Small children running, shouting, laughing. Grandparents, when they were still a matched set, sitting on the patio, drinking lemonade.
The smell of charcoal burning, the sound of Uncle Bob cursing, the feel of sticky, wet heat on my swollen belly. A sudden tightening in my back is followed by a solid kick as you squirm in your too small cocoon. I ignore it.
There is green everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Green grass; green trees; green shrubs; green, squishy caterpillars hiding near the tiny green cherry tomatoes planted in a pot. I close my eyes and still I see green on the backs of my lids. Glancing down at the bowl below me, filled with mesclun, there is relief as the tender leaves reflect burgundy, cream, moss and celadon
Tiny black flies: buzzing, biting, bleeding. What was tightness becomes cramping. You stop moving, but there is now real discomfort, borderline painful. I glance at the clock. It's not quite 6 p.m..
Your sister is all cheek, the scar on her lip white and stretched as she smiles at me. Your brother is rolling a ball on the carpet. Your father is telling a story and laughing.
He passes me in the kitchen, hand on my shoulder, a kiss on my cheek. He asks if I'm okay and it's just then I realize I am holding my breath.
So I let it go.
Meat is grilled, salad is tossed, plates are set on the table. Dinner is almost ready. But so are you. I feel an urgency to the evening, unable to focus on the conversations. The labor pains are frequent and more intense, but still I refuse to leave.
Your brother squirms as he tries to find my lap beneath a belly that is filled with you, unaware that his 22 month long battle with your big sister for this same lap, was about to get a whole lot harder. Your father announces suddenly that we need to go soon.
For a heartbeat, it is quiet. Until it is not. Everyone is talking at once. I eat in silence, but then ask for a glass of red wine.Your brother looks at me with large eyes not yet framed in glasses and says he wants to go too.
An hour later, breathing through the pain, we speed through the night. Fields are dark and the sharp odor of manure fills my nose. I think about unpacked boxes in a house that is not quite a home. I wonder if your siblings will sleep tonight, without my body for comfort or my voice that sings them to sleep. I regret not getting outside this morning to finish painting the west exterior wall the beautiful blue that everyone else insisted was purple.
The nurses are efficient and smiling. Dimmed fluorescent lights do little to warm the cold room, but a tub filled with water beckons my bloated body. Naked, I climb into the warm pool, euphoric as gravity leaves me.
Labor progresses and I moan, breathe and draw further within myself, not really aware of your father anymore. I worry you will slip from me into a mass of blood, fluids and tissue into the water, so I climb from the tub and walk.
The rest is a blur, except for the moment i glanced at the clock and realized you were just about here...and it was not quite midnight. And then I pushed.
And at a quarter past you were born into the arms of a stranger with kind eyes, who checked your vital signs and laid you on my bare chest. You cried with gusto as your father, with shaking hands and tears in his eyes, cut your cord. With eyes screwed shut, you mewled until I put you to my breast.
Named for a flower of purity and beauty, born in the year of the green monkey, we kissed you and whispered hello.