Dear Dead Mother,
Your third granddaughter was born twelve days ago. I am home with her now, absorbed by her scent and her softness. Maternity leaves aren’t easy for me. I crave structure and the feeling of being ‘productive.’ Yet I realize how productive these hours are: this baby is eating and sleeping and growing faster than she ever will, and I am starting to teach her all of the things she can depend upon.
The baby’s birth was something. My water broke at 7:30 pm on a Saturday night (the evening of her oldest sister’s 8th birthday, in fact). By the time we got to the hospital, contractions had started for real. I lay in bed while my husband moved in and out completing paperwork and making phone calls and the nurses buzzed in and out setting up monitoring machines. No one examined me (we had just arrived, after all). The contractions got stronger and closer together. I stared at the ceiling and my purple toenails (the girls and I had just gotten pedicures the day before) and breathed, breathed, breathed. My hands were in fists and at my sides, digging into the hospital mattress.
Suddenly during a contraction my belly buckled and I started to bear down. “You have to tell them I want to push,” I said meekly to my husband, who happened to be in the room with me at that moment. I closed my eyes: “Help me.” Within minutes, two nurses and a doctor came into the room. The doctor examined me and said, “Yep, she’s ready.” I hadn’t yet received the epidural, which I expected to receive, but it was time. “Do I start pushing?” I said, hardly believing that our baby was about to be born so soon after labor had begun. “Yes, start pushing!” said the doctor. Four or five pushes later (it took me a couple of tries to transition from the pushes that were in my throat and made noise to the pushes that were low and silent), the baby was on my stomach, spitting out amniotic fluid, coated in thick white wax, wriggling her fingers and toes, rocking my world. I had felt pain, but I’d also felt the baby’s body slide through my own and into the world in a way I hadn’t ever before.
I heard from my great aunt that my father is upset that I didn’t tell him about the baby’s birth. He cried when she told him and said, “I know that she’s upset with me but she could have picked up the phone to tell me. We are family. Family is all we can count on.”