It was a beautiful early summer day much like today when my mother labored at home with the last of us. I was two months shy of my seventh birthday. I knew my mother was pregnant, “expecting a baby”, but I didn’t really know what that meant exactly. I just knew a baby was coming. From where, I didn’t know.
I spent the day doing what I always did in early summer. I played outside. Most likely I was somewhere in my imagination under the big tree in the back yard. I wiled away the hours…I dreamed and imagined and conversed to myself all day long. I didn’t know my mother’s body had begun the rhythmic squeezing and letting go that is the work of giving birth.
My mother had never given birth at home before. Myself, along with my two sisters and brother, were brought through her legs in that sterile, operating room style that was the late sixties. My parents weren’t hippies or homesteaders, they were pretty conventional people. My mother looked like Mary Tyler Moore in the Dick Van Dyke show, with her black bob and skinny capri slacks.
This baby was the fifth in six and half years, and the only push back my mother gave doctors was declaring “no more gas!” after I was born. Me, being her first, she went along with the mask being put over her face and ether being pumped into her body. When she awoke from this sort of medically induced coma, she couldn’t remember why she was in the hospital.
“Why, Mrs. Hayward, you’ve had a baby. A little girl.”
My mother vowed at the moment never to miss another birth again.
But laboring at home was based on another decision. My parents were on a journey, searching for God and trying to live a life that pleased him and laboring at home seemed to be a way they could exercise their trust in him. But I knew none of that.
I remember the sunlight dappling through the trees and the smell of new grass as the day came to a close. I remember Mrs. Alberta ushering me and my three siblings into her little house and showing us where we would sleep for the night because in the morning there would be a new baby.
Mrs. Alberta was a little old Dutch woman, round in face and body, and always in my mind, wearing a dress and an apron. She talked funny and was deliberate in her gestures and speech. She lived across the way and said she was going to help my mother. I didn’t know what kind of help my mother needed, but I got into a bed with stiff, white sheets and laid there with the rest of the kids wondering.
I don’t know if it was night still, or early morning, but Mrs. Alberta came and roused us from sleep, quick, firm…”Let’s go see.”
I remember running to the house. I think it was the dining room because on the table lay a rectangular box, tan on the outside, white on the inside. There she was. My baby sister. Black curly hair. Fat cheeks. I remember thinking, “Well, that makes five of us,” then wondering if me being the oldest meant I would have to take care of her.
I remember my mother on a bed or a couch looking really happy and really tired. I felt the same way when all of my babies finally broke through, but especially with my fifth one. I knew she was my last.
One day not long after my sister came, I saw a lot of blood in the toilet and it scared me at first. I remember looking at it and wondering where it could have come from and then suddenly, I knew. I knew it came from my mother and it was connected to my sister and that it was okay. I was about to turn seven and I had a revelation that somehow life is in the blood and blood is life and that the spilling of it can be a good thing.
Many, many years later, I was to discover how true indeed this is.
The mystery of life, the darkness where birth begins in water and blood is seen in all it’s glory on a cross.
No ether here. No masking the pain and suffering.
Jesus was not going to miss this for the world.
It was so we could live in dappled sunlight forever.