Kind of surreal to think that on this particular day, at this particular time, I went from not being to being. One strong push, one big breath and there I was, lungs fluttering like butterfly wings, heart pumping, hands and feet still swimming: Hello world!
My mom often refers to life being divided into seasons. The season of childhood. The season of independence. The season of weddings. Currently, I feel the warm breezes of a new season. The birth season, which is most notably the renewal of the cycle.
I’m at that bemusing age when it seems everyone I know is entering the curious land of Mommy-dom. I’d guesstimate that 80 percent of my friends either have a toddler in their keep or a bun in the oven. With each new birth, I look with awe on the little faces—my friends in miniature—and think about the birth story they’ll carry. You only get one, after all, so you hope it’s good; you hope it includes some kind of unique, quirky, totally-you moment that half a century later people will continue to giggle and sigh and say, “Oh, that fits you to the T!”
For instance, my younger brother Jason was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, fighting like heck despite being blue as a tuna fish. As soon as he broke free, he commenced hollering. A good set of lungs. He took charge of the labor room. If you knew my brother, you’d be nodding your head, “Yep, that’s Jason!”
My baby brother (the youngest of our trio) Andrew was born jaundice and laid limp on the operating table barely making a sound or batting an eyelash. They ran a dozen tests convinced something was severely wrong, but all the tests came back normal. He had the doctors quite perplexed, standing around his little incubator-style bed scratching their chins and frowning. Then my mom walked in and said, “Andrew, what’s going on, baby boy?” And apparently he perked up, gave a happy cry and that was that. Again, quintessential Andrew. (I swear he’s on loan to us from some mythological surfer tribe.) Easy-going as they come.
As the firstborn in my family, my birth story includes scenes of walking the hospital; my dad frantically trying to help his contracting wife; my mom growing more and more irritated by his panic; a half-a-day’s labor and badda-bing, out I came. According to legend, with my first breath and subsequent wail, my face turned so purple-red it cast a green glow on my auburn hair. Thus, for all the photographs, I look like something out of a horror show. A tiny, writhing bundle of fiery personality, so claim my parents. Hmm, what does that say about me? I’ll let you make your own assertions… ahem. But in my own defense, I am half Puerto Rican. There must be some genetic credence given to the Hispanic characteristic of passion.
These are my nuclear family’s birth stories, but I love hearing everyone’s. Friends and family members reminiscing on the day so-in-so was born: it was the coldest night of that winter; it snowed in April that day; we were living in Chicago then; we were stationed in Germany; the doctor slapped him on the bum; the nurse said she was the most beautiful child ever; his father cried; her father passed out; his mother labored for seventy-two hours; her mother ate peanut butter and canned sardines in the delivery room; his grandmother was there; her grandfather was in the waiting room; I was so happy; we were so happy.
I could listen for hours on end! Each tale is a precious gem, cut with so many unique facets. Like their fledgling protagonists, no two are the same.
In this season of Mommy-dom, I get to hear a lot of stories. I can name eight friends off the top of my head that are pregnant at this moment. Eight amazing birthday stories waiting to be told. Eight tiny lives about to begin.
One day I’ll tell my own child the story of his/her birthday, but for now, I’ll listen with rapt fascination as my mom recounts mine. There’s magic in the tale and telling. In our American society, I believe we’ve lost a great deal of our oral storytelling traditions. This is one I believe remains. I feel blessed and privileged to know mine, to share its significance with my parents, to share in the telling of my family and friend’s stories. It links us together, binds us and reminds us that we are not a singular strand in the universe but a part of a weaver’s reoccurring pattern, a larger tapestry of births and life.
What’s your birthday story?
Yours truly, Sarah