We have a HUGE, overgrown, can’t-be-killed rosemary bush just outside our home in Frederick. It has been driven over, week wacked and survived horrible winters. But remarkably, every June & July it is THRIVING. Plump, fragrant and unaffected by nonstop snipping for this and that.
For some strange and unknown reason, the morning after all three home births of Jonah, Ivy and Paloma, A would bring to my bedside, with arms outstretched like an offering, a wooden bowl with things to smell – a sprig of rosemary, a rose, and a few mint leaves. Perhaps, an intuitive invitation to stop, and smell the roses. It is a remarkable, perfect moment.
And so when I think of ivy, I think of many things, but rosemary is one of them. I often invite her to rub her hands in it or take a sniff.
It was five years ago this morning that she made her precise arrival. It was her due date. June 4th 2010. 23 month old fat cheeked Jonah was fast asleep in his big boy bed in the room next door. I had just stepped into the birth pool to help ease labor, but the water became far too hot with the heat of the summer and the intensity of my contractions. The midwife and A silently, with flashlights, at 2am in the morning, ran mixing bowls of cold water from the bathroom to the pool to help chill the water.
It was totally ineffective.
I hung off the edge of the birth pool, heavy arms dangling to the floor. Not wanting to be in or out. Not knowing if I should sit, stand, kneel or puke, sweat dripping in my eyes.
And then it happened. A strong push came out of nowhere and I felt her come all the way down. I was so thrilled that it might be over that I groaned and added to the push with all my might.
I slumped back on the side of the pool and felt her slide all-the-way-back-up inside. “F—UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-K” I frustrated-ly moaned.
It’s so hard to collect yourself during labor, to regain composure, to surrender to the fact that you have NO IDEA how long this is going to take. But I went back inside myself and waited.
Thankfully, she didn’t keep me long at all. The next push, her head popped right out under water. The midwife shined her light on her big open eyes as she unwrapped the cord from her neck and gave me the go ahead to push her the rest of the way out.
I announced that she was a boy. When I pulled her face to mine, all I could see was Jonah’s expression. But indeed, SHE was a SHE.
She loves to reenact the story. She curls up against my belly. I tap into the deepest, guttural, birthing groan I can muster and she descends. She ‘pops’ her head out, looks around, then wiggles the rest of the way off my bed where she pretends to be slippery and newborn-ish. Sometimes, she goes into my closet and pretends that is my uterus. Once she has instructed me to call the midwife, then push her out, she slides the closet door open and emerges.
I knew it the moment she was born. In fact I knew it when I was pregnant that she was a fierce one. I always felt scared, on edge and tipped from my usual steadiness.
Ivy. Ivy Elizabeth McWilliams. Her face. Her square jaw. Her penetrating ice blue pitta eyes. I’ve gotten to know her now but she continues to carry a veil of mystery about her. She shows up exactly as she is, which is not always predictable.
She cannot fake anything. Unless of course she is playing pretend. Then she can fake everything. One hour she’s assertive, charming, engaging, funny, mature and adamant. The next she is tipping over furniture on her way to thrash around in her bed with brown blanket screaming profanities and threats.
I love her. She is wild and wonderful. She loves adventure and lives with passion and power. When she loves me, she loves me so hard it hurts. We both cry, tears of love streaming down our faces. And then she looks at me and tells me to stop crying because its making her cry more. When she hates me, she throws shit, scratches, squeezes and screams DIRECTLY IN MY FACE WHILE STARING IN MY EYES. “If you don’t get me some warm milk RIGHT NOW, I’m going to get ANGRIER and start scratching you.”
But I am trained for this. Once she was out of my belly, I regained my steadiness. She pushes my buttons like NOONE, but nonchalance is my specialty. I tell her I love her and give her some space to realize that she has mistaken her love for hate. In fact, she just reminded me tonight as we sat together drawing – “When I say I hate you, I really don’t mean it. But my body makes me say it. Its like I’m going to throw up if I can’t say it. But I actually love you.”
Happy 5th birthday my awesome one. Warm glass of milk, sprig of rosemary and a dash of adventure coming right up.