My daughter, Ruby, was due to give birth at the beginning of March 2008. I planned to host her baby shower luncheon four weeks before her due date and a week after my husband, Michael and I returned from a glorious five-week trip to Paris celebrating my 60th birthday. The invitations were sent, the menu planned (see a few of the recipes below), the custom photo party favor cakes for 50 delivered, the staff, hired.
We returned from Paris at the end of January. On Wednesday, February 6th, three days before Ruby's baby shower, I did all the Costco and Fairway food shopping. Literally, the moment I finished unloading thousands of dollars worth of groceries into my apartment, my phone rang. It was Ruby. Labor hadn't started but her water had broken. Needless to say, the baby shower was off! But far more importantly, so, too, was her plan to give birth in Roosevelt Hospital's Birthing Center. She and her husband, James, were on their way to the hospital, their midwife Sandy meeting them there. I could not believe it was happening again.
I was born several weeks prematurely, Ruby was born five weeks prematurely; now a third generation of Rubin babies was being born, this time four weeks early. What did it mean? There had to be an explanation, a physiological explanation but I hadn't a clue nor did I have the time to spend thinking about it. What I did know for sure was how Ruby was feeling at being deprived of having the kind of birth that she so wanted because I, too, had been prevented from having a home birth with Ruby. I tried desperately not to be concerned about my grandchild's health. I needed to believe that Ruby's baby would be strong and hardy and a survivor, just like his mother. I couldn't allow myself to believe that another tragedy could befall Ruby. Surviving a traumatic brain injury was enough for anybody to go through. It just couldn't be possible that lightning was striking again. But that didn't stop me from being worried sick. I paced around my apartment waiting for the next call. I didn't know what to do, what they needed me to do, should I run to the hospital or stand by? By that evening, Ruby wasn't yet in labor but they wanted her to stay overnight at the hospital. I barely slept that night, convinced that the phone would ring any moment with news of the birth. By the next morning, having not heard a word -- I couldn't quite wrap my mind around the notion that no news was good news -- Michael and I went to the hospital. By the time we got there, Ruby was in labor. Of all the things Ruby and I talked about throughout her pregnancy, we had never discussed who would or wouldn't be in the labor room with her. Going into premature labor cut short any discussion we might have had. Ruby's younger sister Violet spent a lot of time with Ruby and James in the labor room, but not wanting to impose, not knowing whether I could impose, I kept my distance, popping my head in from time to time. In my fantasies (note, I said, "my fantasies"), I imagined being right by Ruby's side throughout the labor and delivery, imparting my wisdom, sharing her pain, and although I admit to some disappointment that my fantasy didn't come true, I knew, too, that this was her moment, her memory, and it was enough for me to be right outside the door.
Right from the moment Ruby told me that she was pregnant, I began my natural childbirth soliloquy, disguised as a two-way conversation. For me, Ruby and Violet's natural births had been the most empowering moments in my life, the notion of being totally in charge of my body and mind, trusting myself to be able to withstand anything that came my way, not giving over my power to anyone... I so wanted that for Ruby. But again that conversation was cut.
Seamus John Dawson, Ruby and James' son, my grandson, my flesh and blood, my legacy, my heritage, my past, my present, my rest of my life, was born by natural childbirth on February 7th at 12:32p.m., after eight hours of labor. He weighed 5 lbs. 7 oz., was healthy and strong and sturdy, just as I knew he would be.
I knew even before Seamus was born that Ruby would be tender and nurturing and calm. She did not disappoint. She was all that and so much more. She was a natural -- intuitive, empathetic, comfortable and comforting. It was as though Seamus had always been a part of her life. James, more high-strung by nature, allowed Ruby to set the tone, her quietude calmed not only Seamus but James. And Ruby, by nature disorganized and permissive, is complimented by James' ability to set boundaries and create order.
From the moment I saw Seamus in the hospital, I knew my life would never be the same. Although I didn't know then who Seamus was -- who he would be as a toddler, a young boy, what he would accomplish one day, what he would look like one day -- none of that mattered to me. What mattered to me was how this little baby made me feel. When Ruby was pregnant and I thought about her having a boy, it felt so strange, so foreign. I'd only known what if felt like to love baby girls. I thought loving a boy would feel awkward, even a bit uncomfortable. I couldn't have been more surprised and enchanted. Loving a baby boy surpassed my wildest dreams, and was larger, more bounteous and more intense than any love I had ever felt.
Seamus, by birthright, by the same blood that runs through both of our bodies, has cast a healing spell over my wounded soul and given me a feeling of serenity and well-being. I try to tell my friends, my family, acquaintances, how profound my love is. Those who have grandchildren tell me they know exactly how I feel, their love for their grandchildren equal to mine they proclaim, but I know they are wrong. They can't possibly know what it feels like to be betrayed by the first love of your life, your father, or to grasp what it feels like to be forsaken by the one woman who should protect you above all others, your mother. They can't possibly understand how badly it shatters your belief system, your sense of trust in your parents, yourself, the world. I don't tell them how wrong they are for fear of sounding arrogant or superior or just plain insane. Of course, rationally I know you cannot possibly measure another person's love, nor do I have the right to -- love is not a contest with a winner or a loser -- but none of that matters to me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love for Seamus is greater, that the love that courses through my veins comes from a deeper well. Seamus has taught me to believe in new beginnings. Without Seamus saying a word, he has righted all wrongs, conquered my demons, wiped the slate clean, erased the old, sad, heartbreaking story and given me a clean new page to write my future. My grandson, my late parent's great grandson, Seamus John Dawson, will carry me home.
Toasted Corn Pudding: 17 oz. pkg. Cope's toasted dried sweet corn, 4 cups whole milk,1 cup buttermilk, 4 large eggs, lightly beaten, ½ stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled, 2 tblsp. sugar, 2 tblsp. flour.
Preheat oven to 350 deg. Butter 2-qt. shallow baking dish. Whisk together all ingredients with 1 ½ tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Transfer to baking dish. Bake until pudding is set, 1 to 1 ¼ hours. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Grapefruit, Avodado & Crab Appetizer Spoons: 2 crab claws (or 1 container of jumbo crabmeat), 1 ripe avocado, 1 grapefruit, 2 tblsp. marscapone cheese, ½ tsp. smoked paprika, Tabasco sauce drops, salt & pepper.
Scoop flesh of avocado and put into food processor bowl. Slice open grapefruit and section, separating pulp with juice. Add marscapone cheese, grapefruit juice, smoked paprika and Tabasco drops to avocado and mix until smooth. Add salt & pepper. Mix again. Crack crab claw and remove flesh. Prepare Chinese spoons by adding to each one a tblsp. of avocado mixture, followed by piece of grapefruit. Top with crab meat.