Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring...and a Baby

A wrought-iron mother wren with her baby at her feet perches on graceful vines encircling a fluted glass vessel. The little vase struck a chord with my Mom and she gave it to me when Tucker was born. Mom loves lilies of the valley, and it was early May, so she filled the vase with a few sprigs from her garden before coming to help out with my new baby.

It was springtime, and the earth prepared for Tucker’s arrival. In the fuzzy greening of trees, the sunshine glow of forsythia, and the pink clouds of magnolia emerging from gray wood seemingly dead only last week, God was saying - as surely as if He had hugged me - “Be happy.” And I was.

Lavender lilacs and lilies of the valley lent their fragrance to the warm, gentle breeze. Tiny sparrows that passed March in mute pecking swung proudly on twigs and composed melodies. Brown-headed cowbirds chortled bubbling liquid songs and the mourning doves cooed like a mother’s soft soothing. Warblers called from the treetops with trills, chirps and cheeps. Brother Wind, the woods’ winter alto voice, harmonized with the soprano songbird chorus. Mates were sought. Nests were readied. My baby was on the way too.

I’d been a poster child for pregnancy, and perhaps, a vexation to my fellow students in Lamaze class. Where Tucker curled tight in the womb, front and center, other mothers waddled, cumbersome, expanding on all sides. I felt great, gained little weight, and couldn’t wait for birth-day to come.

Labor, for me, was a glorious crusade – a good one, without prisoners or weapons. There was blood and pain, but the prize was a baby, and I was well trained for the fight. With the current preference for epidurals, Lamaze has lost favor, but in the early eighties, it was the way to go. It was an invaluable education, and when my contractions began, the pain held no fear. I knew the significance of the sensations at each stage and was ready with a corresponding strategy. As the contractions grew stronger, I pictured my little one, struggling along with me. Soon we would meet, face to face.

I had not been aware that I had expectations as far as the sex of the child. Yet, as a girl from a family of girls, I must have felt that this little traveler, so familiar – yet not – would be female. When Doctor Hoffman, the welcoming committee, caught the baby and announced, “It’s a boy and he’s perfect,” I was surprised. I was also surprised that this son of a WASP mother was so definitively Italian. I didn’t recognize him as my under-the-heart-in-my-heart companion right away.

He resembled my husband, Dave, so thoroughly. Thick black hair was slicked back from his face. His battle down the birth canal showed in puffy cheeks and pouches under his eyes, like Dave after a long commute. And like Dave, his aunt Cam, his father, Colombo and grandfather, Michael, the baby’s nose was pure Sylvestro, rounded and substantial.

The name “Tucker” is not as unique in this new millennium, but in 1980, it was precious and new. It was round on my tongue, soft as a baby’s kissable cheeks, and the "r” at the end was a cozy burr. There was pride and love in the very utterance of the name, bound as it was to this little boy.

But, oh the fatigue following the eighteen-hour delivery! I had eaten only tea and toast since the contractions began, and after all that hard work – triumphant work – I was beat. So after snuggles with Tucker, and stitches for me, the nurses spirited him away and I fell asleep.

At 4:00 A.M, I awoke in the dark, achingly lonely for my other part, the other heart that had beaten under mine for nine months. The yearning I felt for him was a new kind of pain, and I was keenly aware of the void in my body where once he had been.

Now, he is twenty-seven and living in Boston. For Mother’s Day, he took me out to a chocolate buffet brunch. He knows me well; it was an excellent choice.

Tucker no longer looks like Dave; he looks just like me and my father. Do I sound smug? He has Dave’s brains and sense of humor, and has started his own business. He has a wonderful girlfriend named Heather. But he is farther away than I would like him to be, and when spring comes around with its fuzzy leaves and lilac scents, it feels like I’m awaiting his birth.

When the lilies of the valley push up through the soil, I go down on my hands and knees and bury my nose in the clusters of white bells. God is proclaiming, “Be happy,” and I am….. but I wish I could hold my little bundle again.


Anonymous said...

Lea, as you often do, you've produced tears that leak down my cheeks. How I identify! How almost any mother would identify. You evoke the struggle, the pain, the beauty, and most of all the upwelling love of becoming, and being, a mother.

OpeningDialogue said...

Wow -- this brought me back to the incredible days before the birth of our first child, being so wide open awake and aware, loving and hopeful, grateful for the experience of helping a new life into the world. Thanks, as always, for bringing tears of recognition to my day! Louise F

Anonymous said...

Lea, this is fabulous.

Anonymous said...

That's beautiful, Lea! I love the image of Tucker's heart beating beneath your heart, and how the complete joy of having a baby is tinged with a sense of loss when that heart is out in the world. I remember reading somewhere that becoming a parent is like walking around with your heart outside your chest.

Anonymous said...

lea, I read this the day after my own son turned 13, and tears blurred my vision . . . why is it that the bond between mother and son can be so precious and heart breaking all at once?
I can completely identify at the surprise you felt when the doctor announced the sex . . . and now, I cannot imagine what it would have been like if my own suspicions had come true instead . . .

Anonymous said...

Lea, this is beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes. You're a wonderful writer! I especially loved the heart beneath your own heart - I'd never thought of it quite that way when I was pregnant, but I know just what you mean.
xo Susan (or should I say, Whipple!)