Monday, January 18, 2010

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Women, Women & Song used to sing this song, in three-part harmony. We started our first concert with it, and we ended our last concert with it.
You might say the song resonated with me. I first heard it sung by Pete Seeger, long, long ago, and then by a lot of people, including me. I sang it during labor with my second son; I sang it in the ambulance on the way to the hospital after my car accident ten years ago. The singing seemed to ease the pain.
It's a great song, and I know that I am only one of many who love it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, JD

Photos: John Devon at age 6 days, January 11, 1982, and John Devon and his baby, Allysan, last March.
Our older son, John Devon, or JD as he goes, was born 28 years ago tomorrow morning. A friend told me the other day that she had found a 1982 journal which she never used, and hey, guess what? 1982 and 2010 are the same! So she's using her 1982 journal this year.
So it was on a rainy Monday night 28 years ago I was lying on the couch watching a PBS version of “The Elephant Man.” It was a play, I think – it was not the movie of the same name which starred John Hurt and was a big hit at the time. So I was lying on the couch when I felt a “woosh” of water coming out of me.
Oh great, I thought. I've finally lost complete control of my bladder.
So I went to empty out what was left in my bladder, I thought, and was most intrigued to see little white specks of something floating around in the urine. I called my midwife, Susan Anemone, to report this strange turn of events, and she said, “Oh! Your water's broken! You're going to go into labor!” She was very chipper about it. I was stunned.
You'd think that nine months would be enough to prepare for giving birth. That's what nature gives you, more or less, in the usual order of things. I had wallowed in being pregnant. Loved to go around telling people how much I was enjoying pregnancy, I felt great, and that was true. When I was pregnant, my migraines went away, for one thing, and that was like being let out of prison. So I loved it. I read books and waddled around with a big grin and generally acted and felt like I was the only woman who had ever conceived a child. So, hurray, pregnancy.
Of course there was that point about half way through when I sat down and sobbed because of the lonely truth that there was only one way that baby was coming out, and it wasn't going to feel good. I was scared of labor. I was even more scared of how my life would be after the baby came. I would never have a private moment again. My days of puttering around the quiet house with classical music playing in the background were going to be over. These are the fears of a person who had never had much to do with children. I was right about that loss of privacy and solitude, but oh well.
There was a huge storm that night of January 4-5. We were swamped with snow. Down in California the rains were torrential. Mudslides in the Santa Cruz Mountains killed people that night, and elsewhere Highway 101 was closed by slides. I've heard since that many babies are born on stormy nights. Something about the drop in the barometric pressure, or something, sets off labor.
We were snowed in and all the plumbing frozen for days after John Devon was born. I finally begged, nagged, and entreated Rick to make it possible for me to take a bath. He took pity and thawed out the plumbing. I showered and was so happy.
But that night, that snowy stormy night, there I was about to be a mother and not believing it. Could this really be happening? Proof was soon to strike in the form of labor.
The first contraction hit about ten to midnight, and hit is the right word. Holy gazoly. There was no gradual build-up in intensity, it was just bang, hard labor, right now. Contractions that knocked me down and took my wallet.
Rick timed the contractions and breathed with me, and after a while we thought we should call Susan and ask her to come. She lived two or three miles up the Westside Highway from us. She was one of the founders of the Seattle Midwifery School, and the plan was for one of her partners to catch a ferry and come over when I went into labor. Well, it was two in the morning and there was a raging blizzard. She realized that she was going to have to improvise.
Susan woke up her husband, Barry, bundled up their nine-week-old son, Gabriel, and they traveled the two or three miles to our house in the snow. It took them about 45 minutes.
By this time I was completely lost in labor. My leg muscles were quivering like jelly and I really didn't see how I was going to make it through, but somewhere in there I decided that since I'd made it this far, I might as well carry on. Nice when reason decides to defer to reality.
Susan put Gabriel to bed in the crib that was waiting for our baby, and she and Barry and Rick were my team, coaching me, encouraging me, telling me what a good job I was doing. About five in the morning she said I was ready to push, and I did, for about forty minutes, and then, at ten to six in the morning of January 5, 1982, almost exactly six hours after the first contraction, our baby boy came out to meet the outer world.
He was, of course, the most beautiful thing we'd ever seen. We were instantly in love, absolutely mad with adoration for this child. Barry and Rick pulled the labor sheets off the bed, and removed the plastic sheeting that had kept a set of sheets underneath clean, and baby John Devon and I crawled in to have a well-deserved rest, after first calling the relatives, of course. Susan and Barry took Gabriel (who had slept through the whole thing) home.
The world outside was a snowy wonderland, and the world inside was the world of baby love. We were well and truly besotted, as most new parents are, and so taken with this tiny miracle.
Another midwife had given me the lowdown on children when I was pregnant: “This kid is going to give you some knocks.” I'm not sure why she said it; maybe I was so naive that she felt the need to slap me around with a little reality. I was a little shocked, and a little hurt. My baby was an angel, my baby...
Well, 28 years on I'd say she had a good point, but I'm not sure I needed to hear it mid-pregnancy. The dashing of parental dreams happens in its own time, naturally. Babies turn out to be children, and children become teenagers, and teenagers become adults, and by that time a parent's innocent dreams of long ago are a dim memory. I know I had them. They have been overwritten by 28 years of days.
JD, it was a good day when you were born. We were so happy. We had never loved anybody like we loved you, and that memory is not dim at all. It is bright and I can feel that love all over again thinking about that time.
Happy 28th Birthday, kid.