When my ex-husband and I were divorcing four years ago, my daughter’s only question was if her dad and I would both be at the hospital when she had a baby someday. She needed to know that in the midst of so much loss that the picture she had in her head of what that day would be like would never be taken from her. At the time, we assured her that we’d be anywhere she wanted us to be. That we were still family, that we would always be her parents.
The call came at 1:30 a.m. The phone didn’t have a chance to finish its first ring. I screamed, “She’s in labor, isn’t she?!” My son-in-law said, “She’s asking for you.” With a shaking hand, I put my keys in the ignition for the longest 4-hour drive of my life.
Twenty minutes into my trip I saw tail lights ahead. As I quickly gained on them, I looked to the lane on the right. It was the van scene in Bridesmaids, but, without the puppies. There was frantic honking and waving that I returned with a puzzling expression. I wondered if I’d lost a hubcap or was about to be featured on a milk carton when I realized that the mad-man in the lane next to me was my ex-husband. We were making good on the promise made years ago to be there when our grandchild was born. We caravanned down I-95- TOGETHER – just as we were when we brought our daughter into this world.
When I arrived at the birthing center, twenty minutes ahead of my ex-husband’s bladder, I ran across the parking lot like I was necessary to the delivery of this baby. I panted out my daughter’s name at the front desk while the sweetest but slowest volunteer made small talk (good God, woman. Didn’t she know we had a baby to birth?) and eventually got around to giving me my daughter’s room number.
I meandered (sprinted) down the hall and knocked hesitantly (burst uninvited) into her room. My daughter was hunched over in her bed, stoic, tears rolling gently down her cheek. The doula was clinging to her from behind, rubbing her back and whispering affirmations into the air to be absorbed into my daughter’s every pore. My son-in-law was pacing, his eyes a reflection of what was in his churning heart…
A need to pee.
The guilt of wanting a sandwich.
A healthy dose of, “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?”
I’ve never loved him more.
I shifted my attention back to my daughter and approached (collapsed into) her bed. I took her hand, the same hand that wrapped around my finger almost 27 years ago.
Her damp blue eyes locked on mine, overflowing with what a laboring mother’s heart couldn’t possibly hold inside for long…
Relief that I was there.
The need for an epidural.
A valid concern that she was going to shit herself.
And, a large dose of, “Holy crap, I can’t wait to see what I’ve gotten myself into.”
Powerful and vulnerable, I’ve never loved her more.
The privilege to bear witness to my daughter as she prepared to give birth to a new generation is the greatest gift I will ever receive in my lifetime. And perhaps, having her parents there together was the best gift we could give her in return.
We left the birthing suite to allow the soon-to-be parents their last few breaths before their daughter entered their lives. The texts came a few hours later, minutes apart.
The doctor says she’s ready.
She’s getting ready to push.
The longest, most awful silence of my life. I know in my head that she’s pushing a human being out of her body and that these things take time – but my heart says the baby is over four weeks premature and it’s taking way too long. I begin to panic. Hand-wringing? Check. Nervous pacing? A given. Nail biting? Yup. I decide M&M’s will help. When have M&M’s not helped?
And then, the phone dings.
The two most beautiful words I’ve ever heard. My son-in-law tells us that their daughter’s name is Amelia Ness and that she has a dark head of hair. He says she is laying on her mother’s chest, my daughter singing, “You Are My Sunshine” into her newborn’s tiny little ear. I close my eyes to let that picture settle in my head and this mother’s heart cascades down her cheeks, forever changed.