Sunday, June 23, 2013

this is a privilege...

{photo by christina wnek}

it was 3:16am on november 5th…oh but it began long before that.  it began in the very first moment when i just knew you were there.  when i took a pregnancy test and we jumped around with excitement at the news!   when i first saw your heartbeat race across the screen…in a static flutter.  when my skin stretched beyond what i imagined humanly possible. when i would take you along with me wherever i went.  and when it was a mystery if you were a boy or a girl.  

that was a privilege.

you and i, we labored in the dark of night…in the wee hours of the morning.  i used to be afraid of the time between two and four in the morning.  not just as a child, but as an adult.  it felt like the loneliest of times.  when you can't really call someone without waking them and them worrying.  and now i will never think of it as such.  ever again.  

as labor started--there was a contraction that roared through me and changed everything...i began moving around the room, searching for a place of refuge.  i was on the bed, in a chair, on the ball, laying down, bent over the side of the bed, half on the bed…i was desperate and looking for a rhythm.  

after a particularly brutal contraction, i exclaimed "i can't do this anymore".  i was checked and told that i was fully dilated---which couldn't be right.  can someone get another nurse who knows what she's doing?  wasn't this induction supposed to take days?  wasn't the doctor going to go home and sleep for the night?  wasn't i just watching the movie the hangover two hours ago?  but it was true…that phase of labor was complete. 
i moved into the tub, then onto a birthing stool, and finally to the bed--where on my left side pushing became an involuntary heave of force and surrender. after each contraction, pillows were stuffed between my knees.  i desperately wished that i would somehow skip the next one…but then i would feel the pressure again in the front of my body, which would quickly wrap to the back of my body, and soon i was pushing again.  we pried me open with sweat and screams and togetherness. 

this was a privilege.

the audio recording starts with my asking "is the head out?" and seconds later you are wailing and taking your first breath.  ooh life!  to hear us crying and laughing.  and your dad's words in that moment.  to learn that you were a baby girl.  to discover that your little hand, which had been up by your face in every ultrasound photo was by your face when your were born.  to notice the work of labor quickly turning into love and laughter and shock.  to hear the moment when we gave you a name. to hear myself, just three minutes after you were born describe it by saying "that was so intense...and so awesome!"--it is just wildly empowering.  

i love that chunk of time right after you were was a blur of baby, blood, placenta, a few stitches, love, and the immediate need to replay what just happened.  as soon as labor was over the pain and pressure was gone...and hard to recall.  i was flooded in a wash of oxytocin, love, and disbelief.  and YOU were there.

this was a privilege.

i wish i could relive what the audio recording captured every. single. day.  even the sensations in my body. your head stretching and tearing my skin, the placenta slipping and sliding out…the weight of my legs and bum after the work was done.   the weight of you in my arms.  i would notice something new each time.  i would examine your blue fingers and toes.  i would look into dad's eyes to see his story.  i would look down at my belly…that place of mystery, still to this day.  i would close my eyes and just listen.  i would take in the smell…your smell.  i would do it again…day after day.

this is a privilege.

to be surrounded by tucks pads and chux pads, ice underwear and that splashy bottle…
even that was a privilege.

and to know what six pounds and eight ounces looks like, skinny calves and wrinkly feet dangling off of little bones…feet that looked like you were 100 years old…and part dinosaur. you had lines under your eyes.  you looked tired.  like you'd come far…from another world.  from another place.  some type of scientific miracle perfected over time.

and then you felt like a real person, which makes it sound like you were something else before.  i guess you were, but i don't really know when to say that you became you. how on earth does a sperm and and egg equal this?

this is a privilege. 

i got dressed and walked out of the hospital as if it was the most normal thing. i was walking into a sleepless and latchless sadness.  what is the opposite of normal? every noise you made required investigation.  every two to three hours you needed me and my nipple shield.  

i was afraid…i was tired…i was scared…and this was all so new.  hormones coursed through my body. i wondered if i could do this...and i doubted my mothering…but you had all the faith in the world in me.  thank you. thank you.  thank you!

my first time in the grocery store without you, i felt so strange.  i felt like screaming and begging "be gentle with me!!!!  i just had a baby"--oh the things you can't tell by simply looking at someone.  and so i leaked many salty tears and milk through many shirts on my journey from there to here.  but drip by drip and day by day.

this is a privilege.

i look back at those pictures from the beginning…over and over.  almost as if i have to convince myself that they are real. that that is me…and there you daughter! i do the same with the text of the email we sent out when you were born...i read it over and over.  i'm in disbelief….still…seven months later.

this is a privilege. 

oh when your head would bob around like a bird looking for food.  when i'd open your swaddle and your  arms would fly above your head, as if spring-loaded. when i would smell your head and rub my chin across the smoothness.  when you'd look at me with those big grey blue eyes and just stare.  when it was three in the morning and we'd been up and feeding for hours.  when i realized that i was your place of comfort.  

this is a privilege 

i can't tell you the number of times in a day where i am stunned by your presence.  that i grew you...those eyes, that heart, that smile, those thighs…a LIFE!  it seems impossible.  that i gave birth to you...and am here to tell about it.  that you are here...and growing and changing.  that my body grew fed you and feeds you.  

this is a privilege. 

and here i feel this tug of wanting to press pause and live with you in this space for always and simultaneously get giddy thinking about watching you grow more and more into who you are.  my throat feels tight at the thought of time, as it did before you arrived...but now it somehow seems more real, more measurable, more important.  

and this is a privilege. 

you teach me about choosing love and simplicity, about being present and patient and vulnerable.  you teach me without words.  you teach through sounds and squeaks…shrieks and squeals. 

i think of you as a diaper wearing love magnet.  drawing to you the goodness and love floating out in the world.  for through you so many friends have come into our lives.  babies, neighbors, and folks who were once strangers--and are now such a part of our path…through childbirth, yoga, and writing classes, birth roots, and hours spent with other mamas in the lactation room at work--you've connected me in ways i couldn't connect myself.

this is a privilege. 

i write you a letter each week.  it is a time of reflection.  of rereading old letters.  of looking at pictures.  of remembering where we've been.  of looking at who you are, right now.  of scanning my mind and heart...and putting it into words. i hope you read those letters and these words some day...maybe some day when you are a mom...and understand it all.  

may you be so privileged.  

the hemorrhoids, the mustard seed poop diapers, the toe curling pain when we finally got the latch, the loads of laundry, the hours of pumping and washing pump parts, the times up in the middle of the night, the snot sucking, the neck cheese, and the stretch marks.  oh baby girl, you are the root of joy, the essence of love, and the sweetness of are changing before our eyes.  as we unpack the next box of clothes and put away the things you've outgrown, it reminds me that the goodness grows and grows! goodness on top of goodness.  greatness built on greatness. wonder peering over endless wonder...

and i wonder, what does the world hold for you?  and how many trips will we take together around the sun?
oh what a privilege.

every time i drive past mercy hospital, i silently send out cheers for you and for the women laboring in that most sacred of spaces…  

and i can't drive pass a child getting on the bus or getting off the bus for that matter, with their parents waiting and waving without welling up with tears.  that run across the street with back pack flopping. and those little faces in the window.  oh to see you learn.  to see you explore.  to see you struggle.  and to see you emerge.  

this will be a privilege

ah and someday i will be your greatest embarrassment--an annoyance and a source of frustration for you.

i remind myself, that that too will be a privilege

but it is hard to see you as anything except what you are right now.  it's hard to remember week 3, from week 17, from week 25.  it's hard to remember yesterday. the now is all consuming.

and this is it's own privilege.  

in every now…that means in every moment-- i hope you feel deep in your heart the intense, awesome love that surrounds you in our house and out in the world.  it's infinite.  

it is an infinite privilege.


  1. Oh my, Jill, you just killed me with this. Absolutely beautiful and so heartfelt and something I look forward to having the privilege of feeling. Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed this today.

  2. Wow, Jill. This is just simply amazing. It is so poetic and wondrous. Thank yuou.


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