Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Mother's Heart

by Zinta Aistars

I wait for her now, as I waited for her 29 years ago, only then the ache was my entire body, an exploding core, a splitting open to give birth. Today, the ache is one of the heart. For the world that today greets her, its questionable promise. It is my daughter's birthday today, and we awaited it standing in my sister's driveway, in front of her home in Mundelein, Illinois. Fireworks explode across the sky ... and I remember.

I remember sitting in the seats of the Cincinnati ballpark, watching a Reds game on July 4th, 1980. My sister and her husband, Steve, sat to one side of me. My then husband, Imant, sat to my other side. And I sat. In full blossom. The day sweating the life from me, near one hundred degrees, although the evening fell with a welcome if too slight coolness. I was wearing a sleeveless pink blouse my mother had loaned me... she had worn it in her own waiting days, waiting for me. It was cool and billowing. I stretched my legs out as far as I could, watching my ankles swell. Now and then, Imant reached down to massage them. Or reached over to hold my hand. His face was bright with waiting, too. This was our first.

Then the ball came careening toward us. No, to one side. And Imant leapt to his feet, jumped over the seats, determined to catch it. Easy enough... he was tall and thin, his body trained by the running of a recent Boston marathon, and I laughed at the easy sight of him, the joy in him. My sister and brother-in-law, come down from Cleveland to visit us for the holiday weekend, laughed, too. Imant, after all, had nearly knocked down a little boy going for the same baseball. Boys, both of them. But it was Imant who caught the ball, with his faster speed and advantage of height. He turned back and held up his trophy, beaming, and shouted out to the rows and rows of baseball fans, pointing to me with his other hand. Me, and my great pink belly in billowing blouse.

"This is for her! This is for my baby!"

The baseball fans burst into applause. I blushed. Shared his pride. But I was nervous with anticipation.

And during that night, she knocked at the door. That mysterious little life, letting me know she was ready to meet me, face to face. Oh. I woke in the dark and gasped. Pain. Such pain. I had prepared for many weeks for this moment, as much as I could, determined to birth my child naturally ... hadn't women done this for a millenium? ... and without the help of medication. But this pain, this took my breath away, and suddenly, I knew terror. Too much, this.

"Imant... wake up.... Imi... "

He held my hand, kissed my damp temple, the tip of my nose. Talked softly to me, to that life within, breaking free.

"I can't do this. It hurts too much."

"You can."

"I can't."

"Breathe with me..."

And I did, and I could, and my body relaxed again. I rose to wake my sister. Imant went for his morning run, even while it was still dark, and my sister, having given birth to her own first six months prior, walked with me. We paced the room, back and forth, back and forth, and to keep moving eased the tension in my body. I let go of the fear,regained my control, and my heart hammered now with excitement. I was ready.

Who will this person be? I did not know, daughter or son, I did not know but the daily dance within me for the past nine months. My own resistance, unsure I ever wanted to be a mother, eventually melting into curiosity, melting into anticipation.

She was born at 12:06 p.m. on July 5, 1980, in the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. An even nine pounds. The doctor called out as she slipped into his waiting hands, "It's a woman!" And laid her softly on my chest after Imant had cut the cord.

I fell in love. This girl-baby with her soft blonde fuzz and her chubby cheeks, rosy with life. I closed my eyes, buried my nose against that little skull, and breathed in. Never a scent so sweet, and I could never get enough of it. My heart split open as my body just had, fell open to its core, core exposed, and swam in a love as I had never known and would not know again until near two years later, when her brother would be born, and the same doctor announce, "It's a man!"

To be a mother ... who could have told me this, explained this to me? Some experiences can be fully understood only by experiencing them. Who could have told me love was like this? It was the first time in my life that I knew something so sweet yet fierce, that I knew, instantly, to protect this life, I could kill, tear apart with my teeth, move mountain and face God, and challenge even Him. Because now I, too, understood the power of creation.

On this day, 29 years later, I mark her birthday as well, in so many ways, my own. The mother gives birth to the child, and in so many ways, the child in return births the mother.

It is a harsh world out there, Lorena Audra, and harsh in its ways all around us. So many cruel and brutal men. So much injustice. So few chances to make things right. I wish you a life that will not avoid these things, yet give you the strength to endure, to make better, to make a difference. As I know you will and already have. Your mother's heart follows you wherever you go, and always.

Epilogue: A Reds baseball sits on the bookshelf in Lorena's Chicago apartment. And she still believes me when I tell her the fireworks are for her, too. They are.

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