Monday, December 13, 2010

Dream: For my girls, on the close of another year

I was raised without religion and as a result, my knowledge of The Bible is basic at best. Yet at this time of year I reflect on my cobbled understanding of the Christmas story, and I feel a rush of recognition; though I'm pretty sure this is sacrilegious, I find communion in the story of a woman who, in the dark stillness of a December night, experiences a miracle of birth and light. 

It happened to me, too.  Twice.

Big E emerged into the December darkness to make me a mother seven years ago.  I labored for 24 hours, battered by the pain but unrelenting in my determination to have a drug-free birth.  In the last late night hours before Big E was born, I was delirious with pain and fatigue, moaning to the midwife, over and over like a mantra, "I'm dying; you're killing me."

When my husband and I headed to the hospital through a cold, dark December night four years ago, I thought they'd probably send us home.  Though the contractions were coming a minute apart, they were nowhere near as crushing as I remembered from Big E's birth.  No longer as rigid in my convictions, I was open to an epidural this time around, but the opportunity never presented itself.  Little E was born 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, to the sound of the Christmas carols our nurse had switched on in the birthing room.

Their personalities often seem as polar as the circumstances of their births.  Big E, on turning seven, has graduated from little kid status to just plain kid and scolds her sister for talking too loudly while she's trying to read, which she does almost ceaselessly.  Little E, now just about four, still hangs on my leg to be carried.  When I tell her she's too big, she pouts that she's just a little baby and I give in, wishing she were right, still loving her clinging presence on my hip.  While good girl Big E stands rod straight and loudly enunciates a line from the Daisy Scout Promise to the crowd at her investiture ceremony, comedienne Little E, slumped on my lap, slaps her forehead and moans, "Oh brother, this is taking forever," to the amused agreement of the parents around us.

I never could have known seven years ago what my children would be to me.  How could I have realized they would render me at once so immune and so vulnerable?  Their existence blunts the stings and throbs of my daily life, yet even the tiniest harms they encounter sear my heart.  They are my beacon, the beam that guides me, that filtered through the gray haze of hormones and sleep deprivation after Big E's birth and burned through the dusky gloom of my work troubles last year.  If they are okay, my world is okay; thus, I must always make my world okay so that they will be, too.

I cry nearly every time I have to clear their drawers of outgrown clothes, reminiscing over every chocolate stained T-shirt and threadbare pair of jeans, and yet I thrill at every new stage, every little skill mastered, every small step taken.  I hate that we have moved through another year, but I would never want to miss knowing the women they will become.

And bittersweet as it is to mark a year gone, I know that as long as my girls are anywhere in this world there will be light in mine.

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