Tag Archives: babies

We sing the while.

A IMG_7278 2.jpg RigoThis poem from William Blake’s 1789 Songs of Innocence is about a baby a few days younger than my grandson Rigo, but its tone of blessing and gratefulness reflects that which still reigns in our household since our newest “joy” was added to the family. I was reminded of the poem on the Interesting Literature site where I found conveniently listed 10 of the Best Poems for Christenings.

As you might guess, they were not written specifically for christenings, but about particular babies. The blog author Dr. Oliver Tearle tells us, “An infant may be without a name but it is also without a voice, as the very word attests (from the Latin infans, ‘unable to speak’). As with so many of his poems, in ‘Infant Joy’ Blake is giving a voice to the (literally) voiceless.”

INFANT JOY

I have no name
I am but two days old.—
What shall I call thee?
I happy am
Joy is my name,—
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee;
Thou dost smile.
I sing the while
Sweet joy befall thee.

-William Blake

 

Rigo

Some of you knew, and others of you maybe guessed, that I had come to visit Kate this month so that I’d be present for the birth of a grandchild. He has arrived, a little brother for Raj, and has expanded our family and our hearts. I have never been more blessed to share in this kind of history-making.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s when my friends and I were in our childbearing years, many of us decided that we wanted to give birth at home, where we could enjoy the miracle event in a warm and quiet environment surrounded by our dearest people. In hospitals in those days,  various inappropriate medical protocols were routinely applied to women and newborns, as they still are in some “modernizing” places in the world.

Most of my likeminded peers found doctors and lay midwives to attend births; a few did it without any outside help. One doctor in our county attended my first child’s birth in a hospital, and three at home. Kate was my last baby, born at home with a certified nurse-midwife in attendance. We usually liked to have two or more other women at hand to help with household or birth-related tasks as well. Maybe to watch older children, bake a birth day cake, fetch things for the midwife or make up the bed with clean sheets afterward.

I was one of these friends who was happy to be called, often as a sort of lay doula whose only training had been on-the-job, and from my own experience. The cultural setting of a certain time and place gave me special opportunities, and Providence enabled me to take advantage of them.

These blessings have continued as my own daughters have asked me to be with them in the hospital when they give birth. I’m aware that not every grandmother gets this kind of invitation; so often we are the ones who take care of older children when a younger sibling is coming into the family. Even in cases where we might fit into the birth plan more directly, it doesn’t always work out. Joy asked both her mother and mother-in-law, and it was impossible for either of us, four times.

I am supremely grateful for these experiences. To accompany a woman on her birth journey, to wait together as women have done since the beginning of time, feels like a sacred trust. Waiting on God and waiting for the process to unfold, from the first signs of labor until the child is placed in her arms… it is such a privilege. And it never gets old, seeing a child emerge from the womb.

For a long time now, the births I have waited for and witnessed have all been in hospitals. These days most of them are peaceful and geared to the needs of the families more than to hospital efficiency, and sometimes I even have a rocking chair to rock in while we wait and pray, or chat quietly. Or sleep, as Kate and both of us fellow-waiters did for a while before this child decided to get on with it.

And when he did push out and take his first breath, the momentous moment passed without a nod at its passing. The next moment was full of jubilance and awe. We laughed, and wept. Everyone admired the little round head. Soon he was snuggled up to Kate,  looking all around, and suckling. A human’s skin is never so soft as when he is fresh from the womb; then begins the lifelong drying-up process. But not to worry — there is plenty of softness at the totally out-of-this world level for a couple of months, and we are smooching him as though by our kisses we drink from the fountain of youth.

I’ve nicknamed the tiny guy “Amerigo,” or “Rigo” for short, for purposes of my blog, after the cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci whose (latinized) name was given to the New World.

Welcome, little Rigo! God bless you as you begin your explorations!

Miracles

Well — can you guess who this is?

This child brand-new to the world is my great-granddaughter.
Yes, you read that right, my great-granddaughter.

Bearing and raising children has been the sweetest part of my of my whole life. Frequently after you raise them they beget children, and typically one receives grandchildren and the joy of them without doing anything to accomplish it or deserve it. Now, one more remove from there, and suddenly I “have” a great-grandchild. That I should be able to say that she is in some sense mine is very humbling. It’s just a wonder.

I reveal my best Christmas present ever.

My son “Pathfinder” was born very close to Christmas one year.

I don’t seem to have a photo of him on his first Christmas. Probably because he was crying most of the time. I didn’t have the good sense to stay home with a two-week-old baby; never thought twice about making our usual two-hour trip to the grandparents’ house to spend a couple of nights. He cried much through the days of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and his great-grandmother asked me again and again, “Why is he crying?” When I finally fell into the strange bed at night, I cried myself to sleep, too. Through the fault of no one, it was my Worst Christmas in the history of family celebrations.

Just two years later this boy can be seen enjoying the holiday with my father looking on, this time at his other great-grandmother’s house, and without a tear:

How few pictures I have of him as a baby, here on the computer. There was the crying, I suppose, which he did a lot of for six months, and then the fact that his older sister Pearl was still a baby herself, so we took many pictures of the two of them, as babies and always.

As a teen Pathfinder was a cyclist. For a while we let him park his bike right by the front door, I guess because the garage had no good leaning spot…? Anyway, I’m glad we did, because it became part of Christmas Past by being caught in this picture.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have featured him in a blog post if I weren’t thinking about anniversaries in December, like St. Nicholas last week. I don’t usually write about my children because their stories are their own now. But I surely like telling you about the gift of my firstborn son.