Four years ago in this moment I was a hot body in water opening for another water body. Aquarius. Water bearer. A mama made of fire. It’s the same story, but it isn’t. The characters have changed. The emotions have a deeper and surprising meaning. And the child is alive. She is alive and turning blonde and breaking rules and breathing like she was born to be here.

10pm. I was in the birth tub. At the birth center. Upstairs in the Chloe room. The room with the watercolor painting titled “strength through adversity.” I was moaning a low moan face to face with my doula. A mama bear deepening her voice. Not the high pitched squeals of the teen-made-mama – this time a knowing tone. An animal. A growl from a place I would have to grow into. Too big britches.

And proud. I was proud of myself in the water squatting and staying still and calm and not letting panic in. Not letting fear toe in, not even a little. Just trusting my womb and mind and muscles and love for the undefinable ache in the woman of me. I was doing this alone, again, on pre-meditated purpose. A mama and a cub and a belly breaking open. Just holding the hand of my 9 year old son.

Joking with my sister. Leaning on my mother.

Trying not to reach for the woman I once thought I would be arching back against with every contraction. Pretending she wasn’t standing in the doorway, a different kind of breaking.

Both of us breaking the kind of break that never closes. Jagged with missing bits. Photographs snipped and spliced and framed – but there’s a body-less hand on someone’s shoulder. You can see it. I can feel it. It beats in memory and song and garage sale 4t finds that surface half a decade later. I made you halfway in the kind of love you drown in, and brought you the rest of the way in the kind of love that seeks security and control and a certain, perfect struggle.

A light, exactly and only bright enough to illuminate the cave in which she entered. The heart of me.

11pm. I sweat and sway and swear I can feel the ripping open of parts that are not a part of me. I can hear the whole room cracking. Drywall crumbling. Beams busting and house bones shattering to bring a whole thing forth. You. A girl made of bones that will not give. A head that will not budge. A whole thing.

I reminisce. I remember the feeling of opening and spreading and pushing and body magic. I know this is different. I start to feel dizzy and dying and unsure. I need to cool down and feel the weight of my body out of water. Just you, still swimming.

12am. I crawl out of water and find solid ground. I recline. My body contracts and my womb forces you low and down and … I reach down and there you are. A scalp. Skin. Hair. I touch you for the first time and I feel something electric. A skull that will be taken apart and screwed and puttied back together. My belly pushes you out. 12:17. The world greets you.

I grieve you.

You are so different, child. You do not look strong, or brave, or bright – all the things you are – buried beneath layers of meconium, and blood, and f e a r. Buried beneath hands and feet that are cartoon doll parts. A tall and dark tar splotched head. Goldfish eyes. My body l o v e d you. My body reached for you and kissed you and cradled you and rubbed your back with vigor. My body brought milk. Cry cry cry my eyes and my hands said. But my heart and my head retreated. My thoughts stopped. The trusted ticking timeline of my life paused. A noise. A clunking sound in the distance. The world ending, it seemed. An ambulance. A goodbye. The sound of some other mother still breaking wide open in the room next door. An empty chest. The only warm thing running down my thighs. The sun comes up. I haven’t moved. I haven’t thought. “Go.” Someone says.

8am. You are the tiny pink person of my dreams. “Poppy Avalon” written on a notecard on the side of your plastic NICU bassinet . I am gone and new and the woman who grew you is a woman you will never know. I am the one you need. And you need. You need and need and need like I am the mouth and nose for your oxygen. I am bleeding and broken hearted and sore and in absolute shock. They bring me a wooden chair to sit on. I want to cry but remember that I cannot cry anymore. I listen. I hear words and letters and beeps. So many beeps. The alarms are alarming. The beginning of panic. The birth of fear. Sounds. The meanings of sounds. The meaning of no sound. And wires. And tubes. And tests and scans and samples and levels and the way they tape everything to the smallest of people. My breasts grow double the size of your head in 3 days. They say you cannot eat and breathe. I feed you anyway. You can eat. You can breathe.

In a room down a hall in another wooden chair a man tells me what you “have”. He tells me who you will be and what you will do and how long you might live.

This man, four years later, has not only apologized. This man has cried at the gravity of his misinformation.

And here, years full of terrified moments. Exhaustion. A kind of fear that will never ever be erased – and the most love and longing and hope and prayers and pleading that a life can hold. Here you are, kid. Telling me all about how today at preschool you knocked that girls art all over the floor and wouldn’t say sorry.

You shouldn’t have done that. But oh how I love that you are here to do it. Xo, baby bear. Scooter bug. Popperoni. Goose.

I adore your everything. Happy FOURTH birthday.





2 responses to “That night, again.”

  1. Cekeste Avatar

    As always my friend, deeply moving and beautiful! I wish doctors wouldn’t label our little ones with limitations…. Poppy blew right through limits and so has Jonah….. They are not what they HAVE….. They are distinctily who the are and will be. I hope you know how much I love you and adore your littles. Thoughts and good vibes sent your way!!!!


  2. Andrea Swickard Avatar
    Andrea Swickard

    Noelle you have such a way with words, so real so touching, this brought tears to my eyes for the pain that Poppy and you have gone through but also for the tremendous love that you and her will always share, love you both.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: