I woke up Monday morning to an email from my friend Clover, sent to her intimate circle. A report on her day, her condition, her life in Chicago as she is about to bring new life into Chicago.
“It’s a beautiful Monday morning– 40 degrees and sunny…I am feeling good and I’m on my way to work…I am taking it very slow and easy…I feel ready to burst. She is rolling around in there this morning – hanging out on my bladder. No signs of labor yet.”
My heart swells and my head feels clear. I am reminded of what is important in the world.
“The snow is almost fully melted and it’s really starting to feel like Spring…I began to have some abdominal cramps. Not sure if these are the Braxton-Hicks contractions everyone speaks of, but I am feeling closer to labor everyday…
I am so tired, taking it slow and breathing lots. My body is doing such hard work!
…A new life on its way, the prospect of motherhood, the challenge of labor…”
The challenge of labor. I am Clover’s doula. (Greek for “servant.”) Her and Andy’s support and advocate during birth.
I have done this just once before, for my girlfriend Julie. It was a gift. A labor of love. Something I never considered doing again. Until a few months ago when the words tumbled out of my mouth and Clover and I embraced over a marble table at Julius Meinl, “sealing the deal.”
I pull out my pre-natal materials and make a stack of them on the floor, next to my bed. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn. Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy. A binder of handouts and lesson plans. I too am getting ready.
“It is Wednesday and nearly everything here is covered in a fine dusting of snow…the trees look majestic. I love this little morning surprise beauty of winter…
Andy and I started the new remake of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which made me feel such awe and wonder at our world and our infinitesimal place in it. I feel asleep after 30 minutes, as I do these days…
I decided to stay home from work today and relax..I am hoping that the strong sense of waiting with subside, though I somehow doubt it will. At least I am waiting along with all of you.”
I phone Clover and ask if she would like to wait together. I had planned on writing. Or an Artist Date. Number 67. But being alone with my friend for perhaps the last time for a while seems mundanely juicier.
I remember my last day with Julie before she birthed her son, Jaron.
We went to the gym where Julie mentioned she sometimes sees my junior high-school crush. I felt excited and hopeful. She told me I shouldn’t be. That he never wiped his sweat off of the equipment.
After, we ate breakfast at Giorgio’s. Julie was excited to have French Toast, but had no room for it. Just 5’2” and carrying high, there was hardly any space between her ribcage and her baby. We laughed at the injustice of it.
Back at her house I rubbed acupuncture points on her hands and feet – “downward elevators” in Chinese medicine – to stimulate labor.
She delivered her baby the next afternoon.
We reminisce about this seemingly mundane day regularly. I recall the joy I felt being able to touch my friend. To see her so radiant. To be useful.
I feel the same way about Clover. I see her at the top of the stairs and I tear up, even though I saw her just five days ago.
She makes me a cup of tea and I pull one of her feet into my lap. I sink my fingers into her swollen flesh, searching for bone. The baby is moving about.
She tells me about a dream her husband had several years ago about their daughter, and calling her by name. They had been on the fence about having children. Andy’s disclosure became an opening in their willingness.
Clover is having a girl. She has not told me her name. I hear Annabelle in my head. I do not tell her. Like me, Clover has no poker face.
She asks me if I ever wanted to have children.
I tell her I never really knew. That, for a long time, I never considered it. Probably because I somehow knew I couldn’t stay sober for nine months. Although I never acknowledged that to myself until many years had passed without my having a drink.
I tell her about J, who regularly told me he would marry me. That we would have daughters. That he held an image of me and our girls lighting Shabbat candles – which amused me as neither of us were particularly religious.
Kind of like Andy’s dream. Except it didn’t happen.
She says at times, I have felt like a mother to her. That I showed her how to mother herself. I am humbled.
We talk about sex and love and fear. We eat carrots and hummus standing over the sink because her ass has gone numb from sitting. She hands me her hands and I rub them, pressing into the downward elevators. We cry.
The next time I see her she will likely be in labor. I will perhaps be holding her leg, telling her, “You can and you are,” my mantra during Julie’s labor.
And then we will welcome her daughter.