I am trying not to panic. One of my doctors, a quiet man from Rwanda, is closest to me, administering medication, explaining what is happening, how it all will go. My main doctor comes in, she is bright eyed and ready- we have walked a long road together, she and I. She squeezes my hand before she begins to deliver my baby. We wish a Happy Birthday to Gandhi, and so it begins.
Erik is to my right, and I know this is hard for him. He is as overwhelmed as me, but ever strong, never changing, he holds my hand and together, we gently walk over the threshold that will change our lives so profoundly. How we see each other, how we see ourselves, all of this is forever different as we are ushered into the sacred space of parenthood.
A push and then a cry.
My tears come with such force, I feel like I’m going to choke. He’s here. He’s breathing. It appears that everything is just fine. All the fear that I had been carrying around with me, like a twin in my belly, is birthed as well, and as my sobs become overpowering, my doctor, in such a soft, unexpected way, strokes my head with his hand and just whispers these words, like little gifts, that I will take with me and carry always: ‘You’re ok, he’s ok, you are going to be a good mother….’
Erik, across the room, shouts through tears, laments of beauty and perfection, as I sob at the immensity of it all.
And then it happens. The real moment of birthing, I would realize years later, which really has nothing to do with the physical process of birthing a baby at all. It’s unexpected, I’m unprepared, no one wrote about this in all the birthing books.
As they place this tiny creature onto my chest, howling like the wind, a second birth is taking place. My arms wrap around him, wriggling and mewling, and my heart, automatically, gives it’s own push. The cavity that is beating expands tenfold, and there we are, forever changed, connected forevermore.
I’m not different because he has come from my body, but because he is mine, and I know this truth just like every mother knows in her heart, regardless of origination-
This child is mine and I am his. We belong to each other and nothing can ever change that- my arms know the truth, just like my heart.
Through sleepless nights and worry filled days. Through the moments of frustration and fleeting although, transcendent joy. Through tears, and scraped knees, hurt feelings and heartaches, growing pains and life gains, we are in this together, he and I.
You and me.
Today marks 5 years since we were both born together. Time really does trickle and rush like a raging river and a dried out stream.
But this boy, oh, this boy. I love everything about him and embrace the privilege of getting to hold him in the middle of those long nights.
Happy Birthday, my dear August. You are a kind and generous soul. Thank you for how you have changed me, for what you continue to make me.
I love every day with you.