by Zinta Aistars
I was terrified, not at all sure I was ready for this. Was I or wasn't I? But that particular night in 1979, I spread my fingers across my still perfectly flat belly and knew ... I would have to be. There was something about how tight my skin was drawn from hip bone to hip bone. Something had changed in the rhythms of my body. Something had stirred. I slipped quietly out of bed, not waking my husband, and went into the bathroom to stand naked in front of the mirror, examining my changing self.
No doubt no one else could tell. But the knowledge settled into me. I knew. I knew. And my heart hammered in terror. I had just barely finished college ... was I ready for this? Is anyone ever really ready?
In the morning I was silent, thoughtful. Said nothing to my husband. When I did finally see my doctor for confirmation, and I called my husband to let him know, he raced home from work with champagne bottle in hand, face shining with joy. I frowned at him, took the bottle out of his hand and set it down, hard.
"Yeah, well, what's it to you. Not your body changing."
But he was kind, and gentle, and try as he might, couldn't help periodically spilling glee.
I had never dreamed about motherhood as a little girl. Had never played with Barbies, fantasized about weddings, cared much for fashion. My dream had always been one: move up into northern wilderness into that cabin in the woods and write, write, write ... an artist immersed in her art.
So I got married early, became something akin to the perfect wife, and lived in suburbia.
And now, I was about to have my first baby.
I did the only thing I knew to do: I wrote about it. "Sieviete Gaida" ("A Woman in Waiting") was a short story, written in my native Latvian, that was then published in several Latvian journals, including in the much respected Karogs in Latvia. It quickly gained critical acclaim, and not a few called it my best work in prose.
So this was love. Not some romantic flush of madness, brain swimming in chemical delirium, not some disguise of a search for something or someone to make me feel loved ... this was love for another human life for which I could sacrifice my own.
If ever I have veered on my path in life, it has always been the love of my daughter and my son that have brought me back to my source of strength. For them, I have been able to reach deeper, reach higher, reach further than I ever thought possible. For them, I have found the strength and courage to go on when my own strength and courage had given out. If parenthood is about giving, nothing has given back more to me than taking on this role in my life.
Thirty years later, I wait up until midnight so that I can text my baby Blondie a message of love for her birthday. She is far away, celebrating with close friends in Florida, while I am in Michigan, listening to the popping of fireworks outside in the heat of another July night. She sends photos over my phone, Lorena Audra in blue dress, wearing a tiara, surrounded by floating soap bubbles that her friends are blowing into the air around her. Oh, so my baby girl ... bubbles and laughter and sunshine. Even as I have witnessed again and again over these past three decades that this girl has a spine of steel, a heart great with courage, a will that is unbreakable to overcome every hardship.
Every 4th of July, I am grateful for freedom and independence, but when I see those shooting stars in the sky at midnight, I know they are for her. In so many ways, Lorena, your birthday was my birth day, too.
Happy birthday, baby girl.