Anyone who follows me on any of my social media accounts knows that my sister gave birth to a perfect angel recently. His name is Wayland Robert and he is truly a triumph.
I witnessed his birth, and while it took place right in the city of New Orleans, that day and the entirety of these days have been a huge adventure. Mostly for my sister and her husband. But also for me. We have a new family member. He’s small, and wide eyed, and can’t really communicate at all yet, but he’s ours and we are all in love with him.
Wayland was born April 18, 2015 at 11:58 pm. This is his birth story, written by me, to him, to someday read. It’s really long, much like my sister’s labor, and it might not mean a whole lot to you, mystery reader, but it sure does mean a lot to me, cuz this new little blob of sweetness is my most favorite human in the world!
When we were in the birthing center for one of many appointments, this was on the wall:
Being born is important
You who have stood at the bedposts
and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.
You who have seen the new wet child
dried behind the ears,
swaddled in soft fresh garments…
You know being born is important.
You know that nothing else was ever so important to you.
You understand that the payday of love is so old,
So involved, so traced with circles of the moon,
So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood.
It must be older than the moon, older than salt.
And now, here’s this one particular birth story, that resulted in a perfect angel baby who goes by Waybob.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This is your birth story.
The day you were born was, up until that point, the most incredible day of my life. You know the feeling you get as a kid when you wake up and remember it’s the first day of summer vacation? That’s how I felt when I found out you were coming, except instead of just being three months of sunburns and watermelon juice and no school it was a lifetime of love for a little human I hadn’t even met yet. I remember being half asleep and feeling my phone vibrating on the bed next to me. It was your Dad calling. We both wake up early, so when I saw it was around six in the morning I thought maybe he was calling me to ask if I wanted to take the dogs on a walk with him or see if they wanted to go swim at the levee. Instead, he told me your mom’s water was broken and that they were at the hospital. You can imagine how surprised I was since it was April 18th and you weren’t due until May 3rd!
Now, let me give you a little back-story on our lives before you were born. Shannon and Nate were living on Laurel Street, just three blocks from your Uncle Leif and I who lived on Valence. As you read this, my hope for you is that you’ve grown up in that house you were first brought home to because it’s a great house. I helped your mom tile the shower we used to give you baths in, and I messed up tiling the kitchen with her so badly we had to uplift almost the entire floor. A lot of love and care went into that house with your parents imagining you running up its steps, reading in its sunlit corners, napping with your dogs on the couch, and sleepily shuffling from your bedroom to the kitchen and back for midnight snacks. They wanted you so badly, they tried for months and months to get pregnant, and when it finally happened everyone was overjoyed. Your mom told our side of the family at your Great Grammy’s 80th birthday party, and all of us were so surprised and excited when we found out you were going to be a boy on your Grandad’s birthday, December 8th.
On the day you were born, your Mom had been planning to head down the French Quarter to finish closing up her gallery, the Green Eyed Gator at 901 Chartres. I worked catty-corner at a job managing a retail store called QUEORK, where everything is made of cork. I don’t work there anymore and there’s a good chance QUEORK is gonna blow up and be a massive multi million dollar corporation someday. If you’re reading this and QUEORK has, in fact, turned into a multinational corporation worth billions, at least you can say your Aunt Erin never sold out to the man. I was even more excited that you were being born on a day I was supposed to be at work, because it meant I got to call out, and call out I did. I rushed over to your Momo’s house, who had just gotten into town the night before to help with final prep for your arrival. She had no idea your Mom was going to have you that day, and I got to be the one to tell her. At first, she panicked because she felt like your mom wasn’t ready and must be really scared. But panic turned to joy and eventually your Momo was being her very-vivacious-yet-borderline-insane-self, rushing around the house to get ready, making me carry a huge, heavy dresser to fill with your baby clothes up the stairs of your house with your Uncle Leif, and making my job as “mom wrangler” quite difficult. You see, your Momo was SO excited to meet you that she had made your Mom really worried that she was going to be less helpful and more totally bonkers if she somehow made her way into the delivery room. Your Mom thought she just wanted your Dad there, and me on the sidelines in case she needed an extra hand. So it was my job all day to keep your Momo distracted, which I did by convincing her we needed a lasagna and some chicken soup in the freezer for your parents to eat when they got home with you, as they were sure to be hungry. I kept your Momo occupied, texting your Dad to ask about the progress your Mom was making and updating her as she cooked. Later, your Momo would completely destroy the pot of chicken soup, turning it to ashes when she left the stove on in the rush to get out of the house to the hospital to see you born. Her house smelled terrible for weeks, but you were worth it, and that story has been filed away as a family classic alongside the turkey gizzards she lit up into flames and ashes one Christmas.
Well, the fact of the matter is, you couldn’t make up your mind. See, you’d broken her water, but after that you decided to hang out in there a little longer. But, you had to be out in 24 hours or the doctors would have to do an emergency Caesarian on your mom, which was the last thing she wanted. She had read all the books, seen all the movies, and taken a birthing class to prepare for your arrival, so a C-section was out of the question in her mind. So, after hours of walking around trying to get you to drop down and start her labor, your Mom got hooked up to a dose of Pitocin, which speeds up contractions and makes them extra painful! Normally at this point a woman begins some series of pain medication to deal with those extra hard contractions, but your Mom wanted to see you be born fully awake and didn’t want any more drugs. This should be foreshadowing for you, Waybob. The delivery room was about to turn from pleasantly pastel with mild cramping to WWE levels of pain and hardcore screaming. I arrived at the hospital around 5 pm with cookies for your nurses and a balloon for your parents. Your mom was in pretty high spirits, but when a contraction would come on, she’d need a backrub from a contraption she’d made (tennis balls wrapped in a wash cloth that I would later attempt as a memento to keep before my dog Hank ripped it to shreds). The hours passed on and we walked up and down the halls, rubbed your Mom’s back what felt like endlessly, and just generally kept asking when she could start pushing.
Your mom was being treated and watched over lovingly by midwives during her pregnancy. Our favorite midwife was Kate, because she was young and cool and funny, but when it came time for you to be born it was Esther who would deliver you. We liked all of the midwives, so we didn’t mind much, and Esther ended up being just what we needed, because your Moms spirits went from slightly in pain but still laughing to pooping, groaning pregnancy monster in excruciating pain in the span of about three hours. Esther had a very grounding, nurturing energy that most of us Kelley women lack, so she was a welcome addition to the team. When I arrived at five, I knew it was only a matter of time before your Momo peeked her head around the corner of the door, and sure enough, just an hour later, there she was in the purple shirt we had picked out for her to wear. It was then that your Mom’s contractions started to get more painful and she began laboring around the room trying to get comfortable. She labored on a chair, on the bed, back on the chair, on a squatting stool, on the toilet, standing up, in a hallway, in the bathroom leaning on the sink, back to the chair, then back to the bed, and nothing seemed to help. During all of this she was essentially drunk with pain and doing things like asking for water, and then refusing it, yelling at everyone to rub her back, then yelling at no one to rub her back. She had a lot of back pain, and the bathtub is supposed to help alleviate some of that pain due to water’s weightless tendencies, so when Esther said she could finally labor in the tub, your mom was visibly excited.
Before I came your Mom had asked me to go to Walmart to get her a black tank top to wear in the tub to cover up. She had also been concerned before your birth about your Dad and I “seeing her that way,” by which she meant, in the throws of labor, I suppose. I don’t think she had any idea just how graphic and intense labor would be, and by the time it came time to get in the tub she ripped her clothes off and climbed in naked with such determination no one thought to offer the tank top. Your mom had stopped caring about us seeing her like anything and just wanted to get you out of her uterus. She moaned and groaned in the tub. Your dad tried to gingerly climb in behind her, but slipped and fell in wearing all of his clothes. I can’t lie: it was hilarious. Your mom was in a lot of pain and nothing seemed to help. All of a sudden she was pushing down on her contractions and then she looked up at your Momo and I and said, with a tiny gasp “I think I’m going to poop! I think I’m pooping! Am I pooping!?”
She was, Waybob. She was totally pooping. Your mom was bearing down on that pain that seemed to sear all the way through her, and in the midst of it, a tiny little turdlet had popped up to the water’s surface. I quickly fished it out with a little bucket and flushed it down the toiled. “There you go, sis,” I said cheerfully, “Like it never even happened.” But then, once again, your Mom was totally pooping. I’ll be honest, she pooped way more than any of us thought she would, and your Dad is a real trooper for just sitting behind her acting like he wasn’t sitting in a bathtub of her tiny turds. He really loves your Mom.
Then it came time for your Dad to take a break, because he’d been sitting in the poopy tub for over an hour rubbing her back and attempting to help her along. Your Momo and I looked at each other and with knowing eyes, I said, “I got it,” and it was my turn to be in the poop tub. So I took off my moccasins, pulled up my dress (every time I wear it to this day I think about how I saw you be born in it), and climbed in behind your mom, trying not to fully submerge myself because I had no idea how much longer I was going to be in those clothes. Your Dad had packed a spare outfit (smart!) and went to change, emerging in pajama pants and a sweatshirt, ready to get your mom out of the tub. I’ll be frank, we all thought your Mom needed to get out of the tub, but she was in a labor blackout, and pretty much wanted to be anywhere that she was feeling the least amount of back breaking labor pain. So, in the tub we stayed. We were playing soothing music (I chose Hawaiian music, I thought it would be nice to be born to), giving her sips of water, and rubbing her back feverishly. By this time, your Momo and I started taking bets of when you’d be born. It was 7:41 when we made our first bet. Your Momo said 8:30 and I scoffed! I said closer to 10:00 was more reasonable, and we waited.
When we finally convinced your Mom to get out of the tub at 9:00, I knew I had already won the bet and was sad we hadn’t placed money on it. If you know you’re right, always wager money on it, Wayland. That’s a rule of life and an easy fifty bucks. I’m sure I’ve already won a lot of your money, and that’s because I’m a gambling gal and you shouldn’t bet against me. But back to your birth story: once your Mom was out of the tub, she felt ready to push. She had ripped out her IV like a badass bitch against the wishes of the nurses, and had put back on her robe, though she left it open because the second you were born she wanted you put right down on her chest covered in your baby cheese so she could marvel at you and let you know that she was your mom. We had Esther the midwife, a nurse named Dawn, your Dad, your Momo, and me in the room with her, all of us surrounding her on the bed and asking what she wanted us to do. All of us gathered around your mom felt so tribal and earnest, and I couldn’t help but think about all the little sister’s who had been at their older sisters’ bedsides for centuries, watching them become mothers, feeling their families and hearts grow. Esther had told her that you hadn’t dropped enough yet, so she couldn’t start pushing, which snapped me right back to reality because this meant more labor pains for your Mom, which no little sister likes to hear. While I felt concern, this new information made your Mom really mad, so she marched over to the toilet, sat on it backward, and started to work on dropping you lower and lower. “Come on baby!” she’d scream “Get out!” and so on and so forth, sniffling back tears from the pain of her labor and pooping even more tiny turdlets into the toilet this time (thank God, am I right?).
By the time you read this I will hopefully be a practicing midwife myself, so when I tell you this, please don’t judge me. Your Momo and I kept checking in with Esther to see if your Mom could push yet, and each time Esther would say, “Trust me, the sounds will change and then we will know.” Now, Esther is the kind of new age hippie witch goddess that I am normally all about. She wore tribal beads and tortoise shell glasses and had a haircut like a mushroom who was way past caring about the patriarchy and I am all about that, because hopefully that’s what I look like now too. But when your big sister, one of the three people you love the most in the world is in searing pain, telling you she can’t do it anymore, pooping uncontrollably, crying on your shoulder, refusing the water she just asked for (read: going crazy), you want that pain to stop at any cost. So when she kept saying I’d know the sounds, I was getting…let’s say…frustrated. That’s a nice word for it. Your Momo, though, was pissed. She kept calling Esther “that nurse” (WTF MOM) and acting like she’d forgotten her name because your Momo has no respect for authority or people who are doing her a service and that’s just who she is and we love her anyway. But let me tell you something, Waybob, I did know the sounds when they came. Esther was right. Your Mom went from moaning and groaning between active and passive pain to full throttle animalistic guttural lion sounds. She went from sounding like she had broken both legs to sounding like she was being eaten by wolverines and set on fire. It was the most punk rock sounds you’ve ever heard, coming out of your very pretty, very nice Mommy. I will never forget the sounds. It was time to push!
Esther and Dawn helped us guide your Mom from the toilet to the bed. She leaned back and had your Dad and I each holding one leg while your Momo stood behind the bed giving her sips of water and a cold washcloth to subdue her labor fever sweats. Dawn started preparing a table full of tools for when you’d emerge, and everything started to become very surreal. Your mom’s labor pain was intense and every minute that passed she screamed louder and louder as she pushed and pushed. Your Dad and I became human stirrups as your Mom kept on pushing with the coaching of Esther, who sat in between her legs, reminding her that she could, in fact, do it, even though your Mom was getting to the point where she was certain she’d never get you out of there and that her vagina may actually have caught on fire at some point because it sure burned like it.
When she started to push, it wasn’t like the movies. In the movies, the woman pushes two or three times and then all of a sudden a baby shoots out of her hoo-ha, coming into the world crying and pink and already six months old. In real life, your Mom pushed for over an hour and it was, in a word, brutal. Push after push I thought we would see you start to come out, but you didn’t. Your mom was getting more and more tired. Your Dad and I, who were holding her legs across from each other were exchanging glances that varied between worry, concern, and impatience. We didn’t like seeing your Mom in pain, but we knew it was a productive pain with you at the end of it, so we patted her knees while your Momo changed cold wash cloths and Esther kept on coaching and applying warm towels. Then, like magic, your little tiny tip of your head appeared, which is called crowning. Your Dad and I looked at each other and looks of relief replaced those of worry, just for a second. She pushed more and more, and as you began to emerge I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s so tiny!” I was worried you were too small, and that somehow after all the checkups and big milestone appointments and ultra sounds we had missed something and you were too little to live on your own. Esther asked your Mom if she wanted to see your head with a mirror, and she said what essentially boils down to “hell no,” which was probably for the best, because that image is seared into my memory for all time.
But then your whole head came out and all I could think was “THAT JUST CAME OUT OF MY SISTER’S VAGINA.” Your head was very big- too big, it seemed, to come out of something that small. Then, she had to pass your shoulders, so Esther wiggled your little neck around, careful not to hurt you or your Mom, and with a few more big pushes, your shoulders emerged, and then it was time to get you all the way out of where you’d been growing and changing for nine months. Your Grandad, Grammy Kerry, Aunt Colleen, and Uncle Leif were waiting impatiently in the waiting room, sending me texts that said things like, “update??!?!?” and “anything!??!?” and “tell Shannon to hurry up!” and “want anything from Cane’s?”. It was almost time to let them know you had arrived, but first, Esther had one very important thing to ask your Mom:
“Do you want to reach down and take your baby?” she asked. And wordlessly, with a look of wild love mixed with newfound fears and exhaustion your Mom reached down and pulled you out of her. It was the most badass, feminist moment of my life thus far and I was so unbelievably overwhelmed by what I had just seen that I started to cry. I was endlessly proud of your Mom and so happy that you were finally here. We all loved you so much before we even saw you, but seeing you there, covered in uterus cheese and blood and other grime, I have never loved anything or anyone more. You were perfect, and you were new: a tabula rasa, a blank slate- a perfect little human being that would grow up to have wants and dreams and fears and hopes and heartaches, all of them unavoidable and all of them uniquely yours. Your life had begun, and I had watched it happen. I looked up to where your Dad was watching your Mom in her very first moments with you, and he was crying too. Turns out he had been crying since your head had come out, but I was too focused on watching you be born to even notice. Your Momo was crying too and so was your Mom. “He’s so cute,” was the first thing your Mom said about you, and it was true. But then we realized you weren’t crying.
“Why isn’t he crying,” your Dad asked, sounding a tad (okay, a lot) panicked. “Is he okay?” Esther assured him that he was fine, but she was going to call the NICU anyway, just in case. When anyone says they’re going to call the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit “just in case,” it puts you literally 0% at ease, and so I started to worry again too. I wanted so much in that moment to hear your little cry, the first of many that you’d have throughout your life, but you were silent. And so NICU nurses rushed in and started putting little tubes down your throat, checking your vitals, wiping you off to poke you with strange things.
Your oxygen levels were low, and I could see your Dad freaking out inside as he stood over you, watching the nurses work, watching the first minutes of your life. Seeing your Dad being your Dad, doing Dad things like love and worry and panic and keep loving through it all was so beautiful, Waybob. He loves you so much. Your Dad can be hard to read sometimes, I’ve always thought that. But in the delivery room, caring tenderly for your Mom, worrying for her and for you, watching you come into the world and then watching him silently fear your little life might be over before it really started I could feel the love that he’s capable of and let me tell you something: it’s a lot, it’s endless and it’s unconditional. It was tangible in that moment, and then you started to stabilize. Your Dad got to feel calm for a second before realizing he was a new Dad again, who knew nothing but what books had told him, and it made me happy to see him smiling as you cried your first cries with your baby lungs out in the world. They had been filled with amniotic fluid- your tummy and lungs- and the nurses had worked it out of you, and you were letting the whole city of New Orleans know that you were hungry, you were tired, and you wanted your Mommy.
Your Mommy, meanwhile, had been giving birth yet again. That blobby purple alien that came after you was the placenta that you had been attached to, and I have never seen anything more primordial in my life. It looks like a big blob with veins that shoot out like a tree of life. Your Mom was being patched up, bleeding quite a lot, but really only concerned with what you were up to. She was asking how you were doing and commenting on how cute you were as she was being worked on, and then you were stable and back in her arms. She held you and said, “Hi, my baby. You’re my baby,” with more love in her voice than I’ve ever heard and that was like the movies, only better, because it was real. It was time to let everyone know, but your Momo wouldn’t leave her baby’s side. She was concerned about the amount of blood your Mom had lost in delivering you (your Mom would later pass out while sitting on the toilet attempting to pee), but I knew everything was fine, because the NICU nurses had left, and Esther was smiling, getting ready to go deliver yet another baby (she delivered four more that weekend, if I’m not mistaken).
I snapped a few photos of you covered in goo and rushed out to the waiting room where everyone was lying around, covered in Cane’s boxes and empty cups of lemonade. It was after midnight. You had been born at 11:58 pm on a Saturday night, and now it was time for everyone who had been waiting in that cold, fluorescent room to come see you. I showed them the photos I’d taken, and then excitedly we all walked back to the delivery room, where you were being weighed and measured and cooed over. Everyone couldn’t get enough of you! We took about three thousand pictures and all took turns having you grasp our fingers. Your little reflexes were why you’d grab at our outstretched limbs when we placed a finger onto your little, tiny, wrinkly hand but we took it to mean you loved us too.
Wayland, your birth was a miracle. You are a miracle of human life. Everything you do fascinates and surprises me. Everything about you is inherently the truth. You are a simple little human right now, only concerned with breast milk and uncomfortable diapers and bouts of gas that you can’t seem to figure out. But you have your whole life ahead of you. You were born six weeks ago. I took notes in my phone the morning after about what had happened so when I wrote this down for you I wouldn’t miss a detail. I want you to know that the night you were born, there were people all over the world who couldn’t wait for your life to start. There will always be those people, Wayland. They come in all forms from family to friends to strangers who barely know you, but love you anyway. Your Mom and Dad can show you your baby outfits from Nepal and Singapore and Peru and Istanbul and the University of Buffalo. They can show you pictures of your baby shower and your boat that you love to nap in and all of the cards your Mommy got to celebrate you. You are so loved, and you always will be as long as I’m alive.
You should know how much you are wanted. You should know that now your parents need your happiness more than they need their own. They want for your successes and triumphs because every bit of love they have to give got put inside of you at 11:58 pm on April 18th, 2015 when your Mom pulled you out from her belly where she’s grown you with milkshakes and hot chocolate and grapefruits. I promise they’d been storing up love before, putting it inside of you little by little, but nothing could compare to the rush of unconditional adoration that came when we all first laid eyes on you. You are, and always will be, the Boy-o. The first one. Your aunties love you so much that sometimes it almost feels like I’m your Mom too. The word for aunt in Nepali translates to “little mother,” and that is truly how I see you. You’re like the firstborn son for all of us, and we didn’t even carry you inside of us, or make you with our great love whose presence shakes us and moves us, the way your parents did. They might love you the most, but I love you with all I’ve got too.
Your mom was really emotional after you were born. She cried a lot and felt overwhelmed. Hormones were leaving her body, making her feel teary and anxious and scared, but never once did she stop loving you. Sometimes she looks at you and just says, “He’s the best,” or “I love him so much it’s really crazy,” or “Seriously, he’s so amazing, he’s perfect, can you even believe it?” and truly, I can’t. I don’t think any of us knew how much we were capable of loving something so tiny and quiet. I don’t think your Mom knew what was in store for her when she first showed me the positive pregnancy test. I don’t think she knew how stressful getting pregnant would be, how anxious staying pregnant would make her, how scary and painful and exhausting birth would be, or how much she could love you. I don’t think she really knew that when you were born her heart would start to live outside of her body. I don’t think your Dad knew either.
But they know now. And I know that there’s no greater feeling than knowing that just three blocks away, you’re sleeping peacefully, or smiling up at your Mom as she makes funny faces at you, or pooping on your Dad and making a fart so loud we all cheer for you. This might be the only time in your life that everyone in the room cheers for your farts, but I promise you that at the very least your Dad will always cheer, especially when they’re really loud. We love you, Wayland. You are only six weeks old right now, can you believe it? You have your whole entire life ahead of you. You’ll make good decisions and bad ones. You’ll tell your parents you love them and then go through a phase where you hate them. But don’t worry; it’s just a phase. You’ll laugh with your friends, cry over lost loves, get into colleges, and start and stop jobs. You’ll read great books, be moved by sunsets, stare across mountain ranges and rivers and out into the vast ocean. You’ll see the world, you’ll ask the big questions, you’ll fall in and out of love, you’ll lose friends and family to the great beyond, question everything you know, and you’ll figure out who you are. All of these things are coming for you, and you can’t stop them. Nobody can. But you’ll have us. We’re a rag tag group of weirdos, but we’ll be here for you through it all. One day when you’re sixteen and I catch you sneaking beers with your friends I’ll tell you if you’re ever too drunk to drive you can always call me and I won’t tell your parents. One day you’ll join the marching band and get really into anime and maybe even go through a goth stage, and I’ll listen to all of the nerdy things that excite you and love every minute of it. One day maybe I’ll watch you leave to backpack around the world like I did, or open up your own business and pursue what you love like your Mom did, or be fascinated by the stars like your Grandad. One day I’ll be watching you wait for your bride (or groom!) at the end of the aisle and get wine drunk at your wedding. One day I’ll watch you declare that you’re an atheist, or a Jew, or a Christian, or really into radical Islam (never say never). And then one day I’ll get to watch you hold your baby for the first time, because that’s the circle of life, and you’re in it now. And we’re so happy to have you.
Through your successes and failures just know that I love you. I will always love you, deeply and fully and with everything that I have. I’m one more person on your team. I watched you come into this world, quite literally, and I will watch you make it a better place. You already have just by being here. You’re going to do great things with your life, Wayland. But for right now, I’m happy to just cheer for all of your farts.
I love you, and I’m so glad you were born.
Forever your family,