Before the Birth

13 years and a day ago, I walked down to our sugarhouse and closed the double front doors. Rain had fallen every day in that May, but that morning promised to be sunny.

After prolonged medical discussions, I had agreed to a caesarian for this second child. That morning, I leaned against the rough boards of our sugarhouse, with my enormous belly, looking at the wild red trilliums.

My six-year-old was eating breakfast with her father in the kitchen. I knew we would leave soon, that my two friends would be meeting us. But I kept leaning against the door, in one of those moments where time drifts away. I was so ready to meet this little child, to know who this new person in the world might be — and far above all — to know this baby was born well and whole.

I didn’t know then the natural sweetness of this child. I didn’t know, either, that her easygoing temperament would evolve as she grew into a wordless strength, that by the time this child was ten, her family would had shrunk to just a few of us. But I did know what an incredible piece of good fortune I had to be a mother to a second child. If anything, I know this more deeply now.

When she was born, this tiny girl could lie in my left arm, her head in my elbow, her miniature toes in my palm. She would lie there, blinking her little eyes, as though wondering, What now?

….may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back…

— Lucille Clifton



After my second daughter was born via caesarian, I lay numb from my shoulders down while the surgeon stitched me up. I was beyond ebullient, full of joy but also a steady kind of peace. She had crossed over into us, into our living, chattering, very full world.

The surgeon and his assistant, working, talked about their long Memorial Day weekend, most of it apparently spent in the garden. Grass grows crazy everywhere in Vermont, except sometimes where you want it most. The sheer normalcy of talking about tomato varieties was enormously reassuring. l felt suspended, finished with a hard pregnancy, not quite yet in the realm of mothering an infant, poised between no longer pregnant and not yet nursing this little one. A rare, unique moment.

Later, looking at photos, I was amazed by the sheer mechanics strapped and needled into me for that surgery. My memories are only of gossamer wellness, rays of rainbow radiance with the very heart this tiny six-pound being. Such incredible, utterly amazing good fortune.

Happy birthday, daughter.

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back    may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

– Lucille Clifton, “Blessing the Boats