I thought that was just her being polite. Of course the baby was healthy! And it better be a girl 'cause doggone it I already had two brothers and I needed an ally!
My wish came true, and that was a very happy day in my life, but it wasn't until not that long ago that I truly understood the wisdom of my mother's words.
I think it's good that as we women go through the building of babies (which is what I like to call it), we're blissfully unaware of everything that can go wrong. We ponder names. We nest. We debate the merits of different strollers and cribs and color schemes. We grow bigger and bigger until really, all we want is our body back. Then we endure labor and scream out such profound things as "I wish I were a marsupial!" and in the end we forget the pain and gaze upon our perfect little miracle with love and awe, still blissfully unaware of the many things that, in a cruel twist of fate, could have gone wrong.
When our second son was born he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
I was in the midst of pushing when the nurse descended on me with an oxygen mask. I told her I didn't want it and she said, "It's for the baby."
I didn't understand the depths of the significance of this, but I sucked in oxygen, and in the next few minutes the doctor un-looped my son's neck and, with a final push, our son came into the world completely healthy.
We were immediately swept up in the miracle of new life, not fully aware of the bullet we had dodged until years later when my husband came home from work with the story of a colleague's son who was severely handicapped and forever bound to a wheelchair because the umbilical cord had strangled the oxygen from his brain during birth.
For those of you who have read Flipped, I'm sure you now see that the story line of Uncle David (Daniel in the movie) comes from a very personal place. And it's not that I ever intended to share this story in a blog post, but something happened this week that has compelled me to do so.
I got an e-mail from a girl in China who had seen the Flipped movie.
She and her boyfriend have been in love for three years but they have not been able to allow themselves to be happy because of a "pragmatic problem"--her boyfriend has a "retarded older brother"--one who was born with the umbilical cord around his neck.
The parents were allowed by the Chinese government to have a second son (the boyfriend) so that he could, in the Chinese custom, care for his parents (and, in this case, also the older brother). Which means that, if she goes ahead and marries the man she loves, she marries into the responsibility of caring for the brother.
In her letter she wrote that after seeing how the Baker family maintained their strength and kindness and still loved each other despite what they'd been through with Uncle David she was encouraged to "face the difficulties in life and try my best to hold a mighty heart!"
To hold a mighty heart.
What an exquisite expression.
And what a extraordinary experience for me to see my blissful ignorance grow into an understanding of my good fortune and blossom into a novel, then became a movie that crossed the seas and gave courage to a young woman in China.