We’re officially on Amalía Watch 2011. I guess since she’s only going to be born once, it’s Amalía Watch, period, but I like the way Amalía Watch 2011 makes it sound that much more official, like an election or a hurricane.
At 35 weeks, one of my doctors told me that given Amalía’s size, she was likely to come early. At 37 weeks, I told another doctor that my sister was coming for nine days to be present for the birth and planning on arriving on August 12th, seven days before Amalía’s official August 19th due date, and he said, “Maybe she should come a day or two earlier.”
So we were all prepared for an early arrival. Her papi thought Amalia would show up on 8/8, since we were married on 10/10/10 and that’s how we roll as a family–numerologically. Her Abuelita Carmen hoped she’d arrive on the 15th, the Virgin Mary’s holiday. In Catholicism, the celebration is called the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; in Orthodoxy, the Dormition; in both cases it observes the day she ascended to heaven.
August 15th is a huge holiday in Greece and I wrote an ethnography of the festival as it’s celebrated in the town of Kassiopi on the island of Corfu as my thesis for my undergraduate degree in Folklore and Mythology. Inspired by that paper, a close friend’s mother gave me a Haitian painting of a Madonna as a graduation present, and that started me collecting folk art Marys from all over–Italian tiles, Greek icons, Russian eggs, Mexican embroideries, all with her image. Right now in Amalía’s nursery a silver medallion with the Virgin Mary, a gift from her great-grandmother, awaits; along with a Greek filakto, a gold protective amulet showing Mary; an embroidered Guadalupe above her bed; a candle in the shape of Mary from her Abuela; and a Cuban papier-mache Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre on her wall. So I, too, sort of thought the 15th might be right on the money.
But I gave up on that hope last Wednesday, at my weekly doctor’s appointment, when another of my doctors did an exam and pointed out that Amalía’s head is not “engaged” in my pelvis, which it normally would be at this point, but rather “floating” just above it. There was talk of Caesarians and inductions and I became very stressed out and spent all of Thursday doing squats at yoga and going on a two-hour walk in an attempt to engage Amalía. (All of this seems somehow ironic given that the verb engage is basically my initials, Eleni Nicholas Gage, so you think it’s a skill Amalía and I could master.)
Then on Friday, as a little reminder that Mercury is retrograde, screwing up all communications, my cell phone was stolen from a Starbucks in Coral Gables, as I waited for a call from my mom and aunt to tell me that they had arrived at Miami International Airport and were ready for me to come pick them up. As the unexpected stresses added up, my hypnobirthing training kicked in and I just sort of relaxed into the uncertain birth process and welcomed the relatives.
For our hypnobirthing class homework, we listen to guided relaxation and birth affirmations every night. Both are read aloud by Marie Mongan, the modern founder of hypnobirthing, who happens to be from New Hampshire and has a reassuring accent reminiscent of the authority figures of my childhood–kindly library ladies and middle school heads. The words she says are along the lines of “I see my baby come smoothly and easily from my womb,” and “I look forward to birthing with joy and ecstasy”, but the voice reminds me of the neighbor lady who saw me and my sister Marina walking around the neighborhood under an umbrella one stormy day and said. “Whatcha doin’ out in the rain? Dontcha know sugah melts?” Marie has a lovely patrician take on the accent and I go to sleep feeling like Katharine Hepburn is my birth coach. Which is nice. To quote Marie, while listening to her, “I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body.”
So I’m trying to let go and let Amalía come any time and any way she wants to; yes, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that she will arrive while her aunt, my sister Marina, and her uncle, my brother-in-law Steven, are still in town (they leave Sunday the 21st). But if she hasn’t, we’ll wait it out until there’s a medical reason either she or I need the birth to happen sooner.
In the meantime, I’m grateful she’s given us these days of awaiting her. We’re all doing our part–Emilio and I amused everyone by demonstrating “the leaping frog” birthing position; Marina is acting as MacGyver, putting together the vibrating chair and programming my replacement cell phone; Abuelita Carmen is saying 1000 Hail Mary’s (that’s not an approximation, she is literally saying 1000) for a healthy birth; Yia-yia Big E, my aunt, is cooking up a storm, both dinners for us and celebratory kourabiedes cookies to sweeten Amalía’s arrival; and Yia-Yia Joanie, my mom, is documenting our every move in still photos and on video (she’s been writing about much of it on her blog, www.arollingcrone.blogspot.com).
At yesterday’s appointment, the doctor said Amalía could come any time between now and a week from Friday. So she’s keeping us on our toes. But when she does, we’ll all be ready, and she may have taught me a little bit about patience and rolling with the punches along the way. One thing I’ve already learned: it really does take a village, and the little one isn’t even here yet.