Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"I am arriving as I am beginning to leave..."

Just noticed that it's the Ides of March. Maybe that's why I sucked so badly in my acting class today. Doing a scene from King Lear. Ironic, much? I mean, I sucked like I have never sucked before. Couldn't remember ANY of my lines. Couldn't remember them even when I stood there and thought really hard. In fact, that made it worse, since somehow I immediately went to a tropical island in my mind. Which is not where the lines were. Surprise!

I am tired and distracted. I have a little bit of a good reason, but I'm not one to chalk bad behavior up to reasons. But check it out: my niece was born Sunday evening. Her name is Lilah Grace and she was 6 lbs, 10 oz. (exactly what I was!) Her tiny pink head was swathed in curly, black hair and she immediately wriggled her giant hand out of her swaddle, stuffed it in her mouth, and started making sucking sounds that would do a five-year-old thumb-sucking lifer proud. (More with the sucking theme. Only it was freakin' adorable when she did it.)

I was supposed to be in the delivery room, and made it there on time, but it was not to be. My sister ended up having a C-section, and I won't share the harrowing details since that's not my story. But I was just a couple doors down for the whole thing, so I'm calling that being there.

It made me very happy to hold brand-new Lilah, all solid and pink. Dopey, lopsided-smile happy. I hadn't expected to feel so crazy about her so quickly. Later, I watched her sleeping in her little plastic box next to her exhausted, passed-out mama and felt a lot of twinges. Twinges of "where the heck did this person, this hungry, sleepy, sucky determined PERSON, come from?" I mean, I've read a few books, so I know for reals where she came from, but still! It just seemed demented that she was suddenly here, in all her glory, and so very obviously a PERSON, not just a baby. A small version, ramping up for the big stuff, but very much her own distinct girl nonetheless.

And then the twinges were a little sad, too. Trying to picture Jarrah that size, and failing. She was 27 lbs when I met her, and man, there was no gray area about her distinct personage. She didn't just have needs; she had DESIRES, and by gum, she was going to attain them. Sometimes we clashed because we were both so determined, and not always in the same direction.

And I tried to imagine being instrumental in bringing Jarrah into this world. Oh, I'm not talking about the pregnancy thing; I've lamented that one to death. And in a weird way, I've always thought about pregnancy abstractly, as if it were a condition or state without outcome, and more about walking around with your hands on your belly-shelf and getting people to offer you seats.

What I felt looking at Lilah was more specific to MY child, and the twinges were about not having been there when she was a this-sized person. Not being able to feed her with my body, or hold her against my skin and say "that was a little rough there for a minute--glad you're out here now with room to stretch your legs." Not even being on the same continent. Not knowing about her at all, or what she went through for a freakin' YEAR before I met her. Considering how tenderly (mostly) I try to meet her needs now, it seemed suddenly absurd that she had all these urgent needs for which I was nowhere to be found. How could I love her and yet that be true?

At some point during the outrageous and wondrous development of the day, my sister said "But I didn't plan for this!" I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. Isn't that a great description of parenthood? I didn't plan for this. I can't control anything. I don't know what's going on, but whatever it is, I have to do it anyway.

When I think about how I came to motherhood, I have the same cry. I didn't build my baby with my body, carry her for the better part of a year, feel her kick me, brave the pain of bringing her into the air. I didn't hear her first cry and hold her in the minute she was born. I didn't plan for this. I didn't plan for this. I didn't plan for this!

But that's how it happened. And the way it happened was how the plan had to be, even if it took me a long time to know that.


Jen said...

Oh, Miss S, you've got me crying here. What a post this was. Isn't it true that nothing happens according to plan, from the very beginning? No matter what that beginning is.

Sending you a big hug. And a big congratulations, too, on becoming what I am sure will become a favorite auntie.


Melissa said...

Beautiful writing! I hung onto every word! You need to write a book about your experiences in adoption, parenting and life in general.

Mel :-)

Stephanie said...

So, so, good.

Anonymous said...

Broke my shoulder a few weeks ago, and was living in a sling. At the same time, my little girl had weeks of fevers and horrible coughing fits, often leading to throwing up.

I couldn't pick her up, change her clothes, or give her so much as a hug, No idea what was going on with the cough, and wanted so much to help her that it broke my heart. I was mad at the doctors for not having the answer, but not sure I had reason to be mad.

I remember once with Laura standing between me an the knobs in the shower that I would have used to steam up the room for little girls cough -- but could not reach it wild my good arm or use my broken one to do it.

I remember wondering why no one told me this would be on the test.

Mike Gertz

PS. We're getting better

Andrea said...

Beautifully written. We had similar days on Sunday... My very best girlfriend gave birth to her first child that day, and I was there just a few hours after he came into the world. In addition to being thrilled for her, I had that same sense of loss all over again - that I didn't know Sydney, or even know who she was, when she was that tiny. Nope - I didn't plan for this either. But it's all good.
I agree with Melissa... You should definitely write a book!!

Marlene said...

Just wanted to tell you that I love you and miss you, sister-friend, and I miss hearing your beautiful voice. It's lovely to see a bit of it here, but, somehow, it just seems so crazy that all we've done is exchange a few texts in months upon months, and I haven't gotten to hug you and see your big girl. And you haven't seen my 9-year-old boy. My heart is still with you and David and your beautiful Jarrah.

Sasha Clines said...

Love your writing! Had no idea you had a blog but should have guessed your genius wouldn't stop at acting and directing and mothering and what don't you do? :)