April 10, 2006
The stairs outside the front door are those that Ahri walked up and down to open her hips for the baby’s journey. Although her water broke on Friday evening, labor came slowly, and Saturday was very quiet. By 9pm on Saturday night the contractions were coming every five-ten minutes, coming on strong but not even close to where we needed to be. “When you have consistent contractions every three-four minutes, for two hours or so, it means you’re getting ready,” Michelle, our midwife’s assistant, had said. And so Sunday morning we went outside to see if we might get things going.
As soon as she breathed the fresh Spring air the contractions began getting closer; as she climbed the steps they got stronger; as she danced and hung from the tree up the hill they rang through her body like a bell bringing news of a child coming soon. At one point our upstairs neighbor Kate came to the window and looked at Ahri in awe: this was not the sweet-mannered young woman that had climbed those stairs just days before. Rather a queen, a warrior goddess breathing through life’s creation in an altered state. Kate realized this wasn’t the time to chat; she closed the shade and her cat popped up in between it and the window to watch.
A box of organic Matzos sits on our windowsill, eaten every year at this time, that we may remember: when the time comes to move, there’s not always the chance to bake your bread. We had spent the week preparing for the visit of this yet unnamed, yet unseen friend that we would love for our lives. Saturday night was the first night of Pesach, the Passover holiday, and as our friends and families across the country gathered at their homes and celebrated the act of liberation from slavery, Ahri’s belly began to contract in tune.
Ahri’s orange knee-high socks are still hanging on the towel rack, like some Hall of Fame exhibit, a boxer’s gloves, a knight’s shield. They bring me straight back to the moment of delivery, now a long three days ago: Ahri’s legs clad in the orange socks, reaching high to the sky in a full yogini stretch on our bed, as she began to push our child from her belly. Seventeen and a half hours of active labor… and when she finally had a chance to do something about it, to push rather than breathe, she pushed the child out in 30 minutes. In between the pushes she looked at me and winked.
The straw we kept in a water glass continually through Saturday night and Sunday sits on the sink in our kitchen. Our dear friend Jen Miriam and I followed Ahri up and down the steps, lying down and rising up, sleeping for deep seconds between contractions, following her from the bathroom to the bedroom to the yellow walled study and back to the bedroom, answering the calls of “my back!” with pushes on her lower back to ease the hip pain, or “water!” by bringing the cup and straw.
Mount Tam sits in the background, the view to which I retreated any time I came away for a breath, any time I left the intensity of the birth experience to pop some nuts or drink some water. Time slipped into the distance and bent, 9am turned to 1pm, which stayed for a long time before becoming 3pm. Space, sound and color all took a different form outside the middle circle that surrounded Ahri and the rising waves of contractions that signaled a coming child.
A bottle of olive oil sits in our closet, that I came racing for when Beah our midwife asked for it: when Ahri came down from the stairs the second time, more altered and determined than before, contractions now at 2 minutes going strong, headed for the bed where the birth would take place. I didn’t know why I was getting the olive oil, I was but a servant of the process, as I dashed across the rooms in a blur leaving the four women behind me, past the paintings by my grandmother, the paintings of her grandmother, the shrine of pictures, candles, and a silver spoon. I raced past the pillows on the ground, the towels on the floor of the bath, the round ball in the corner, the sunshine streaming in, the various offerings of food and cherished gifts from sweet friends, the birth altar lined with blessings from around the world, and my entire life compressed into a few sacred seconds, as I grabbed the olive oil and returned to our bedroom. Ahri pushed one more time and Beah poured olive oil on the baby’s head, now just beginning to poke through its passage.
Two minutes later, a few pushes later, another world later, I bent over, opened my hands and caught a baby boy that slithered to a stop from its long, long journey.
The tiniest of tiny boys lies on our bed now, next to his resting, glowing mother. The sun sets on the third day of his life here on earth, with three nights of sleeping on my chest and introducing me to life itself.
Izadore Elijah Golden
Born April 24, 2005
3:15pm 7 pounds 20 inches long
Jay Golden is a writer and producer living in Berkeley, California. When he’s not spending time with his baby boy and wife, Jay is hard at work developing short, humorous web movies promoting social justice and sustainability for Free Range Studios. .