i love birthdays. i love presents. and flowers. and cake.
i love photographs. and sometimes i don’t even mind the things they leave out.
ten years ago today i gave birth to a beautiful baby. a beautiful being. she arrived in the midst of a wild april storm. wind. hail. snow. rain. i can still hear the hard rain pelleting the hospital window. it was a difficult labour. my fear of birthing accidentally in the toilet was not warranted! she did not come fast. her shoulders were caught on my pelvic bones. the room became the storm. and i the middle. her head out. shoulders caught. immense panic. everything slowed and quickened simultaneously. i can almost hear them yelling at me to push. i can almost feel the nurse (was she standing on my bed?) pushing down on my belly. i can see mark, in shock, standing by my bedside. i did not hear her bones break. i did not feel the cold of the forceps. but i saw. i saw the looks on their faces.
but she was perfect. perfect. with a bruise near her eye where the metal must have clamped. she was gorgeous. i could have looked at her all night long. maybe i did. i listened to the howling of the wind against the hospital wall and learned to nurse on my side. i was in love. nothing else mattered.
my body carries the story of her arrival. i think my belly (even a decade later) is still a little shaken; a little unsure. i think the little extra skin, the little extra fat is a blanket of protection. and it has yet to be convinced that it is safe to go away. i have bits that are rarely seen, bits that have gone slack. there are even some small parts that have almost fully surrendered. and lines. lines that do not seem to connect. but if you followed them they would tell you everything. even things that i do not yet know.
ten years is a wild time to mother. i want to say that this is a beautiful thing. and an ugly thing. i am both beautiful and ugly. i have seen all that in me. and in them. i have seen it too in their father. the sweetness and the cruelty. the love and the hatred. the impatience. the fatigue. and the sweetness again. the loving. the growing. and growing. and growing.
i think my heart is growing bigger. i think it is. and then sometimes it grows small again. retracts into an old way. sometimes i am full of patience. i am calm and even while the children fight. i hear what they are saying. i see them. and then sometimes i am short and harsh and demanding. sometimes i am a dictator demanding peace. sometimes i can watch it all and laugh. i am a woman living in a house with two young children. i have done this for almost five years now. sometimes it is easy. and sometimes it is hard. maybe it’s just life. easy and hard. beautiful and ugly. sweet and spicy.
every year, for their birthday, i make a photo album. i print my favourite photos from the year. i place one or two images on a page, no words, in a simple black book. i find photos from every season. i made one just last week for ivy. it is awesome. snow pictures. cottage pictures. beautiful smiles. playful kittens. laughing eyes. marshmallows and sunsets. there are no photos of crying or ranting or unkindness. i have only showed the pleasant side. and i realized, maybe a month ago, when the girls, and matthew, and i were looking at many years worth of photographs that we look really happy. you might not be able to pinpoint when my husband left me. you wouldn’t know what birthday party was the most heart wrenching.
i guess birthdays remind me of it all. the true deepness of this life. the fury and rage. the lightness and joy. the confusion. this birth day i am thinking about how my days are a blend. how the years are a mixture. how my life is all of it. so full. so rich. so clean and dirty.
i surely carry, deep in my skin, deep in my bones, the stretch marks of my ancestors. i am thinking of my great grandmothers tonight. ukrainian. metis. french canadian. scottish? i am trying to picture them holding my grandmothers and my grandfathers. nursing them. did they have bare feet in the garden? how did they speak to their children? did they enjoy sex? what was their deepest fear? why were they angry? what did they hide? i imagine their secrets flow in my blood. and move too in my children. a melange of it all.