Imagine. Close your eyes and try to remember, the time spent before your own birth, floating in a warm and watery darkness, protected, fed, free of gravity, hearing the heartbeat of your mother, so close, in a constant and steady rhythm, and having no thought of any other reality other than just being, there. From the time of one’s conception until the time when birth occurs, there is no sense of time. It is before one has any worries. There is no pressure to do this or that, and better, no concept of either worries or pressures. There is no sense of anyone else or any, place, else. It is a moment in space and time that is zen in its pure simplicity and tranquility. It is being in the place of the ultimate security. Cuddled in this womb, and tethered to the woman who carries you, one drifts along, just growing, and waiting without the knowledge of waiting, until the day you are to be born into this world.
At a given time in every gestation, hormones dictate the change is coming, and this watery wonder world life will be over. Contractions begin, and then suddenly this cocoon of darkness is no more and out you are sent into the light of the day into a new existence. This is the beginning of your life, where hours are first counted, then days, then months, and then years become the life span that you are granted.
It is a brutal awakening to this life, pushed through a narrow channel, and literally cut from your life source. Eyes, that have before, seen nothing, are thrust into a bright and noisy new place, and skin is touched for the first time by hands that dry you and wrap you in cloth. Gravity is now a factor and you have few muscles to control your tiny body. In this new place you are helpless, and must rely on the care of parents, and many others who will teach you, feed you, and nurture you for many years, until you can do it by yourself and repeat the cycle.
Finally, in this moment of your birth, you are placed on the chest of the source of that heartbeat you have listened to for all of the infinity of time that you have spent in that dark world, a place that you can never return to and which is already becoming a fading memory. The warmth of a mother’s skin and the sound of the familiar heartbeat soothes this transition to life and the important issues become simple, to be fed, and go back to sleep, and to keep close to that heartbeat. This was the scene we saw when we walked into the room where my daughter had just delivered our first grand child.
Last Saturday evening we had been watching a few football games on the tv when Mark got a text from our son in law that they had gone to hospital with contractions and were waiting for more information as to whether they were staying or not. This little bit got our rapt attention as Emily wasn’t due to deliver for another two weeks or so. More information came in that yes indeed she was in real labor and they were staying. Not remembering the progression of how long things took from my past, we quickly consulted the oracle Ipad and got our online medical degrees on the birth timeline and figured the usual nightcap martini might have to wait.
At midnight we got news that they were figuring on her being another four to six hours before delivery and for us to get some sleep before coming in. We tried. At four am we both could not stand it any longer, tossing and turning, and wondering what was happening across town with our daughter in labor. So up we got and away we drove in the dark of the predawn Sunday. We did note that the roads are pretty empty at that hour which was a good thing as it gave us less things to run into in our sleep deprived stupor.
Once there, we knocked on Emily’s room and quietly went in to see our daughter sitting in her bed, looking like she had just come in from a walk in the park, (instead of what Mark described of how I had looked after delivering Emily, as though I had fought fifteen rounds of a heavy weight fight, and lost.) A proud new dad stood over her and presented us to our new granddaughter.
I know everybody thinks their baby or grand baby is pretty, and personally I think they all look alike at one point, but ours, however, was absolutely THE most gorgeous. We stood there in that moment, taking in the miracle of a new life in this form of this child, in awe, and were mesmerized by watching her taking in her new situation and responding to it all, peacefully laying there, slowly blinking at us.
Days have gone by now, regrettably marred by the unfortunate bit of aspiration by the little baby during her birth , and subsequent pneumonia which prevented her going home yet, and having to be tethered to an IV drip in the NICU ward at the hospital. This greatly disappointed her new parents, and us as well, but considering the situations of the less fortunate premi’s also in the room, little Margaret’s time there was an inconvenience only. Time has passed and soon she will grace her own nursery at her home for the first time, and there will be a new family, together, in their house.
Yesterday when I went to visit little Margaret and her mommy, I got there just before it was time to feed. Margaret was still sleeping peacefully in her new mother’s arms and I took a turn holding while Emily went to stretch her legs for a moment. Alone with this child for the first time, I looked long and deeply at this new life in my hands and felt at such peace.
She began to wiggle a little as the sleep was giving way to hunger and the pacifier she was pulling on in her ridiculously cute, little doll like mouth, was beginning to not cut it any more. I reflexively began to hum to her the first song that came to my mind, this, my first lullaby to my grand daughter, and it was “Amazing Grace”. I got through almost half of a verse before realizing the all of the connections in my brain, and I cried. I wept that my father could not see this child before he left. He could not hear me hum this tune, his favorite song and one of the last he ever heard. The droning notes of the bag piper who played it at his funeral rang in my head. This was the moment the enormity of it all hit me. I, was a grand parent, and now, I do understand.
In life, there is death. It is in its renewal and regeneration by the birth of a child, that the passing of the genes which define the child, serve to connect us to those who have come before us, and which will continue with each following generation. To look at this precious baby girl and see this and realize this shared line of continuity, binds me to her in a way I had never felt nor imagined. It has been a difficult year in so many ways that it is such a blessing now, to be given this lovely gift of a new life. It is, the greatest gift.
Born on her grand uncle Wilson’s birthday, the 4th of December 2011, we welcome to the clan, our newest member, this wonderful little baby, Margaret Folmar Flowers.