Our friends, Monique and Dan come to our house for dinner. I tell them I have "big news" and proceed to brag about the musty antique player piano that I proudly purchased from a local estate sale. Monique is impressed. Dan sits down at it and plays. They ask lots of questions about how I heard about the sale, how old the piano is, and are quite impressed to see that the "player" component is still intact and playing ragtime just as it did in 1926. They let me drone on and on about how awesome I think this piano is. After about 20 minutes of this, Monique informs that she, too, has big news. Hers is growing in her belly and set to debut in January 2012.
January 14, 2012
Monique is two days past her due date. Every day for the last 14 days, she gives me a morning update about how she is still with child and still feeling good. I applaud her but secretly believe she is either (A) lying or (B) superhuman. She proves the latter later in the evening.
A text came over at at around 5 pm this evening that says, "Linds, she's coming!" I go into anxious freak-out mode and practically forget I'm in the middle of preparing a meal for my mother-in-law and kids. The next two hours are a blur as I serve dinner, eat poorly, and jump in the car. I bring my Kindle and the intentions of camping out in the waiting room until baby cries for the first time.
I meet Monique, Dan and Helen Joy in the hospital waiting room. Monique beams her best "I'm anxious and stoked" smile, Dan is completely "in the zone", patting her belly and half-watching the 49ers/Saints game on TV. Helen Joy is a picture of pure peace and calm, smiling her warm HJ smile and clutching her camera bag in anticipation of photographing her friend's birth experience, start to finish. While we wait, she snaps a photo or two. Monique is still smiling and joking through her contractions.
A nurse fetches Monique, puts her in the hospital wheelchair, and gives her instruction while she wheels us down the hospital halls. The three of them walk together in a row, pushing Monique and chatting and I bring up the rear, taking in the whole experience. HJ and I stop at the maternity ward waiting room and watch a movie while the expectant parents get triaged and settled. The movie is Mrs. Doubtfire. HJ and I aren't really watching it, but rather talking about babies and sharing "war stories" about our two deliveries. HJ and I have always been friends through Monique. We hang out when Monique is involved. We have a lot in common with each other, have two boys, almost identical in age, and find out through our waiting room chats that while our experiences are quite different, our family dynamics are quite similar. I cherish the time we spent together, waiting to support our beautiful, mutual friend that we both love equally as much.
After the 49ers take a surprising win against the Saints, some waiting, a brief visit with the laboring (but still smiling) Mama, and a nap, we are invited back into the room by Dan. He asked if we'd like to come keep them company for a bit. Little did we know that we wouldn't be leaving again. It's about 11:30 at this point.
The next several hours are pretty much a blur. Monique was dilated to a six or seven and still joking, cracking an occasional smile, and remarking how the contractions are beginning to hurt. She stopped talking through them but still maintained 100% control over each and every one of them. I was amazed to watch her go into meditation mode as each one came, like ocean waves, and consumed her whole body. She would close her eyes, hold her enormous belly, and sway rhythmically in complete silence. Like a tidal wave, she let the contraction lead her, and went exactly where it went. She personified the term "go with the flow" and popped back into the moment at the exact instant the contraction relaxed. It was brilliant. I watched this for hours in complete amazement.
The room began getting tense as the contractions got stronger and closer together. HJ captured lots of powerful shots, offered support, and took over the nurse role while I sat still. It's not that I didn't have a strong urge to help somehow, but I had no idea how to offer comfort - I've never been in labor. Not the serious "my body is snapping in two" stage of labor anyhow. Completely unable to relate combined with being in complete awe of this woman kept me frozen. Frozen, and feeling awkwardly in the way. I think I stood in every corner and position of this particular birthing suite over the eightish hours I was in there.
I saw my best friend as the most beautiful woman in the world during this process. She was stripped, raw, and completely real during these moments. We've known each other for over half our lives and been through about everything friends can go through during that time, but I had never seen her the way I saw her tonight. My friend is the quintessential Libra. A balanced, controlled people-pleaser who is "on" all the time. The kind of girl who is always ready for the camera, smiling when the shot catches everyone else by surprise. The person everyone claims to be "best friends" with because she is just that relatable, no matter who her audience is. I watched her transform into a creature who was 100% invested in herself in those moments and to say it was a religious experience for me is an understatement.
During my silent observance, I thought about all the things we'd been though together over the years. We met in 7th grade gym class as two insecure, scrawny pre-teens that had our eccentricities as a common bond. We were a bizarre duo - always picked last for the team due to our un-athletic natures. Team captains would agree to take one of us if the opposite team would take the other. Our revenge was always teaming up regardless and playing for the wrong team. We brought barbies to school and played with them in class, from opposite ends of the room. We passed notes, wore the same clothes, and spent weeks on end at each others' houses over the summer. We cried on each others' shoulders when our boyfriends dumped us. She held my hand, figuratively and literally when my family moved, and continued spending summers and winters together, even though 800 miles separated us during the rest of the year. I went to her piano recitals. She came to my college graduation. We got excited and squealed for each other the summer we both got engaged and did the same thing on the day of each others' weddings the same year, one year later. Our experience was just a hair off from marrying twins and having a joint wedding the way we joked we would. Born as South Florida girls, in hospitals just miles down the road from each other, we found ourselves living across the street from each other, in a tiny town hundreds of miles away. A few years later she witnessed the birth of my second child through a plate-glass window. She saw Beckett James before I did. And also my spleen, uterus and God knows what other internal organs that were exposed during my c-section. And here we are again. Only the tables are now turned and I am witnessing her second daughter taking her very first breath, catching a glimpse of her ice-blue eyes, inherited from her Mama, before her Mama sees them. It was breath-taking. Aptly named, River Eisley is born, into a pool of water, with ice-blue eyes and a serenity and calmness about her that I have never seen in a newborn, ever.
I love my friend and will always cherish the moments she let me share with her on that January night. I've always loved her and stuck her up on an imaginary pedestal, thinking she was the coolest, all the way back to our 7th grade gym days. But today I love her just a little bit more and feel a renewed sense of sisterhood with her. She is even more of a rockstar today than she was last week, or in 1995 and I am infinitely excited for she and her beautiful little family. River Eisley is a sweet little burrito of joy in her hospital swaddle, and appears to already have the go-with-the-flow, fluid personality her Mama owns. They couldn't have picked a more appropriate name and River could not have picked a better set of parents. Congratulations, dear family. I love you all. Welcome to the world, Sweet River!
January 15, 2012 - 4:33 am
8 lb, 11 oz
21 1/2 inches