Birthing Days

The last week of January brings two different birthday cakes to our table. At 20 and 12, my oldest and youngest sons have now both officially made silent wishes, blown out their candles, and started a "new year" of life. While they look ahead, I look back. I usually carve out a moment to pause on the days that mark the first breaths of birth.

So, in honor of two birthing days and the labor of motherhood, today I am re-posting some thoughts from this same time last year.


First, Last, and Always

They are first and last in the order of sons. Last week, we had two birthdays in our family -- Andrew, the oldest brother, and Lucas, the youngest brother. Their birthdays are January 28th and 30th respectively. A friend of mine asked if perhaps Lucas was a birthday present for Andrew. And, I suppose the answer is yes. In a sense, all 4 brothers are birthday presents to each other. And each year, the last week of January makes me pause. It is a month to remember the labor of births, first and last.

As first, Andrew has always been on the pioneering edge of experience for himself, and for his parents. When he was born, Steve and I were only 3 years older than his current age. I gasp at the baby pictures. We were practically kids when he was an infant.

The day of his birth sent us into a new and unknown life. The house was quiet. His clothes were new. His toys were new. His parents were new. And now, he is in India on his way to his next foreign land, and once again his birthday brings us into uncharted parenting territory. First upon first, his life has demanded of him a pioneering spirit of the new and undiscovered.

As last, Lucas is fated to walk a well-worn path. When he was born, Steve and I were on our fourth time around. Lucas was immediately part of a pack. The house was loud. His clothes were worn-in. His toys were worn-down. His parents were worn-out. And now, as he trails along in his own way, his journey often causes me retrospection.

His life contains all of our 'last' times at so many things; Last high chair, last training wheels ... last week Steve and I took our son's birthday cupcakes to an Elementary school for the last time of our lives. Next year he'll move on to Middle School. He'll walk from our house through the doors of a new school, and it is a path that was unknown, until Andrew forged it. Last upon last, his life has demanded of him a willingness to follow, yet find his own way.

Large and small bodies. It's so strange to think about the labor of birthing them into their current journeys. They are so large it seems impossible that they ever -- at any point -- would have been contained in my belly.

The night before Andrew was born, my body went through a whole series of unrecognizable but seemingly practiced or innately known motions. I experienced deep aches and muscle movements that I had no idea were programmed into my frame. Something took over. Steve was as clueless as me about what to do, or where to be. But he stood by in his blue hospital cap and booties. And he was helplessly supportive. My body wasn't under my control. It had a purpose. And after a deep muscular duty was done, my first baby appeared. He took his first breath, and came into a new life of his own.

The muscular rhythm was recognizable by the time Lucas was due to be born. I knew the labor of it and embraced the onset. Steve knew what to do for me and moved in with quiet confidence. There is something so different, centering, empowering, about following a worn path, rather than blazing a new trail. The pulses and cues were like a learned language. The process was no less painful, but the path was known.

When my last baby took his first breath, he came into a new life of his own. With that, Steve and I permanently stepped out of the delivery room, into a different season of labors and births. Now the celebration of a birthing day requires the embrace and release of many new and unexpected firsts and lasts.

First, last, and always ...
happy birth days, boys.