My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, First Born!

First Born

You were born
and the poetry left me
for a time

Perhaps because
you are poetry embodied

I stand before you
mute with wonder

By Marianna Bartholomew

Tenses mix in this poem I wrote a year or so after my oldest child's birth. The first stanza refers, in past tense, to a certain happening in my history...while the second and third stanzas speak of an ongoing reality. My child arrived and the poetry did "leave me." However, my daughter is "poetry embodied," leaving me "mute with wonder."

Becoming a mother was so disorienting in a wonderful way, that I didn't return to composing poems and articles until I was well settled into my new maternal identity. At first, I lacked time and inclination to write much of anything amidst the novel intricacies of nursing, diapering and nurturing my newborn.

As youngest of seven children, I had almost never held or cared for a baby before my own arrived. My first time changing a diaper came at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital when the nurse chucked my daughter to me for a necessary refreshing. I held up a diaper and asked, "Um, is there something special I'm supposed to know about this?" Clueless.

My first "grand experiment" in child rearing, my daughter arrived on this planet in dramatic fashion, suiting her artistic nature. I mentioned in my prior post that my daughter met and received a blessing from Blessed John Paul II in Rome when she was around ten weeks in utero.

What I didn't mention, was our fall into a tomb in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus on that same trip. Looking up to examine what appeared to be bones in a high up niche, I stepped back into oblivion. I don't know how far was that descent into the recessed tomb, but I do know the impact was spectacular. I remember that surreal moment so well...people's hands reaching out to grasp mine, our fingers brushing, as I slipped back and down. By the time I was hauled out of the pit and had the red clay beaten off my long, black wool coat, I was weak with laughter and clinging desperately to the hope that the baby nested within had napped through the jolt and suffered no harm. I refused to let worry ruin the trip. I had felt called to Rome, and if I was dumb enough to prematurely bury myself and my babe, well, I figured God would safely haul us from the abyss. 

Seven months later, after an 18-hour labor and emergency C-section, I gave birth to a baby that had everyone in the delivery room hooting and cheering. Yes, the baby looked 3-months old. Yes, this 5'00" tall woman really had given birth to a whopping 9 lb 7 oz baby. Only later, did my husband tell me big babies ran in his family!

My daughter has remained "big," in how she has transformed my husband and my lives, as have her two younger brothers.

"Remember how we actually used to run out of things to do?" my husband asked the other day, referring to those first days of marriage in our one-bedroom apartment -- "B.B." -- "Before Babies."

I do remember a feeling of emptiness in the place and in my soul, as I longed deeply for a baby to "make us three."

Today is my first born's 17th birthday. An artist, she drew the above sketch of a baby for a picture book I was working on a couple years ago. How can it be, that these years since she was a baby, have flown so quickly? 

Happy birthday, Daughter, and God bless you! I love who you are, and who you are becoming...