Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two Births

by Michael Ceraolo

for Colleen

Tuesday May 7, 1985
I had gotten off work
from my job as a convenience-store clerk
at eight that morning,
                               a normal cool early May morning
with normal temperatures predicted for the rest of the day,
the weather would the only average thing about the day
When I got home my wife told me
that her water had broken during the night
It was almost four weeks early
so I was a little worried,
she had been through this before,
so she calmly packed a bag
and we headed for the hospital

I wasn't quite so calm at this time:
when getting on the highway
I went the wrong direction,
we had to go to the next exit,
get off,
            and turn around,
the rest of the ride was uneventful
and we made it safely to the hospital
only a few minutes later than we should have,
settling in to the delivery room
to await our daughter's first day

Colleen was showing the impatience of genius even before birth,
having decided she had served her full term in utero
even though the doctors said again it was a month early
She banged her head trying to get out because her mother wasn't ready,
and continued banging her head over and over to no effect

Because Colleen's birth day would not be today:
my wife's water had broken several hours earlier,
her cervix was nowhere near fully dilated or effaced
and was not making any progress toward becoming so
And despite the oxytocin that was started soon after our settling in,
the minutes dripped away as the medicine dripped in,
no further dilation or effacement taking place,
a contest of wills between mother and daughter
that went on for over thirty hours,
the doctors finally broke the long stalemate
by going in and taking Colleen out
(official birth time:  6:26 PM May 8th)
Her head would need considerable shaping
after what she had gone through trying to be born,
but in a very short time there would be no deformity
And despite her early birth she was healthy and has remained so,
though I fear she has been disappointed many times since
when the world didn't bend as easily to her will

for Maxie

July 7, 1988
I had again gotten off work at eight that morning,
though the intervening three years
had produced a huge improvement
in our family's circumstances:
I was no longer working as a convenience-store clerk
but had gotten a job as a firefighter
(the twenty-four hour shift I had just finished
was listed as Wednesday though it included eight hours on Thursday)
The temperature had reached ninety-six degrees that day,
in the hottest and driest summer I've experienced
(so far)
             [Environmental aside to the audience:
not watering our lawn had paid off in many ways
Besides the decreased water bills,
I had only had to cut it twice
before it went dormant;
it bounced back nicely when it finally did rain
as I watched the disliked next-door neighbors
murder their lawn by fertilizing it during the drought]
Today the temperature would reach ninety-nine,
as it would also the next two days,
that would not be the only,
                                       or the best,
                                                        memory of the day

Many children are in a hurry to get here
(and remain in a hurry once here),
she would be different
(we alone knew ahead of time it would be a she
and already had her full name picked out:
Maxine Rose Ceraolo)
She was a week later than expected,
just waiting patiently for her day to come,
when we left for the eleven o'clock appointment
to induce labor, planning for a VBAC
No wrong turns this time
Not long after we got there
and got settled in the delivery room,
she had a drop in the fetal heartbeat
(perhaps just more of that patient relaxation?)
and the doctor became impatient,
we couldn't wait for a natural birth after all,
that the potential risks outweighed the benefits

A surgical suite was scared up,
the epidural administered,
and a little after noon
(official birth time:  12:13 PM),
a little over an hour after our arrival
instead of the expected several,
Maxie was born,
                         healthy from the start,
still serene and patient out of the womb,
and she remains that way today--------


  1. Love the juxtaposition of the two births and all the so and buts. Also
    love the expression, "the impatience of genius."

  2. What wonderful memories, and what beautiful gifts for Colleen and Maxie. Michael paints pictures with words that expertly take the reader into the experiences.