Ten years ago

The last picture of me taken before Grace was born.  39+ weeks. October 22, 2002.

The day before Grace was born was crystal clear, the blueness of the sky matched only by the brilliance of the leaves that seemed to surround us as we walked slowly up and down the streets of our neighborhood.

Matt’s father was in the hospital and very ill.  We did not know he was a month away from a life-saving heart transplant.

We had just – literally just – finished renovating the third floor of our house into a nursery and a family room.  The nursery stood ready and empty, with freshly-painted yellow walls and a white crib and a giant stuffed yellow duck from Matt’s parents.  The drawers of an old bureau that I had painted yellow were full of Dreft-scented size 0-3 month clothes.  I had chosen a yellow velour outfit to bring our baby home from the hospital in.

We still called our unborn baby Finbar.  Finnie, for short.  A friend’s husband had named him or her when we saw him over the summer.  I was so attached to the name Finnie I didn’t think I could ever call my baby anything else.

I had just turned 28 years old, at the end of a summer filled with the joyous, love- and celebration-filled weddings of some of my closest friends.  I was the designated driver a lot.

I could feel tiny feet kicking my ribs.  My back ached.  A devoted lifetime stomach sleeper, I was having a lot of trouble getting rest.  I was ready to not be pregnant anymore.  But I could never have imagined how entirely unready I was for what came next.  I went into labor on Thursday night the 24th.  I sat in my father-in-law’s hospital room sensing the very first stirrings of a pain whose rhythmic and intermittent nature made me suspect that This Was It.  But I wasn’t sure.  My due date was in 2 days and I had thoroughly internalized the warning that I would go 2 weeks late.

I didn’t sleep that night, and by Friday morning we were walking around the neighborhood trying to pass the time and manage the pain.  Our doula arrived.  We walked and walked, and I moaned and rocked.  I drank apple juice.  The day was one of the most beautiful I can remember, drenched in glorious, glossy, elegaic late-fall light.  I was on the brink of a change so large I could not fathom it, of the darkest season of my life, but then, also, of the most beautiful.

The births of my two babies, in all their violence and glory, are two of my most cherished life experiences.  They are not only moments of my life that I recall with stunning, crystalline detail. They were also passages from one world to another, and somehow in the passage I was able to glimpse through the seam of this reality to something bigger and more breathtaking. What I saw and sensed changed me forever.

Grace’s birth was the story of resistance. It was about my gritting my teeth and stubbornly laying in for the stay. Part of the resistance was that she was posterior, but it was also about my own fears, anxieties, and utter lack of preparation to be a mother. I was in battle against myself, I know that now: I was holding on, not ready to embrace a new life (mine, not hers) and identity. I was not ready to face the end of a phase of my life, the multiple deaths that are contained in birth. The inexorable force of a baby descending the birth canal went to war against my own quite powerful subconscious, and I was in active labor for over 36 hours, and at 9+ centimeters for 3 hours.

I cried and I screamed and I begged to be put out of my misery: I distinctly recall telling my midwife, completely seriously, that I’d like her to put a bullet in my head and just cut the baby out. The pain was both incendiary and incandescent. It was a crucible through which I had to pass, the heat so extreme that I was rendered molten. It was an animal experience, a raw, passionate, and terrifying introduction to a ferocity I had never imagined I possessed.

I delivered Grace myself. At my midwife’s instruction, I reached down and put my thumbs under her armpits when she was half born and pulled her onto my own chest. I am more grateful than I can express for photographs of this moment. Little did I know I had months of darkness ahead of me before the grace that I had just brought into my life would be made manifest.

She came home from the hospital two days later in the outfit I had chosen.  We arrived home the day the clocks turned back, and commenced months of crying, darkness, and difficulty.  Labor had been just the beginning of a long process of being utterly changed.  Talk about a crucible!  That fall and winter, 2002-2003, remains the most difficult time of my life.  But how outrageously beautiful is the view on the other side.  I would never do it differently.

And ten years ago today that all lay in the hours ahead of me.

Parts of this post were originally written in December, 2009.


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21 Comments

  1. Posted October 23, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Oh my Lindsey. What a gorgeously honest and loving piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing this. And happy, happy day to you and your beautiful Grace.

  2. Posted October 23, 2012 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    So gorgeous. All of it. xox

  3. Posted October 23, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    happy birthday, grace. happy mother’s day, lindsey. my children and I attended the home/waterbirth of our dear friend last week. witnessing birth, the vulnerability, strength and beauty, was pure magic and awe. thank you for your honest, soulful storytelling. it changes everything.

  4. Posted October 23, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday to your Double Digit Daughter! You know, I just realized as I read your post that the fall/winter of 2002-2003 was also the darkest period of my life. My mom died that Thanksgiving and the months that followed were so bleak. Ten years is a long time and no time, isn’t it?

  5. Jessica
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Made me cry. Thank you for your beautiful heart. xo

  6. Amy
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Happy birthday to your dear daughter. What a beautiful post.

  7. Connie
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Happiest of days to dear Grace, and to you my friend. xoxo

  8. betsy
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing! My due date is in two days and I can closely relate to your final week — truly waiting for the unknown…

  9. Posted October 23, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, reading this post I just kept thinking A DESIGN SO VAST, A DESIGN SO VAST. In those moments, that darkness that followed, it must’ve felt so chaotic and now we see the picture of your life and it’s so beautifully whole and ordered and complete. Thank God for Grace. And grace.
    xoxo

  10. Posted October 23, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Beautiful and powerful and brave, as is so often the case with you. :)

  11. Posted October 23, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    “passages from one world to another”- exactly this. I need a new word for beautiful for your writing. I feel gutted and filled up at the same time when I read this.

    I think she is so perfectly named, your Grace.

  12. Nancy
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, I have read your blog every day for quite some time — and I enjoy it so much. The youngest of my three girls turned 10 on October 16th. I know exactly what you mean when you write of this time of transition … and change .. and the desire to hold it all in place. I want everything to stay just as it is — but at the same time — I am always excited to see what new changes are in store. Just five days later – on October 21st – my oldest daughter turned 17. You can imagine the emotions that come with this age too. She is a senior in high school. And this is what brought me to write today. It is a tradition at her high school for parents to write something in their daughter’s yearbook — usually with baby pictures — and well wishes on her graduation. I would like to include a quotation — and I have a few but none that seem quite right. Like me — you seem to love quotations too. I have just spent over an hour looking back through your old posts to see if I could find a quotation that seemed to fit. I hope you don’t mind the long comment — but I would be most grateful if you had any ideas that came to mind on this topic. Thank you so much for all of your beautiful writing.

  13. Posted October 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Lindsey. This is stunning. I love the metaphor of the crucible and all the fire imagery that peppers your story. And I’m floored by your memory of the details of that auspicious day. xo

  14. Posted October 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Utterly breath-taking. This piece, your emotion, the words you’ve so beautifully penned, and, of course, the lovely Grace.

    Love to you both. xoxo

  15. Allison Tate
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Things I love:
    How young you look in that first picture.
    Blue toile curtains.
    How tiny and dainty your belly was… I looked like a Sumo wrestler in comparison!
    Your red hair.
    That yellow velour outfit.
    The way you describe the pull and tug and push and pull of the process of becoming a mother.
    That little baby in the yellow velour outfit.
    That you are able to articulate so well the myriad emotions — dark and light — in the day.
    The name Grace, and how it weaves in your life and your words.
    YOU.

  16. Kasey
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    That is so sweet! Look at you now, all grown up and sharing your incredible wisdom with the world! XO

  17. Posted October 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    You are so – so – BRAVE. I mean, I was in the hospital with the epidural thingie, just pressing away, not feeling anything. My legs got a little numb, but that was it. I was not up for the journey the way you were.

    Years later, my memories are different from yours, but no matter what – they are all so vivid – every single detail.

    I also suffered from postpartum after my second. That was so hard. Somedays I don’t know if it ever really left.

    Sending love. First time here.
    Kiran

  18. Posted October 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    beautiful, happy birthday to dear Grace. Pulling her out yourself must have been amazing.

  19. Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    beautifully written. and you described it perfectly: incendiary and incandescent…perfection.

  20. Posted October 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    have you read the book A DoubleLife?http://www.lisacatherineharper.com
    I recently heard the author speak and think you may really enjoy it. great post.

  21. Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The idea of a seam between worlds has been haunting my thoughts since I read this. In the delivery room, just past seven years ago, I felt a surge of something – The Divine – opening me. Past understanding, beyond human love, a deep and amazing wordless awe.