Easy Birth

August 13, 2014 § 1 Comment


I called my dad to tell him his first grandson had been born. He wanted to confirm the gender. You see, I’m the fourth of five girls, and my sister had two daughters, so my dad was incredulous that I’d actually given birth to a boy child.
“I’m sure,” I said. “It’s definitely a boy. Definitely boy parts.”
“Well, it’s good you had an easy time delivering,” he said.
Easy? That’s not the word I would have chosen after ten hours of labor and some stitches. Should any birth be described as easy? I just expelled a person! But my dad was an OBGYN. He knew better than I did what could go wrong, how long labor could last, all the complications I could have had. It was a miracle I’d had this healthy baby boy.
“Relatively easy, I guess,” I said.
“What’s his name?” he asked.
“Oliver Cole.”
“Um, “ I said, thinking of Oliver North, “We’re going to call him Cole.”
This was yesterday, except not. It has taken us over seventeen years to get to this point. And now, I won’t see my boy every day, or every week, or even every month.

For the last month, I have felt a strange combination of excitement/joy and total despondency. I wanted to know the name of this, a word for the feeling, so I took a page from my kids’ book and Googled it. “What is Bipolar disorder?” was the first hit. Exactly. I want to send away the person I’ve been protecting for almost 18 years. Elated and bereft. Schizophrenia, maybe? The Halloween decorations in Costco almost made me cry the other day because Cole won’t be here in October. Stupid, I know, but I was feeling, as my friend Laurie says, “all the feelings.” Forget about the grocery store. It’s a fucking minefield. I stocked up on Nutella. For medicinal purposes.

My dad is gone. I can’t impress him with the fact that his grandson is going to Harvard. I can’t tell you how much I want to say that to him—to prove all sorts of things that don’t really need proving. He would have felt justified, so to speak–hillbilly doctor’s intellect finally validated by the one of the world’s pickiest validators. Me too, somehow. Face it: we live through our grandchildren and children. I’d love to tell my dad, whose letters from Eastern Kentucky University to his mother said a lot about laundry and how he thought he might could scrape together enough money to get home for Christmas break.

So, this weekend, we will head up to the frigid North—why would anyone live there? You don’t have to be cold all the time. Who ever heard of Spring coats? But still. There are so many books and people who love them there. So many people whose bodies are just carrying cases for their brains–my boy’s lost tribe.

Jeff says I should imagine the quiet—no large, gangly human clanging around the kitchen for a midnight snack. No one banging out Maple Leaf Rag on the piano for hours and hours on end. Lord knows, I have yelled enough for quiet and just a little goddamn peace! So many wishes and fears come true.

This is the real birth into the world. We got him an ID card (he still doesn’t drive), signed him up to vote (absentee, we need him here!) and got his lost debit card reissued. He’s a grown up to strangers, capable of the intellectual thought of the ancients, but incapable of making his bed, buying groceries, etc.

Nobody asks you if you kick ass at breastfeeding, once your baby can eat. After awhile, no one can even guess whether you’ve given birth. I have a lot of obsolete skills. Gave birth just like in the textbook, the midwife said. Easy birth, she called it too.

There’s no visible sign that someone is going missing from your life, having the time of his life, becoming a full person in the world, filling you with all of the feelings at once. Except for the slight smear of Nutella above the lip.

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