Having a Baby: They told me jokes and fed me ice chips as I birthed a patron saint

sofia valentineI worked a full day on the day I gave birth. I was suspicious I might be in the early stages of labor, but couldn’t afford to miss what might be the only job for Cornerstone that month. Early in the evening, I met with a large Brazilian family at their home on Wildcat Mountain to make funeral plans for their patriarch, Rocky. “What are you doing after this?” one of Rocky’s sisters asked during the visit.

“Probably driving myself to the hospital to have a baby,” I replied.

Rocky’s family thought this was hysterically funny. Two of his daughters whipped open my sweater to have a closer look since they thought I was exaggerating and making a joke.

No joke, for when we finished I drove myself to the hospital knowing it was time. My birthing supplies had been packed and stowed in the back of the van for days. At the hospital and wondering why I wasn’t more nervous, I unloaded bottles of wine for the nurses, my family pictures, a long-cherished Tony Bennett CD, and my birth plan. On the examining table, a nurse announced I was dilated three centimeters and really needed to get in bed already. Before long, Michael and Willow arrived.

They told me jokes and fed me ice chips. Willow brushed my hair so I would look great in my pictures. After a while, Almost-Daddy alerted me the baby’s head was hanging out and we figured we should get someone medical in the room. Then, and at last, our perfect baby girl was born with hardly any trouble at all.

pose of the dancer

“A girl,” Michael crooned, playing with her teensy weensy fingers. “We have to get serious about a name, you know.”

“What about Sofia, with the Italian spelling, s-o-f-i-a?” I asked. “Since she’s going to be raised in a funeral home.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Sofia is the Catholic Patron Saint of Widows and Widowers.”

“That sounds nice,” Michael said, dreamily. He was so smitten I probably could have named our daughter Twinkie and he would have been thrilled.

“Look at them, Mom,” I prayed, silently. “You were so right about Michael.” My Dad arrived, interrupting my prayer, but I didn’t mind a bit — his face and smile illuminated the room. He had a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a ridiculously over-sized stuffed bear in the other.

“So much beauty in one room!” he declared. “Elizabeth! You remind me of your mother the day you were born.”

“Worn out and sweaty?” I joked.

“No. Elegant and all lit up, like an angel in a painting.”

Wow, I thought, so many dreams come true and one more to go. I felt like a champion, strong and ready to take on the ecosphere.

On Sofia’s second morning in the world, I rose at the crack of dawn and practiced gentle yoga stretches on the hospital floor. I couldn’t afford to lie in bed; I had a funeral home to run if I could work out my postpartum stiffness and cramping. A nurse walked in and asked, “Where’s the mother?”

“I’m the mother,” I said, working my hips toward downward dog position.splits

She turned on her heels. In a moment, she was back with the doctor. They watched me ease my way into bridge pose and the doctor deduced I could go home early. I didn’t waste a minute packing up my stuff and my baby. After wheeling me to where my car was parked, the transport guy said, “You are the first mom I know of who drove herself to and from the hospital.”

“No time to sit still,” I said, brightly. If he only knew what was next on my list!

I drove Sofia directly to the crematory to pick up Rocky’s cremains, then drove back up Wildcat Mountain. I had an urn of ashes in one hand and a newborn in the other, but the family wouldn’t have believed my story if I hadn’t still had the hospital band on my arm.

After they got over their shock, Rocky’s wife asked to hold Sofia. I lay my infant daughter in the heartbroken widow’s arms and watched her tension and grief ease a bit. Sofia made a tiny squeak and settled in as if she had been born for the job of comforting the bereaved.1012796_10202378709781437_1593477519_n


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