Contractions

1988

Maria and I are eating hummus and grilled schnitzel at an Israeli restaurant on Beverly Drive. Everyone here seems to be smoking and I’m worried about the baby she is carrying.  In fact, her due date is in just another couple of days.  We head home and get to bed early.  Our tiny bungalow in Santa Monica is cold. We use the small gas heater only on the rare nights it gets below forty-five degrees.  At three AM Maria wakes me.  “I feel contractions,” she says. “Let’s get our clothes on.” And we do, but since it’s so cold, we get back under the covers.

The contractions continue through the remainder of the night and at seven, we leave for the hospital. “The baby is breach,” a nurse says. I know what that means from the books I’ve read and from the Bradley classes we’ve taken, but at this moment, the nurse’s words are just sounds, devoid of specific meaning. I also know that when Maria is taken into the surgery ward and I’m told to put on scrubs and a mask, something is not right. I do as I’m told. I pray for a good outcome and I read from a book of Psalms.

A short time later a birthing coach is able to turn the baby around and then, without any drugs or surgery, my wife gives birth to a baby boy.

I’m surprised when he comes out.  Surprised by the fact that he’s so human.  So fully formed. How is it that I’ve never felt this kind of love for anything or anyone? How will I ever explain any of what I’m feeling right now, except to say that an entirely new set of emotions have been unearthed? Emotions let loose from everywhere. From music, from love, from trees, from family, from food, from soil, from sea, from land, from peoplehood, from tradition, from the Word of God to the words of children —all of it seems to say that what is possible is what you believe is possible. 

And so, one day very soon, Isaac, our first born child, the first of our four —now, very much grown children—will fall asleep in his height chair and wake up drowsy-eyed the next morning in his own bed, staring into faint swirls of dust inside a beam of clear sunlight.

He will have no memory of having been tucked into his bed the night before.