When the Water Breaks
A Love Song About Childbirth
I had cotton mouth for two days.
I bit the insides and around my lips and dealt with the dryness the entire time. I had not trimmed my beard in a week or so, and had not shaved it for longer. You bring your electric razor and trimmers with you in your tote bag and decide you must look presentable. You peek in the mirror and see the face of someone tired and a little more grown than the night before, like those guys who think they actually learned how to have sex. They never really learn until their thirties though.
I just smirked, in case you were curious.
But anyway, afterwards, I would stare at my colognes and wonder what scents would work — is my lotion too strong, my rings too cold, my jacket too rough? These may be the things you will think of.
I wasn’t sure if I would wait to write to you, you know?
Certain things, in order to give credence to their weight, or wait, or whichever, you hold off on broadcasting their existence to the rest of the stratosphere; but, I walked outside and lifted my arms wide and smelled the air and I wanted to see if its taste would be remarkably different than it was the hours before three AM when the contractions ended and that moment after three AM the following day that I would proceed to walk out of the revolving doors that require no hands which, in my estimate, is a surefire way to waste donor and tax payer dollars, and I leapt out into the autumny air, smelling my hands hitting the wind and whispering in the faint wash of new baby and a hundred hand soap suds and sanitizer scrubs bathing me, and I smiled.
And the smile was gregarious and large and portly and full. I met a man named Joel, but his name was pronounced like the Hebrew way it is pronounced, not like the patois tasting way my mother intended mine to sound like. In his pacing near the elevator, I saw that he was also expecting a something and a someone to come that would be bigger than all he would know from that point forever going forward. I saw him again when I left and we shook hands like old friends do when they say bye knowing that bye really is a bye and a good luck and be good to yourself because we walking in different directions home now.
I have a home now.
And that home is in her. I counted all her toes and hands and fingers and yawns, like Ray Charles did with his heart, or really, how Jamie Foxx playing Ray Charles did in the hospital in Ray after the birth of his first child. That scene always got me and now it seems that I finally get it, I think. I watched her in the nursery, Johnson & Johnson washing the mucus and blood and earth from her mama out of her Dominican and my daddy’s Pensacola, FL Baptist church churned hair. I listen to her cries, and swaddled her tight, my mini ladybug. I watched her mother with the strength of a thousand Gods push her out and bring her in and let her moan.
Her momma did right by her, so right.
You understand what pain and strength are and feel like a giant after being there for this and her and them.
My mom said she thinks you’re going to be an artist. I listen to her, and want to agree, but I also lean in close to the little lady person still sleeping and tell her maybe she’ll be a teacher or rocket scientist or an engineer, because those are important. I want everyone to see you but not everyone can hold you. I’m that dad. The one who will check his watch at five o’clock on the dot because that’s when you said you’d be home. I’m okay with that, being overbearing, because I need all the minutes I have in the world to be had with you.
I sang to her made up songs I have yet to sing and prayed poems I have to write and rubbed her flat and smooth belly for good luck. I watched her watch the world and silenced the noise in my chest to catch the flutters floating about. I rocked her and held her like she was the last fire on earth.
I am not a religious man.
I believe in the spirit, and spirits and ghosts, past lives and other worlds. But, I prayed. With her new family, and by myself, when no one was around and I could hear the thud of my pulse. With both knees down like they teach you in the Catholic School I never went to. That all happened after. Standing next to her, while the nurse tended to other babies who didn't have my nose or her cheeks, I lowered my mouth to her ear as her new fingers gripped my index one and told her she was the best thing to ever happen to me. And she will probably never remember that, but I've never been one to worry about a seed being planted as long as it bears the right fruit. Seeds will do what they want when it is time for them to work; but, we till and water and pray and watch and keep vigil like the candles will never dry. Then, we wait.
Waiting is the blessing.
Love is like that, too, the form and shape it can take in the soil. It grows, and grows, and whatever planted grows and the cycle continues not just in the seed, but in the plant and the earth and the planter and in the love invested in all three. And maybe when she takes her first steps or graduates magna cum laude or jumps a broom with her life partner or spreads my ashes over St. James Park, she'll remember the song or the words or the whisper or the poem in her and know that I left it there. Maybe she'll know it then.
Oh, and it was three yawns.
I counted. Three.