On birth [a letter to our firstborn son]

The warmth from your chest melted on to my own, chilled and shaking from three hours of pushing you out of me. In the end, it wasn’t enough. And men and women in blue scrubs filled the room, preparing to intervene. The doctor, white hair and wrinkles around his eyes, tied a mask around his face. The Tennessee mountain range was luminous off in the distance.

That’s the last thing I remember seeing before I shut my eyes and pushed. And pushed. And pushed. And pushed—The pressure of your body doing its best to leave my own—my throat growing hoarse from the primal cry I let out at the end. Your father put a miniature can of gingerale to my dry, cracked lips and told me to sip.

If I were you, I’d also be hesitant to enter such a world. Perhaps I can’t blame you for arriving five days later than we anticipated.

And after six times of using all the strength I had left, I saw them pull you out, the suction attached to your dark head of hair. I don’t remember you crying, but your Dad said you did. All I remember was feeling overwhelmed by the fact that you were out of me and you were safe.

Born on September 11 at 9:11 am. A day marked by tragedy now forever marked by love in my mind.

They held you above my waist, still round and protruding from carrying you for nine months. And in a haze, I saw your naked body—purple and red—six pounds and fourteen ounces. Just the tiny peanut the midwives kept saying you would be. Your father cut the cord connecting you to the nourishment within me. It pulsed and then turned white.

I look back and think about how cutting your umbilical cord is only the beginning of teaching you to live on your own. One day it will be my breast from which we wean. And then my hand. And my home. You will one day grow to be a man. And the letting go—it all starts with that first cut. That first whispered prayer. That first dedication to the God who put breath in your lungs.

You were his before you were mine.

The warmth from your chest melted on to my own, chilled and shaking from three hours of pushing you out of me.

And then they took you off of me. I sensed urgency in their voices. Your little lungs that had so strongly let out that first cry were filled with fluid. You needed oxygen—something I could not give you. And as they removed you, I felt an emptiness fill me. Months of feeling you move inside of me and then in an instant, you were gone. Rolled away to be attached to machines that don’t have heart beats or flesh and bones to comfort you. I was supposed to take care of you. Instead, I lay numb from the waist down, stitched up and sobbing as your Dad left to go check on you.

And the room grew silent. And your father paced. We didn’t know you’d be gone from us for hours.

There were moments I was alone in the hospital room. I ached as the medicine wore off. My legs and hips and the places where you tore me open as they hurried to get you out.—all of it hurt more than I expected. But more than anything, my heart ached in ways and places I didn’t know it could.

Motherhood is a constant breaking of the heart, each break peeling away layers of selfish motives built up over twenty-nine years. I wanted you with me more than I wanted anything else.

Now, we are home. My eyes laugh with my mouth when you make that scowl face and purse your little lips. I look at you often in the middle of the night and memorize your tiny features—run my index finger along the bottom of your long feet. You are your father’s son. In the early light of morning, when the sun is still trying to peek through the clouds and in to the windows of our home, I see him looking up at me. And I wonder if there’s any of me inside of you.

Your name means healer. You remind us that God’s healing hand was on us. That He gifted us with your life. We pray that you will be a healer of man. That you will see the wounded and the hurting and point them to the ultimate healer. Our Asa Benjamin. Our first born. Our son.

We are learning each other, you and I. I am learning the difference between your cries and your movements. I am learning your sweet newborn baby scent as you draw in close to me after you feed. Your tiny lips make a halfway grin as milk dribbles on to your cheek. You shake your head, burrowing it in to the middle of my chest. In these moments, my heart grows three sizes.

I can’t imagine you being bigger than you are. Even in the two weeks you have been with us, you’ve grown heavier in my arms. In these moments, you start filling the emptiness I felt when they took you away.

It hung on me for days, disappointment and grief that your birth didn’t happen the way I hoped. That my body was unable to birth you in the way I had hoped. There was no peaceful entrance. No unmedicated birth. No golden hour of skin to skin. No silence. And even when you were finally placed back in my arms, someone always seemed to want you elsewhere.

I stood on our porch the other evening and let these things go, imagining them flying up in to the clear blue sky and past the evergreens housing squirrels. I felt the first cool breeze in weeks against my wet cheek, Fall doing her best to encourage a sleepless, pained mother.

She understands that everything is just a season. Soon, another one will come. And we will look behind our shoulder and wonder where the warmth of summer sun went and how quickly the 3am feedings and cuddles disappeared.

On our fridge, next to your sonogram, a homemade card hangs. It came in the mail weeks before your birth—hand writing scribbled on a lime green piece of card stock.

Birth is miraculous however it happens. I looked at it during those weeks, not knowing that it was preparing me for your entrance.

Our little miracle. The baby I prayed for and didn’t expect to come. There was you, my son. My cuddly little baby with a head full of dark hair. It brushes up against my cheek and floods my heart with joy.

Birth is miraculous however it happens, son. And your birth was a miracle.  Being your mother is the best gift I have ever known. May I remember this during the sleepless nights and the dozens of diaper changes. May I remember when your cries won’t cease. May I remember always that The Lord heard my prayers and gave me you.


2 Replies to “On birth [a letter to our firstborn son]”

  1. So so very beautiful, Audrey. One day he will be a tall and handsome young man who is the pathway to knowing other beautiful young people (like yourself) who can make you sit and cry at the wonder of it all. Love you, rejoicing with you!

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