Before birth: For you, on the last night before your first day
In this sweet letter to her unborn son, Vanessa Sands shared her thoughts on the last night of her fourth and final pregnancy.
To my child
I sit here tonight with my journal propped up on my amazingly protruding abdomen, smiling to myself as you frequently make writing difficult with your rolling and kicking.
You are my fourth child, the one I thought I’d never have until I felt you call me in my dreams. And you are, with all the certainty we can have about these things, the last.
With you, I feel we have rounded up all the little souls destined to compose our family. With you, I feel complete.
Yet, I know with the same certainty that I will miss this sense of expectancy, these quiet hours just before a dawn that will change all of our lives forever.
My childbearing years have been a wonderful, magical, although sometimes difficult journey through the strengths and weaknesses of my body and soul. In my lengthy, difficult labors I’ve found strength I did not know I possessed, courage I did not know I’d need, faith I did not know existed.
I have never been able to deliver a baby “naturally” — despite my most fervent efforts, your brother and sisters have all been born surgically. I will tell you and them, often, that this is not the way we are meant to give birth, and that I loved you enough to exhaust all the possibilities before agreeing to schedule a fourth cesarean.
And that happens in just a few short hours. Soon, Daddy and I will grab a blue canvas bag that holds, among other things, a tiny sleeper and an impossibly little blue hooded sweater.
These are the clothes I will first dress you in, other than bleached hospital cottons; these are the clothes into which I will put you, the gleefully kicking, punching soon-to-be-newborn, for your trip home. A surreal concept for me now, here in the moonlight.
But first, you have another trip to make. A journey from warmth and water to bright lights and cold — ending finally in the security of my arms and the warmth at my breast.
No longer mine alone
I know we should be resting; it’s after midnight. But I can’t bring myself to sleep away these last few hours of magic. I don’t want to miss one sudden lurch or slow turn inside.
I don’t want to while away our last few hours of aloneness in sleep. Come morning, you will never be just mine again. Come morning, I will never be this full of life, this sparkling with possibility, again.
By an hour ago, I’d done all the tasks assigned me in the hospital literature. Ate a good meal, stopped eating and drinking at midnight, packed all the necessities.
Only one thing remained: a good, long shower, my last for a couple days until the catheter is removed and I’m again steady on my feet. Relaxed and warm, I stepped out of the shower and dried myself off. It was then that I caught my reflection in the full length mirror of the shower doors.
How ripe I appeared — how full and hopeful. My body looked to me like the tree buds just outside the window, on the verge of bloom. As I ran my hands across my vein-laced abdomen, I knew with certainty how very much I’d miss this silhouette, this fullness that signals to the world that I am accomplishing, from a biological perspective, what I came here for.
I stood in awe at my no-longer- perky breasts, amazed that in just a few hours they would again sustain that life so very persistent in its movements tonight. I stared into my face, rounder and ruddier than usual, and saw something at once powerful and soft that has eluded my perception before
The pregnant body is so often the subject of jokes and chiding — I have laughed often and well over it, I admit.
But not tonight. After four pregnancies and alone with my thoughts, I finally see this ridiculous hugeness as what it is: bordering on the miraculous.
The one true thing that connects me with my mother, her mother, the mother before her. They are gone, but this rite we share brings us together in a way defying words. Those women gave me life that I am now blessed to share.
I find myself wondering tonight why we berate ourselves for every pound gained, for every curve disappearing or reappearing in another place, for every amazing change that happens as without volition as a heartbeat.
No, instead of laughing at my proportions this evening — or criticizing my body’s stubborn refusal to open — I finally appreciate my own body and its capacity to produce life. This is your gift to me.
So I’ll not complain in these, the last of our hours together like this, if I cannot get comfortable or stop the heartburn or refrain from one more trip to the bathroom.
I’ll treasure it all, store it away in the hope chest of my mind, and pull it all out for you when you want to know. I have so cherished giving up my body for you, and for your siblings. I would do it time and time again if circumstances were different.
But tomorrow is you — you will join us tomorrow and make us whole. You will either finally satisfy the yearning that began with the first subconscious flushes of adolescence or deepen it with your first look into my eyes. I always knew there’d be you.
So this is a passing, then, from one stage of my life into another. The seeds have been sown, and now I must nurture your growth — until one day you produce seeds of your own, and the circle is complete.
How wonderful the plan of life is; how joyful in its manifestation! I must remember, and you will teach me, that every stage has its merits, that time does pass and seasons change.
I must stop writing now. My arms ache with both the yearning to hold you and the desire to contain you within. Now starts the first, most heartbreaking lesson of parenting, learned anew with every newborn child: to love completely, we must first let go. So it begins again today, May third: your birthday.