May 06, 2004

birth day

Damian was born six years ago yesterday morning at four a.m. The Jacaranda were just coming into bloom, trees tipped with lavender blossoms, the air was clear and warm and he was so badly stuck inside my body he couldn’t come out even after hours of agonizing pushing, with a midwife’s hands inside me trying to turn his head during contractions.

It’s probably my single worst memory, the night of his birth. He nearly died. I might have, too, considering my blood pressure readings.

I want to say the moment of his birth was transcendent, rendering the previous fourteen hours into a footnote, but in truth it was more of a relief from suffering, a numbness in body and mind. I saw Damian for the first time while I was strapped down on the table. I couldn’t hold him yet. I wanted to, if only to experience this new little person up close, to make him tangible. Because he wasn’t real to me yet. Wasn’t mine.

It’s hard to talk about that day. Hard to think about it. And yet every year this celebration of his birthday – a wonderful thing, a road marker of growth, a day he gets to wear the crown (literally, in this case – a green paper crown in his morning class and the goofy felt birthday hat in his afternoon class) – is also the anniversary of the day of his birth. The first couple of years, when the memory was still raw, I had trouble with the dissonance, the happy with the painful. I can separate it out better now, I think. I love Damian entirely. He’s worth that gauntlet of fear and pain. He’s changed me profoundly, enriched and complicated my life in incalculable ways. I can’t imagine life without him. The day of his birth, it was part of the journey. Not an easy part, but it doesn’t all have to be easy, does it?

Damian had a good birthday yesterday. He’s delighted to be six years old now. He handed out home-baked cookies during snack time at his morning school, wearing his colorful handmade birthday crown. When I picked him up, a couple of the kids said “Goodbye birthday boy!” and his carpool mate greeted him with a “Happy birthday!” He wore the floppy-candle-adorned birthday hat all afternoon in class and counted the real candles on the cake he and his friend Jules shared that afternoon (Jules was born on May 4th). Six down one side, six up the other. They each blew their own candles out and then blew out the number six together. He enjoyed his presents more than I’ve ever seen, he was more involved and talkative and responsive about it all, and at his favorite restaurant last night, he told the waiter what he wanted for dessert: “An ice cream sundae with a candle on it because it’s my birthday.” He had it all figured out.

When he got out of the car as we got home from school, he announced, “I’m not going to say what I say anymore because now I’m six.” For the past couple of months, he’s been saying “Do we have everything we need?” as he leaves the car. It’s a ritual and a meaningless one because even if we say “No, we don’t,” he still closes his door and heads into the house. He knows we think it’s silly, but we’ve never worked to get him to stop. He decided on his own that it was time to let go of that little routine. He’s six years old, after all. A big boy and proud of it. As am I.

So no, I can’t regret what happened six years ago. I wish it hadn’t been so harsh an introduction to one of the loves of my life, but after enough time, that too becomes simply a part of the fabric of our lives together, his and mine. I fell in love with him gradually but permanently.

Posted by Tamar at May 6, 2004 10:08 AM

I loved hearing about the birth of your son, and the way you write is exquisite........Keep up the great journal!
Love Jeanne
From Ontario Canada

Posted by: Jeanne at May 6, 2004 02:41 PM

I love it when you write about Damien. The force of his personality comes through so clearly, as does how much you love him. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Posted by: Cait at May 7, 2004 06:35 PM

Oh my goodness, my labor with my almost 7 year old son Matthew was so similar to yours! And he is ASD also...does make you wonder sometimes.

Posted by: Paula at May 12, 2004 08:59 AM