Wednesday morning broke crystal clear and sunny nearly an hour after my journey began. The 330 miles slipped past effortlessly without a bathroom break or traffic tie-up to slow me down. I made the trip in four-and-a-half hours, and when I entered the room my sister was relaxed and jovial – cutting up with the visitors and nurses in between the silent pauses of forced concentration. Until I was present (of course) at my own daughter’s birth, my experience with childbirth had been relegated to clips in movies or television shows, and the horrific series of films that forced me into racking sobs during and after my childbirth classes. My own experience turned out to be a very calm one – of course it was difficult and painful, but in those final moments our room was a quiet sanctuary of few and I was surrounded by the ones in my life that I truly needed at that very moment. My husband was there, with his quiet calm and ever-present grasp and acknowledgement of all that was required of me right then as I relinquished this little person from the cocoon I had provided to her for so many months. My mother, who had gone on this journey decades before, was also there to witness at hand the fruits of her fruits – not a passing on of love and affection to the next generation, but rather, a widening embrace of this addition and all that she would come to mean to this family. A caring and gentle nurse who seemed to be more of a midwife, allowing us to relax and focus on that moment and the doctor who slipped in for a few moments, encouraging this final effort to release this child into the world. And of course, the girl, this precious, messy tangle of limbs and cords, forced out into the light against her will, but openly and willingly into the very tangle of overflowing hearts in that small circle.
To witness this from the other side with my niece was to relive my own birth experience from two years previous. Watching my sister move from jubilant to distracted, ill with a spiking fever and emotionally drained to a dogged determination from within to expel this child out of her feverish womb and into the cooling arms of her father and doctors, well…it was as if I had been given the chance to come full circle. And being a part of this sacred circle yet again was the best gift I have ever been given.
And so to her, on her second birthday, a wish for many, many more of equal joyfulness, and a remembrance of those first few breaths she took in this world.
Happy birthday kiddo!