When I called to tell her that Joe was finally going to be born, seven years ago today, my friend Shannon brought me a peony from her garden. It had been tightly furled just that morning, she said, and now it was blooming beautifully. She wanted me to have the visual, so I could think "open open open" through my labor.
Our peonies have been blooming, spilling forth that same luscious pink. I can't look at them without thinking of Joe's birth, which might well have been the finest day of my life so far. It was my first homebirth and I was astonished at how joyful it was. Of course birth is joyful wherever it happens, but I did not know there could be so much joy in the process, joy in the laboring.
It was hard. He was 9#12 and his head was gigantic. But it was my pain and I was not afraid of it. (No matter how much it hurt, when it was over I wasn't going to be pregnant anymore. I was very tired of being pregnant.) I remember using a technique from Birthing from Within in which I tried to ride the pain, like a surfer. I remember seeing kaleidoscopic colors when I closed my eyes; I remember wave after tremendous wave.
I also remember a confidence that was absent in my two hospital births. I was on my own turf on a glorious day in late spring, there with a doctor I trusted and a dear friend as well as my husband. We laughed all day long -- that's what I wrote about it when it was all over. I said I wanted to live my life, and eventually die my death, the way I had gone through that day -- "with courage and laughter even in the hardest places."
In each of my pregnancies I have asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for my unborn baby and me. Joe came along in late August, on one of the feasts of St. John the Baptist, and so for months I had prayed daily for the intercession of Our Lady of the Visitation. How fitting, then, to wake up in labor on her feast day. I still ask daily for the intercession of Our Lady of the Visitation, in hopes that my children will recognize the hidden presence of Christ whenever they encounter it -- that they might see the truth of their redemption written plainly in unexpected places.
That's what I think of when I see those tightly closed peony buds. You would not guess that they could contain such extravagant beauty, and yet they do. Tonight I am wishing my Joe -- my seven-year-old Joe -- a year full of joy and beauty, hidden in unexpected places.