Today, dear Readers, I want to share a story with you from my life. Thank you to those who have been reading and even following my blog now, it means a lot to me to know that you like some of what I ponder and think about in these posts.
Here is my story of how my middle daughter came into the world, seventeen years ago today.
”This is a song for Julia.” I know a girl named Julia Rose. She is very lovely and fair, much like Snow White in the famous fairy tale. Skin white as snow, hair nearly dark as ebony, cheeks as red as the rose, as red as blood.
It was a sub-zero night in February. The ground in Denver, Colorado was frozen over with ice and snow. In the middle of the silent, cold night, I awoke. My birth water had broken. The baby would be coming soon. It was a winter’s version of the first child’s birth, water breaks three weeks before my due date. This time I knew what to expect, so I wasn’t as afraid. I woke my husband, called the midwife, and we made a plan for me to arrive at hospital around 5 am. She said to take it easy, there was no need to hurry or become anxious. And to remember to breathe. The contractions were irregular and not strong yet. There was plenty of time before this baby would come.
My husband got up and dressed. I got things ready to bring to hospital, and a small bag of clothes ready for our small daughter Mellissa Grace, to stay with her aunt and uncle while I birthed her sibling. She was nineteen months old, still a baby herself. My husband brought her over to his brother’s house a couple of miles away. I remember telling myself ‘it’s going to be okay, you know how to do this, don’t be scared, it’s okay, just keep breathing, keep breathing.’ Then he came home again and we got into his Ford pickup truck and drove through the silent, frozen streets of Denver to Mercy Hospital.
The next hours went by in a blur. I just remember being settled into a bed, the nice nurse was gentle and friendly, they took all my vital signs and put that annoying monitor belt around my swollen belly to check on the baby. Everything was in order and all we had to do now was wait for my contractions to become regular and two minutes apart. With the first baby, the contractions stayed irregular for the entire day after my water broke, so that finally I sent my husband down to the local health food store for some blue cohosh tincture to help my body have regular contractions: it was either that, or the midwife warned they would have to give me pitocin, some kind of drug to make the contractions regular and very strong. This I knew I did not want. In the world of American hospitals and registered midwives, they believe that once the water breaks, the baby needs to be born within 24 hours or else harm can result. I was at the mercy of the midwife and nurses at that point. But the blue cohosh worked wonderfully. With this new baby on the way, I hoped that my contractions would soon begin in earnest, at regular intervals. By about 9:30 am, I told my husband that I should take some of the blue cohosh tincture again in some warm tea. He complied and brought me both. I remember drinking it, and praying for it to work so the baby could come soon. Then he helped me out of the bed, and we slowly walked down the long hospital corridor and back. He was very kind to me and lent me his strength, for he knew I was anxious.
Within about a half hour, the contractions began coming stronger and faster together. For the next hour and a half I was in true labor. The labor pains came in waves, beginning, then getting stronger and stronger, as I kept breathing into them and holding onto my husband’s hands very tightly. There was another nurse there by then, she was pretty with dark skin and her name was Grace. She and my husband helped me each time there was a contraction. The time went by in a blur of pain, then I was on the birthing bed and pushing, then suddenly, the baby came through my womb and into the light of the world. The midwife barely showed up in time to see me give birth to this child, and do the usual things they do with the newborn. But the real helpers were my husband and Grace.
What I remember next was feeling exhausted, laying quietly in the bed and being given my new child. She was wrapped up in a white receiving blanket like a little burrito. I gazed into her tiny newborn face, her eyes closed, her features still not all the way formed. Her skin was nearly transparent, I could see fine red blood vessels under her eyelids. She had a crop of black, fine hair, smooth as the finest silk. I held her against my breast and she found the nipple. After a few tries, she latched on. By now I was an expert at nursing, having done it for nearly a year with Mellissa. I stroked her tiny face and body, admired her tiny fingers and hands, delicate as butterfly wings. My second grace had come.
Later that day, I spoke with my husband about what we should name her. I had been deliberating for months, but had finally decided that Julia was to be this girl’s name. But what about the middle name? I wanted it to be Rose, for indeed she was a tiny, perfect rosebud through and through. Rose was my grandmother’s name, and I wanted to honor her by giving her name to my new daughter. But in jewish tradition, it is not allowed to name a child after a relative while they are still living. At the time, my grandmother Rose was ninety years old and still living with my parents, as she had done since I was seven years old. I asked my husband to call my folks and tell them the good news. Then I spoke with them briefly, and asked them to ask Nana, as we always called her, if I could name the baby Julia Rose after her. Permission was granted, and so on her first day of life, my new baby received her name.
We spent the rest of that day and night all together in a private room resting, nursing, getting to know each other. From the moment I saw her, I fell completely in love. She was so lovely and exquisitely made, we both admired her and held her and talked to her those first 24 hours in the hospital. Even with my ultra sore body and exhaustion from the birth, I was so happy to receive this beautiful gift from heaven. By the next afternoon, we were back home again. My husband went to fetch Mellissa from her aunt and uncle’s house. I laid Julia Rose in the middle of our bed, and went to greet little Mellissa. When I looked at her, she had suddenly grown from baby to toddler and seemed very big in comparison to her new baby sister. I hugged her tightly and kissed her cheeks. Then I whispered in her ear, ‘Come, there is someone I want you to meet.’ I took her hand and led her into the room where her new sister lay sleeping. Mellissa stood at the edge of the bed, looking at her for a long moment. Then she very carefully climbed up onto the bed, and oh so gently knelt down and kissed her face. A moment, frozen in my memory forever, of such love and gentleness. Mellissa had been waiting for Julia to come. Now she was here, her sister and companion. I wept with gratitude and love.
Now it is seventeen years later. That beautiful, perfect newborn has grown into a lovely young woman, full of charm, wit and grace, intelligence and creativity. She is as fair as ever, and still considers her big sister to be her best friend. ”Julia, Julia, ocean child, calls me. So I sing this song of love for Julia.” -John Lennon