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Eleven Years Ago

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

this evening, I was mountainous. Sitting, cradling my heavy belly, swaddled in fleece, for it was a cool July evening--as rare as the baby I was about to bring forth. The indigo buntings were singing and cris-crossing the meadow; the butterfly weed was in full orange bloom, and I had just baked a chicken and new potatoes, with fresh green beans from the garden, and eaten as much as I could, being short of stomach space. Bill had a big, old-fashioned video camera trained on me, and he was asking me questions, interviewing me.
"How are you feeling this evening?"
"Well, I am having some strong contractions, about five minutes apart. Please take the camera off me now. Please." (puff, puff, puff)
"Why don't you go to the hospital?"
Because I felt like making dinner, and they won't give me anything to eat there."
"Do you think Phoebe will arrive tonight?"
"No, I think this is just a little false labor."
Ah, the denial of pregnancy. I was in labor for at least 12 hours, and heavy labor for six of that, before I gave in and let Bill drive me to the hospital in town at midnight on July 10.
By the time we got in the car I could barely hobble.
When we got to the hospital the outside doors were locked. I crabbled around the huge building to another entrance. Found a wheelchair and wheeled myself down two endless corridors to the admission desk, while Bill was parking the car. I will never forget the Greek chorus of people, smoking just outside the hospital door, who just stared at me as I limped over, bent double, unfolded the wheelchair from the stack of them just inside, collapsed into it, and then wheeled myself painfully down the white corridor. Wouldn't it have occurred to any of them to help? and, as a corollary, why couldn't I ask for help? Because I'm tuff, that's why.

When we got to the delivery room, I couldn't speak. And the nurses started shouting and running around and clanging instruments and getting the baby check station ready because I was so...ready.

Ten more hours went by. I knew I had time.

It was not fun. For drugs, only half a dose of Demerol, in transition. Lotta back labor. Ow, ow, ow. I didn't want an epidural, though it was offered, because I didn't want to compromise Phoebe. But they tell me I was very polite, thanking everyone for the little things they were able to do to make me more comfortable.

Back to the interview.
"What do you hope Phoebe will be like?"

"I hope she'll have your legs and my mom's sweet temperament."I got both those wishes, in spades. She's looking me in the eye at 11. She charts out to be a six-foot redhead. What a thing that will be. Bill says she should have her own band, Six Foot Redhead.
Posing next to pink chicory. We seek it out every year on our road.

When Phoebe finally came into the world, just before noon on July 11, they brought her up to me and pulled her little knit cap off, and this tuft of bright red hair stood straight up. If I'd had anywhere to fall to, I'd have fallen. Her eyes were smoky blue and held mine in her gaze.
"Hello. Oh, hello."

I was instantly, irrepairably in love, and remain so to this day.

I would not change a hair on this child's sweet head. She is kind, intuitive, empathetic,getting a little course in bell ringing from nature writer Scott Weidensaul on Hog Island, Maine

literate, curious, hilarious, and intelligent. She is my friend.

Phoebe, for the bird.
Linnea, for Carolus Linnaeus, namer of all life forms.
Thompson, for her big ol' daddy.
I look at her and marvel that this wondrous creature could have come from us. Happy birthday, beautiful Phoebe.
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