the starlight of a new life still present (dear Alene)

My dear Alene,

I’m so jealous of you right now. You gave birth a few days ago and now you are riding that newborn baby wave, the one which crests and falls with different feelings  every hour, sometimes every minute. You are tucked away in your home, a place somehow new again, because a new family lives there. A family that did not exist last week now lives in your house; what a strange reality to face each morning. I daydream about those moments, about the three times I have woken up in a new house with a new family after each of my children were born, and in all of my dreaming the air has such a rose hue to it. Not the false rose lens of chosen ignorance, of intentional amnesia, but a haze that fills the house with wonder and smooths over sleepless nights and painful healing. It’s like when you wake up early on a camping trip, deep in a forest or beside a lake or in a meadow, and it’s not night but it’s not morning, and the fog sits steady on the ground as though it’s always there, but you know it’s not, it will roll away with the sunrise, so you sit very still outside your tent as the sun creeps up and you watch the stars become invisible again. That’s how I imagine you right now. Sitting very still in these precious moments with a newborn in your arms, afraid to move too quickly because you know the fog will lift and the world will come glaring back into focus, the starlight of a new life still present, but no longer visible.

It’s not glamorous, these first days after a baby is born. It’s the kind of exhausting that makes you weep. You cry and you bleed, you sweat in your sleep, you begin to produce milk, it’s as though every pore in your body is leaking, as though soon you won’t have anything left. And you can feel that, can’t you? That constant sense of depletion? I’ve always thought of those early physical changes, all that loss, as the tangible symptoms of a metaphysical casualty. A death of self. Because really, in every sense, birth comes with loss. A part of you died in that delivery room. You will never be who you were before your daughter was born. And even though you rejoice with every breath she takes, and you hold her up in awe simply because she is yours, there is a grief that must be allowed in the same space as your joy. Whether our babies come from our own womb or from the womb of another, we cannot remain the women we once were when we take these children into our arms. We say a breathless hello to the babies at our breast, all the while leaving behind the life we once lived. And even though we are happy; even though we weep with thankfulness; we still must learn to live again. In our new lives. With our new families. As our new selves.

I think that’s why my dreams of what you’re doing right now seem rose-colored, the flushed pink of love surrounding the newborn baby in your bed. You exist in a space beyond, impenetrable to anyone but you and your girl. The fog hasn’t rolled away yet. You are recovering. You are coming back to life. And as your daughter makes you a new mother once again, a new woman once again, a new person once again, death and life and grief and joy are so intermingled there can be no understanding of it except between the two of you. How lovely. How impossibly beautiful.

You, my sweet sister, have brought us a gift. A new life. In all the world of all the people, you have given us someone brand new. We needed her. Thank you for her!

Be well in your haze. Breathe in that rosy air. Sit still in the fog and count the stars, the ones that no one else can see. I love you so much, and I am so glad to be in a world where you are a mother.


2.27.16 (Clara and Audrey)      When my daughters met.

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