Of course it wasn’t that simple. The labor dragged on for days, with Sarah needing an emergency c-section. There were troubles breastfeeding. The baby needed her frenulum clipped. But she’s here! F. is here! And already she’s the love of our lives.
Sarah endures days of contractions, pain shooting around inside her — muscular, interior, burning, grinding, all at once — until the hospital staff turns over at 7:00am and a new doctor-and-nurse team administer an epidural, after which Sarah experiences intense relief. From then onward, all is mostly smooth sailing, at least compared to the night prior. Amplified via monitor, the baby’s heart rate soundtracks our wait (how weird to sit there listening to our daughter swim!) as we watch monster contractions graphed as vertical spikes on a screen. Reflecting afterwards, under the influence of the epidural, on the discrepancy between her expectations going into the labor and the sheer pain of it: “That is not,” Sarah says, “how I imagined it at all.” A loud echo reverberates through the delivery room. Thinking of the baby as the sound’s origin, J. replies, “I imagine her pushing off the side of a wall, as when one is swimming in a pool.” As Sarah continues to dilate, the three of us watch calming footage of sea turtles swimming in the deep. As for me, I picture the baby as an angry Al Pacino, fist in the air, shouting “Attica! Attica!” as in Dog Day Afternoon. And then, without further ado, she arrives in all her glory.
We’re here, we’ve arrived at the projected due date, little one carried full term. And according to the doctors, all is well. But Sarah hasn’t yet entered into active labor — so the wait continues. I pass the time by sitting in the yard listening to outdoor sounds, birds and squirrels, drinking a can of pilsner. ‘Tis enough, sometimes, to just yip and squawk and tweet.
A dream: Sarah and I ride with our friends S. and M. in the back of a FedEx truck stuffed with packages. Soon students join us, as if we’re all traveling somewhere for a field trip. Several students consume mushrooms. Part of me wants to partake, but when they offer, I decline due to personal and professional obligations. Eventually we arrive at a house. Some guy from the truck begins to chat with me in the basement about a wild trip of his and a course he teaches at the Center for Integral Something-or-Other. Buffalo emerges as a shared point of reference, at which point Sarah peeks her head down the stairs. “The kids have arrived — time to come upstairs.” I wake to find Sarah lying beside me, breathing through a series of contractions.
House brought back up to fire code and documents prepared for an impending job application, we’re ready. Any hour now, baby, any minute. A cardinal sang to me this morning, moments before the rubber-suited knights of the local fire department trooped through the home. A kindly bunch. They identified the problem and we thanked them. Time to read William C. Schutz’s Joy — those first pages especially, where he describes the birth of his son.
Ornaments adorn the Christmas tree — several beauties. Stars, birds, balls with bands of colored chrome. And out the window beside the tree, sunlight catches in the bare upper branches of a neighbor’s elm. We’re storytelling beings, you and I, as we wait for the arrival of another. In these next few days, we become parents — ontologically transformed.
Retaining the best of past and present, we build from what we believe of the world a new world: a gift, a package, a mysterious being, a new person. Outside I see a magical landscape, plants bejeweled with clusters of rainwater, tiny infinities of waterworlds, each leaf a cup of sorts filled with life.
We’re ready for a new one. Little one on the way. I feel like leaning back and releasing wild exclamations, loud laughter, cries of animation and joy. Birds fill the air with song. After a walk through our neighborhood, Sarah and I sit at the counter at our favorite fried chicken joint, dining on breasts and sides. The owner recommends that we play music to entice the little one to rotate. I start thinking song possibilities: Yo La Tengo’s “Big Day Coming,” Fairport Convention’s “Come All Ye,” Apollo 100’s “Joy.”
Perhaps, as Maria Montessori might say, those sounds are too loud, “displeasing to the ear of one who has known the pleasure of silence, and has discovered the world of delicate sounds” (121). Perhaps we should try at a variety of volumes a variety of timbres and tones.
Sarah and I discuss the name thing. The act seems weighted with all kinds of symbolism. It’s a commitment to a different future. Taking the mother’s father’s last name while with the first name honoring matrilineal roots on the father’s mother’s side of the family. What does it mean to relinquish a given name? It’s not like I have to become Mr. Mom or anything. Should I rewatch that movie and report back from Michael Keaton’s 1983? Should I shift into third-person? Or is that the same as reducing oneself to another’s shadow? Does the Author worry he’ll be rendered anonymous? Author as ego-dissolved invisibile man? But I do wish to practice poesis, don’t I? Are those things related? Is the poet one who, operating on language, practices a kind of wizardly freedom, not legislating so much as renaming certain things anew? Hard to say. But of the names, whichever we go with is the one that sounds best.
Sarah and her sister converse in the next room after a joyful afternoon. Friends threw us a “Brand New Human” party, a baby shower. We’ve got some sweet people in our lives, thoughtful, caring, all of them happy to celebrate with us the start of this next phase of being.