Birthing Day

His name was Bernard, but we knew him as Fr. Ben. He was beloved, he was loathed…sometimes both…but no one was neutral about him.

He was always sharing trivia that no one had ever heard before, but the idiosyncrasy that  stays with me is the fact that he didn’t believe in celebrating birthdays. After all, you didn’t do anything that day. It’s your mother who did the work. The day you were born, Fr. Ben called your mother’s birthing day.

Well, Sunday was my fifth “birthing day.” It was a busy one—fourteen children, half a dozen parents, glitter, glue, the Penguin, cake and strawberry lemonade. It was a day all about Alex, until at eight p.m., their last energy reserves spent, the kids conked out.

And in the quiet, I remembered.

The weeks of waiting. The false alarm. The decision to induce. Lying awake on a hospital bed. Giving it over to Christian so that at least one of us could be rested. The 2:30 a.m. onset of contractions. Sitting on a ball, leaning back into the soft embrace of a nurse named Vivien. Lower back massage. Stalling out. Pitocin. Epidural. The doctor refusing to meet our eyes. Christian panicking. The decision to operate.

And at last, this.

The memory is indelible, but distant now—even at this small distance. It’s hard to fathom all the hours I spent on the couch holding a sleeping baby and watching movies or reading books. Hard to imagine how I could ever have felt that I had enough time to do that. Harder still to comprehend where the time has gone. From this…

…to this…

…to this…

…and now, here we are: five years old. 

It’s the first of the landmark birthdays. (Aside from the one-year mark, which is more about Mom and Dad’s survival than the child’s!) This is the year he starts school. Baseball. The year he stops being a child whose life revolves around me.

He’s been adamant the last two days: chewing and tickling are for babies, and not for five year olds. Yesterday afternoon, setting aside writer’s block and perceived responsibilities, I went downstairs to play with my children. Horseyback, Batman, race cars. And then he wanted me to play Rock-a-bye baby.

"There's really only one thing I can say for sure: No matter what, you'll always be my sweet baby boy." (K. Basi, Sweet Baby Boy, 2006)

Life is sweet.


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