Sunday, November 8, 2009

Throw the towel in

That moment is going to come. The one that happens when you could barely brush your hair to tie it back. Where your body is seething in agony but somehow you still lift yourself gingerly from bed to wash and dress. There is a new cry from another room; something innocent and purely needing, it breaks the silence between you and he as nothing else has before or will again. Overwhelming, unsettling. A little frightening for all the things no one tells you before you have your first baby: All those feminine conversational taboo's that cause you to look at your best friend with stabbing you-knew-this-and-did-not-tell-me glances.

In your private agony, they are coming. Excited for a new life, to see what the two of you look like when shaken and stirred in the heavens, and to see the tiny feet and toes that you counted, twice, in the delivery room: To be sure she was all there, the first time. And to be sure she was real, the second.

My brother told me he never truly believed I was pregnant until he stood in that delivery room and held the first child of a new generation. Part of that is what brings them, the other is a pure love for the tiny and maybe a little sentimental trip through their own early days as parents. Either way, they want to see the baby. And the new Mother.

"Get ready." my doctor said to me in a quiet moment in the hospital room. I laughed and he smiled. But I was thinking, in those moments before the epidural wore off, how bad could it be?

It would have been a trip through a fiery, teeth-clenching, writhing hell had my Mom not filled the kitchen with food before we came home from the hospital and volunteered her home as a place to host people who wanted to come meet our new baby during limited hours in the days after she was born. It helped. It made all the difference. Because I would not have fallen easily on my sword and I would have tried to deal with serving company, checking the finger towels and soap, and scrutinizing the straightness of every frame on the wall.

Josh would have shook his head. As would his Mother, who gave life to six children and tried to help me to let myself off the hook: You won't be able to do it all now. You will have to let somethings go. This time is important, don't waste it dusting.

It turned out there is more to letting go than accepting that a sense of a well-looked after home was going to change at least temporarily.

The night my first Daughter - my Dad's first grandchild - and he, breathed the same air, he sat in a chair in the labor suite and hesitated before he held her. She was tiny, after all. And he was, by then, a year into pancreatic cancer. "It's okay, Dad." My Brother said as he handed him my girl, "You won't break her."

Six weeks later, after all the visiting was over, my two oldest friends appeared at the summer cottage in Newport with a determined look I had seen in their gorgeous faces once or twice before: Not visiting anymore. I handed them my baby and bit my tongue. I wanted to weep in their arms. But that is not our way. We channel agony, we chew through our tongues while donning sheath dresses and throwing on Mama's pearls while mashing Ferragamo's onto our feet as we head for the car to help. We speak in steady, authoritative tones to all concerned feeling secure and then crap out in the fetal position on the bed alone. Because that is what we know of strength.

That day. Spine straight and baby bottles made, I handed Dori that child. She held my six-week-old baby day after day while I sat in the hospital room with the family that greeted my arrival on this earth - also a first grandchild - in a delivery room three decades before. I called her at ten past nine on a Thursday morning; my Dad had died while I was on my way back to the hospital from seeing the baby.

Look: They are coming to see the baby. Throw the towel in. Call your Mama, the cleaning person, and a caterer. Have a glass of wine. Hold your Daddy's hand. This time we were given is short, don't waste it on the dusting.


EntertainingMom said...

Lovely and wise words...

Do you have a Newport connection? (RI not CA!) Must email me!

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Beautiful post, wise words.

Karena said...

This is such a poignant story, thank you so much for sharing your life and your heart with us.

little augury said...

I often come back to comment on your posts-they are thought provoking and do not easily drop by the wayside of other morning reads. I do not know the experience of giving birth-but I do of death from an early age. It was not until I lost my father several years ago that I truly realized-the beloved are with you always. There is not a day that goes by that something doesn't trigger the DAD response, and it is a good thing. I know you understand. la

Pinot after Playdates said...

So true! Thanks for reminding us about the little things!

Southern Aspirations said...

very poignant post... and so true. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

ELS said...

Utterly, utterly beautiful. Good for you.

livingwithstyle said...

This is a great post, thank you for sharing.

Tammy said...

I needed to read this today, and so I have found it two months after its posting. Thank you for sharing, through your pain, such a life lesson. It is beautifully and poignantly stated. I shall endeavor to remember it every day.

Much love to you and your family.