I am a mother and I am a writer. Motherhood has informed and enriched my writing and my writing has informed and enriched my mothering. I'm finding that these two aspects of my identity are not in fact distinct, but intimately intertwined. For this and other reasons, last night was a tremendous treat. Last night, I hosted another Happier Hour literary salon here in my home with seven amazing and insanely talented writing moms who all contributed essays to the wonderful new book Labor Day: True Birth Stores by Today's Best Women Writers.
This all came to be when my lovely friend (and two-time Happier Hour author!) Dani Shapiro introduced me to Anna Solomon, one of the book's co-editors. Anna's essay What I'm Trying to Say was originally an email to her friend and ultimate co-editor Eleanor Henderson and this essay became the seed for this incredible anthology. Anna brought with her six of her fellow authors last night and they all crammed on my white couch in my yellow living room and told us bits of their birth stories.
It was amazing.
It was amazing and I'm sitting here at my desk staring out at a periwinkle spring sky and feeling kind of overwhelmed because I'm not sure I can capture the magic that was last night here on the screen. There were so many stories, so much feeling, such deep laughter and it seems impossible to boil it down to a tidy blog post. So I won't. Instead I will leave you with a tiny taste of each story and encourage you all to buy your own copy of this beautiful book.
1. "I said, wait. Am I pushing out the baby?" (Anna Solomon)
2. "Labor is a metaphor for life." (Marie Myung-Ok Lee)
3. "Our son's raspy cry broke the world open." (Dani Shapiro)
4. "We thought that was our birth story, but that was not our birth story." (Jennifer Gilmore)
5. "I think of myself folding baby clothes in those final days of my pregnancy, arranging diapers and creams, examining my belly for stretch marks, and how clueless I was, how unafraid." (Mary Beth Keane)
6. "... I was holding on to our baby, who had just been born. In the car." (Amy Brill)
7. "I prepared for the birth of my baby in the ways that women of a natural-leaning persuasion prepare for this most sacred of days." (Gina Zucker)
Several themes ran through the night, the questions, the conversation, but the biggest lesson was this: Expect the Unexpected. Fittingly, this is the title of the editors' introduction. Each author said this little sentence in her own words. The gist, the humbling gist, is that we can study hard, plot and plan and prepare, but in the end, labor is something that is largely beyond our control. And so it goes with parenthood, too. We strive to be the parents we want to be, to get things right, but we are reminded again and again that there is no perfect, there is no right. There are just these messy and miraculous things called life and love.
Oh, and guys, the night ended in the most meaningful way. My own mother raised her hand and said, I have one last birth story. She told all of us how an enormous contraction woke her up at 3am and she woke up Dad and told him it was time. They hailed a cab and went across the park to New York Hospital. In the elevator, Mom announced that she had to push. The medical personnel told her to hold off. I was born at 3:38am. And I've been in a hurry ever since :)
A huge and heartfelt thank you to all of the authors and readers and family and friends who gathered with me last night in that bright-hued, story-stuffed room.